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All posts tagged Productivity

Meetings Suck

Come on, admit most meetings suck. They aren’t particularly productive; most people amble to and from work meetings in a semi-stupor and we tend to spend way too much time in them.

When was the last meeting you got to amped up?
When was the last meeting you left feeling inspired or driven?
When was the last meeting you ran that was on subject and you nailed it?

ABC - Officing

Why Do Meetings Suck and Why Do We Suck At Meetings?

Most of us know how to schedule a meeting from Google Calendar or Outlook but usually that’s where we start to cock things up:

Stop using vague titles.
Where is the agenda?
Do all those people really need to come to this meeting? All the wrong people in all the wrong places.
Do you fear attachments? Don’t worry, link to the relevant documents in your company cloud.
Timing is everything. Not just when in the day but how long. Most meetings can get to done in 30 minutes. Some need an hour. Very few need more than this and those need a break in the middle.

The fact is we suck at meetings because running a productive meeting is a skill. A skill that requires continuous improvement. We dump people in the workplace and expect them to know how to run a meeting and deliver results.

Most people don’t really understand the point of a meeting or how to run one.

What’s the Point of It All?

Understanding this one thing about meetings.

Screengrab from the 1991 Castle Rock Entertainment movie, City Slickers via YouTube.

meetings suck - one thing

MEETINGS ARE TO TACKLE A PROBLEM WITH WHOEVER IS NEEDED TO GET TO THE SOLUTION.

Solution means decisions. Decisions mean action items. A meeting with no decisions is a waste of time. What did you solve?

The Warptest POV

You attacked the problem and engaged people in the meeting. You made sure everyone got to speak and was heard. Now write down every decision and treat it as an action item.

After the meeting, you share a summary where these action items are assigned to specific people with deadlines. Without this, meetings suck and will continue to suck.

All your calendar and appointment apps are great at setting meetings, but then the reminder just disappears without asking you to follow up. Certainly, none of them integrate an action driven follow-up.

Cortana - Windows 8

In an age of Siri, Cortana, Google Now why aren’t these Digital Assistants integrated with your meetings to record meetings? Why aren’t they asking you to follow up? Why isn’t text-to-speech built in, so you can run the meeting without the distraction of taking notes?

Microsoft has already enabled Cortana integration with Office 365. This is the start. At Build 2017 they announced the preview of Cortana Skills to solve this kind of problem. Alternatively, you can add their new Dictate service to your Office 365 to allow Word to convert what’s said in the meeting to text.

WHAT WE ALL REALLY WANT ARE READY-BAKED APPS THAT TAKE THE MEETING FROM INCEPTION, THRU SCHEDULING ALL THE WAY TO ACTION ITEMS.

Game on Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook.

Are You Officing In Office 365 Correctly?

This Officing tale may be a one you are familiar with yourself. Names have been changed to protect the less productive.

Tom had begun work a while back at a Tech based company. He had been hired to improve work practises and it was needed. People were working hard, but they weren’t working well together.

People were still using their computers like it was the 1990s; Tom knew that it wasn’t a question of just instituting change, he had to show managers like Lucy, Dick & Harry and their team members that there was a better way. Changing habits like this was not going to be easy…

Officing The GlenGarry Glen Ross Way

Office 365 is the cloud-centric productivity and collaboration suite. It comes with cloud storage in OneDrive or OneDrive Business (depending on account type).

OneDrive can be accessed in the browser, Windows File Explorer or thru the OneDrive app.

Don’t share files as attachments unless necessary; especially to multiple recipients. This is bad Officing.

Enable track changes, agree on using comments in the Office document and share a link to the document you are collaborating on.

Don’t save Office documents to Network Shares and then have multiple users all work on this file at once. This is bad Officing.

ABC - Officing

Office 365 is fully cross-platform. You can be productive and collaborative on the go.

Files and folders in OneDrive can be shared with other users either by sending them a link or an invitation.

