Home » Posts Tagged "microsoft"

Gantt charts help manage business progress

Construction, health care and engineering are among the common industries that consistently have long-term project plans in place. At the Digital Workshop, we’re lucky to work with some of the biggest regional names in these industries to help them improve their project management and software skills. One of the major reporting views that long-term projects utilize is called a Gantt chart. As the default chart view in Microsoft Project, and available in other project management applications, the Gantt chart has a long history of providing a graphical diagram of your project’s status and lifetime. Project management software like Microsoft Project is designed to help you be more efficient and closely monitor project tasks and resources. In Office 365, there are now more online collaboration tools than ever before, allowing project managers to work with their teams from anywhere. The Gantt chart provides a way for a project manager to view project tasks and resources over time. Typically, on the left of a Gantt chart will be a list of tasks and/or resources, with a time scale across the top. The plots on the chart are small shapes representing the duration of the task on each line. Furthermore, Gantt chart plots will often have connecting lines to show how one task connects to another and the dependency between them. This dependency is vital to a project’s timeline because the delay of one task can impact related tasks and the projected completion date. The Gantt chart automatically updates when related tasks are ahead or behind schedule. According to Gantt.com, the chart’s history dates back to the late 19th century. Gantt.com says “the first Gantt chart was devised in the mid 1890s by Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer who ran a steelworks in southern Poland and had become interested in management ideas and techniques. Some 15 years after Adamiecki, Henry Gantt, an American engineer and management consultant, devised his own version of the chart and it was this that became widely known and popular in western countries.” Gantt charts were originally written by hand, and consistently updated throughout a project’s life cycle. This was a tedious, time-consuming process. However, modern adoption project management software, managers have a fast, easy way to update all project, task, and resource information. In addition, newer software versions allow you to view resources and budgets, and to create customized reports to extract information to help you make informed decisions. The Gantt chart is available in other software programs. However its effectiveness can’t be compared to project management software like Microsoft Project. Before you begin a manual process of creating your own project timeline in another software, consider looking at a Gantt chart and learn the tricks that project managers have known for...

read more

SmartArt a hidden gem for business publications

Business processes, hierarchies and goals can be difficult to effectively communicate. While many applications on the market can help you in the design process, the cost of entry for these can far outweigh the need. For example, you might have a medium to large business hierarchy diagram that is constantly changing. With employees constantly coming and going, you need an easy way be sure that the information in the graphic is kept up to date. If this is a need that your business has, Microsoft Word, the most popular word processing program, has many features that can help you get started. There is a graphic feature called SmartArt that can help you create simple, flexible diagrams. Going beyond Microsoft Word, SmartArt is also available in several of the other Microsoft Office programs including Excel, Visio and PowerPoint. SmartArt includes a graphic solution for lists, processes, cycles, hierarchies, relationships and more. After you decide the appropriate format, SmartArt includes two contextual tabs that allow you to control the design and format of the graphic. The items in the graphic are controlled through the Text Pane and work similar to a bullet list, where you can create top-level items and then sub-items as needed. The individual shapes of a SmartArt graphic can be designed independently, or you can control the overall design to maintain a consistent look. In addition, when you change a font size of one SmartArt object, all related items will change their size proportionally. One of the best ways I have implemented SmartArt at the Digital Workshop Center is to create a simple infographic to help explain our certification programs. An infographic is a graphical way to describe our services, combining text and graphic elements to convey the information in a unique way. SmartArt allows me to create a simple infographic within an existing Office document and avoid the time involved with using a graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop. SmartArt is one of the many tools that are underutilized in the Microsoft Office suite. One of the comments about SmartArt I regularly hear in our classes is “I had no idea that existed in Microsoft Office!” I encourage you to try inserting it into your next Office document and start creating a SmartArt diagram for...

read more

How SharePoint Can Help Your Business

In a recent Microsoft class, a student asked another student “So, what is SharePoint?” Most of the class had no answer. Microsoft SharePoint is an enterprise solution to achieve common business goals by communicating in one central location and managing information between a team. While not suited for every business, the tools SharePoint offers have become invaluable for those who wish to invest the time and resources to do it correctly. SharePoint includes collaboration technology, email and calendars packaged into one convenient resource. The information on SharePoint is often hosted internally, which means a higher level of security for your business data. The SharePoint administrator can assign user roles to grant or deny access to different team members. SharePoint allows you to create unlimited team sites, sub-sites and a variety of lists. Lists can include announcements, tasks, reviews, contacts, discussion boards and more. Using SharePoint libraries, you can create a customized structure to organize your company’s files. A library could be for any type of file, at any size and any quantity. A library can also allow you to create your own business wiki, a user-generated content site. The vast capabilities of file organization and sharing are one of the most popular features of SharePoint. Additional features include document version control, advanced collaboration tools and integration with other Microsoft Office Suite products. With all of these features, you can start to see how powerful this cloud technology can be for your business. So, what’s the downside? The cost, which can be daunting. SharePoint is really geared toward larger enterprises, so the cost entry point for small business is higher than most can afford. Leave it to Microsoft to build a great product and then price the little guys out of being able to use it. To combat steep entry costs, there are external hosting solutions you can consider if you lack the equipment or staff to support a whole SharePoint deployment internally. Many companies offer SharePoint hosting and will provide technical support. However, your data is stored off-site, so security considerations immediately arise if you go this route. At the Digital Workshop, we recently did a huge training for a federal government office in Fort Collins and found that it was a perfect solution for the size of their business, the sensitivity of their data and the fact that they had many offices around the country looking to collaborate. However, when smaller businesses ask me if SharePoint is right for them, I am not so quick to say yes. If you are considering SharePoint for your business, be sure to weigh all the factors of time, cost and security before you get started. [Originally posted in the Coloradoan on...

