Misery Hates Company

Ok I have been slowly fading into a pit of misery for past two days but I am giving in now. I came home from work and crawled directly into bed (not without my laptop mind you). I’m burning up with a fever, aching from head to toe and I’m pretty sure that someone broke into our house last night and kicked me repeatedly in the head and back with a steel toed boot. At least my man is sweet enough to bring me cold drinks and popscicles to help cool me down. He’s the best. Too bad I am too wiped and cranky to go thank him. Maybe I will just send him an IM. You have to love a good geek relationship.

Rory Blyth ROX DotNetRocks

Just listened to the latest DotNetRocks. It featured Rory Blyth. That guy seems just as funny live (well kinda live) as he does in his blog. He has some pretty cool stuff to say about .NET and the coding community too.

I really enjoy this show – its features interesting members of the tech community and has great conversations on development practices and technology without going so deep that a non-coder like myself feels out of place listening.

Search Folders in Outlook 2003

I have discussed these before so I won’t repeat myself. But in short, if you use Newsgator, search folders can really help you filter your entire subscription list (mine is growing and growing) to give you quick access to preferred subjects and topics. However I was reconfiguring a bunch tonight for my news posts and I noticed a couple of very obvious things.

First I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people are finally opening up and blogging about the new Office system components such as Sharepoint, Infopath, OneNote etc… Our company embraced the new Office System as soon as it was released in Beta (actually embraced is far too gentle a word – mauled would probably be more accurate). It filled so many of the needs a Small Company (less than 50) like ours has plus it represented a massive opportunity for us to solve problems that our clients were telling us every day they faced.

Secondly there just aren’t enough bloggers that talk about Xbox and gaming on my subscription list. This is something I plan to change over the next few weeks. I know they are out there because Google tells me so. Its time to tracking down some RSS feeds that can start filling up my Xbox search folder.

By the way, if you are running Outlook 2003 with Newsgator and aren’t quite sure what I am talking about. Scroll down through your list of folders on the left-hand panel of Outlook (if you have the folders list enabled).

  • When you find “Search Folders” right click and select “New Search Folder…”
  • A pop-up window should appear allowing you to define the criteria for your new search folder…scroll to bottom of options list and double click “Create a Custom Search Folder”.
  • Enter a relevant name for your search folder (The subject of your search perhaps?)
  • Click the Criteria button and define your filtering properties. You can keep this as simple or complex as you want. When done defining your criteria click the OK button.
  • Click the Browse button and point to the mail folders you want filtered – if you use Newsgator, then point to your base news folder. Notice that you can apply the filter to more than one folder if you like. When done click the OK button.
  • Close out the remaining pop-up windows by clicking the OK button.
  • Then I drag the search folders into my favorites window to give me instant and easy access to posts about the items that interest me most. Great for when you are taking a quick break and don’t have time to scan through 100 new posts.

    More Praises for OneNote

    Tonight I was preparing a list of interview questions for a fairly large integration project that we have starting up in the next few weeks. I usually like to plan these things out well in advance so that A) we can make better use of our client’s valuable time and B) we can walk away with a complete picture of our client’s environment, practices and requirements. Once I have a proven template that I have successfully used myself a few times, I have something that I can pass onto account managers / sales team with confidence.

    To start the process off, I grabbed some files from previous projects by visiting a few of our internal Sharepoint sites. I then visited the MS Partner site to get some additional product specific materials (oh how I love that site). Since I had been doing all my information gathering for this project in OneNote, it made sense to drop all the information from the document into a new section within the project folder. Then I started going through and selecting information and questions that I thought might be applicable to this deployment. Using custom note flags I was able to categorize questions by user type (i.e. admin user vs business user) and data by type (existing environment, requirements, users etc..) by simply clicking the appropriate icon.

    When done, I loaded up a note flag summary page and voila, here was all my information separated and categorized and ready for editing. This method was extremely easy and all took place while I was simply reading through the data for the first time. Another great example of how the new office 2003 system has improved my productivity.

    Gals and Gadgets??

