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So you’ve finished creating the project schedule, congratulations! You’re done and don’t ever have to look at it again, right? Wrong!

(At the end of this article you’ll see how to register for a free webinar on this topic later in May!)

Your project schedule is a constantly changing document. Changes occur all the time throughout the duration of a project. Tasks are added, removed, and reordered. They finish and start earlier and later. The resource assignments change. Issues happen.. And our schedules need to reflect that.

The project baseline is the starting point – this is where your original plan and intentions are stored. Think of this as “this is what we planned to do.” After that, when the project has started and is in execution, changes to the project schedule need to be made. Think of this as “this is what we actually did.” The value of capturing the actual information is in the variance analysis. Now you can show the variance in your original plan from what actually occurred. Also, when a schedule is updated with actual information, MS Project automatically adjust the future start and finish dates of all linked tasks. This ensures your resources always have the most up to date task information.

There are two ways to keep the project schedule updated, the project manager can manually enter to the actuals or the resources can.

  • MS Project only: If you are using MS Project as a standalone installation (without Project Online) you’ll have to enter the actuals manually.  The best way to do this is to gather the actual information from your resources, using a variety of methods including one-on-one conversations and emails, or team status meetings. Once the actual information is gathered, the PM then enters that information into the project schedule.

  • Project Online/Project Server: If you are using Project Online or Project Server, resources can enter their actual information in the Tasks view. These updates are then submitted to the Project Manager for approval. If the PM approves the updates, the changes are automatically incorporated into the project schedule. If rejected, the schedule is not updated and notification of the rejection is sent to the resource.

Once your schedule is up to date, you’ll have great reports and view to show your variance information. One of my favorites is the Tracking Gantt. It shows the baseline and actual data in an easy to view Gantt Chart layout as shown below:

If you’re interested in learning more about keeping your schedule updated and analyzing the variance reports, please join us for the next PM Webinar on May 21st. We’ll take a deeper dive into each of the update methods and explore some of the views and report available.

  • When:  Thursday, May 21st from 2-2:30pm (Eastern)
  • Where:  Online
  • It’s free!
  • Click here to RSVP

(attend one of our webinars and you might win a copy of Windows 8.1 from our friends at Microsoft)

 

 

 

*Update*  The correct date for this event is Thursday May 14th!

In this free session, we will look at creating Vlookup formulas – since most tables are created vertically, you can look up values from a table to populate another worksheet, then when you update the main table, it updates the other worksheets.   We will create name ranges to use in formulas and when selecting large areas of a worksheet, work with IF statement functions, the Sumif and Sumifs formulas, and the DGET function (grabs one record from a large database).

We will also look at working with comments and tracking a workbook so you can send and then review changes and accept or decline those changes to update workbook. Learn how to protect a workbook and worksheet so others can only change cells you choose.

Will also look at creating a simple macro in Excel and learn more about the Personal workbook which is a hidden workbook that stores macros.

We look forward to you participating in our next Office webcast.

One attendee will win a copy of Microsoft Office Pro 2013, thanks to Microsoft!

At Simplex-IT, we specialize in sharing our knowledge with several free webinar and Lunchinar events each month on topics such as Microsoft Office, Project Management and Data Practices. Contact us at Info@Simplex-IT.com, Twitter (Simplex_IT), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/simplex-it) or FaceBook: (http://www.facebook.com/simplex.it).  Also, watch any of our over 100 videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/simplexITBob.

Questions?  Email us at Events@Simplex-IT.com.

Bob CoppedgeDefinitions:

  • ObsoleteNo longer produced or used; out of date.  Outmoded in design, style, or construction.
  • Obsolete (manufacturing):  Doesn’t draw power when you power it on.  Alternately, sparks/flames/smoke bellow out when you power it on.