read more

Email’s Evolution Allows Seamless Communications on Multiple Devices

  I have no idea how many times I check my email each day. Whether from my phone, laptop or desktop, I use email most from within a few moments of waking up to right before I go to sleep. It’s become something of an addiction, but I also get a couple hundred emails each day, making it necessary to stay on top of the rush. Recently, I helped a friend set up Microsoft Outlook on her laptop. Outlook is a powerful application that helps control email, calendar, contacts and more. It’s called a “third-party” or “desktop” application because it must be installed on your computer. While setting up her accounts in Outlook, one of the most important questions that came up was whether to use POP or IMAP methods of retrieving email. There are sharp differences between the two. POP stands for Post Office Protocol and allows an email client to grab emails from a remote server over an Internet connection. You can think of POP email as a one-way email system. In other words, when you use POP to get your email, you are going from your device to the email server, capturing the email and pulling it onto your local machine. If you were to leave the message on the server by setting the POP preferences to do so, you could use a different POP application or device to retrieve the same message. However, the inherent problem with POP is that multiple devices don’t know what each other has done with the retrieved message. For example, if you use your phone to read a message and reply, and then move to your laptop, the laptop application has no idea that you ever replied or if the message was read. These problems spurred the invention of a different email method called IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP has become readily available for most email applications. It’s a two-way email retrieval system, which means email applications leave the message on the server by default, and changes are noted for all devices. If you were to read a message on your mobile phone and reply using IMAP, when you came to your laptop, you would see the same message noted as read and replied to. It’s a much more efficient and organized way to deal with email across multiple applications and devices. As I explained this to my friend while setting up her Outlook, she was convinced IMAP email was a more dynamic, functional way to use email. I couldn’t agree more. You typically have both choices when setting up any email system including Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo and more. Every system is a little different, so you should think about what makes sense for your specific situation before you jump into one method or the other. [Originally published in The Coloradoan on...

read more

Microsoft Project: A Great Way to Stay on Task

At the Digital Workshop Center, we are extremely excited to be moving into a new Old Town location to better serve the community as a resource for digital arts classes and business computer training. However, with a big office move such as this, there are also a lot of headaches to organize and many phases of the project to consider. For a project of any size, including our moving plan, Microsoft Project is a powerful project management application that can help a team stay on track. Tracking time and cost resources effectively, Project has emerged as an industry leader for project management. Using Project, teams can track their project plan better than ever before. After entering in your initial tasks and durations, you can then use one of the many views Project has to offer to be able to look at the data involved more clearly. Then, utilizing the various table data views and visual aids to review the project plan, you can analyze the project status in more detail. When you need to assign specific resources to a task in order to get it done, Project makes it easy. After assigning the resource, you then have the option to track cost information, budget information and much more. As an active project manager, you always need to be able to adjust the project plan for delays, work stoppages, accidents or weather. As your project moves into implementation, you have access to a variety of user-friendly reports that can help you fine-tune the plan in real time. Furthermore, setting a baseline project plan at different critical points along the project ensures that you have a way to compare the actual work done vs. the original estimated work. Staying in control of the variance between these two key factors can often be one of the major reasons for success throughout a project life cycle. Last, if you find that your project plan feels too massive and bloated, there are many ways to split up the work between co-workers. One great method is to use sub-projects, which allow a project manager to split up a large project into several smaller sections of the project plan. These sub-projects can be assigned individually but tracked as linked sections of the master project plan. In addition, a “resource pool” acts as one central place to track a whole company’s resources. Using the resource pool prevents resources from being over-allocated and helps cost tracking, as well. As the next big project for your company begins, consider using Microsoft Project to ease the pain that a big project often brings with it. Now I have to go update my moving plan and start packing some boxes. Stay tuned for more Project tips and tricks in this column in the future. If you have specific Project problems you need help with, please visit the Digital Workshop Center’s Facebook page (facebook.com/fcdigitalworkshop), post your issue and I will reply there with some advice. [Originally published in The Coloradoan on...

read more