Default permission of a share like this is “edit” but you can change this by user to “view” only.

Office 365 Business also allows structured wiki-like file storage in the same Cloud infrastructure thru SharePoint.

Users can define mail notifications for when a file is changed or updated in SharePoint.

All the Office 365 tools you use daily are available to use in the browser too.

There are several tools you may not be familiar with in the Office 365 Business accounts: especially Delve, Sway & Planner.

Sway and Planner are useful but Delve is an incredibly valuable service for personal collaboration analytics and actionable intelligence.

Facebook just decided they need to use Office 365 across their workplace. For its strong collaborative and productivity ecosystem.

Outlook in the browser is divided into Mail, Calendar & People: Mail has a “Like” button for when you want someone to know you agree but don’t want to get into pointless mails of “thanks” > “you’re welcome” > etc.

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Microsoft introduced Office 365 Connectors several months ago allowing Office 365 applications to communicate with 50 (and rising) different 3rd party apps we all use in the workplace.

If you have Office 365 at home, you have a personal One Drive, Outlook.com email, Office in the web and these apps have built in Skype integration (some).

Got Windows 10? If Cortana is enabled for your locale / language & your workplace then you can use the virtual assistant in concert with Office 365.

Cortana is also available on Windows 10 Mobile, Android (Beta) & iOS … and there’s more. (Yammer, Gigjam (Beta), Skype / Skype for Business…)

The Warptest POV

We all use smartphones and rely on Apps for so much. Most of what we are doing is in the cloud. So why when it comes to productivity is it so hard to break our bad officing habits?

It boils down to two things: being aware that Office 365 has this vast potential and a collective willingness to but into this change in the workplace. Facebook are embracing this change with their adoption of Office 365 as their main productivity tool set in the workplace.

Are you ready to work smarter not harder? Get Officing folks.

 

Office 365 Delve Is Vital For Facebook Workers…

Office 365 Delve (formerly known as Project Oslo) is a center-piece for Office 365 in the workplace. This service is built atop the Office Graph. Office Graph provides actionable intelligence on workers connections, the shared meetings, mails and documents. The content discovery is presented through Delve. If you have Office 365 in the workplace then you should have Delve.

Facebook wants Office 365 and specifically Delve, and today they announced they are getting it.

All apps - Office 365 Delve

Why Does Facebook Need Office 365?

According to Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook the decision to make this leap is multi-faceted: –

  • Facebook works 100% online.
  • Facebook has multiple offices in multiple locations worldwide. Employees need the ability to collaborate in real-time on shared projects.
  • Facebook facilitates cross-platform for employees to maximize effectiveness.
  • several other reasons

Office 365 delivers all this and more. However, Office 365 Delve delivers actionable insights into how and with whom Facebook employees are collaborating.

Delve and behind it the Office Graph, deliver “personal analytics” but also a powerful social network for the workplace.

Facebook - Office 365 DelveWhilst Facebook clearly needs a productivity / collaboration solution the choice and focus on Office 365 Delve as a crucial service leaves major questions.

What are the ramifications for Facebook At Work? Facebook has invested in building version of their social network with a separate work login and a closed ecosystem for your company, using Facebook and its associated tools.

office 365 Delve - Facebook for WorkFurthermore, Facebook has both iOS and Android apps in each store to support this. Are there no Facebook Insights or Facebook Graph API adding the same kind of intelligence and personal analytics that Office 365 Delve does?

The Warptest POV

Facebook has made progress with Facebook At Work and it is in use in-house (allegedly this is how Mark Zuckerberg makes company-wide announcements). This is not the mature, versatile ecosystem that Office 365 is.

I’ve used the phrase force multiplier recently but none deliver this as much as Office 365 Delve. Facebook have wisely chosen to bet on mature, evolving applications that are only improving and adding more apps and versatility as time goes on. In past posts, I’ve shared an alternate vision for Google+ that would have taken it into the productivity sphere for companies instead of where it is today.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook integrate with Office 365. Perhaps this is the future for Facebook at Work.

