Tag Archives: Email

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?

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Yammer: Transparency in Enterprise Project Communication

Recently I attended the Gartner Infrastructure and Operations conference in Orlando, and one of the main points they kept bringing up was “social” in the enterprise, how your IT Ops groups can use it to communicate, Yammer was at the forefront here (and SharePoint).

I have been a proponent of Yammer for some time. At work, I actually created our Yammer instance back in September 2008. Although it hasn’t taken off as I’d hoped, it has made some people think. Coming from a tech company in MN to a bike manufacturer, you can’t expect leading edge technical things to take off too fast, have to set expectations, was just kind of waiting for the right time to see how we could really use it.

Recently, on a software project we have, I was thinking on how to “up” the level of communication between team members, but also keep things transparent so everyone who wanted to could “drink from the firehose” so to speak. Tons of communication happens on IM and Email, phone, face to face. All those have their place and are needed, but they are all mediums in which people are left out.

Face to Face, usually is more personal and unless it is a huge conference or meeting, not everyone can hear or be there, and things get lost or no notes are taken. Same with phone. Email, things get saved, but people are left off and not everyone is included. Many small questions or items to communicate aren’t even sent to avoid email overload. IM is good for one on one quick questions and information sharing, but once again, it gets lost and isn’t saved for anyone else to see.

In comes Yammer. Create a group, and then say “everything to do with the project, communicate it here”, and see what happens. Well, tons of info comes pouring out. Things that were maybe a conversation or IM/Email between two people are now open for the group to see and other people can add their voice to the conversation, or just be aware of the issue. Things you might previously emailed or IM’d, throw them on Yammer. Is there really any reason any project based communication that isn’t of a personal nature can’t be there for the group?

Start using #hashtags, and you start building a knowledge repository. Upload images, files for more info.

Now, you might say, “Well I am going to get Yammer overload!” yes, that may happen. Turn it into a daily digest instead of emails on every post. Hit the site now and then throughout the day. If you really want to get someone’s attention, @ them and make sure you/they have the setting to get alerting on a @ to them, either through IM/SMS or email.

Things to watch out for? Gotta make sure you dump messages to your group, not the main feed, or you end up clogging up people’s feeds. Also, install the desktop app for a better experience.

Can using Yammer lead to more transparency on your project? I believe it can. Try it out, and see what it does for you.

I find this.. exhilarating.

Moving to Office 365 from Google Apps: Follow Up

Earlier I blogged about Moving to Office 365 from Google Apps, and some of my woes.

In the time since, things have been straightened out. First off, what happened to me sucked, but was resolved. I think Microsoft knows they have some initial bugs and they will work it out. What does stand out is that the customer service is top notch. Their forum moderators replied. Their twitter account @Office365 replied. They actually CALLED me and walked through fixing the issue. This was great. They made sure it was working before leaving me hanging.

After I got the issues resolved, I switched my GoDaddy DNS to MSFT DNS name servers and away we go. I reset up my iPhone, iPad syncing with my new Office365 stuff, worked great, found the server url, etc. Android I had to type it in (to find it, log into web mail and go to about off the help icon). I set it up with Outlook 2010 and it works great. Also Mail.app on Mac, works great there too.

I haven’t done much more than just use it. Some things I miss or want? First, in Gmail, you can archive mail right from iOS. Exchange doesn’t have this, but in Outlook you can set up quick steps to do it, so I did that. The OWA interface doesn’t have quick steps, which would be nice. I haven’t used Lync yet as I don’t have anyone to talk to on it, I will dork around with that later. Haven’t used the SharePoint or Office Web Apps yet, it has been more Mail, Contacts, Calendar to start.

I would like to point my mail.domain.com to the Office365 portal for easy access, haven’t looked into it yet.

One other thing I noticed, is that some mail still comes to my old Google Apps account. Facebook mail alerts for sure. They might have a slow DNS change time as most all other mail comes to Office365. More to come as I get into things though.

Moving from Google Apps to Office 365

I have been using Google Apps premier since 2007. Almost 4 years. Before that I used hotmail and tried to use the Microsoft ecosystem as I had a Windows Mobile phone, many of them actually. Before Windows Mobile was “cool”. The thing with Google Apps is that it only offered the “core” apps for a loooong time. (Mail, Calendar, Docs, Chat). Recently they allowed you to “transition” to more Google services (apps), such as Reader, Voice, etc, etc.

