Latest Post

Blog

Banish 3 Common BI Myths

Business Intelligence (BI) has become a major aspect of business, as such, companies large and small are adopting implementing BI projects. The problem is, this can cause concern regarding job safety among other things. These “myths” can quickly spiral out of control and demoralize a whole office or company. In order for this not to happen, you should be aware of the common myths related to BI.

Myth #1: BI will replace experienced judgment Managers and users often perceive that a BI solution may replace or override their knowledge and experience for business decisions that affect their area of responsibility. The reality is that BI empowers decision making and leverages experience by providing supporting detail often otherwise missing. Critical to the success of any BI implementation is a common vision of how BI is going to improve business decisions.

Debunk Myth#1 with clear expectations and assurances that the value your employees experience will only be augmented with better information.

Myth #2: Users prefer to figure it out rather than receive training Even the simplest BI tool takes time and practice to help users make the most of the solution. Companies that don’t invest in training often end up wondering why no one uses the tool. The entire organization from top to bottom should receive some level of formal training to get full value from the BI solution. Allowing users to focus time and attention on learning how to use the BI solution will help with user adoption and acceptance.

Avoid Myth #2 by scheduling formal training – away from their regular job – that provides users with hands-on training. (But don’t make them work overtime to “penalize” them for training.)

Myth #3: Once the implementation is done, it’s done A BI project is not over simply because the application has been deployed. BI is an evolution that supports the change and growth of an organization. Start with highly visible and easy-to-implement projects so that people build confidence in its value and in using it. The more complex projects should be scheduled for implementation after familiarity and confidence have been sufficiently built.

The whole point is to leverage the organization’s information assets to new levels of utility and value, so that decision-making across the entire organization, from top to bottom, and with the organization’s external partners, is more effective and productive. Revisiting the uses of BI on a regular basis will ensure that the organization is making the most of their investment.

Debunk Myth #3 by incorporating BI as a strategic component of all business planning activities.

Let’s talk about what BI solution is right for your business. Call us today.

Windows 8 is near. Can it handle the competition?

Windows 8 will be released at the end of this month (October 2012) and that is causing quite a commotion. Why? Because the hybrid OS will be a game changer or a massive flop!

Realistically, the shelf life of business computers ranges between three to five years; our laptops are three years old while our desktops are more than five. These old computers are slowing down and are starting to get in the way, but will Windows 8 be the right OS choice?

Is Windows 8 the next best thing?

Until recently, everything I had heard about Windows 8 indicated it might be a terrific OS for tablets and phones –  but a disaster for laptop and desktop users. Instead of relying on hearsay I installed the preview release of Windows 8 into a virtual machine and tested it for myself.

The verdict? Anyone who still accesses their applications with a keyboard and mouse (rather than a tablet) and expects to have multiple tiled windows open to multiple applications  will be challenged by this new OS. Even Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has some problems with how Windows 8 works on his desktop.

Although It was not tested on a tablet or touchscreen device, I could easily imagine how the Windows 8 design would make sense on those devices. But when it came to doing work on a desktop it was awkward, Counterintuitive and – in some cases – incapable of simple task.  I like learning new things. Yet the appeal of gaining knowledge is greatly diminished when at the end I have an absurd system that makes me less, rather than more, productive.

My Initial fears were that it would be difficult or impossible to purchase a new computer with Windows 7 after the end of the month. After some research i’ve  read that Microsoft will continue to support Windows 7 for some time. You can read the details on ZDnet but the summary is:

  • Microsoft will still support XP SP3 until April of 2014 and Windows 7 until January of 2020.
  • Microsoft will allow OEMs to sell computers pre-configured with Windows 7 until October 2013.
  • Microsoft will also sell Windows 7 software for installation on a computer until October 2013.
  • If you buy a new computer with Windows 8, you will have downgrade rights to Windows 7.

 Is Windows OS 8 another Vista?

When Vista was released it was possible to purchase a computer with a downgrade to XP. It should be noted that in general, this option wasn’t available on consumer computers and the options to do this for business use quickly narrowed (unless buying a large number of machines).

A similar option might be available where you have your choice of Windows versions for awhile. That sounds great in theory but who knows how long that will work in practice. If Windows 8 turns out to be a disaster of Vista proportions for business users, then fasten your seat belt, because we’re in for a bumpy ride.

