Guides to migrating to Office 2010

Microsoft has created some handy guides for those migrating to Office 2010.  These should help many of us in getting over the initial frustration of finding out how to do the things you used to know how to do in earlier versions.

This reminds me of a time when one of my supervisors asked me if I liked a new version of a custom software.  I answered with a tinge of whining, “Its different!”  This of course was the point, but it is a common enough situation that any changes bring groans of frustration, even if the changes improve the software greatly.

Sometimes taking a breath and taking the time to familiarize yourself with changes is all it takes to change your attitude to something new in your daily routines.  Microsoft’s Office suite is so ubiquitous, that they realize that the easier they make it for users to adapt to the changes, the better the experience for those users.  Tools such as these ensure that they maintain the loyalty of IT managers, by making the users happier and preventing a deluge of frustrated help desk calls.

Managing communication on multiple devices

Ever feel like your monitors (computers, TV, phone) multiply on their own?  How can you manage all of the interacations that result from being so connected across multiple platforms.  Lifehacker just did a great post on the topic–“How to be Productive with Multiple Devices and Methods of Communication“. 

 One of the takeaways is to use the proper communication ‘tool’ for each situation.  We all tend to have go-to tools that we rely on.  I’m an emailer.  I like to have a written record of the topics discussed and I am often communicating with people in far-flung time zones. 

But there are many other ways to communicate.  Twitter DMs and @ replies.  Phone calls and voice mails.  Instant Messages.  In person meetings or snailmail.  Each of these have their own place.  Consider these questions when deciding how to communicate:

1.  Does this require an instant response?

2.   Does the person I need to communicate with have a prefered method of contact? 

3.  Do they have access to that technology?

4.  Do I need to provide background or have a written record of the communication?

5.  Is this a legal matter or contractual matter that requires proof of deliver?

6.  Is it a sensitive topic that would benefit from a live conversation?

7.  Can I answer with a quick yes or no?

8.  Do I just need to give a simple answer not requiring a response?

9.  Would a formal letter make an impression?

10.  Are we trying to reconnect and in-person would be the preferred method of connecting?

11.  Would a free-form conversation yield new opportunities?

and probably most importantly–

Which method of communication is preferred by my client?

Examples of 5 social media policies from the ‘Big Guys’

Previously I posted about the importance of having a social media policy.  I didn’t give you any advice on where to start, just warned you of the pitfalls.  One of the best ways to get started on your own policy is to look into the policies of some of the largest and most well-known brands.  Via Twitter I learned about this great article from Likeable Media on the social media policies of Best Buy, Coca-Cola, Intel, IBM and Kodak.

You see that each reflects its own traditions and cultures.  Are you surprised that IBM’s is traditional and formal and very business-like, while Best Buy keeps it friendly, simple and informal?  Each reflect their own understanding of their employees and how it communicates its brand internally so that their employees can reflect that to the public.

Think of how your employees are already using social media, even if your only employee is yourself.  Work from your understanding of your company and move that message outward.  Social media is about sharing your vision about your goals to the world at large and connecting with the visions of those you meet in the social media space

Use September as a chance to review projects for the fall

I always look at back to school time as a time of fresh starts, even if it has been decades since I last had first day of school jitters.  You can use that sense of a blank slate to help you prepare for the increasingly busier days into the end of the year.

Many of us with families have our schedules shift as schools get back into gear.  Even if you don’t have kids, traffic patterns change and schedules that may have been looser to accomodate vacationing clients and colleagues are back to the regular hectic pace.

We all need reminders to re-visit, re-think, re-energize–maybe a quick ‘school supply’ shopping trip to get a few organizing essentials could do the trick.  Or perhaps, actually use the calendar functions on your smartphone and have it synch with your desktop or laptop.  Clean out the email box and set some mail rules.  A fresh start goes a long way to getting your languishing projects back on track!

20% of Business Users Cling to IE6

As reported in Information Week, some 20% of business users still use Internet Explorer 6 despite known security risks.  Despite the urging from Microsoft themselves, whether through inertia, lack of knowledge or an odd attachment to the underdog, businesses haven’t all seen the value in updating this ‘expired’ software.  And these ‘old-school’ browser fans will have the good company of Her Majesty’s government, as the UK government has resisted employee led efforts to have government computers upgrade.

Right now, some Google Apps won’t work with IE6, nor Amazon and it was announced this week Facebook chat will no longer support IE6 integration.  Hitting people where it hurts, their online shopping and chatting with friends, might just be the  impetus to get some users to modernize.

Internet Explorer 8 is free and has much improved security in addition to lots of other improvements.  Don’t let inertia keep you back, upgrade now!

Know your customers: Are they internet avoiders?

According to the latest Pew Internet & American Life report “Home Broadband 2010“,  “One in five American adults (21%) do not use the internet or email from any location, and a majority of these non-users have little exposure to the online world.”  The reasons given for non-access range from the expense of access, to difficulty of use to the even broader lack of relevance to their world.

Reasons for not

As we all know, 20% of Americans is a significant share of any market in general, but are they your market?  Take the time and effort to look at your customers and your competition’s customers.  Do your customers use the phone, email or walk-in visits as your primary contact?  Are you located in a semi-rural location?