A lot of companies faced the past several years of economic uncertainty (a polite enough word, no?) by tightening their collective belts.  From the IT standpoint, that meant:

  • No updates to applications (let alone new applications)
  • No replacement of older hardware
  • No training of employees technology
  • Cutting back on technology staffing
  • No training of technology staffing

And that was great the standpoint of cutting costs. The problem comes later. As in now. Now that a lot of companies are coming out of that cycle, they find themselves in a dilemma. By cutting back on these expenses that might have helped the bottom line, but it makes it difficult to grow moving forward either in terms of volume of business or new types of business.

We’re seeing a lot of companies, particularly manufacturing, that are facing this issue. The challenges include:

  • Obsolete applications (in particular ones that are supported by the applications author anymore)
  • Obsolete software.  Some examples include:
    • Windows XP, which lost all Microsoft support in 2014
    • Windows Server 2003, which loses support in July 2015
    • Windows SQL Server 2005, which loses support in 2016
    • Failing hardware (and out of warranty hardware)
    • Insufficient security
    • Inconsistent or nonexistent standards
    • Different versions of software (several versions of Microsoft office, for example)
    • Systems that only work because of manual processes that only a couple of people truly understand

Needless to say this is a situation that companies need to get out of in order to be able to grow. But how to do this? Actually there’s been a lot of attention paid to this process, and a lot of vendors out there willing to take your money (remember the consultants’ credo: “Your check is our command”).

And do we have to upgrade everything?  It’s a tough sell to go out and replace a perfectly working shop floor device for $30,000 because you’re told a $600 computer that works perfectly well needs to be replaced.

Here’s the first question. And it’s an important one. And it’s one that you as a business owner or business management must absolutely understand.

“Where are you now and what do you have?”

It’s absolutely critical that you have a good idea of where you currently are in terms of the health of your IT infrastructure. Not from the geeky bits and bytes standpoint, but what are the strengths, what are the vulnerabilities and where are the opportunities as they relate to both where your business is and where your business wants to go. If you don’t understand that then you’re abdicating that knowledge and the value of that knowledge to either your internal IT staff or an IT consulting firm. Neither of which have your perspective, your priorities, nor your understanding of the business.

So how do you go about answering that important question? Actually is fairly simple. Ask someone who is capable of answering. Insist on an answer. And listen to the answer.

So what constitutes a good answer to this question? We refer to these as a Network Audit and  and an application Application Audit. Some of the key ingredients include:

  • Inventory of equipment, including age, warranty status, health concerns
  • Inventory of software applications
  • Review of outstanding trouble issues
  • Comparison of status quo to best practices
  • Identification of critical business applications and out of date they are
  • Critical knowledge that is not documented or shared
  • Review of security (including protection against viruses and malware)
  • Review of backups
  • Review of testing of backups
  • At least a conversation about Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery
  • at least a conversation about new business practices and opportunities and whether IT can support them

Many IT companies, including Simplex-IT offer these services, often at a reduced rate (or even free, hint-– hint) as a way to introduce themselves to other organizations.  Make sure when you talk to these vendors that their goal is not to generate additional business, but to actually answer the critical question. These companies should understand that the better that they answer these questions the more that there demonstrating their value to you and your organization.

Next month:  Got that answered, now what?

I’d love to get your feedback.  Email me with your comments at Bob@Simplex-IT.com.

See ya next month.

Corporate data is important.

Most corporations keep track of their operations.  How they service their customers.  How they work with their vendors.  Cash flow.

We usually gather this data through applications, and the data is “structured,” meaning it’s contained using a technology like SQL, Oracle or the like.

Our topic for our Lunchinar this month is “Keeping Corporate Data Healthy.”

Data is critical to your business.

It needs to be healthy and reliable.  It needs to be there when you need it.  And it needs to provide you with answers to questions that assist in your operations, both strategically and operationally. In other words it needs to be ‘good’ data.

Do you have confidence your data is good?  Do you proactively deal with issues involving your data and have confidence that it is healthy?  That it will ‘be there’ when you need it – accurate, secure and ready to be used?

