Microsoft Project is really great for managing one project schedule, but what happens when you have more than one project to manage? Sure, you can view the project indivually, but did you know Microsoft Project Online has views to show consolidate project information? Sorted, grouped, sliced and diced however you’d like!

Click here to RSVP for the webinar

Project Online is a cloud based solution, similar to Microsoft Project Server (the on premise solution). It’s designed to help you manage multiple projects, resources, budgets, etc and get an overview view of all your projects.

You can still start off by creating a project in MS Project or Project Online. Project Online has the capability to create new project schedules, so if you don’t have the full version of MS Project, it’s no problem. Think of it as a scaled down, web based version of MS Project. It has the basics to get you by, but if you’re doing a lot of schedule development, you’ll want MS Project Professional.

Once you have your Project schedules created, you can view their status on your main Project Online page, called Project Center (shown below).

 

 

 

You can also process task status updates from your resources in one place. So if you are managing several projects, you have one central screen to accept and reject all status updates.

 

 

 

 

Remember our PM topic last month, Risk Management? Using Project Online, you can manage risks (and issues) in multiple projects.

 

 

 

 

One of the key metrics we want to track when managing multiple projects, are resources, right? Resource availability and utilization to be exact, across all projects. Using Project Online, you can clearly view and report on project resources quickly and easily. One the mage below, I’ve collapsed Bob’s project so it shows a summary, and I’ve expanded my tasks so it shows all the detail.

 

 

 

 

 

The Resource Availability graph is also great – It has four options for viewing Resource information:

  1. Assignment Work by Resource
  2. Assignment Work by Project
  3. Remaining Availability
  4. Work

Below I’ve selected the third option, Remaining Availability:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s very clear which one of us has availability in this demonstration :-)

If you’re interested in diving deeper into managing multiple projects, please join on July 16th for this month’s Project Management Webinar. Plus, you’ll have an opportunity to win a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013!

Click here to RSVP for the webinar

 

We first started the monthly Lunchinar concept back in January of 2009.  A simple idea, we’d just invite people to the Simplex-IT office, get some pizza, share some ideas about what’s going on in IT.  No sales pitch, nothing fancy.

Within the first six months, we outgrew the office, and found a great home the Hattie Larlham’s Café in Hudson.

We’ve shown Windows 7, Windows 8, 8.1 and 10.  All months before their release.  Google Glass, cloud servers, various versions of Office.  Business Continuity, Social Media for small to medium businesses.

3 years ago we started the “Geek Raffle” which raised funds for Hattie Larlham in December.

Then we started videotaping the event, and editing them for posting on YouTube.  John Harrow took care of that.

Fast forward to 2015.  We’ve added several webinars each month.  Although we’ve continued the lunchinars, the attendance has lowered to about the same as our webinars.

But the cost in terms of time and money is significantly higher for the Lunchinar.

So I’ve made the decision to put an end to the Lunchinar.

Sorta.

July’s Lunchinar will be the last of the regularly scheduled Lunchinar.  But we’ll have some additional events on the 3rd Wednesday of each month moving forward.

August will be our annual picnic (that ain’t going away).

September will be an online event (more details to follow).

October will be Simplex-IT’s first field trip (yup, I kid you not).

November will be an online event (more details to follow)

December will still be our Geek raffle (although some details might change from prior years).

January will be our annual “IT Trends for 2016.”

Each week the Cleveland Plain Dealer selects a person and promotes their business and career.

On Sunday they hit a new low and selected me.

Click here to read their folly.

MicrosoftDeals on various Microsoft products expire on June 30th!

Microsoft’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.  Because of this, Microsoft always has promotions and deals for their licensing that expires on June 30th.  This year is no exception.

Offers on:

  • Office 365
  • Project Online
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Licensing
  • Migration Costs
  • Open Value Subscription
  • Software Assurance

These offers differ from product line to product line, but they usually end up somewhere between 10-30% off what you would pay throughout the rest of the year.  And many of these offers are limited to only if you purchase the product through a Microsoft Partner (that would be someone like us).