Now throw into the mix that Microsoft is firmly embedded in Facebook and owns LinkedIn. Food for thought.

What do you think?

Trello Just Launched Their App For Slack

Yes, Trello uncrowned king of the Agile task management apps are jumping into Slack, the must-have, killer collaborative app.

Trello App For Slack - Obi Wan

This integration means that users can just stop jumping between apps and be productive on the fly within their work chats.

Let’s face it, having to switch between apps; either desktop windows or different browser tabs gets old fast. Being able to make task allocation, management and tracking part of the conversation means a more dynamic and natural process.

Anyone wanting to view the changes in the Agile post-it chart style still can, allowing for an overview for managers, Scrum Masters and the like.

You Got Your Chocolate In My Peanut Butter

If ever there was an obvious and called for integration, it’s Trello and Slack. Both are full-blown cross-platform tools, both are independent, strong companies who have carved a substantial market share in their fields.

The work productivity market is booming and competition is strong. No one wants to use a tool that doesn’t seamlessly communicate with their other tools. The world of isolated work applications is dying even for the Open Source / Bootstrap Startup ecosystem.

The Trello app integration allows users to use the /trello command to create, allocate and more from within the Slack conversation with your group or team.

The Warptest POV

Whilst many people clearly were asking for this, there were also external push factors. Microsoft have made huge inroads into collaborative work productivity in Office 365 with the launch of new apps like Planner (Redmond’s Trello-killer) and Gigjam built atop Office Groups and Graph.

Microsoft are driving hard for an all-encompassing cloud ecosystem that companies of all scales can pay one subscription and get all the tools they need. Tools that know how to talk to each other which work with automated workflows and the new Bot Framework. Like Trello and Slack, Microsoft are offering cross-platform / cross-device apps.

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Trello and Slack had no choice but to sprint forward with this or be left behind. Their biggest competitive advantage is twofold: –

  1. Each company’s clear subscription model. This is something that Microsoft repeatedly hear regarding Office 365.
  2. There are people who will choose the unicorn cred of Slack and anyone who integrates with them over Microsoft.

For Microsoft to crush their competition they need to continue to evangelize the reimagined, reinvented company that is delivering on Satya Nadella’s vision.

Meanwhile if you are a Trello user not using Slack or vice versa, I’d be seriously checking out the benefits of using both in concert. Repeat the phrase force multiplier.

If you are undecided about what your work productivity tools need to be then I’d be comparing Trello and Slack to Office 365 as described above.

What other apps would you like to see working with Slack?

Are you an Office365 Productivity Powerhouse?

Office365 Productivity? This is not just the ability to churn out more documents. This is about maximizing the potential of you & your team. This is about ensuring freely shared information and an ability to deliver success.

What Does Office365 Include?

Depending on the pricing model you take, ranging from FREE up to Business Enterprise you get a slew of productivity apps: –

  • Outlook / Outlook.com
  • Free web apps & free mobile appscompletely cross-device / cross-platform
  • OneDrive Personal / OneDrive for Business
  • OneNote
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Sway
  • Skype / Skype for Business
  • Docs.com – this is a personal portal for posting and sharing Office content you create. Users can give this a custom URL and the About section allows you to create a stylish resume in Sway.
  • (DELVE)

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So here are, “5 Killer Habits of Any Office365 Productivity Powerhouse”

  1. Don’t share files, collaborate on documents in real-time. Don’t discount mobile: Office365 is available cross-platform / cross-device. Exploit this to your benefit.
  2. Use track changes but agree how with your team
  3. Templates, styles, fonts, formats and naming standards. These are all document UX, it should be consistent across a project. It should look good in print or cross-platform.
  4. Email, skype calls, IM & video calls they are all calls to action. Communication is either shared information, request for action or a change notification. Either way, respond constructively.
  5. Office365 productivity is limited by knowledge. Most people never maximize their knowledge and so, restrict their productivity. Create a list for yourself of things you should know in Office365 and learn one a week. Examples: WORD / EXCEL: Macros, WORD: using and creating structured templates and styles, EXCEL: pivot tables, formulas, web queries, data filtering and mastering, POWERPOINT: creating short, succinct and well-designed presentations, & more…

