Categories
Work

No More Attachments

What is one of the biggest time sucks in corporate information workflow?

Email Attachments.

Let’s go through an exercise.

Person A sends out an Excel document, Word document, PowerPoint presentation – choose your poison. They send it to 6 people. They ask each person to update a section and send it back to get merged.

First off, this is very 1999ish. We have better ways to do this. But let’s continue.

Person 1, 2, 3 start to update their sections. Person 1 replies directly to Person A, Person 2 replies to all. Person 3 though needs feedback from people not on the original chain. So they cut out their section, create a new document, and email it to Person X and Y. Person X updates something and sends it back to Person 3 but also CC’s Person B. Person Y updates the SAME part and sends back to 3 and X.

Confused yet? I am.

Person 3 then needs to merge sections but there are conflicts. So more back and forth on that with more attachments and revisions. Naming files CoolFileName_Rev5, Rev6, etc.

Meanwhile, back to our original 6. It has been a few hours, or a day, and Person 4, 5, 6 have been updating their stuff but haven’t sent anything back. But wait! Person 1 realized they didn’t have some critical info in the document, so they create a new revision themselves, this time with changes incorporated from Person 1 and 2, but not 3, and new changes from Person A that they forgot. They then send that revision back to Person 1-6 again and say sorry, but figure out what I changed and update your sections again. We go back to zero.

I could keep going here but you get the idea. Before you know it, there are multiple copies (10? 15? 20?) floating around, none of which are the master. It ends up being way more work for everyone involved.

I said earlier this is a better way. But what is it?

Well, using collaboration tools the way they were meant to be used would be a great start.

How about this? Person A saves their document to SharePoint (or insert your favorite collaboration tool here). In the document library they save it to, they turn of document revisions. They then send out the same email but without the attachment, instead a link to the document. The instruct Person 1-6 to try to “edit it Office Online/Web” so they can edit at the same time and not run into having file locking issues.

Person 1-6 then start their edits, and they can see the others working on it. Person 3 asks Person A to share the link/document library with Person X and Y, and they join in as well. Person X then asks for Person B to be included, and that happens too.

When Person A realizes they forgot some key info, they just update the master and send out a note that they update it, but everyone working on the document sees that too, and better yet, revisions are saved as time goes on, so they can see edits over time.

Which way do you want to work?

I choose the latter. Let me hear it.. “but so and so doesn’t know how to use tool X” or “it is too hard to get it going” etc. Well, I would choose a little pain up front the first few times using this new way of doing things instead of the perpetual nightmare of attachments forever.

Can we all agree, that “no more attachments” would be a good mantra? Who is with me?

Categories
Geeky/Programming Technology Work

First @trekbikes Hackathon

Last night was the first Trek Bikes Software Development Hackathon.

A modest turnout, we had fun. Two teams, we worked on different parts of a revamp of an internal web service we all would like to see work better.

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One team focused on the front end and API and one team on the data and service bus.

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Hopefully this is just the start and we do these regularly. We had people from not just IT but other parts of the business as well. Everyone coded, everyone committed to source.

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Pizza from Sal’s, Good WI Beer, Soda as well. Success. Even Ella came out and did some hacking (on the Surface RT… with Fresh Paint :))

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Like what you see? We are hiring Software Engineers, QA, Analysts, and more!

Categories
Technology Uncategorized

Setting up Mail/Calendar/Contacts on Windows 8.1

If you use Google/Gmail ..

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/use-google-windows-8-rt

“To sync your calendar”

Though you can’t sync your Google calendar with the Calendar app, you can see your Google calendar events by moving them to Outlook.com. For more info on how to do that, see How to see your Google events in the Calendar app.

This is a horrible solution. It is a shame that Microsoft can’t make things work, and at least Google/Microsoft get along enough to interop.  Annoying.

Categories
Blogging

Why I No Longer Self Host WordPress

Well I finally did it. Cancelled my hosting account. This post you are reading was written on WordPress.com and not in my Self Hosting WordPress instance. MediaTemple had a good run, but I just didn’t need it anymore.

