Look through these Windows! It’s Memory Lane…

What a straightforward reminder that things change… The History of Windows Versions.  Start with teeny pockets of memory manipulating literal bits of data, and yet that basic input-output system led to SnapChat promising to wipe data from recipient’s memory and 4chan proving they can’t (Tweet that!).  There is plenty of history before and beyond Windows but Microsoft built the bridge to the individual users and by doing so changed the world.  It isn’t a miracle because somebody was going to do it.. like “inventing” the gramophone or flying the first plane.  Microsoft delivered home computing which we then shaped to share stupid ass selfies.

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The rough tools of introductory Windows

Slate offers us this perspective.

Go ahead and bash Microsoft’s operating system all you want (ironically using its technology to do so), but first note that Windows works and has worked for a long long time.  You likely are interacting with some form of a PC-based computer service right now.  We accelerated from ASCII-based Notepad files to our monstrously tangled GIF-ilicious .wild.wicked.web in thirty quick years.

Can I get an OLE?

There is a coherency in the long-haul on Windows that is familiar to those of us who spent our careers adapting to its evolution which was driven in part by our own consumer lobbying for features and functions.  This isn’t ancient history, lots of us pre-PC tech-vets are still here; we have a grasp on the “new” technology that comes from a generational-iterational complexity you cannot duplicate unless you proceed sequentially through it.

Conversely, experience can be a burden of sorts and that point goes to the newbies who think they just invented everything.

Tech units who too closely mirror each other’s training and experience fall prey to group think.  Recognize the value of an “iterational” mix, blend old school practicality with new school ingenuity.  Don’t let the echo of a dominant position drown out the sharp insights from other perspectives.  Your development team should be able to both mirror and cloak your consumers to get a resilient product.

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* Debate:  Every war is different, but all wars are the same.

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Biggest security threat to your network: the users

Who has the keys to your information?

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Any cyber security plans you make have to assess the mix of risks:  gaps in the programming, errors in deployment and maintenance, insufficient operational controls, and then there are the users!

Like home security systems that are not armed, the failure of users to protect themselves mocks the efforts made on other fronts to secure the data environment.

Users underestimate how important they are in the defense of information.  Their disregard for the underlying aims of the company regarding privacy and market-advantage should be a big red flag to management about their own effectiveness.  It shouldn’t be “cool” to disdain the tech-tools provided to do your job.

Look at your company’s security issues and identify those that stem from poor enforcement of the basics.  Then, police yourself.

I suggest you surrender to the idea of complex passwords and then put on your thinking cap and come up with a system that works for you.  As an authorized user, you represent someone who crosses the proverbial moat and enters the kingdom of data.  Don’t be blasé about that!

1) Quit being so literal.  On security questions you do not (and should not) include actual information like your mother’s maiden name (say it is Jezebel) or your place of birth (try Hickinpickin) or provide any other verifiable factoid.

2) Keep it simpleI.luv.2.dogs? incorporates upper and lower case letters, a number and a symbol.

3) Do not cross-contaminate passwords by using a public-forum password like Hotmail with a secure forum like banking.

4) The more characters in a password, the better.  Going from the standard 8-character to a 12-character password slows down auto-hackers*.  Don’t always go for the minimum, sprinkle in a few extra taps because it’s well worth it.

* If there are approximately 80 alpha-numeric-symbol characters available, then the complexity comes from the additional choices in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th characters (80*80*80*80).  This compounds the 80*80*80*80*80*80*80*80 possibilities of the basic eight-character minimum.

Is HR “tech blocking” your best candidates?

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Who’s looking at your resumes?

The LinkedIn article referenced above presumes that HR has a “plays well with others” bias that devalues the high-level skills of applicants who design and deliver intellectual product.  I couldn’t agree more.  For some jobs there is a need for ongoing morale events and repeated presentations about the retirement options, yes.  HR is their guiding light and can successfully screen for suitable candidates and herd them through the work world.  For detecting the presence of actual tech-finance-engineering-science talent?  No.  NO.