Office365 Productivity - 5 Killer Tips

The Warptest POV

Office365 is cloud first, enabling collaboration and maximum productivity and the apps available are always evolving and for the business user we can expect added features and apps:

  • Office Groups
  • Office Mix: Mix for PowerPoint is targeted at educators to enhance their classroom presentations but is available to everyone.
  • Planner: A collaborative Agile style, post-it task / project management tool based on Office Groups. Available for selected Office plans.
  • PowerBI: If data visualization and analysis was a superpower it would probably look like PowerBI
  • And more…

General productivity is increased by choosing an ecosystem that everyone can work with. An ecosystem where the apps can communicate with each other. Else, you are just looking at technical debt to transfer information between apps or formats. The aim is zero technical debt, maximum time spent on projects, tasks and collaboration.

There are exceptions based on use case where you need to move outside the ecosystem you’ve chosen but since Office365 allows for building customized solutions this is accepatable.

Office365 is all about productivity and collaboration and it exemplifies the cloud first ethos being pushed by Microsoft. The only barrier to becoming an Office365 Productivity powerhouse is your willingness to try.

Are you ready to be productive with your team?

At First Glance Windows 8 And Google+? What?!??

… however, after reading the responses online to Vic Gundotra’s announcement that he is leaving Google I ended up thinking about this over an espresso.

Vic Gundotra - Google+

Gundotra’s announcement led to a feeding frenzy of speculation (again) from all the “Usual Suspects” in the blogosphere that this was the end for Google+.

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So after finishing my espresso I came up with this list: –

  1. Both are seemingly misunderstood or misrepresented by elements of the blogosphere. Google+ is no ghost town and Windows 8 is no failure. In a nutshell both are nonsense.
  2. Both require refactored branding / marketing to match user expectations.
  3. Both have displayed receptiveness to constructive user input: Windows 8 demonstrated this with the latest update and Vic Gundotra is incredibly forthright and engaging when approached in Google+ both as an individual and clearly a brand ambassador.
  4. Both have penetrated saturated markets: Windows 8’s greatest fight is for the hearts and minds of satisfied Windows 7 users and Google+ contends daily with Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Both require new users to shed existing preconceptions and accept there is a learning curve (albeit a rapid one) to getting the most out of them.

Productivity and Collaboration?

The Windows changes are clearly to refine consumer understanding of the vast capabilities across different devices of the OS. Google+ is an incredible place for social but has the enormous potential for collaboration and productivity which seem under explored.

Google+ for business has a strong customer discovery / engagement orientation and from within Google Drive you can share documents to Google+ but where is the Google+ feature to collaborate on documents / spreadsheets / presentations in your feed or in real-time in a Hangout? (This is about the only feature request I would make other than an official Windows Phone app).

Google+ Business

Microsoft understand the vast social element of Office365 with their new Project OSLO and Office Graph and Killer App Zula clearly gets the idea of mobile oriented collaboration.

The Warptest POV

I’m a happy user of both Google+ and Windows 8 and I know I have more to learn about both of them. Both have enormous potential.

Should Microsoft and Google be continually reevaluating the UX, ensuring the features deliver the maximum to users? Yes. Do they need to refine the marketing being done to increase consumer understanding of use cases and reasons for adopting these? For sure.

One more thing that Windows 8 and Google+ have in common? If you aren’t using them, you should be (and if you need help to get started then get in touch).

Microsoft Office 365…

Office as a productivity tool has evolved in UI/UX terms but nothing radical has really changed over the last few years.

