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?

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!

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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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!

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