    What is this world of ours coming to?? Last week it was announced that women are gaming. This week the world finds out that we are buying electronics too. Amazing however that I still get treated like I have the IQ of lemon Jello whenever I walk into an electronics department / store…probably a reason I buy so much stuff online. Actually no I am lying – I buy stuff online because shopping malls make me queezy.

    The Opportunity Shop

    Imagine yourself walking into a store – it’s filled with shelves and shelves of items that interest and excite you. Now if you are like me, you probably can not afford to purchase every single item. Even if you could, it is unlikely that you would since it would just be impractical – you would never have enough time to use each item and it would be a chore to get every item home. Plus where would you store it all when you did get home? Bottom line, no matter how attractive something looks, your resources are too limited to be unselective.

    In business we are faced with opportunities every day (hopefully). However not all of these are worth pursuing. The more scarce your resources, the more selective you have to be. Seems logical enough but unfortunately too often employees are sent on wild goose chases tracking down leads that are neither strategic, profitable nor even possible.

    These hopeless opportunities are what I call SODs. Some of you may know a sod to be a small rectangular block of grass. On its own it looks rather small and insignificant, but depending on how many of them you collect, you can fill an entire field with them. Hmm large grassy field eh? How can that be wrong?

    Well when I speak of SOD I am not referring to anything grassy. I am alluding to what is usually left over when you chase down these hopeless opportunities. Sunk Costs, Opportunity Costs, and Disappointment. Similar to its grassy namesake, individually they seem harmless. However the more you collect, the greater the mass of unrecoverable costs, lost resource time and depleted morale to soil your company.

    Effective decision making is the key here. Decision making based on business intelligence and shared strategic vision. There are many methods for evaluating the future value of an initiative that we all learned in business school. As well, there are all kinds of analytical processing systems that can be deployed that will supply teams with data to aid their decision making abilities. However what matters is that the system you use works for you. So if a whiteboard is all your team needs to make good decisions – roll with it.

    I used to use an Excel spreadsheet that listed opportunities and calculated a score based on items such as:

  • strategic value
  • resource availability
  • expected profit
  • expected revenue
  • competition
  • probability of success
  • These days I can store all of this information in a cross departmental list on a Sharepoint site so that team members and leaders can view what matters to them whenever they want to. As well I can make this information a lot more useful by using it as a launch point for some other processes.

    Those are just some variables one could consider when evaluating opportunities, and each can have a different weight depending on how important they are to your company. By calculating a score, it becomes easier to be selective on which opportunities should be pursued by employees. As well, by considering items such as probability of success, competition and profit, you may notice yourself with a lot less SODs lying around – and that’s good for every company!

    So the moral of the story – if you go to the opportunity shop make sure you take a list. It can be as technology rich (or poor) as you want. The important thing is that you use a system that makes better use of scarce resources and reduces the number of SODs you see if the run of a week.

    The New IPod Minis

    When I first read the news from MacWorld, I was impressed with the new smaller colourful ipod minis. But then I read a little deeper and saw that they were only 4gbs. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had a 6gb mp3 player for the past 2 years and haven’t come close to filling it up (I am not that much of a music fiend).

    But strictly from a price point perspective, I can’t see why someone would pay $249 for a 4gb player when they can get a 15gb for just $50 more. Plus let’s face it, they aren’t really THAT much smaller and the ipod is a fairly sweet size anyways.

    Of course, I am a gadget junkie so who knows what will happen when I get one of those babies in my hand. But from a distance, I can’t see myself buying one of these anytime soon.

    Tabby Lives Again

    I just flattened and reinstalled Windows on my Tablet PC. Pretty brainless process with the recovery cd. Definitely drives home that I really need to start using Ghost for our other machines. In the meantime, while I wait for the updates to finish I figured I may as well catch up on some blogging which I have been neglecting to do for a while.

    The only lame thing is that half of the buttons for the web control panel for my blog don’t show up on Safari (I’m on an ibook) or IE. Doh! I think I am only missing formatting ones anyways so probably no big deal.