I got to thinking that, if forced to get a new OS as part of our computer upgrade, maybe it is time to consider getting an Apple, with an OS that will be a pleasure to learn. My impression of Apple’s newest OS X release (Mountain Lion) is that Apple still recognizes that a laptop or desktop computer is different from a tablet or phone. Microsoft’s Windows 8 seems unclear on that concept. Are they so focused on dominating the tablet market that they’re blind to the impact Windows 8 will have on computer users?

Although Apple borrowed many features first released in the iOS operating systems for iPads and iPhones, they have not succumbed to the same problems. The interaction with software and files on a Mac is more intuitive than on Windows 8. In fact it seems less a transition to move from Windows 7 to OS X than it does to move to Windows 8.

 

The Verdict?

Microsoft seems to be pushing business users to reconsider whether they need Windows on the desktop if most of their work is in the cloud. If so, that’s a strategy that could backfire, as you may decide you just need an iPad. But if you are a power user at work(which most of you are), you’re not going to be happy with a new Windows 8 laptop or desktop until they figure out how to support multiple, simultaneous application access and a few other bugs.

Achieving Nirvana in the Workplace – Office Yoga

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, and you find yourself nodding off at your desk. You muster up what little energy you have left and make your way to the break room in search of an antidote. Your mind and body on auto pilot, directing you towards “something sweet” and a cup of coffee.

Or perhaps you’ve been working at the computer for hours when suddenly your vision begins to blur. Realizing you’re on the verge of a tension headache, you down three Tylenol® (the recommended dose stopped working a few months ago) and get back to work.

Don’t feel too bad if either of these scenarios seems familiar; it probably means you’ve been working very hard. The real issue lies in your choice of solutions. Next time you find yourself without energy, or on the verge of a headache, try doing a little office yoga.

Yoga, a practice which combines exercise with relaxation and breathing, is something that can be done in the privacy of your own office, often while sitting in your chair. Here are a few simple stretches that are sure to help:

For low energy and fatigue – Sit near the edge of your chair, holding onto the sides of your seat. Gently stretch your chest forward and up. Tilt your head back, and breathe deeply in and out through your nose. Relax into the stretch while allowing oxygen to pass through your body.

While standing, raise both arms above your head and grab your left wrist with your right hand. Gently stretch to the right while breathing through your nose. Switch sides and repeat.

For headaches and eye strain – Place your index fingers directly above the middle of your eyebrows. Press with your fingers and hold. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose.

If you’re working at the computer, try to refocus your eyes every ten minutes by looking out the window. Once an hour, take a moment to close your eyes and allow your face to soften. Slowly roll your eyes in a circle. Take a few breaths and return to action.

Practice these techniques, and before long you’ll be replacing caffeine and acetaminophen with good ol’ oxygen and streching.

Apples latest Kitty released to the wild!

In the animal kingdom cats all share the same family, Felidae. All cats are characterized similarly  and are recognizable as felines. It may be for this reason that Apple has taken to applying code names from the Felidae family to different versions of their popular operating system OS X. Regardless of the name, the latest version is here with some interesting new features.

OS X 10.8, or Mountain Lion as it’s commonly known, was released into the wild on July 25, 2012 and will come standard on all new Macs purchased thereafter, or can be bought and downloaded from the Apple store for USD$19.99. Six features of Mountain Lion that you and your employees will definitely find really useful are:.

•              AirPlay Mirroring. Want to project your Mac’s screen onto a TV or larger screen? If you have an Apple TV you can mirror your display and audio to a TV or projector screen in HD. If your office uses Apple computers this could be a great way to give presentations, by simply setting up an HD projector to an Apple TV. Employees can then give presentations from their Macs at the press of a button, no wires required.

•              Power Nap. This is a great feature that allows newer Macs (models released after mid 2011) to receive emails, download and install updates while the computer is ‘asleep’. This should help IT install updates during non-business hours. It will also allow employees to start their day right away, with no waiting for the computer and programs to start up.

•              Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper gives the administrators of the new OS the chance to set which apps can be downloaded and installed. This should make management of systems easier, as IT departments can control what’s installed, and it should minimize malware and viruses.

•              Notification Center. Taking a page from iOS – Apple’s mobile OS – Mountain Lion now includes notifications. Available updates, upcoming calendar events, and messages, etc., will show up as a notice in the top right of the desktop and slide away in five seconds. They can be viewed again by hitting the Notification button on the top right of the screen.

•              iCloud. iCloud was introduced a few months before the release of Mountain Lion and is Apple’s answer to integrating all their different devices. With the update, documents stored on iCloud can now be accessed and modified by all devices, with changes showing up in the docs. stored on your Mac.

