All posts by Cindy

MVP Community Connection in Dallas

One of the coolest things about being a Microsoft MVP is the invitations to attend exclusive events. For me, that was recently spending some time in Dallas for the MVP Community Connection. Attendees from all over the state of Texas as well as Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and many more were there to represent the Central Region. I can summarize my time there with 4 themes: connect, learn, engage and fun!

Connect

At the event, we had a variety of speakers from Microsoft and MVPs in attendance. A nice surprise was to meet a few students in technology.

I had the valuable opportunity to meet my official MVP Central Region representative and learned about some updates and developments within the MVP program. They announced only 4,000 MVPs currently in the world and I’m grateful to be part of this elite group for the 5th year in a row.

Learn

Topics discussed included Leadership, Technical Presentations, Community User Groups, and Special Focus Breakout Sessions. What added a lot of depth to the topics was the ability to hear about others’ experiences and share my own. For example, I was honored to share my experience as an educator working with Davenport University and the challenges the students and teachers face when talking about technology.

Engage

By far my favorite presentation was on Imposter Syndrome by Mindy Curnutt, MVP. This was a new concept to me and wildly fascinating.

In short, a person with Imposter Syndrome is someone who is highly qualified – think doctor, lawyer, or MVP – but he doesn’t believe in his own qualifications.

He might talk himself out of making contributions because deep down there is a fear that it’s not “good enough.” For instance, he might feel he’s not “good enough to present at this conference” or to “share his experience” with a team.

Surprisingly, Imposter Syndrome strikes those you would least expect; multi-award winning actors, expert bloggers with millions of readers, and best-selling authors. Individuals with Imposter Syndrome often show up early, stay late, and do way more than anyone else would expect them to do.

The opposite of this is Dunning-Kreuger Effect. Individuals in this category don’t know how incompetent they are, but think they are superior to others and brag about their success. Dunning-Kreuger is the yin to Imposter Syndrome’s yang.

For our audience, we all fell in the Imposter category. We shared some ideas to help ourselves which included, keeping a “compliments” file and asking a friend to dispute your “I’m a fraud” thought process. It was tough to hear all the things people in the room turned down or walked away from just because they didn’t think they were good enough to be selected.

Fun

Don’t worry, it wasn’t all classrooms and serious learning! One way we were able to utilize our creative side was our play dough activity. It was a great way to loosen up and laugh together.

We also got together for a social on Friday evening. Getting to know my fellow tech professionals better is one of the highlights of all of my travel.

Overall, I was super energized from this event and made some great connections from the attendees. Looking forward to my next event as a MVP!

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Recap of “Office 365 Grand Rapids” Event

I am really excited to tell you about a cool event I attended recently. Held on Saturday April 1st at Davenport University, it was a free workshop for any attendee who wanted to learn more about Office 365 including Word, Excel, Access, Power BI and more.

The event was organized by Microsoft MVP Andy Tabisz of WorkSmart Database Masters.

Underwritten by sponsors, including Davenport University and WorkSmart, there was no cost to attend and even included lunch.

Without further ado, here are some of my takeaways from this event:

 

 

Presented by Amy BabinchakThe Art of Integration: How Do Your Programs Work Together?

  • Skype can really help your business. You can do simultaneous editing in a document during a meeting. You can simply share a document via Skype for someone to view. Even better, the document shared will follow your security policies tied to that document (e.g. hidden content, or sharing within organization only).
  • Don’t be worried about Microsoft support and your data. They can’t see your data at all even when viewing your account to solve technical issues.  The data is blurred out on the screen.
  • Every Office 365 membership has security features that might not be enabled, check your security score to see where you stand.
  • Set up your security so you can see who sees your data in your organization and where they send it.

Presented by Bethann Talsma – How to Give an Effective PowerPoint Presentation 

  • Less is always more in PPT. 
  • Your PPT deck should enhance your presentation.
  • No more than 7 down and 7 across on your items is a good rule of thumb.
  • PPT has an accessibility checker – which helps with individuals who use screen readers.
  • Personal note: Her amazing tips helps me completely refine my presentation for PMI-NEFL conference.

Presented by Corentin Cras-Meneur – Taming Outlook for Mac (and some Tips for Windows too!) 