Having comfort and confidence in your data is a simple matter of addressing the ‘3 pillars’ of good data.

  • Health:  your data can be used when you need to use it.
  • Performance: your data is available quickly enough to be useful.
  • Usefulness: your data serves its intended purpose, but can be readily used for others as well.

This month, we’re going to focus on “Health.”  This includes:

  • Backups – proven to be usable should the need arise
  • Integrity – your data is not corrupt and can be relied upon for decision making
  • Security – your data is available only to those you choose to have access
  • Availability – it is able to be used when you need it

Doug Tombow (who heads up our new Simplex-dba practice) and Bob Coppedge will be demonstrating some of the tools and tactics we’re using to manage and maintain the health of some of our customers.

Join us!  It’s free, there’s going to be food (unless you join us online, in which case you’re on your own), we’ll give away a copy of Windows 8.1 and who knows what else?!

Click here to RSVP and more information

When:  Wednesday April 15th, 11:30-1pm (eastern)

Simplex-dba is part of Simplex-IT, which is an award winning IT services organization located in Hudson, Ohio (between Cleveland and Akron).  Simplex-dba is aimed at maintaining the health, security, performance and usability of corporate data (focusing on Microsoft SQL Server) in the Small to Medium Business world.  Our offerings include monitoring, management, training, proactive maintenance and strategic guidance.  We do so at a fraction of the cost of a full-time dba (DataBase Administrator) or those “big” consulting firms.

At Simplex-IT, we specialize in sharing our knowledge with several free webinar and Lunchinar events each month on topics such as Microsoft Office, Project Management and Data Practices.  Contact us at Info@Simplex-IT.com, Twitter (Simplex_IT), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/simplex-it) or FaceBook: (http://www.facebook.com/simplex.it).  You can also check out our YouTube channel with over 100 videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/SimplexITBob

 

Hi! I’m Zoey Sollisch and I just finished my first week at Simplex-IT. I graduated from Kent State almost a year ago and have a strong background in sales. I started my sales journey working at the most hated place on campus: the alumni fund for annual giving. Basically my job was to call and ask alumni for money. Although it was the highest turnover job on campus, I absolutely loved it and stayed for almost two years raising well over 25,000 for Kent State. That’s when I discovered my passion for people/selling. I loved going into work every day and forming relationships with all different kinds of people on the phone. After that I pursued a sales and custom marketing internship at the Cleveland Jewish News which I immediately fell in love with. I learned an incredible amount and met some of the best people. I then had an internship at a recruiting company and after I graduated I got a job in outside sales at Pure Water Technology selling water purification systems. I stayed for about 8 months and realized it wasn’t for me and that I really wanted an inside sales job in IT. My brother works in IT sales and loves absolutely everything about it.

When I found Simplex-IT I applied immediately. After one week I can honestly say this is the best culture I’ve been a part of. I love how ethical and non corporate everything is here. I am so excited to be a part of the team.

Although I’m not technical, I’m looking forward to bringing a new perspective to the team. I love connecting with people and making relationships and I think because I’m not technical I will have an easier time explaining what I do know to other non-geeks. I’m extremely outgoing and people driven, which I look forward to bringing to the team as well. I’m eager and ready to learn all I can.

In my free time I enjoy hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, and cooking. I’ve also recently began convincing myself I enjoy running, too. I just adopted a 2 year old pit mix from the Cleveland animal protection league so cuddling with him has quickly become another one of my hobbies.

If you’re interested in discussing how Simplex-IT can help you and your organization maximize the effectiveness of your IT, contact me at Zoey@Simplex-IT.com or call 234.380.1277!

Each year the folks at MSPMentor publishes a few lists of what they see as the top Managed Service Providers.  Their list includes the top 100 Small Business Managed Services Providers (10 or fewer employees).  Simplex-IT found itself once again on that list for 2015.  We moved up from 49th in 2014 to 42nd in 2015.