•              Reminders. If your employees are involved in one or more projects, or need a way to manage their tasks, Reminders can help. Essentially a to-do list that is integrated across all Apple devices that will pop up when a scheduled task needs to be done, or provide a reminder about meetings or whatever.

There are a number of other features that users may find useful, and we encourage you to explore the new OS.

\

Manage Activities and History – ACT! Tips

Here are some quick tips for using activities, history, and follow-up properly in ACT!  to ensure you don’t miss a beat when managing your tasks and taking care of your customers.

Activities

Activities are items that you schedule in advance that show up in a few places: on your Task List, your calendar, and on the record for the contact that you’ve scheduled an activity with.  To schedule an activity, first look up the contact that you want to schedule with, then choose the “Schedule” menu and choose the type of activity that you want to schedule or use the toolbar icons.

Pretty straight forward, right?  If you’re an ACT! user you’re likely already using activities.  But – are you clearing your activities and creating history records?

History

History items are the details of e-mails sent, meetings held, calls completed and other interactions between you and your staff and your contacts.

To create a history record when you’ve completed an activity, simply right-click the activity and choose “Clear Activity…” and you’ll get a window that allows you to fill in the results of the activity.  It’s important that you fill in the details so that later, when you or other ACT! users need a reminder, the information is there.

If you want to record history, but didn’t schedule an activity first – for example: the phone rings and a customer calls, you skip the activity creation and just record a history.  You’ll find this option on the Contact menu as well as on the History tab in the contact detail view.  Again, make sure you fill out the details otherwise this information would not be useful.

Follow-up

More often than not, when you’ve finished one thing and are clearing the activity, you’ll want to schedule the next thing to be done.  E.g. you clear a meeting but now need to schedule a call to follow up.  The “Follow-up” button will help you do this and saves time by pre-filling the contact and regarding line for you from the previous activity.

Create a Map of Your Contacts using ACT!

Ever want to get a map of your Contacts? well if the curiosity ever struck here’s a handy tool to help you get it done!

  1. Create the lookup of contacts that you want to plot on the map
  2. What you need to do next it to get a list of Contacts into Excel with the following fields: Address, City, State (or Province), ZIP Code (or Postal Code), and Company.
    1. From the Contact List View, click “Options” in the upper right corner and choose “Customize Columns”
    2. Choose just the fields listed above to be included in your list
    3. Click OK to go back to the Contact List View
  3. Click the “Export Current List to Excel” button to get your Contact List in Excel
  4. Highlight the whole works, all the rows and the headings and everything and press Ctrl+C to copy them, or right-click and choose Copy
  5. Go to www.batchgeo.com and click inside of the “Source Data” window and then press Ctrl+V or right-click and choose Paste
  6. Click Map Now (or click Validate & Options for some tweaks) and BatchGeo will crank through your list and display a map for you.

If you’re going to use this on a regular basis, or simply have fallen in love with the concept consider a donation as that’s how Phillip supports and runs the site.

Get your ACT! Task List Into Excel

Sometimes when I have a ton of things to get done, I don’t track all my activities in ACT!, I need a bit more of a unpolished system to sort stuff out.

Why? Well, I have a strategy for getting things done – I like to sort things by both importance and the “fun factor”. I don’t always work that way, but when I’ve got a lot to do, this helps me to:

  • Make sure the important stuff gets done
  • Get the things done first that take more effort and energy, and leave the things I enjoy to be done afterwards, when I might not otherwise have as much energy and enthusiasm

How do you sort by “Fun” you ask? Well, the answer is that you can’t do it within ACT! – but it’s an easy thing to do in Excel by adding an extra column. I won’t get into the details of how to do it, but if you know Excel you can figure it out quickly. Now to get to the point of this post – how to export your task list to Excel. As long as you have a compatible version of Microsoft Excel installed (2002 and later are supported with most recent ACT! versions), you can export your Task List in a single click!

To do it, just look for the “Export Current List to Excel” button which is on the toolbar. In ACT! 2010 it’s right above the dropdown box for the Date filter. In any version of ACT! it looks like a little box with a green X in the middle. Presto! Excel opens with your Task List, almost exactly as it was showing in ACT! when you clicked the button.

You might notice a few things from this:

  • Once the data is in Excel, you can sort and manipulate most of the data, or even do calculations.
  • The columns show up in the same order as they were in your Task List – so if you add, remove, or change the positions of columns in ACT!, you’ll get the same positioning in your Excel export.
  • The filters can be used to change what activities show up. Want a quick way to get a printable report of all the meetings you have scheduled for the rest of the month? Just change the date filter to “Current Month” and the Types to “Meeting” and click the Export button!

