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August 2nd, 2012

There are many keys to success of a small business, one of the most important keys is your employees. Your employees need to be able to work together while at the same time fulfilling different roles. If they can’t quickly and easily access necessary information, overall productivity will be down. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is by employing a system like Microsoft SharePoint.

SharePoint was launched by Microsoft in 2001 as a document and content management program for intranets - closed networks within a company. Over the past 11 years, SharePoint has added a ton of different capabilities and features that make it an integral part of many business’s infrastructure. One of the biggest advantages of SharePoint is that it integrates with Microsoft Office and Office 365. Here are five things you can do with SharePoint to help make your company and employees more productive.

  • Centralize all essential documents. The problem many small businesses face is that files are spread out, normally kept locally on an employee's computer which makes sharing difficult. SharePoint allows you to organize your files in a central location while allowing employees or other parties to access and share these documents.
  • Collaboration. With centralized document management, your employees can collaborate easier. No more having to email another employee to get them to send a document then having to compile different versions into one document, as employees will have access to the same document with changes made clearly visible.
  • Solidify goals and roles. Employees in small businesses often complain that they don’t know what their roles are and what exactly the company is doing. With SharePoint you can create lists and documents with your goals and expectations of employees, which they can access. Clearly defined goals and roles will go a long way in keeping employees productive because they will be able to see exactly what they should be doing.
  • Project management. Project management can be one of the toughest things to keep on top of. One team may be using a separate calendar and documents that other teams don’t have access to causing productivity bottlenecks. With SharePoint you can create calendars and workflows that are shared on the network so you know exactly who is working on what, when it’s due and what’s left to be done.
  • Stage-gate implementation. With the combination of calendars, workflow and shared documents you can establish a clearly defined stage-gates, a set point where document drafts, workflow process or any project needs to be approved to move on to the next step. This creates an element of control that keeps projects on track, and necessary parties informed at all times.
Through clever use of SharePoint and the different addons, you can reign in uncontrolled projects, keep track of projects and ensure your employees know what they should be doing. If you and your employees are organized and have easy access to data and collaboration tools, you will see an increase in productivity of both employees and the company. To learn more about how you can use SharePoint for your business, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
July 4th, 2012

The saying “presentation is everything” is true for every business. Think back to the last time you read a poorly presented report or longer document. Did it make you want to trust the company or writer? Probably not. It’s important that you present documents that are properly formatted. One way to do this is through the use of headline styles and a generated Table of Contents (TOC), both of which can be done with ease on Microsoft Word.

Here’s how you can add and modify headings to your document and have Word create a Table of Contents for you.

Assign headings Many users will just bold titles and change the size of each heading to denote different levels of heading i.e., main headings are bold with a 16 point font, subheadings are bold with 14 point font and text is 12 point font. It’s recommended that you do this while writing the report so you can keep track of what’s what in your report.

When you’ve finished the report and have your headings and subheadings in place, it’s time to apply a heading style to them. First highlight your top level headings (not the main title of the report, but the headings for the main sections). On the Home tab, locate Styles and select Heading 1.

For second level headings, or subheadings, highlight and apply Heading 2. Subheadings thereafter follow the same structure. The reason for doing this is that it will help Word create a TOC that’s properly structured and has links that will take a user to the section when clicked.

If the headline styles Word applies don’t appeal to you, you can change it by going to the Styles group, pressing the grey arrow so the drop down menu opens. Right-click on the heading style you’d like to change and select Modify. You can also hit Ctrl-Shift-S. A window will open which allows you to customize the heading. Press Ok and Word will automatically change all headings that have that style. Note: changes made to a heading style will be saved.

Build a Table of Contents Once you’ve assigned styles to headlines and modified them to meet your needs, you can get Word to insert/build a TOC. First select where you’d like it to go, and make a little space - one blank line above and below should be enough. Click References from the menu at the top of the window, and select Table of Contents. Pick the format you’d like and Word will create the TOC for you.

It’s generally a good idea to apply the heading styles and Table of Contents after you’ve finished the document. If you do need to make changes to the document, you’ll need to update the TOC by right-clicking anywhere on it and selecting Update.

A consistently formatted document goes a long way in impressing external investors or parties, in fact, many now expect a readable document. If your company produces sloppily formatted documents that are hard to read, you could risk losing business. If you would like to learn more about Microsoft Word or other Microsoft Office products, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
June 20th, 2012

My heading might appear to be a strange statement to make considering I run an IT company.  But I stand by it.  Let me explain:  Many small businesses I come across are initially hesitant to meet with me or my staff.  “But we already have an IT guy”, they declare.  And indeed they do;  It’s the owner’s son-in-law, or the guy from the computer shop across the road, or an employee’s brother who is studying IT at university, or the guy they called once from the yellow-pages.