Many companies are still stuck using Office as if it were still the 90’s

Office 365 Don't Do These

Here are some dysfunctional work productivity habits that I hope you aren’t familiar with:

Office 365 made collaboration, sharing and team productivity easier but the basic paradigm behind it remains unchanged until now.

The Tipping Point: Codename OSLO.

OSLO feeds into Microsoft’s Bing oriented philosophy of content discovery but it combines some truly game-changing ideas:

Office 365 - OSLO

So what is OSLO and what is Office Graph?

Office Graph is the keystone of OSLO, the backend that allows Office 365 to comprehend the work relationships that create the social network that propels collaborative productivity.

Office 365 - Office Graph

OSLO runs as a Windows 8 App or in any major browser (in Windows 7) to allow Office 365 to deliver aggregated content to users based on their work relationships but also across content silos and applications.

Obviously, access to content is subject to permissions like anything else Windows based but gone is the idea of having to expend energy or time on fruitless or laborious searches for Office documents.

OSLO delivers content by also using a layer of machine learning: one example is of knowing that if your Exchange has you attending a meeting where a PowerPoint presentation was made then that document has relevance for you and can be found under a quick filter “Presented to you”.

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Office Blogs has a whole post with embedded video explaining the extensive abilities of Codename: OSLO and how it all ties together.

The Warptest POV

This is clearly a major evolution in the way Microsoft wants us to maximize our usage of Office 365 in the workplace.

While no-one comes right out and says it in the video in the Office Blogs post, it’s clear that OSLO (with Office Graph) is actually a new Social Network for the workplace. The meta-data and social analytics behind the documents, spreadsheets, presentations and videos will become the driving force behind how we work and OSLO intends to deliver it all to us via App or browser with an incredible UX.

In a nutshell, Microsoft Office365’s Codename OSLO project may be the biggest change in how we work productively and a major tipping point for Office itself. This is a wake-up call to everyone else competing in the productivity arena.

OSLO is not some pipedream or concept, if you are a member of the Office 365 Pre-release Program then you have access to OSLO now. The rest of us are going to have to wait until the end of 2014 for the full release.

I’m excited to change the way I use my Office and increase my productivity, how about you?

Office Online Arrives Close On The Heels Of OneDrive…

The reimagining of Office Web Apps as Office Online addresses a combination of UX and exposure challenges for Office Web.

Previously, when I informed people that SkyDrive had free Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote I was greeted with a combination of amazement and skepticism.

After demonstrating or directing them to the Apps, by and large these sentiments were replaced with glee at having their familiar, albeit limited feature Office for FREE.

Refocusing and Reinventing Productivity

This is not just simple rebranding. By creating Office.com as the access-point for Office Online it has made the process, well Office-centric.

Office Online Reinvented

Prior to this Office Web Apps were dismayingly concealed behind the Create menu button in SkyDrive.

Most users simply didn’t realize that all their productivity was hidden behind that simple button.

Refocusing from SkyDrive, excuse me OneDrive to Office.com shifts the focus and user perception that OneDrive is incredibly valuable as your cloud storage but it is one of several powerful parts of Office Online.

The Unified Field Theory Of Productivity

It’s important to note that all you need to get started is a Microsoft account. If you notice the image above of the homepage of Office.com, in addition to the aforementioned Office Web Apps the user also has access to their Outlook.com, OneDrive, People and Calendar and all with the New Windows UI of Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.

This is not just a shift in focus or rebranding, Office Online is a comprehensive, FREE productivity ecosystem that parallels Office 365/2013.

This is not all though, Microsoft’s Office Online team have added new features (for the launch and recently): –

  • Once in any of the Office Apps the user can access the App Switcher by hitting the arrow button to the right of the App name (top left) and selecting the App to switch to.

Office Online - App Switcher

App Switcher - Office Online

  • Real Time Co-authoring: work with your co-workers or anyone, anywhere as long as they are in Office.
  • Templates:
    the difference between a good document and a great document can be using a template and there are free templates available and easily accessible whenever you create a new Office Online document.