So there you have it – Exporting the Task List to Excel. Now that you’ve done that, check out the same feature on the Contact List and Opportunities List.

Update on ACT! for iPad

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to report that the iApp for getting ACT! on the iPad is almost out of Beta and will be up on the App store in a few weeks.  W00T!!

Here is a screenshot from my iPad:

This shot shows the Contact list on the left, the Contact fields and geographic information in the middle and the Activities on the right.

This program allows you to sync your ACT! database to an App on the iPad.  You can add contacts, schedule activities, clear activities and sync it all back to your desktop ACT! database.  It is not the full-blown program, but it comes very close.

There will be two versions: Standard and Pro.

I have been beta testing this app and i like it a lot.

I will have more information soon but for now you can call and schedule a demo.

With our cutting-edge technology, we can share our iPad screen with you so you can see exactly how it works, not just screen shots.

If you’ve been waiting to get ACT! on your iPad, you are going to LOVE this program.

Danielle Major

Adding Holidays to your 2012 Calendar

“Events” appear at the top of everyone’s calendar.  It is a great way to display employee birthdays, vacation schedules, federal holidays and trade shows for everyone to see.

*Note* – You must have Administrator or Manager role to create Events in your database.

Adding an Event to your ACT! Database

  1. In ACT!, click Schedule, Manage, Events.
  2. Click Add.
  3. Enter the Event Name and the Date. (There is a list below of various holidays for 2012 as a reminder)
  4. Choose if it is recurring. (Not all holidays fall on the same day each year, like Thanksgiving)

2012 Holidays

Monday, January 16 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
Monday, February 20 – Washington’s Birthday
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 – Leap Year
Sunday, March 11 – Daylight Savings Time
Monday, May 28 – Memorial Day
Wednesday, July 4 – Independence Day
Monday, September 3 – Labor Day
Monday, October 8 – Columbus Day
Sunday, November 4 – Daylight Savings Time Ends
Monday, November 12 – Veterans Day
Thursday, November 22 – Thanksgiving Day
Tuesday, December 25 – Christmas Day

 Other days to mark on the calendar

 Monday, January 23 – Chinese New Year
Tuesday, February 14 – Valentine’s Day
Wednesday, February 22 – Ash Wednesday
Saturday, March 17 – St Patrick’s Day
Sunday, April 1 – Palm Sunday
Friday, April 6 – Passover
Friday, April 6 – Good Friday
Sunday, April 8 – Easter
Sunday, May 13 – Mother’s Day
Sunday, June 17 – Father’s Day
Sunday, September 16 – Rosh Hashanah
Thursday, September 6 – NFL Kickoff Game (thank you Ted!)
Tuesday, September 25 – Yom Kippur
Wednesday, October 31 – Halloween
Friday, November 23 – After Thanksgiving
Saturday, December 8 – Hanukkah

*Note* – If the events do not display on your calendar, it may be that they have been turned off.
Click Tools, Preferences, click the Calendar & Scheduling tab
Click the Calendar Preferences button.
Put a check in the Display events option.
Click OK, OK

How to close open Apps on your iPad and iPhone

If you love your iPad but your just not as fond of it lately because it seems to run slower or the battery doesn’t last as long as you think it should, you are not alone.

It may not necessarily because your iPad doesn’t love you anymore, or that it’s getting old and tired…. It’s probably because it’s juggling too many open programs.

When you open an App and then click the home button and open another App, the first app is still running in the background.  At some point, you run low on resources and the poor little thing gets slow and sluggish.

I get these calls from clients and friends a few times a week.

This tutorial will show you how to close (or quit) any program running on your iPad or iPhone to free up those resources.

1. Start out by “double-clicking” the Home button on your iPad or iPhone. The Home button is the one at the bottom of your iDevice, as illustrated in the image below.

2. This will bring up the ‘list’ of currently running Apps – by way of an “App bar” at the bottom of your screen. Tap and hold down on any one of the currently running Apps (even if it’s not the one you want to close).

3.  You’ll notice that each App will start to “wiggle” and now has a small “minus sign” circle in the upper left corner. Tap the “minus sign” of the App you want to close/quit.

4.  That App will now close. NOTE: This will close the App, not delete it from your iPad or iPhone.

You can continue tapping the “minus signs” to close all open Apps, if needed.

5. That’s it!

This should keep your pretty little iPad or iPhone running fast and smooth like it’s all hopped up on sugar.

Enjoy!

Danielle