Also, Microsoft has quietly announced that some products will actually see a price increase after June 30th.

So…act now, save money.  Wait until after, price increase.

Interested?

Click us at Sales@Simplex-IT.com, or call us at 234.380.1277.  And you know we don’t do the whole high-pressure approach.  We’ll help you determine the product and licensing plan that’s best for you and your organization (even if it’s not with us).

For June’s Lunchinar we’re going to do a business level introduction to Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure.

Although we’ll go into the technical details (to a point), the key focus is going to be how Azure can be used by Small to Medium Businesses (SMB’s).  We’ll discuss Azure in terms as an alternative to traditional Information Technology (IT) solutions (like servers).  But we’ll also discuss how Azure can be used to extend how SMB’s extend their IT resources to vendors, customers and external employees.  And Azure does this at a fraction of the cost of in-house solutions (usually).

But what is it?  Actually, it’s changing weekly.  Microsoft has created a remote environment that can be configured as servers (so it’s kind of like you having a server, but “out there”), or services (so you don’t have the server, just what you use the server for).  You can use Azure for Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery/Off Site Backups.  You can use it for distributed databases, remote connectivity and more.  You can create a Single Sign On environment based on your Active Directory (network) credentials.  And a lot more.

And you pay only for what you eat.  Increasing or decreasing the amount of resources you need is relatively easy.  So if you’re a seasonal company you can arrange to have beefier (more $) resources available during the busy season, and smaller (less $) resources during the rest of the year.

But there are tradeoffs.  Connectivity speed, full server level access become potential issues.  Security requirements need to be taken into account (well, they should be already, but you lose the luxury of being Pollyannaish about it).

Join us at this upcoming Lunchinar.  We’ll be both in person as well as online.  And we’ll discuss (and demonstrate) this environment, talk both features, functions, benefits, drawbacks and costs.  And one lucky attendee will pick up a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2013, courtesy of Microsoft.

  • When:  Wednesday, June 17th from 11:30-1pm (eastern)
  • Where:  Hampton Inn in Stow (plus 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).  You can also check out our YouTube channel with over 100 videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/SimplexITBob

 

The Road to Character, by David Brooks

Ok, here’s my second book review.  Last month I described a book about the Treaty of Versailles.  This month I switched over to a book I first heard about on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show back in April.

The concept is an interesting one.  Brooks talks about our fixation on what he calls our “resume virtues.”  These are things that help us on the wallet side of things.  Better jobs, more money and additional status.  But we tend to ignore what he calls our “eulogy virtues.”  These are the attributes that form a more inner character.  Kindness, honesty and the like.

The first chapter is a great introduction to Brooks’ core concepts.  He describes some of the changes that he sees in terms of American Society since the 40’s.  The priority was more on belonging, contributing to society and the like.

To be clear, Brooks is not saying they were better.  There were numerous comparisons to “the old ways” where we’ve clearly improved (race and gender being a couple of obvious ones).

But he makes the case (with some justification) that we’re collectively and individually missing something.  And Brooks breaks down several examples of individuals who lived their lives focusing on developing as much (or more) “eulogy virtues” versus “resume virtues.”  Examples include Dwight D. Eisenhower, and English writer Samuel Johnson.

The core lessons of the book are great.  Some of the individual examples are better than others.  But overall a worthwhile book.

 

Ask a Business Management person “How’s Business?” and you’ll probably get an answer that’s full of anecdotal terms.  ”Not bad,” “Great!” and the like.  Of course, if you don’t measure it, you can’t control or manage it.  With all the metrics that we can measure, it gets easy to be completely overwhelmed.  So it’s important to choose what specific metrics make up the majority of the definition of health for the organization (KPI’s).  Here’s some more information about KPI’s.

Although the idea of the project-based ERP system may not be for everybody, consider implementing some methods of measure your KPI’s, and keep your eyes on them!