  • While his session focused on Mac users, the Q&A section was very helpful PC users as well. 
  • Text expanders that work across programs really help with efficiency so you don’t have to retype or recreate the same information (e.g. Typinator).
  • Save common searches in your e-mail to speed up your efficiency.
  • Switch an e-mail back to unread so you know you still need to take action on it.
  • Check out Uservoice for providing suggestions to Microsoft (community issues are listed and people vote).

If you missed it, the next event will be held in Southfield, Michigan on June 6. Details are on http://www.office365day.org.

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Featured Speaker at the upcoming Northeast Florida PMI Conference!

Most of you know I’m a road warrior, with constant travel a part of my normal day-to-day as I’m heading to and from clients and conferences around the country. As I often do, I’ll be presenting at a local chapter of the Project Management Institute on April 7 – 8, and I’m really looking forward to this one!

The Northeast Florida chapter in Jacksonville has invited me to present a couple of very timely topics to their Expand Your Horizons conference attendees, held at the beautiful Jacksonville Public Library event facility.

The event seeks to enhance leadership and management skills and offer solutions to keeping up with business trends essential for all professionals, for those new to the profession and those with many years of experience. Attendees will earn 14 PDU’s and you can register up to the start of the conference.

I’m looking forward to leading two sessions at the conference. The first is “Agile in Action.” Agile is one of those methodologies that seems to make sense on the surface but does not always translate easily into real-life situations. In this session, you will participate in hands-on exercises to learn agile techniques and how to make them work for you and your organization. Attendees will learn general agile techniques and gather takeaways that may be applied to a wide variety of agile methodologies implemented by organizations.

And second, I’ll present “Best Practices in Schedule Development.” Attendees will have the opportunity to learn best practices from someone who has made scheduling a career and has worked with thousands of companies. I’ll describe how often the issue with the schedule is not your ability to provide a logical plan but your approach to the schedule. This session will answer the questions on how to know if your schedule has the right level of detail, if your task estimates are uniform, if your schedule makes sense, if you are managing resource expectations, and if you are setting up your schedule for success.

There are several other valuable sessions available led by 11 other presenters on such topics as Leadership, SharePoint, Communication, Strategy and Project Online.

Will you be at the NEFL PMI conference? I’d love to hear from you on what you most desire out of the conference. Are you curious about my sessions and want to hear more about my experience and capabilities? Contact me today to start the conversation!

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Recent Travels & New Ideas

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting at the annual meeting of PMI (Project Management Institute) Great Lakes chapter. The meeting took place at the Management Education Center in Troy, Michigan.

The topic, Agile in Action, was one that I know well, as I’ve presented it at the PMI-NEFL Oceans of Opportunity conference in September 2015 and online at the Microsoft Project Virtual Conference in February 2016.

So what does “Agile in Action” mean?  Let me ask you this first: Are you using Agile in the workplace?  Yes?! Well…maybe; well, we use it …sometimes. Agile is one of those methodologies that seems to make sense on the surface but does not always translate easily into real-life situations. This presentation took the audience from Agile ground zero to using actual Agile techniques that could be taken back to work immediately.

As part of my presentation, the following Agile topics were discussed, and included lots of hands-on exercises.

  • Agile approach versus traditional scheduling
  • What is a User Story and how is it used?
  • What is Planning Poker and how is it used?
  • Risk vs Value management
  • Advanced burndown chart interpretation

Those of you who know me well, know that I’m never in one place for long. Next I’ll be presenting Agile in Action and Best Practices in Schedule Development for the PMI Northeast Florida Conference on April 7th and 8th, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Did you see me at the PMI Great Lakes chapter event? Drop me a line and let me know what you found most valuable!

Or are you planning to attend the PMI Northeast Florida event? I’d love to hear what you most want to learn about.

 

 


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Project Licensing Changes within Office 365

At the end of the year many organizations are working on their budgets for 2017 and one of the expensive items that companies deal with is software. By choosing cloud options available within Office 365, you now have more options related to Microsoft Project and less expensive ways to add users. You may also completely eliminate buying expensive licenses that are tied to one computer. I would personally hate to spend over $1,000US for software that I would lose if my computer hard drive fails.