The Warptest POV

Office Online combined with OneDrive mean that Microsoft understand their consumers. Most home users don’t need or ever use more than the basic features of Office. Did I mention the word FREE?

Add to the mix the pending penetration of other mobile platforms by Office and the ability to switch from using Office Online to Office on your computer when needed and you have a winning productivity solution whose UX makes you want to be both collaborative and productive.

I’m going to give Office Online a strong recommendation and suggest that if you haven’t tried it recently or never then get signed in and take it for a spin. You will be wowed.

Who’s ready to make productivity awesome again?

Microsoft Ventures Invests In Zula…

Zula, the mobile productivity app. Zula is the combined brainchild of Jeff Pulver and Jacob Ner-David; a solution to the challenge of mobile team communication.

Zula - snapshot of landing page

Zula recently announced the launch of their Android App adding to their existing iOS App.

Can’t We Just Use Email Like Everyone Else?

Email as a team communication solution for productive work is as effective as using one of the existing IM Apps out there.

Even with filters, flags or rules (depending on which email system you are using) emails get lost in the herd. Following threads can be a challenge at the best of times and the ability to find a specific piece of information after the fact can reduce a grown man to tears.

Not using Zula - cartoon

Add to that the tendency of workers to often send attachments and not take full advantage of linking to shared documents / media in the cloud and email is just so pre-Y2K.

Throw Mobile into the Mix

Microsoft Ventures makes a strong point in their press release that Zula are meeting the challenges of mobile productivity with their App. In the past, in fact back in February 2012 I’d made some pointed suggestions about Skype here on Warptest in the hope that Microsoft was on my wavelength.

Things are still happening on that front (albeit slowly), meanwhile Microsoft announced in June 2012 the acquisition of Yammer tagged as the Enterprise Social Network.

Microsoft Yammer Infographic - not Zula

Image cropped from infographic courtesy of Microsoft News

One of the speculations for the $1.2 billion purchase of Yammer by Microsoft was as a foil to Google+. The expectation was that Google+ with Google Apps / Drive and hangouts would become the primary collaborative environment for companies using Google Apps.

Meanwhile Yammer is moving towards full integration with Office365, Sharepoint and Microsoft Dynamics but more importantly has mobile applications for Android, iOS and of course Windows Phone.

The Big Question

So why would Microsoft Ventures invest in Zula, which seems to be a clear competitor for Yammer?

Yammer - Not Zula

The Warptest POV

Putting aside the fact that Google seems asleep at the wheel with selling Google+ as the central hub for collaborative, real-time productivity, it’s important to keep in mind that: –

  1. Whilst Yammer has mobile apps for the platform is it really a mobile-centric or scalable solution? Developing a mobile App for a desktop solution is not the same as creating a mobile-centric solution and if you are going to invest in that then it pays to find the right people to invest in too.
  2. Yammer touts itself as Enterprise that’s all well and good but a solution for smaller companies, offshore and ad hoc projects make sense too. Zula is filling a niche that Yammer didn’t focus on.
  3. The backend: I’ve mentioned before that it’s my belief that Microsoft sees the value in making backend sales as an entry point into company purchasing. As Zula scales with greater numbers of users what will the backend be for its Android and iOS Apps?

IMHO well played Microsoft Ventures for not missing a product or team with huge potential and congratulations to Zula for getting that investment.

So the only question I have right now is,

When do we see the Windows Phone version of Zula? I know I would love to take it for a spin.

If you haven’t tried Zula yet and want to, the links to the two app stores are here.

Microsoft and Office 2013 is overflowing with Mojo…

If you haven’t already downloaded the Consumer Preview for Office 2013 then you should. ASAP.

Austin Powers. Dr Evil explains “Mojo” courtesy of TheVegasDealer

In a year of huge news for Redmond with Windows 8, Windows 8 Phone, The Surface and more. Microsoft has done something to rebrand themselves as the up and coming, don’t count us out company for 2012 and in the words of Austin Powers and Doctor Evil they have mojo.