I’m honestly not 100% sure exactly how important this is in the grand scheme of things.  That said it beats a poke in the eye with a stick.  Of that I’m sure<g>.

All that said, congrats and thanks to everybody at Simplex-IT for their contribution for this award.  And thanks to our partners, both vendors and customers, who make us look good.

 

Did you know that you can do a lot more than just create project schedules with Project Online? Yep. Project schedules are a very important part of good project management, but there’s also a lot more, such as Risk Management, Issue Tracking, Documentation, and Deliverables, just to name a few. And Project Online helps you manage all of that in on easy to use place – Project Sites.

Risk Management – Project Sites have a Risks repository, where you can track and manage Risks in one location. You can include mitigation plans, contingency plans, and trigger if you’d like, but you don’t have to. Everyone on the project can view these Risks, and they can even be assigned to team members for better management.

Issues – Issues and Risks are very similar in Project Online. Technically, an Issue is something that has happened already, where a Risk is just a chance that something might happen. Issue lists are a great way of keeping track of things that affect your project throughout execution. Issues can also be assigned to team members and tracked and managed in Project Sites.

Deliverables – Mostly likely there are tasks within your project that result in certain document deliverables. They can be stored in Project Sites and even linked from the Project Schedule. For example, if part of the project is to create a Press Release, you could link the press release document you created to that task. Everyone can easily find it, and you’re ensured there’s only one current version of the document out there.

Announcements – reduce your emails and ensure everyone on the team sees the same message by using Announcements. These are a great way to increase project communication, and can be displayed for the duration of the project, or set to expire on a specific date. Now, reminding your team members to update their tasks before a status meeting only takes a minute!

Calendar – Share your project calendar with the team – it’s a great way to keep track of holidays, site closures, vacations, and other important events. This is separate from your project schedule, so it’s great for things that are good to know, but don’t have a direct impact on your project.

Customized Lists – This is where Project Sites are really great. You can create a custom list, or document library, of anything you’d like. I think it’s great for managing things like contractor invoices, project management documentation such as the Charter and Scope Statement, and even simple things like a phone list. Just think of how many Excel spreadsheets you could replace with a custom list. I prefer the custom lists because I know everyone sees the same thing, and there aren’t different versions of a spreadsheet being emailed all over.

Alerts and Notifications - Most items have the option of setting alerts on the item or list. Each person on the team can set up the alerts however they’d like. I like to be notified whenever there is any change to an item in my list, but maybe a team member only wants to receive a notification when a new item is added. That’s no problem since the alerts are managed by each individual.

Accessible anywhere, from any device – Project Sites are part of Project Online and Office 365, so they are accessible from any device. Just think of how organized you’ll be and how much time you will save. No more searching through emails to find the document you were supposed to review, you can pull it up right on your smartphone or tablet and review it there.

Project Sites are a great compliment to your Project Schedule. It’s one place where you can access all of your project information. You’ll be more organized and efficient, and your project team will be too!

If you’re interested in what Project Sites can do for you – Please join us on April 16th for Simplex-PM’s monthly webinar (2-2:30pm eastern).  April’s topic will be Project Sites, and we’ll demonstrate some of the topics in this article.

Click here to RSVP for this free webinar and possibly win a free copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2013 courtesy of Microsoft.

Simplex-PM is part of Simplex-IT, which is an award winning IT services organization located in Hudson, Ohio (between Cleveland and Akron).  Simplex-PM is aimed at Project Managers in the Small to Medium Business world, offering mentoring, training and support for organizations and people struggling to implement Project Management into their organization.  Simplex-PM is well-versed with Microsoft’s Project Suite, including Microsoft Project Online, Project Standard, Project Professional and Project through Office 365 and Project Server.