Consider more carefully the winning skills in STEM careers: practitioners derive satisfaction from knowledge and training in advanced concepts usually narrowing as they advance to their specialty.  It’s a brain-power thing and requires “headspace” that can only be self-defined.  These aren’t fleets of fast food workers easily put in service after a ten-minute video on the fryer, nor are their duties controlled by the clock.  There is a fusion of abstract knowledge applied to concrete challenges for those providing conceptual capital to your business and for that you don’t hand out company logo shirts and talk up the retreat.

This is not to give a free pass to the asocial and the unsocial who prefer to ignore basic politeness.  People who have chosen to root their career with applied thinking in engineering, architecture, economics, etc., do not respond to traditional HR blandishments.  They don’t need to be told when they are right:  it is simply a fact.

None of these people are going to be over-involved with your HR department because by their nature they are not concerned with the same things.  HR retains its big picture emphasis on benefits and compensation, of course, but keep them away from the nuts and bolts of your high performance contributors.  Remember, these bright and capable candidates don’t always make easy-reading resumes or shine in interviews.  They may not know (care) that a minimally skilled screener (or sifting software) controls the gateway: that wouldn’t be logical!  At the least, over-emphasis on slotting skills and keywords is a poor method of analysis if it denies your best scout(s) access to the full and unfiltered talent pool.

Just the Gist:  Don’t let HR screeners control resume access, they can make tidy piles based on the keyword list and time-in-chair calculations but they should not have the power to reject an applicant outright.  There should always be a quick scan by somebody who really knows the business to spot analogous talent of value.

HR Screening Tip:  Mask the names on the resumes, both first and last, disguising gender and ethnicity and the ineffable presumptions based on your “vision” of Mike, Maisie or Madelyn Kwan-Rios-Bishop.

Candidate Argument for “Analogous Talent:  The concept of “analogous talent” means you have a depth and breadth of understanding of the core subject that will translate quickly to a similar target environment.  The very function of learning an established method-process-concept means you don’t have the bad habits and old-school presumptions that are controlled in part by legacy, and that can galvanize a clarified approach.  Stress your proven utility.

Consider a twelve person team where “everybody” has an MCSE or a CFA or is Order of the Coif… perhaps a smart and capable candidate who is not so specifically brain-trained will bring fresh insight, and outrigger balance, to the group-think.

CDW: Top 9 Reasons to Use Office 365

This white paper from CDW lists the reasons it considers Microsoft Office 365 a good choice for business.  CDW is one of the largest suppliers of technology, and I have worked with them for years, so I am giving them credit for highlighting the potential.

From my own experience, this suite of products known as O365 can form the backbone of your procedures, but only you can define and assign those duties.  Microsoft isn’t going to discuss the choke-points in your invoicing due to poor equipment allocation or inadequate staff training.  For that you need somebody to listen to you and guide your analysis then provide straightforward solutions.

Frankly, if you could solve these problems yourself then they wouldn’t still be on your To Do list.  It takes training and experience to break down the actual steps in the real world to achieve reliable results.

My method is to work with the company’s “linchpin”, the one who gets things done.  It might be the office manager, it might be a supervisory team, but until we identify (or create) that pivot point we will fail to build the proper foundation.

This pivotal position has not been entirely successful so far; their ability to power through operations is their strong suit but deconstructing processes to find the new foundation going forward isn’t in their tool kit.  Much of their technique involves brute force, throwing labor and fury at the stack of tasks that never seem to get done.

We establish a new procedural pivot point, a resource rather than a personality, and we engage all users in establishing best practice actions across the board.

My value-add is the documentation we develop together, encoding the How To tips and tricks that distinguish a thriving enterprise.  Don’t think three-ring binder, think Wikipedia: quick, indexed, evolving.  The company invests in worker skills and it should capture that co-development in written procedures, inventories, checklists and logs.  By doing so, we put the emphasis on results where it belongs.

This work is done down in the weeds:  tailoring forms and adjusting databases, how to answer the phone, how to route the mail, how to handle your shredding; who cleans the kitchen, who schedules the conference rooms, how do I get a report on returned items, who can sign Form B-11?