What hasn’t Been Said?

About the only thing in the blogosphere that may have stolen some of the Office preview’s thunder is Marissa Meyer of Google being appointed CEO of Yahoo. BTW Congratulations again Marissa.

Not to digress but in the 24 hours since the preview went live just about every tech blogger and others have given their spin on it.

The Warptest Perspective

Microsoft have adhered to their Metro UI design ethic with Office 2013 making a sexier, more seductive Office than ever before.

We have taken to classifying this kind of software as productivity suites but the sad truth is that often the UX and clutter make for an unproductive work environment. I’m here to tell you that in Office 2013 you just want to be productive.

A lot of trouble has gone to make the user feel comfortable using this and I find it hard to believe that other Operating System users aren’t looking just a little bit enviously right now at this. (Yes, I do mean you. Yes you.)

Surprised? I was to see rumors of good old Access DB’s demise were completely untrue. Access is alive, kicking and when you run it the first template you are offered is to create a custom web app. Welcome to 2012 Access!

MS Access 2013

frontpage of Access 2013

Outlook: still the powerhouse but this was the one place where I felt the UX was a bit claustrophobic and could have been minimalized a bit. Setup was easy and the mail notification sound and popups are not too intrusive.

Cloudy with a chance of Thuderstorms … over Europe.

Microsoft goes full throttle with Office 2013 into the cloud. Apparently when you get Office you get 100Gb of Skydrive storage in the bundle. Skydrive is the default save location here and so it should be but I was a bit surprised when I hit the Add A Place tile that the only services Microsoft chose to support are Skydrive or Office 365 (Sharepoint).

MS Word 2013

Save As Add Services

One would assume that Redmond had learnt from the antitrust cases that the European Union had hit them with over Windows and Internet Explorer but apparently not. My suggestion is add support for Dropbox, Box and even “add your own custom storage URL” or dare I say it go old school with FTP.

In a Nutshell

My hat is off and tipped to the Office Team who have outdone themselves in making productivity sexy again and turning Office into possibly the most appealing piece of software you are going to want to buy next year.

Google Plus World Domination After Wave or Buzz?

Google Plus is this just their third strike at Social? I’m going to be generous here and say.. after the experiments that were Google Buzz and Wave.. it seems that Google has gotten things mostly right with Google+

google plus - ui

The experts, professionals and pundits are already arguing if Google Plus is going to become the leading platform.  I decided to deconstruct its functionality and see what occurred to me.

google plus - functionality

In a Nutshell…

Google Plus incorporates sharing content, grouping your friends/ followers in Circles and much  more however, as much as I find it to be a killer app I find myself dissatisfied with the User Experience.

A friend told me they felt Google+ would not “take off big time” as it was a techie oriented platform compared to the ubiquity of Facebook or the professional niche of LinkedIn.

Google Plus right now is the child who brings home the “Little Timmy could be doing so much more..” report card. Sharing content on Google+ definitely drives traffic to you and generates followers who you would not get via Twitter or Facebook but there is more..

What’s Missing / WISHLIST?

Google Plus definitely is a rock star make no mistake but I suspect we are going to see a few more features added in the next year or so. These are my predictions: –

  • Goo.gl – Google’s own URL shortening service with some great tracking features built in. Microsoft Fuse Research Lab released their experimental platform So.cl not long ago and had the foresight to include a built in URL shortener; come on guys this is a no-brainer!
  • Google Analytics – yes, I want to know everything about everything I share on Google Plus and if someone +1’s I want to see the who, how and more.
  • 3rd Party Integration – I get it, I do.. Google Plus is the New York of platforms.. the center of the universe and nothing exists outside it.. give me a break. I want to be able to post from Google Plus directly to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc.
  • Save Hangouts as YouTube videos to my channel .. instant video-blogging showing all the members of your conversation .. for the business users who want full Google App integration (I believe this is already working) this adds a powerful tool for co-located team meetings.
  • Save Chats and or Comments as a Google Document via Apps or Gmail it to all participants – again think co-located team meetings and think minutes of a meeting including action items.
  • Event planning and invitations – Google Calendar integration nuff said.