At Simplex-IT, we specialize in sharing our knowledge with several free webinar and Lunchinar events each month on topics such as Microsoft Office, Project Management and Data Practices.  Contact us at Info@Simplex-IT.com, Twitter (Simplex_IT), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/simplex-it) or FaceBook: (http://www.facebook.com/simplex.it)

 

MS AccessIn this webcast, we will continue to look at our data that we worked with in the last webcast using Microsoft Access 2013.  In the last webcast we created tables and worked with field settings and learned how to find data in a table.  Now, we will learn how to filter in a table.  Filters are a great way to find information quickly in a database, but are not as powerful as queries.

Queries ask questions and are the guts of a database.  It’s where you get all the answers to your questions to extract useful information.  We will learn how to create queries using one or more tables in a database.  We will see how to create queries using the query wizard and work with criteria to get the information we are looking for.  We will learn how to create a calculation in a query and total a group of items, such as total sales by department, total units in stock for products.  Do you want to enter the information you are looking for in a box so you get a different outcome each time you run the query or print a report, let’s create a parameter query to do just that.  Now that you have the information you need, why not print the query.  You want the report to look nice, let’s combine the fields such as first and last name even though they were create as separate fields in a table.  You can also export the report to Word and then email it to someone even if they don’t use Access.

Yes – there is so much more to Access and really we’ve just covered a fraction of what it can do.  If you are interested in learning more, we can provide another webcast or come out and train your employees to learn how to use this powerful program.

Attend this Free webinar from Simplex-IT and possible win a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2013!

When:  Thursday, April 9th from 11-noon (eastern)

Where:  Online

click here to:  RSVP

At Simplex-IT, we specialize in sharing our knowledge with several free webinar and Lunchinar events each month on topics such as Microsoft Office, Project Management and Data Practices.  Contact us at Info@Simplex-IT.com, Twitter (Simplex_IT), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/simplex-it) or FaceBook: (http://www.facebook.com/simplex.it)

Bob CoppedgeHowdy, folks.  I’ll (Bob Coppedge, that is) will be presenting at the next meeting of the Entrepreneurship Series at the Hudson Library (the series is made possible with a grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation).  The topic will be Cyber Security.

“Bob Coppedge, owner and CEO of Simplex-IT, will discuss how to protect your business by safeguarding your perimeter, critical internal assets, data, remote users, customers, and partners.

Simplex-IT’s Managed Services practices and provides straightforward leadership on many IT issues and provides a wide range of security services to small and medium-sized businesses in the Hudson area and beyond.”

Want to join me?  It’s free, and I think they’ll have cookies.

When:  Monday, March 30, 2015.  6:30-8:30pm (eastern)

Where:  Hudson Library

RSVP (or find details) by clicking here.  If you’d like to attend online, send me an email, and I’ll see what we can do.

 

 

Microsoft has been pretty busy over the past few months with Windows 10. A major new version was released for preview, including their version of Apple Siri (“Cortana,” from the xBox Halo).

But less fanfare has been generated for some of the decisions behind the scenes, including rather liberal upgrade paths from previous versions of Windows (including Windows phone). Also how Microsoft is going to handle software updates to Windows 10 once it’s released.

And let’s not forget about Microsoft Office. Apparently it’s also going to be released in the same timeframe (no surprise there). Also apparently it’s going to be called “Office 2016,” in spite of my ongoing belief will be getting rid of the version number sooner rather than later.

So at our next luncheon are were going to review all of these changes that Microsoft is going to be implementing over the next 9 to 12 months. We’ll also take a look (a high-altitude one) at some of the other changes that Microsoft is rolling out, including significant changes to Microsoft’s Azure(cloud-based server and infrastructure), and Microsoft rebranding of their Lync product into Microsoft Skype for Business.

As always our lunchinars are free and open to the public.  We’ll be giving away a copy of Windows 8.1 and Office Professional 2013 (courtesy of Microsoft).

When:  Wednesday, March 18, 2015 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM (Eastern)

Where:  Stow Hampton Inn (or online from noon to 1pm)

Click here to RSVP!