 

This article excerpt, by Brian Lamee, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1DTQ6A5
In today’s highly competitive market, accounting firms need a way to compare themselves to their past performance, and that of similar companies, as a barometer of achievement.
Successful firms use a common set of strategic and operational key performance indicators, or KPIs, to accomplish this goal. KPIs can include any number of metrics useful to your firm, including billings by client, revenue growth, contribution rate, utilization rate, realization, deal close ratio, customer lifetime value and more.
But the effectiveness of your chosen KPIs depends on your firm’s ability to capture and access related data.
Can you easily access project-specific metrics like days sales outstanding and project schedule variance?
Are you able to quickly view how much billable work remains incomplete? And do you know how much time passes between invoicing and payment?
In a word, you need insight. Enterprise resource planning software can help.
A project-based ERP system allows you to both create and measure your firm’s KPIs by producing consistent, measurable data that can be matched to individual projects. With the ability to take information from every project, ERP software allows for full transparency and more accurate reporting through a central repository.
Using an ERP system, it becomes important to make sure your KPIs are realistic and built around real, measurable data. Make sure your project managers set realistic and achievable targets for the talent used on each project, as detailed in “The Ultimate List of the KPIs Every Professional Services Organization Should Measure.”
Having set their own targets, it’s then easy for project managers to create dashboards for people and projects. The result?  Everyone can see and be accountable for his own KPIs, making them effective and easier to manage.
You can use this data to improve in various areas where you may be performing lower than the industry norm. Plus, having a full understanding of your capacity and available resources will leave you well placed to better allocate them. Soon, you’ll find yourself creating new efficiencies by resolving resource allocation issues.
At the end of the day, accurate and timely data is about more than information. It’s the key to boosting efficiency and, therefore, profit. If you aren’t already, it’s time to invest in a project-based ERP system—and start creating your firm’s top KPIs—today.
Brian LaMee is the head of product marketing at Herndon-based Deltek, a global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms.

Skype for Business logo

 

Lync is now Skype for Business!

If you’re a Lync user, you may have noticed a change already – Lync is now Skype for Business! Join us on June 11th (see below to RSVP) for our monthly webinar where we’ll talk about Skype for Business and demonstrate some of the collaboration capabilities. We’ll be giving away a free copy of Office 2013 to one lucky winner too!

Skype for Business can be used to increase communication and collaboration in a number of different ways:

Voice Calling (VoIP) – Audio calls are easy in Skype, and you don’t pay for long distance or airtime. And Skype for Business integrates with your previous contacts from Skype, so you’ll have one tool for your business and personal calls.

Video Calls – One-on-one video calls can be much more personal when you can talk face to face, even if it is virtually. With Skype for Business, you can have those discussions and be able to see facial expressions and body language, or just check out your colleague’s new haircut.

Video Conferencing – Similar to the one-on-one video calls, but with more than two people. This is great for bringing teams together with a more personal feel. Who’s wouldn’t prefer to look at their colleague’s instead of staring at a conference speakerphone the whole time?

Screen Sharing – It’s easy to share your screen during a call. Whether you are working on a project with a co-worker and need to share your screen on the fly, or leading a scheduled presentation, Skype for Business makes it easy to share your screen with your participants.  You’ll see Simplex-IT using Skype for Business for our webinars too!

Online Meetings – Integration with Microsoft Office makes creating online meetings easy! In Outlook, instead of creating a “New Meeting” just select “Skype Meeting” instead. A link to the Skype meeting will be created for you in the body of the meeting invitation. From there, it’s the same as creating a meeting. Your recipients can then use the link provided to join the meeting.

Skype for Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Messaging – For a quick message, who has time for email? The instant messaging capability in Skype for Business makes it easy to send a message to your contacts. It’s also great for back and forth conversation type communication, rather than the one-sided email that’s easy to lose in your Inbox. Conversations are saved in Outlook, so you can go back and reference them at any point, with no email clutter. You can also see your contacts availability, and let other’s know yours. Leaving for the afternoon or on an important assignment and can’t be bothered? Change your status to Off Work or Do Not Disturb to let everyone know. You can create groups, favorites, and much more.