In any case, they’re making the assumption that my company wants to become their “IT guy” when in fact that’s not our intention at all.  We aren’t the “IT guy”.  The IT guy is the guy they call when a computer breaks, or when email isn’t working, or when they want to know how to stop those damn pop-ups.   But I’m here to tell you that the IT Guy is a dying breed.

As technology becomes more and more ubiquitous and it penetrates deeper within core and critical systems and processes throughout small businesses, you don’t want to be relying on your IT guy.  He’s usually a whiz on computers, but he’s not necessarily full bottle when it comes to business consulting.

You see, the line between technology consulting and management consulting is becoming increasingly blurred.  Technology underpins and provides the tools for so many critical business functions that companies like mine employ business experts to provide true ongoing business solutions and services that fundamentally improve our customer’s businesses.   And small businesses really must engage in a long term partnership with a technology company that understands their business , first and foremost, if they truly want to maintain a competitive edge and be innovative.

If you don’t have a partnership with a technology company that understands business you’re likely to be left behind in the wake of your competitors.   IT companies are changing their business models to a more consultative partnering approach, and most are dropping the old fashioned adhoc break/fix type support altogether.  So if you rely on your IT guy there will inevitably be one day soon he’s not available to assist you when you need urgent support, and you might just find yourself up a familiar creek with-out a paddle because you don’t have a strong partnership with an IT company.  I believe the number of IT companies willing to answer your call to provide adhoc support will reduce as their business models shift to managed services with long term clients who look to them for business improvement, not just IT support.

So if you only have an IT Guy, do yourself a favour and make a committment to have a meeting with an IT company and be sure to talk to them with an open mind about how they can help you be a better business.

You want your PC fixed ‘cause it’s broken? – call the IT guy.  You want to make an ongoing and long term improvement to the way you do business?  – call your technology partner :)

June 7th, 2012

When the Android OS was introduced, it had a lot of catching up to do and faced stiff competition. Fast forward a few years, and it’s now the most popular OS, partly in part due to some excellent tablets. Companies have started to adopt Android tablets in greater numbers, but are faced with a problem: Microsoft Office doesn’t have an app. No need to worry though.

Here are four apps that have stepped up as alternatives for Microsoft Office on your Android Tablet.

Kingsoft Office - FREE Kingsoft Office allows you to open and edit Word and Excel files. You can only view PowerPoint and PDF files though. This app will also allow you to create Word and Excel documents. There are three versions of the app on the Google Play store, an English only version, an international version with support for 13 languages and a simplified Chinese version called WPS. If you can read simplified Chinese, go for the WPS version, as it has a few extra features. If not, go for the normal version.

Quickoffice Pro HD - USD 14.99 This app is quick, hence the name. With it you can use your tablet to create, edit and share Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDF files. You can also access and upload documents to major cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Beyond that, you can send files to other users via SMS, email, Bluetooth and social media. Note that there are two versions of this program on the Google Play store. The HD version is for tablets only.

Google Drive - FREE with 5GB storage Google Drive is Google’s cloud storage/collaboration tool. When it was released, Google Docs was rolled into this service. While this app can read Office documents, it does have problems with Office related formatting. If your company uses Google Apps, then Google Drive is the app you should be using. If you’re expecting a full featured document editor, it’s a better idea to look at the other options.

Documents To Go - FREE to USD 14.99 Documents To Go is a free app that allows you to view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and Google Doc/Drive files. If you download the Full Version, you can create and edit Office files and PDFs. You’ll also be able to download and save Google Drive documents. There are two features that set this app apart. The first is that you can sync files from and to your Windows PC, and the second is that it has a layout that’s simple to use.

These four apps each offer something different, and between them they should meet your needs. If you need help choosing one that’s a perfect fit for you, please get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
June 7th, 2012

Any company that can command a market share of 94% is obviously doing something right. Microsoft has attained this percentage in the word processing market with its many versions of Microsoft Office. The word processor, commonly referred to as Word, is used by nearly all involved in business. To make things more efficient, Microsoft has included a number of keyboard shortcuts.

Here are 20 handy keyboard shortcuts for Word that can help improve your productivity, or make navigating easier.

General These shortcuts will do the same thing in all Microsoft programs.