Licensing graphic
Licensing graphic

With Office 365 your licensing is based on users and you can easily activate or deactivate computers that your users might be using. In fact, one of the pluses of Office 365 is you can provide each user a license for up to 5 devices. Now your users can have the same software at home that they use at work and provide even more value to your organization. You may choose to purchase these licenses on a month-to-month basis with no commitment or commit to one year for further discounts.

Here are the new options in Microsoft Project licenses:

Project Online Essentials – In conjunction with a Project Online system, this license is optimized for team members who need limited features such as completing timesheets or task updates. Since this provides web browser access, there is no limit on devices.

Project Online Professional – Contains all the features of stand-alone Project Professional but includes features related to managing projects in a Project Online system. Schedule owners and project managers are recommended individuals who need this license. Includes installation of Project Professional on up to 5 devices per user.

Project Online Premium – Contains all the features of Project Online Professional but also includes portfolio management, resource management, administrative functions, and reporting functions. Program managers, portfolio managers, administrators, and members of the project management office typically need this license. Includes installation of Project Professional on up to 5 devices per user.

View this link to see a list of all features including pricing.

https://products.office.com/en-us/project/compare-microsoft-project-management-software

Stand-alone licenses are still available if desired:

Project Standard – Desktop scheduling tool that does not have the ability to connect to Project Online and excludes advanced scheduling features.  Limited to 1 installation.

Project Professional – All the features of Project Standard plus advanced scheduling features and the ability to connect to Project Online. Limited to 1 installation.

View this link to see a list of all features including pricing.

https://products.office.com/en-us/project/compare-microsoft-project-management-software?tab=tabs-2

Don’t be surprised if you hear these new licensing choices in your organization or from messages delivered by Microsoft.

I’m happy to discuss these options in person if you have further questions. Contact me to request a personal appointment.

 

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Getting Rid of Resource Overallocation Indicators in Project

For schedules where you display the Indicators column, you might be unhappy to see a column filled with Overallocation Indicators (looks like red stick figure people). Even if the issue is only with one resource on one day, all tasks during that timeframe display an indicator. When I show my schedule to others, I find that missed deadlines indicators or note indicators are extremely useful but the overallocation indicators can be very distracting to the viewer. This blog focuses on getting rid of those overallocation indicators in a quick simple fashion without spending too much time in the tool solving all the causes of the overallocations.

Resource Overallocation Indicators

Recommended features to assist you are available when you right click in the indicators cell. Tip – A very fast way to get rid of the indicator is to simply choose “Ignore Problems for This Task” and it goes away!

Right click option

Tip – Another very fast tip to get rid of these indicators is to simply increase the overallocation threshold for the resource. That threshold is the Max Units on the resource sheet. Increasing the number to a larger number will eventually get rid of the indicator.

Resource sheet with max units

Both of these tips are fast ways to hide the indicator if that was your goal but the negative behind these techniques is you might need to do this a number of times across multiple tasks and resources  to get the results you want.

A hidden option that many users are not familiar with is you can change the timeframe sensitivity of the overallocation. What this means is you can instruct Project to identify when any one day on a task exceeds the threshold (typically an 8 hour day) or you can instruct Project to evaluate when one week exceeds the threshold (typically a 40 hour week). Tip – A task where you are scheduled to work 10 hours on Monday and zero hours the rest of the week would appear as overalloacted by day but not overallocated by week since you are within the 40 hours available for the week. Resources are typically very skilled at balancing out their workload even if the resource assignment isn’t scheduled this way. To make this change on the Resource tab, click Leveling Options and find the section Look for ovallocations on a _____ basis. Switch Day by Day to Week by Week and then click OK.

Leveling Options

Tip – Even if you never use Level All, the settings you select in Resource Leveling are being applied. In my experience, this one change alone will reduce the number of overallocation indicators in your schedule without a lot of effort on your part. Now you can focus on the critical overallocations that can’t easily be resolved by the individual. This should also make you feel better when reporting to others as the long list of overallocation indicators has been reduced.

Less Resource Overallocation Indicators

If you have tried any of these techniques, I’d love to learn what worked well for you.

 

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Don’t Be Scammed!

Over the last few months, I have been chatting with customers and colleagues about various calls, e-mails, or text messages which are scams.