Skype for Business Instant Messaging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to learn more about Skype for Business and see it in action? Join us for our monthly Office Webinar!

What: Skype for Business
When: Thursday, June 11th 11am – noon EST
Where: Online
Click here to Register!

 

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Managing project risks using Project Online

Did you know that Project Online is more than just project schedules and status reports? Yep, you can manage your project risks there too, and it’s pretty easy. Don’t miss our monthly PM webinar where we’ll talk more about this, details below.

When talking about project risks, oftentimes people will tell me that their project doesn’t have any risks. Or they don’t want to waste time tracking risks, because the project is a “must do” so it doesn’t matter anyway.  I disagree; there are a lot of advantages to tracking project risks, especially in Project Online.

“My project doesn’t have any risks.” Well, that sure would be nice, but every project has some risks associated with it. Let’s take a simple example – moving your offices. Your company has relocated and you are managing the project for the move. What are some risks we should consider?

  • Movers could be delayed/arrive late
  • Damage to equipment
  • Lost files
  • No utilities at new location
  • Injured employees
  • Something might get left behind

 

You might be thinking, “Well, that’s all fine, but we have to move anyway so why bother with risks?” Project Managers know the value of a good plan. “Fail to plan, plan to fail!” By identifying the potential risks in projects, we can now take steps to better manage them. We can add them to our Project Online Risk Repository to increase visibility and keep everyone updated on the status. There’s a lot of information we track when adding and managing risks:

Owner/Assignee The person/people responsible for tracking the risk overall
Status Active, Postponed, Closed
Due Date Sometimes there may be a specific date associated with the risk, sometimes not.
Probability The likelihood that the risk will occur (1%-100%)
Impact The magnitude of the impact should the risk actually happen.
Cost The cost that will be incurred when the risk occurs
Category Custom categories for your organization
Description The likely causes and consequences of the risk
Mitigation Plan Actions to reduce the probability or the impact of the risk
Contingency Plan The plan of action if the risk does occur
Triggers Indicators that the risk has occurred or will occur shortly

Once the risks are identified and all the information is entered in Project Online, you and your team will have one central place for tracking and communicating risks. In the example of moving day, if the movers are delayed, your team knows exactly what to do to keeping moving. Plus, you’ve taken many steps to mitigate any delays, by providing clear instructions and directions, several contact numbers, and completed a walk through before the actual moving day.

And, when you start tracking risks for multiple projects, you can then begin to do some analysis across all projects. Does the same risk occur over and over? Which mitigation plans have been successful? Which contingency plans have failed? You’ll even be able to balance the risks and determine when the best time might be to start a high risk project vs. a low risk project.

Join us on for the free monthly Project Management Webinar (we’ll be giving away a copy of Office Professional 2013 courtesy of Microsoft)!

  • Topic: Managing project risks with Project Online
  • When: June 18th at 2-2:30 (eastern)
  • Where:  Online
  • Click here to Register

We’ll talk more about Risk Management and demonstrate how to enter and track risks in Project Online.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Image of a risk in Project Online

 

 

 

I decided I’m going to try to increase my reading non-IT books.  And I figured the best way would be to share with folks a book each month (yeah, we’ll see how long this lasts).

I just finished Paris 1919:  Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan.  Written back in 2003 it’s an extremely detailed review of the process after World War I that led to the Treaty of Versailles.  This treaty was blamed (the author would argue against) for setting the stage for World War II.  At the very least it most certainly created rather arbitrarily defined countries and borders, especially in the Middle East.

It’s an interesting read.  Especially at a time where it’s easy to read the news today and wonder (whether you’re left or right facing) “how could any politician do such stupid things?”  Read this book and you’ll get a feeling for a good amount of the silliness, pettiness, ignorance and more that drove this process.