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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...

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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...

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