It is a big-picture decision to update technology but the actual work is detailed, specific, and fact-driven.

Conversions and deployments can be disruptive because people’s work habits are on the line.  The “coping mechanisms” that workers evolve to do their jobs are deeply ingrained.  They have been too busy just getting must-do stuff done to take a step back, and to look ahead.

We bridge this by providing skills-building in your existing environment.  Whether or not an upgrade is in your future, it is important to establish a baseline of knowledge necessary to interact with the company’s technology as it is.  This means re-training from the basics so we all start with a common vocabulary.  Like an info highway driver’s license.  Minimum required skill level.  From that common core, we then move people forward as needed into their areas of expertise.

People perk up when you show them easier ways to get things done.

By activating the under-used features of what you already own, you can increase productivity and establish reliable operations.  You provide a familiar software interface for new behaviors and we clarify our goals. By sharpening your templates, forms, autotext and bookmarks in Word, you produce uniform documents that are consistently branded.  By creating working examples of company spreadsheets you can encourage predictable choices in Excel.  Set up your watermark logo in the footer of PowerPoint slides once and for all.

O365 is an elegant collection of options and choices, so rich that much of the function is under-used.  We build from the basics so when it comes time to add the bells and whistles, we’ve got tech options synched with the workforce.  Better yet, we can extrapolate this method to non-Office products like accounting and CRM with a high likelihood of success.

Office 365: Big opportunity for small business to exploit Exchange

I’ve been enabling Exchange services for twenty years, from the fledging version 4.0 when you had to set up a modem handshake for each destination domain, to the current deluxe options of Office 365 trundling data all around the info skyway.

The evolution of Exchange and its companion product Outlook emphasized reliable connections to groups and to individuals.  The cost and complexity of an on-site Exchange server included a hardware-software administrator to run it, which overwhelmed small business.

Now, you can realistically put this people-pleasing resource in the hands of a trained email administrator and leave the server and software mechanics to Microsoft.

The problem with Exchange is how powerful it is:  so many places to make a wrong turn, miss an option, over-use a feature.  Ultimately, Exchange Server is a big database with two parts:  the people and their info.  Careful planning pays off in smoother operations.

Exchange Mailbox permissions are formalized because email addresses serve as identities in many ways that are beyond Exchange itself.  Ironically, while regular email itself is not considered secure, the fact that email addresses are unique is why they are frequently used for site ID.  Consider the fact that banks, stock exchanges, and the IRS do not use email because they do not trust it (no real time result, too much queuing!).  Website connections are immediate and interactive.  Remember THAT when considering what personal or corporate information you’re willing to email and what you should transfer more securely to the recipient.

Exchange TIPS (presuming O365 subscription services):

ALIAS addresses are included in an email account; you might be Anne.Accountant@officetradecraft.com but also get mail for HR@officetradecraft.com and Info@officetradecraft.com.  You cannot “Reply as” an alias.

DISTRIBUTION GROUPS are free, you add email accounts to them to share information such as teams or departments.  Membership is easily adjusted so this is perfect for committees and projects, too.  Group members may “Reply as” the group itself rather than using their own account name:  Anne Accountant Replies as “Management Team”.

For best results, make Groups of Groups.  Rather than maintain a separate group listing each member of your All Company distribution group, have All Company be a collection of smaller groups:  departments, teams, or regions.  When you change sub-group membership, the All Company group will update automatically.

LOSE the extra “o”, you loosers!

sample post

This is provided as an example of inserting simple links and media in a WordPress post or page.  As easy as a button click!

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Here’s the “paperclip” menu to Insert/Edit an embedded link for OfficeTradecraft.com/Experience.

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The destination URL is what appears in the address bar of your Internet browser.  URL is a Uniform Resource Locator designating the one and only unique file that provides that particular content.

Tip:  Go to the web page you want to share and Copy that site’s address then Paste it into the menu.

The Title is the popup text that may appear as a prompt for users depending on how they are viewing your page/post.

As for you loosers, there is a simple rule: lose the extra ‘o’.