  • Ctrl + P: prints the document, spreadsheet or presentation. If you have more than one window open, the item you’re currently looking at will be printed.
  • Ctrl + W: closes the window you have open.
  • Ctrl + O: brings up the Open document window.
  • F12: opens the Save As window.
  • Ctrl + S: will save the document.
  • Ctrl + C: copies what you’ve selected.
  • Ctrl + X: cuts what you’ve selected.
  • Ctrl + V: pastes what you’ve copied or cut.
  • Ctrl + A: selects everything.
Word specific These shortcuts can be used in nearly any version of Word. Note: Ctrl may be Control on some keyboards.
  • Ctrl + F: will allow you to search the document for a word or sentence. If you press Replace in the window that opens, you’ll be able to find and replace words.
  • Ctrl + Up arrow: moves up one paragraph from where the cursor - black, blinking line - is.
  • Ctrl + Down arrow: moves down one paragraph from where the cursor is.
  • Ctrl + Page Up: switches to the top of the previous page.
  • Ctrl + Page Down: switches to the top of the next page.
  • Ctrl + Shift + E: turns on track changes which will show any changes made to the document, convenient for editing. Pressing it again will turn track changes off.
  • Ctrl + Shift + C: will copy the format of the selected text.
  • Ctrl + Shift + V: pastes the previously copied format. Note: you need to select text to apply the copied format to.
  • Ctrl + B/I/U: applies bold, italic or underlined formatting to selected text. If no text is selected, the respective formatting will be enabled.
  • Tab: will move to the next selection. If you have a list with numbers or bullets, pressing Tab will indent the number or bullet in once, and change it to a subheading under the previous point. i.e., 2. will be indented and changed to a. as a subheading under 1.
  • Shift + Tab: moves back, or moves one indent back (to the right). For lists, this will move the point up the hierarchy i.e., a. will be moved back to 2.
These are some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts for Word. For a full list of shortcuts you can go to the Microsoft Help and How-to page. If you’re interested in learning more about Word’s features and how they can be implemented, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
May 18th, 2012

Presentations are an important part of business. Take Apple for example, millions of fans eagerly await their next presentation. While many small businesses would love to have an audience like that to present to, they don’t. What you, as a small business owner or manager, do need to do is prepare presentations that are professional and can hold the audience's attention long enough for you to get your ideas across.

Here are nine tips on how to prepare a good Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.

  1. Choose a relevant layout. When you choose the layout or template for your slides, pick something that’s simple and non-distracting. If you’re presenting yearly earnings, a background of flowers probably isn’t the best choice. Under no circumstances should you put your company’s logo as a background, this can make slides incredibly distracting. Put it in the header or footer instead.
  2. Colors. It’s important to pick a good colour scheme for your slides. The keyword here is, “contrast.” Pick colors that contrast and are easy on the eyes. A white background with black text is good, a red background with black text is bad. If you want to use your company’s colours and they don’t contrast well, pick one of your colors and another that’s a good contrast.
  3. Images. Pictures and graphics capture our attention, text puts us to sleep. The general rule of thumb is to have more visuals than text. Don’t have images for the sake of images, instead pick ones that convey what you want to say. Many good presenters will have a slide with nothing but an attention grabbing image, and use it to talk about their main idea.
  4. KISS your text. KISS stands for Keep It Stupidly Simple. Text should be kept to a minimum, at most five lines or bullet points per slide. The best presentations use only keywords or showcase the utmost important data and save explanations for the presentation.
  5. Eliminate animations. It can be tempting to have text or images pop up every few seconds. Resist the temptation, as it’s incredibly hard to match your presentation speed with that of the animations. Having to speed up or wait for animation will make you look unprofessional.
  6. Remain consistent. If there’s one key rule with presentations, it’s remain constant. This applies to everything in your presentation. Keep the font size, font, image type, colour scheme and layout the same throughout the presentation. If you put your logo in a header on one slide, it should be in the header on all the slides.
  7. Audience. When developing a presentation you should always keep in mind who your audience is. If you’re presenting to a marketing firm, they probably don’t need to see more than one or two slides with financial information. Beyond that, be sure to prepare a version of the slides for your audience. Any explanations and extra information should be put in here as well.
  8. Keep the file size down. If you’re presenting on another system or will be emailing the slides, it’s a good idea to ensure the file is as small as possible. The bigger it is, the slower it’ll load and the higher the chance it will stutter or crash.
  9. Practice. Go over the slides ahead of time and be sure you know the content inside and out. Another benefit to practicing is you will often catch mistakes and knowledge gaps that you can fix before you present.
By following these tips, you should be well on your way to producing a good presentation that will captivate your audience and make you look like a star. If you have any other questions regarding PowerPoint, or any of Microsoft’s other products we are here to help, please contact us.


Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
April 9th, 2012

In many businesses, including yours, a good presentation can be the difference between success and failure. The majority of your employees have a degree of competence and comfort while creating presentations. The key questions are: do they reach the target audience, and are they effective? Unfortunately, the majority of the time the answer is no.

It’s important that you, that as a manager, you ensure that your employees are creating PowerPoint presentations that are effective. Here are a few tips you can give to your employees to help them improve their presentations.