Looking at things a little deeper.. When I started blogging back in 2004 (it’s been over 10 years already?!?) I started on blogger, there weren’t a ton of choices. Then, a couple of years later I moved to my self-hosted WordPress. I wanted more control. Many things that you might have wanted to do, you could only do if you hosted it yourself. I moved that between hosting companies, hosted it myself on VM’s, windows, Linux, back to managed hosting, etc.. and now my blog (all 1000+ posts and 2000+ comments) are in WordPress.com

How times have changed… many of the features and functionality that at one time you had to meticulously edit PHP files to get working or find a supported plugin (and then watch it go unsupported), are now baked into the platform. Software as  a Service FTW.

I also had a good run with Google Adsense. While I particularly didn’t like running ads, it basically paid for the hosting. The “long tail” on my blog still gets enough hits that I could make $15-20 a month and cover MediaTemples cost. With MediaTemple, I got more than one site I could host (100 actually), but I was only using a handful, and I realized that most if not all of them could go.

With twin boys looming, coming any day now and at most within a couple of weeks, it is one less thing I have to worry about – hosting a site (oh, and one less bill monthly – I guess that can go towards diapers.. or beer)

So what did I have to do to get this going? Not a whole lot.

First, I looked at my self hosted instance, and the plugins. Which could I turn off, live without, do I care anymore, etc. Which are handled by WordPress.com now? etc. Pretty much if not all I was ok with (obviously, I moved my site).

Feedburner? It’s dead. Mobile theme? Built in. JetPack features – built-in. Backup, etc – built-in.

But, I had ads, you can’t do that in WordPress.com – no need, wasn’t making $1000’s of dollars a month.

So I ran a Tools->Export. And then in WordPress.com, Tools->Import. The beautiful thing here as well is that all the media (post images, etc) got pulled in.

I signed up for a custom domain redirect in WordPress.com ($13 a year) and changed my DNS.

Chose a new theme and done.

We will see how things go as time goes on, but I am happy so far. Little weight lifted from the shoulders is always a good thing.

Here’s to another 10 years.

Photo Credit: Me on July 30th 2014 riding my bike on the back roads of Wisconsin. 

Categories
Technology

If Data Is Your Currency…

Then why do enterprises insist on trying to create their own banks (data centers)?

I have been thinking a while about on-premises data centers vs cloud data centers, and this analogy came to mind…

We trust our money with banks, financial institutions.. Instead of keeping our money at home in a safe or mattress. Yes some people have safes with valuables but I’m guessing they don’t direct deposit their paycheck to their safe. People also use the bank safety deposit boxes for valuables – usually the most important things like passports, birth certs, etc!

Why do we try to make our own data centers? Host our servers and apps? Shouldn’t we trust the banks (cloud providers)? Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc? I think we should.

I think if we step back and think about it we wouldn’t be trying to recreate banks when there are banks out there. My guess is back when banks were starting out, maybe the safe makers and maintenance guys didn’t want it to happen? Or maybe they figured out how to make better safes in banks instead of houses.

Photo Credit: Myself on a bike ride last week.

Categories
Business Intelligence Technology

Using Power Query to Analyze Your Schedule

I am in a lot of meetings. A LOT of meetings. Double, triple, quad booked. I guess when you get to manager or director level somewhere, that is the definition of “busy”, or maybe everyone just wants you in their meeting, or your opinion, or whatever. In the end “Meetings are Toxic” (from 37signals), but really the are sometimes a necessary evil.

Anyways, do you really know where you spend all your time? Well you can glean the information pretty easily using Excel and Microsoft Power BI (Power Query specifically).

First, the key for me is to “categorize” my meetings. You can create categories in Outlook and then assign them to meetings, you can even color code the categories.

Where does Power Query fit in? Well, you can connect to Exchange as a data source.

power query exchange

Then you can query your calendar “table”, and pull it into Excel.

power query navigator

power query

Then, as with any table, you can Pivot it, and pull over category as the row, and look at the count. With some column work in the Power Query query, you can split out the date/time and get Month/Day/Year and create a semi-hierarchy, to see things over time.