While you may be more comfortable in the online space, and feel that being online is being connected, your customers may not be there.  Consider maintaining some physical presence such as a public mailing address or office address to reassure your more nervous customers.  Maintain a public phone number that is advertised in a medium that is discoverable by the internet-averse.  It may seem like a safe time to jump onto the internet and out of the physical space but can your customers find you?  Knowing your customer is the most important part of knowing your business.

Are your employees flexible? Are you?

One of the most valuable assets in your workplace is the ability of your team to adapt to changes.  It can mean the difference between watching the world and more importantly your competition pass you by to being the one smart enough to lead the change.  I know this sounds vague and more inspirational than technical, but the first place most of us encounter change is changing technology.

Think of many of us just last year.  I was skeptical about Twitter–“Who cares what I had for lunch? Why do I want to read about someone else’s random musings on the latest gossip?”  But then I jumped in, followed people who I knew were leading the conversation.  I followed journalists and entrepreneurs; novelists and marketers; businesses and non-profits.  Reading their posts I discovered new points of view, learned about breaking news, and frankly ditched my RSS feeds because the need to read articles were posted in real time in a convenient column that I could browse between projects.  I learned how to engage my own point of view and gained attention for my book and our blog. 

And that is just one example.  I let my curiosity and good business sense overcome skepticism and torpor.  It took learning new programs (easy of course) and learning how to effectively use it.  

In today’s business climate we all have to work with all of our cylinders firing–there isn’t much downtime.  It is easy to succumb to wanting to tread water, to do what it takes to get by.  But we need to inspire ourselves and our team to stretch a bit.  Reward your team when they bring new ideas by giving them a chance.  Let them lead from pack, if you will.  Set a good example.  Try to pick up a new skill or a new way of doing things.  Because, like it or not, the technology around us is changing.  Be agile–your clients expect it, your competition knows it and your employees and your business will benefit from it. 

And you know what, following those who inspire you on Twitter is a great way to find out what’s coming up, what’s working, what’s next.  Just be flexible enough to reach for it!

Is it spam? Remain open to business but avoid trouble

As soon as your email address gets ‘out there’, you will receive spam.  It is a part of modern life.  So, how do you remain available to your clients and your potential new business contacts and still protect yourself?

One way to keep your inbox clean is to not let your email address get out into the public.  You can use a website form instead of publishing your address.  Your web designer can set up a form that will forward messages to the proper email recipient.  Another approach is to put your email address in a human readable format such as theboss AT that might thwart malicious web crawlers that harvest email addresses for spam.

The flip side is having a good spam filter.  Most commercially available spam filters will do a good job at catching the bulk of obvious spam.  The drug and sex come-ons, the fake degrees and the ‘login to your bank account here’ phishing scams don’t have too try to hard to get people to click on them.  It is just as easy for them to give a little effort in sending out thousands of emails hoping just a few click on through, so they don’t have to try complicated methods of getting past even the most basic spam filter.  Be sure that you chose a spam filter that will allow you to whitelist either domains, individuals or individual emails.  A potential client not getting past your spam filter means a lost opportunity.

My advice is to just be levelheaded in your attitude towards email.  If it is obvious spam, delete away.  No harm, no foul.  If it is too good to be true–it probably is.  If you aren’t sure if that really is your bank, Amazon, eBay, PayPal contacting you–contact them, don’t click through.  Don’t open attachments from an unknown sender.  If they look to be a legitimate customer, reply and connect before opening a file.  Most of us using our smartphones don’t have an easy time with attachments on our mobile devices anyway.  Just as if you have ever worked a cash register, the vast majority of customers who come in the door are there to be customers, but every now and again a quick-charge artist or other type of fraudster is going to show up.  You can be available and open for communication–just be smart about it. 

Like the Gipper always said, “doveryai, no proveryai”, “trust, but verify.”

Microsoft’s Intune – a new tool for businesses to manage their PCs

Microsoft has launched a new beta for its new product for businesses that is in Beta.  Intune is a PC management and security tool for Windows offices which provides a console for you to manage security updates, anti-virus, upgrades and physical inventory.  The beta is designed for enterprises with 5 to 25 PCs and is limited to the first 10,000 signups.

It is another step into the cloud by Microsoft.  And a project we will follow with interest.

Communicate correctly with Keyboard Shortcuts

Do you communicate with clients from foreign countries?  Do you do business in non-US dollar currencies?  Do some of your employees have names with non-English characters such as ç or ñ?

Each of the major operating systems have character maps that correlate to Unicode.  Unicode is a system that assigns a uniform hexadecimal value for each text and numeric character so that systems can communicate clearly across platforms.  While you may not understand what I just wrote, here is the takeaway.  There are shortcuts available to all computer users that will create characters that other computers will understand. 

For Windows Users:

You can use your ‘Character Map’ available to Windows users (All programs, Accessories, System Tools, Character Map) or use a handy chart of Alt codes.  I use this one all of the time, it is from the Foreign Language Department of Washington State University.  You simply hold down your ALT key and then enter the code from the list.

For Mac OS users:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences and select International.
  2. Select Input Menu, then select Keyboard Viewer.
  3. Select  “on”  next to language’s keyboard layout you want to use.
  4. Select Show Keyboard Viewer from the Input menu on the right side of the menu bar.

A flag will be in the menu bar. When you want to type a special character, click the flag and select “Show Keyboard Viewer“. When you press Shift and Option buttons, the on-screen keyboard will show up.

In no time, you will comfortably communicating with the rest of the world and not struggling to find a way of avoiding typing something unfamiliar!