Now, this sounds great right? Yeah, except in the last 4 years I had to create a regular gmail account to use most of the Google services (YouTube, voice, Reader), and now I have 4 years of content and what not built up with that account. Google wants me to “start fresh” with my Google Apps account? Doesn’t sound like much fun. Also Google+ just came out, and it doesn’t work with Google Apps accounts, another great way for Google to alienate paying customers, and rewarding free ones. You can’t be signed into both a Google Apps and Google Account at the same time (at least without problems) So I end up having to run one browser with Google account and one with Google Apps? No thanks again.

What I decided to do is try something new. There aren’t many options.

1. Hotmail
2. Yahoo
3. Hosted Exchange (Rackspace, etc)
4. Office 365
5. Other

With Hotmail.. It works, I actually changed it over in a hour or so.. but, there is no 1st class citizen mail client on Mac. Mail, other 3rd party, even Outlook, only connect with POP, not with IMAP. iOS at least uses Activesync. This is somewhat of a deal breaker for me, as I like to use a client on the desktop, or at least try them out.

Yahoo is just out, well, because it is Yahoo. Hosted Exchange looks promising, but too much $$ for not the same features I currently get. Office 365 seems like the logical choice.

I was in the beta for Office 365 and dorked around with it a little bit. I decided to take the plunge.

It is a little more expensive than Google Apps a year, but really no other choices. My first concern was with my Google Talk with my Google Apps. Probably not going to work. Why? Well, with Office 365, if you are on the small business plan, you have to delegate your DNS to Office 365. You can create CNAME and A records, but not TXT or SRV records, etc. Google Apps GTalk needs SRV records in your DNS.

Also, when you sign up for Office 365, you get a weird account, not a Windows Live ID, but Online Services ID, like blah@domain.onmicrosoft.com .. and then you have to set up your custom domain inside the Office 365 web app.

Currently, this is where I am at, and I hope to have a follow up to this..

I made all the DNS changes for Office 365. I created another account in my system, and assigned it a license. I made the account admin, so I had 2 admin accounts. Everything was working.

I decided to cleanup the onmicrosoft.com account, by removing the mailbox and account. It had the same “Full Name” as my regular account, Steve Novoselac. I went to delete and it said “Do you want to remove Steve Novoselac”, I was weary but figured it was keyed on email address of the account record, not name.

Boom, it deleted both the records on my account. Currently I can’t even login to my account. Even better with the small business account you don’t get 24/7 support. Just “service tickets” and the community forum. I did put in a service request and a forum post, and I am working through the issue, but it seems ridiculous. Why?

First off, you shouldn’t be able to remove the “last admin” from an account. Second, it should delete by email address and not full name. We will see how and when I get this resolved, but currently I just switched my DNS back to Google Apps so I can continue to receive email.

Another unknown is the Lync online. It is federated with WLM, but I am curious to see how that is all going to work. Giving support a few days and hopefully will have it all sorted out. More to come..

Sent from my iPhone/iPad

Mini rant. Too much to write in one tweet. To everyone out there who has an iPhone (and now iPad): Do you not realize that even if you go into your mail settings, and remove the signature that will add

“Sent from my iPhone”

that we still know you sent it from your iPhone (mostly). Example: Outlook. Default now in Outlook is Calibri size 11 and black/blue for to and reply. And then we know you have have an iPhone, and we know you aren’t on your laptop 24/7, and then we receive an email that has jacked up all the formatting in Outlook and you are sending it with Times New Roman (or whatever font it comes in as) and it looks just an email that would have “Sent from my iPhone” at the end, yet that isn’t there.

Who are you trying to fool? Do you think we don’t know you are on your phone? Why care about letting us know – there is nothing “wrong” with sending an email from your iPhone. It might even make us think, “hey, so and so is working from their phone – so I won’t attach a 20 MB PDF back, or maybe I will give them a quick shout back, etc.

To all of those out there that removed the signature… why? And if you have, I think you should put it back!

Ok..


MobileMe’s Mail – Glaring Omission

So we have MobileMe setup. I still use GAFYD for my main email, but I had Emily use MobileMe with my old iPhone. Today a glaring omission was pointed out. No rich text, formatting, coloring, smileys, font changing, italics, bold, underline, etc to be found.

mobile_me_compose

There are options to send, draft, spelling, and add contact. Also in the Mail preferences, there is a “Composing” tab, but no settings for formatting at all. For some people, this is the show stopper feature they want. You would expect any first rate email client to have these things. Of course, some people don’t want these settings, but if they are there, then you can turn them off, but if they aren’t there, you can do anything, and you go back to Hotmail so you can send smileys and 24 pt wingding font in red :)