MeetingMonth

For example, I took over 2 teams in January, and my meetings with them and related projects skyrocketed in January. Now I know what was taking my time up for Q1 2014 🙂

meetings over timeAt least the number is going down 🙂

There is so much more you can do with Power BI and Exchange data, your email, calendars, contacts, etc, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it should only take you 10 minutes or so to get to this result! Now, if I can just figure out how to get out of the meetings!

Categories
Technology

On Cloud Security

“Don’t tell me the cloud is insecure. You can hire a hacker for $50 to break into your system. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars making their cloud secure.”

Agree. I hear many people in the industry say that cloud is insecure and it basically sums up to a big pile of FUD.

Enterprises Embrace Inflexibility Instead Of Change

Categories
Technology

OneNote for Mac and OneNote API released, but something is missing…

I try to use multiple services. Google Drive, DropBox, Skydrive (now OneDrive) – the personal version – OneDrive for Business, Evernote, Wunderlist, Exchange Tasks, OneNote, etc etc. Why? Well to compare and contrast. What is good, what is bad, what is missing, what is – ubiquitous.

A few months ago I was use Evernote heavy (again). It is pretty ubiquitous. Every device, platform, web, etc. But, I really do like Microsoft OneNote. There are pros and cons to both apps, and I really do like how Evernote does tags, but that is a different blog post. OneNote was almost everywhere. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows, Web.. but missing a native Mac OS X app. That changed today. FINALLY a native Mac app for OneNote. There are third party apps that kind of work, but nothing like the real deal. Integrates with OneDrive (personal) via a Microsoft account.

I think even bigger news is the OneNote API – allowing for apps and services to integrate with OneNote, very big news indeed.

But what is missing? One glaring omission to complete the story, in my opinion, is the lack of any kind of client or integration on Mac OS for OneDrive for Business. There are OneDrive for Business apps for Windows and iOS, and Office Mobile apps which let you access your OneDrive for Business content for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. But glaringly omitted is any kind of Mac OS X app. Now, I was secretly hoping with the release of OneNote for Mac, that it would have integration with Office 365 or On-premises SharePoint out of the box, which would solve part of the problem, but I don’t see that integration, or I can’t find it.

Why do we need OneDrive for Business for Mac? Because, most organizations have a mix of client operating systems. These orgs want to use things like SharePoint, or Office 365 – OneDrive for Business – to let users save and share documents – internally and externally – replacing consumer (and faux business) apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, even OneDrive personal edition. But without a Mac client, it is VERY hard to get complete buy in to use the OneDrive tools. Yes, Mac users can use the web, but – they don’t like being treated like 2nd class citizens, and I don’t blame them. I use both Windows and Mac, and it would be awesome to be able to go between and use the same tools and services. Hopefully, someday.

So now, you can hit your OneNote notebooks in your personal Microsoft Account, OneDrive, but you can’t open your corporate notebooks, where I would guess many people would want to use OneNote for Mac. Microsoft – give us OneDrive for Business for Mac! We are waiting!! (take a quick glance at the image on this post, it almost looks like a Mac unless you look hard…  they are teasing us!)

Categories
Technology Work

Transparency in the Workplace: Sharing Your Calendar Details

This is just one more step to being more transparent in the workplace. A few months ago I tweeted this, figured it was time to detail it out

How many times have you went to schedule a meeting with your coworkers, and when you add them to the meeting you see everyone is booked. Sorta like this:

Busy Calendar

Now, forget for a minute the top two rows. The first one is mine, and the second is one of my employees.

The others… those are “everyone else”.

One way you can make scheduling meetings a little easier, as well as just be more transparent, is to share more information about your calendar free/busy with your colleagues. Now, I will detail how to do this in Outlook 2013 on Windows and Outlook 2011 on Mac but for previous versions it is pretty similar steps. There is also a way to do this with Google Apps calendar but I am not going to delve into that here (although I have noticed more and more orgs using Google Apps, the majority use Exchange).