Simplify and minimize The best presentations are simple and minimal, often shifting focus from the presentation to the presenter. Minimal presentations follow the 6-6-6 rule. There should be no more than: 6 bullet points per slide, 6 words per bullet and 6 slides full of words in a row. Being visual creatures, you should encourage your employees to create slides with engaging and related visuals. A caveat: be sure that you have the rights to use the images.

A great rule taught in business schools across the country is: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Refrain from using confusing words, jargon, uncommon acronyms and irrelevant information. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Following these rules will help engage the audience and hold their attention for a longer period of time.

Be consistent “Consistency is key” - a saying often used but rarely followed in the creation of PowerPoint presentations. You should ensure that grammar and spelling are all consistent, and errors are minimal, if existent at all. Have another employee or manager review it for errors and inconsistencies.

For the slides, use the same background and font throughout. The easiest way to ensure this is by using a template. A word of warning: don’t use templates that are heavily animated because they can cause significant distractions, and don’t choose backgrounds that are similar in color to your font. The best slides have a light color for a background with a darker font for your text.

Summarize The goal of most presentations is to build interest and inform or update the audience. In fact, the majority of audiences just want a short summary so they can develop their own questions to ask after the presentation, or at a later meeting.

When creating the presentation, be sure to keep the audience in mind. If a presentation is being made to IT managers, chances are it does not need to have advanced financial spreadsheets. If you are presenting on a topic that has lots of graphs, extra information, or appendices, put the most important information in the presentation and the rest in a handout. This will keep the audience’s attention on the presenter, not the slides.

Practice, preview, review Practice makes perfect. In an ideal world there would be hours and hours to practice and tweak a presentation. Normally, that’s not true. Schedule at least a comparable amount of time the day before a presentation for a dry run. Always review the presentation with your team and ask them for feedback. This will help encourage employees to keep improving and developing themselves.

For more tips and tricks on giving presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint and other Microsoft products, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
March 15th, 2012

“Microsoft Excel” is a common buzzword known by all business owners and managers. This program has become a critical tool for business. It’s safe to say that we all know the basics of Excel and are comfortable with what Excel can do. However, one thing that makes people uncomfortable with Excel is the confusing error messages. Read on to learn more about them.

While most of us are comfortable with Excel, there are many times when we have had an error pop up that is more or less confusing. Let’s face it, when we see “!#%&” characters many of us are at a loss. Here are some of the most common errors you come across in Excel, what they mean, and how to fix them.

####### This is one of the most common errors, with the # sign filling the cell. This error means that you have entered data in the cell that is longer than the cell’s size. For example, 1234567890 will show up as ##### if that column is not wide enough to fit all those numbers. This error will also show up when you have formatted a negative number as a date.

To fix this error, simply re-size the column (A, B, C, etc.) by clicking the edge of the column and dragging to the right to make larger. Or check to see if you have a negative number that is formatted as a date, and if so format the cell as a negative number instead..

?Name# This error means you have have an error in the formula or range. For example, =counif(!6:B99, “Y”) In this case, “counif” should be “countif”. Also, the “!6” should be a column letter and 6 (i.e., B6).

To fix this error, click on the cell with the error, and look at the formula in the formula bar, usually located above the spreadsheet, and correct the formula like this: =COUNTIF(A6:B99, “Y”)

#REF! If you have a formula that refers to other cells in the spreadsheet, and then you change one of those cells to data that does not compute in your formula, you will get the #REF! error. For example, if your formula for C6 is: =SUM(A1:A5, B1:B5, C1:C5) and you delete B1, you will get #REF! in C6.

The easiest fix to this is to hit: CTRL+Z, or Undo under Edit. If you made the error a long time ago and Undo does not work, then make sure all cells referenced in the formal contain valid information.

Circular Reference You get this error when you have entered a formula that includes the cell where you have entered the formula. For example, the formula =SUM(A2:A5) is entered into A5. Excel is essentially telling you that it is chasing its own tail, and can’t catch it.

The easiest way to fix this error is to simply click on the original cell, and remove the reference to the cell that the formula is entered in.

The Little Green Triangle in the Cell If you see a little green triangle in the top left corner of a cell, Excel is telling you there is an error with the formula. This is useful if you aren’t sure about what the error means. If you click on the arrow, you will get an ! with Trace Error. Click this, and Excel will give you a drop-down menu with options.

What if I Can’t Find the Error? If you are having trouble locating the error, or do not want to spend time searching for the error in a long formula, click the Formula tab and the arrow beside Error Checking. You can click either Trace Error or Circular Reference and Excel will point out the error, or provide the cell name with the error. From there, select the cell and look at the formula or data entered to determine the problem.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office