I had one or two more but it seems that Google and I think alike so these are considered Hangout Extras (optional):

google plus - hangouts

My favorite here is Screensharing: for group support or training sessions this could be a killer feature.

Simply put Google Plus is good but to make it great (and by great I mean World Domination class) let’s see some of these features implemented.

powerpoint

PowerPoint, love it or hate it?

Perhaps I should simply ask you if you Like it?

Powerpoint 2007

PowerPoint is once again the recipient of blame, angst and dislike. Even the New York Times decided to jump in quoting the US Military’s PowerPoint woes:

 nytlogo152x23

nyt-ppt

I’m one of those people who thinks that Microsoft PowerPoint gets a bad rap.

The Horror, The Horror…

I have some painful personal experience as a Support / Implementation Engineer where one of the people I was working with comes to me one day in a panic that he has to do a presentation to the Regional VP about his project and he needs my help to do the PowerPoint.

Besides this guy having control issues, he subsequently laid out how he had 60-100 slides comprising: –

  • Text: he wanted his word for word verbal presentation to be the text.
  • Scans of newspaper articles.
  • Embedded AutoCAD drawings and maps.
  • An average of 4 digital photographs per slide.

Then his cherry on the icing on the cake was he wanted music and animations for each slide.

I wasn’t even sure that the PCs we had could handle opening a file like that and he explained to me that he had to impress the VP or the project would be cancelled. The poor guy was a total wreck and insisted he had to have it that way. I managed to convince him that perhaps we could resize the photos but he didn’t want to reduce any of the content.

My job was basically to offer technical help not to provide suggestions so I wasn’t in a position here to do more than I was asked.

The one question I should have asked, that would have changed everything was,

How long has the VP allocated for your presentation?”

Your presentation’s length should be a function of the time you are allocated.

This isn’t a license to finagle and connive extra time or set a meeting for longer.

Unless you have discovered Cold Fusion or a cure for one of the major diseases how long do you really think people are going to maintain attention?

The Warptest POV

My theory is two-fold when it comes to PowerPoint:

  1. Pay attention to all the people out there who tell you 10 slides no more, use an elegant template, don’t try to overload me with PowerPoint bling (yes minimal use of animations etc.) and no you don’t want the text to be verbatim what you are saying.
  2. PowerPoint presentations should be your prop. You are the presentation.

The trick is passion, engagement and perhaps a sense of humor. I am as nervous of public speaking as the next guy but get me talking about something I know, love and believe in and I can engage you.

I won’t use PowerPoint to obscure the message, I want you to pay attention to me (what an egomaniac huh!) actually I want you to pay attention to the message of my Presentation because basically I am trying to sell an idea or concept.

View this as an elevator pitch with images and minimal text.

An idea I touted this week with one of my favorite Tweeps (Twitter-people) @testingqa was the following:

ppt-tweet - powerpoint

A la Twitter and it’s 140 character per tweet cap, perhaps what PowerPoint needs is a proportional limit.

The truth is that PowerPoint seems to be exception to the rule we grow up with, that:

A bad workman blames his tools”

Microsoft Office is a productivity suite and PowerPoint is no exception. Remember, keyword = productivity. To this end Microsoft offers us a wealth of resources: –

  • Training – PowerPoint is like any other tool, you need to know how to use it.
  • Templates – there are some fantastic templates that can make the difference between memorably eye-catching or not. These are nicely divided up by category/ purpose.

.. and much, much more.

So let’s stop indulging in blaming our tools and props. Remember the point is:

You are the presentation, PowerPoint is the prop.