There are few things I do, which you may find useful.

  1. My calendar item Subject and Location are open to everyone in my organization to view.
  2. The full details of all meetings are completely open to all my direct reports and everyone below them. I also do the same for some of my key peers as well as my boss, they can see everything.

Now I am sure you are saying “But Steve, what about those few appointments or meetings I want to keep private?” – Well, Microsoft has thought of everything.

3. My private appointments, I mark as private.

So, how do you do all this? Well it is pretty easy.

For Outlook 2013 in Windows, head to your calendar, and you will see it listed on the left hand side, right click->properties, then you see a “Permissions” tab. Click on that and change the default permissions. As for the Mac, it is pretty similar, but in the calendar, right click and the options is “Sharing Permissions”

As you can see, I have “Free/Busy time, subject, location” turned on for the “Default” permissions. For all the people listed, the only difference is they have “Full Details”, which means they can open up a meeting on my calendar and see whatever someone wrote or attached, agenda, etc.

Calendar Sharing

Now, to mark a specific calendar item private, just open it, and click the “Private” button.

Mark it private

Done. Now when someone adds you to an appointment when they are trying to schedule a meeting, they will see the subject and location. They could ask you “could you move this, or that” or sometimes they will even know what is important by the location/subject and know you could move it or skip it or whatever. Very useful.

Another handy item might be that someone is scheduling you and they see a meeting about a given topic. They might think they should be included and ask you about it, or they might have a colleague or employee they think should be there and they will want to make sure that they are represented, etc.  Now this will make 99% of your co-workers uneasy because they have always been private or hidden – they don’t want anyone knowing what they are doing, etc. I say phooey and work in the open. My opinion is that in an organization, the setting of sharing the location and subject should be set as the default in the Exchange server, not by each employee.

We are all the same team, we should have nothing to hide. And for those doctor or dentist appointments, or seldom top secret meetings, mark it private. It should be the exception though, not the rule.

You can also share your calendar specifically with a coworker and request them to share it back, this is what I started with years ago, but then after a while just opened mine up per the settings above.

So tell me, if you haven’t already shared your calendar with your teammates and coworkers, why not? Trust me, the world will not end, nor will you lose some magical edge you think you have by keeping your calendar private. In the end, opening it up will help your colleagues and show a sense of openness and transparency. Try it!

Categories
Business Intelligence Technology

How Cold Is It?

With the latest “Polar Vortex” or whatever that is happening, EVERYONE is talking about the weather. Everyone always talks about how it has been this cold many times, etc, etc. “It was colder in my day” – ok. Well prove it!

So I took a look at the NOAA data you can get here http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/ and got an extract to CSV for my hometown of Chisholm, MN (actually the Hibbing/Chisholm airport since it has data from 1962 to today)

I downloaded the CSV, opened in Excel 2013 and imported into Power Query. I think did some formatting to get the date parts and a date field, and converted the “tenths of a degree of Celsius” to Fahrenheit. Then started analyzing.

I will have to refresh this after this cold spell, because it only has data to 1/1/2014 and these last few days have been cold, but, not the coldest.

Back when I was 16, in 1996, there was a stretch of days in January that were COLD. The data supports this. First I took all the days with a Low temp of UNDER -35 degrees F.

Chisholm Low Temps

 

You can see, there are a bunch of days in Jan/Feb 1996 that were UNDER -35 Degrees F. So then I copied that pivot and expanded on that date range to see all the days.

JanFebChisholmLowTemps

 

Pretty dang cold from 1/19/1996 to 2/4/1996. Lowest day was -50 Degrees F. Average of -31 Degrees F. Of course these are “real” temps, it was even colder with wind chill. These last 3-4 days of -20 to -40 are cold, but not sure they are colder than in Jan 1996. We will see when it is all said and done.

If you can’t remember how cold it was, NOAA, Excel and Power Query can remind you. 🙂

I have the spreadsheet up on Skydrive. http://sdrv.ms/1gBwMPL