Scam Alert Button
Scam Alert Button

This very popular scam has been scaring people into thinking they need to pay for unneeded services because their computer is issuing viruses. You can read more about this by reviewing the Snopes article on this scam.  http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/microsoft.asp  Also if you get bored at lunch sometime, there are lots of scams you can read about. Just because it is on the Internet and listed as news, does not mean it is true!

I actually experienced a call from one of these scammers and he was very convincing. For example he said he was from AVG virus protection, but when I said that I wasn’t using that on this computer, he rattled off a few other programs. Next he said he was from Windows support and asked me what version I was using (I did not answer). Next he said he had the model number of my computer (he rattled off some number that did not match my computer). Over and over again it appeared the caller was trying to get a match of something specific to my computer.  Just because you have heard of the company does not mean the call is legitimate!

The caller indicated my computer was sending out viruses and had to be fixed immediately. I indicated my computer was still in a laptop bag from my recent flight and not turned on.  The caller indicated my computer can still send out viruses even if it is not on. I pressed the caller for a company name or website and what I got was a fake website. The company name also seemed suspicious “USA Services” which clearly is not Microsoft, not my Internet Provider and not my virus protection provider. He prompted me to turn on my computer and I faked my way through some preliminary steps with him.  Next he told me to go to a website so he could “help” me find the viruses on my computer. I asked him to instead direct me through the steps he was going to do and I would do them myself. He did not agree to that. After much frustration on his part, he finally said he would call me next week when I had more time to work with him . Immediately after I hung up, I searched the internet to learn more about this scam. The caller made what appeared to be several more attempts over the next week but never left a message and luckily I never wasted anymore time with this person.

This week I had a customer who shared with me the best response ever to one of these phone scams – “I don’t have a computer.” Amazing how fast the scammer hung up the phone :).

Over the years I have experienced several scams. I have received text messages, e-mails and phone calls from places claiming to be from my bank, from Amazon, or from some other reputable company. All of them are asking me to click a link or in some way provide personal information. When in doubt, always go to a new browser windows and enter the actual website of the real company to view your account details.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine if it is a scam

  • Ask how they got your information and ask them to be very specific with date, location, etc.
  • Ask a friend. Literally if anyone tells you it is a scam, believe them.
  • Tell them you are going to contact the company directly to deal with this matter.

Here are a couple of stories from customers about scams –

A company that is in the insurance industry sent out a test email message saying something like “look at my cute cat video” just to see who opened it. Over 50% of the employees opened it and clicked on the link. The company instituted training about avoiding e-mail scans later that month. If it is not company related, do not open it! became their new motto.

A company that is in the architecture business fell victim to a computer virus that sends out e-mail messages that appear to be from the owner of that computer. A high percentage of computers were later infected and when the company’s HR department asked employees why they opened such a suspicious e-mail, the answer was that it came from the IT Manager so it must be a real e-mail. It does not matter who sends it to you, if it sounds suspicious and you were not expecting it, do not open it!

Be cautious out there and when in doubt, delete the e-mail, delete the text message, or hang up!

I’d love to hear other stories about your experience with scams, please feel free to comment on this article.

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Deciding When To Upgrade Your Microsoft Project Software

I receive a lot of questions from customers asking if they should upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Project.

As of right now I am working with customers who have all of these versions: Microsoft Project 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and Project Pro for Office 365.

Making the Case for the Upgrade

Here are some reasons why you might want to upgrade:

  • You have experienced a software bug that is fixed in a later version.
  • Your company has software assurance and upgrades are included with this service.
  • Your current version is out of the support period by Microsoft and service pack updates or bug fixes are no longer available.
  • You feel a new feature could solve a problem you are having or could add business value.
  • You have Project Server or Project Online and you need to keep your Microsoft Project versions aligned with your enterprise software.

Here is an example in Excel showing what you might find regarding Software End of Life:

End of Life Example

Reference obtained from: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle?p1=11381

Making the Case for Staying with the Same Version

Here are some reasons why you might want to keep the same version:

  • Lots of larger corporations upgrade software only every three years.
  • If you are not using Project Server or Project Online, you may not need critical updates to continue running your projects.
  • Software bugs have workarounds that you are satisfied with.
  • You would have to incur an additional software or hardware expense to deploy the update.
  • You have budget restrictions.
  • You do not have software assurance and you are trying to get the most out of your existing purchase.

The next time you have this discussion internally, I hope you will think about these points.

Cindy

 

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