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.

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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.

Experience and Background

  Extensive experience with current skill set implementing technology in legal and financial enterprises by providing network administration, workstation configuration, application support, documentation, and training.   Upgrade-conversion specialty.   Seeking opportunities in computer deployment and operations using Office 365 with Exchange, Avaya IP Office VOIP phones and Salesforce.                                                                                                                                  

EXPERIENCE:

Name Withheld (wealth management)
February 2009 – August 2014

IT Manager for thirty-five user Windows network providing server and workstation administration, Office 365 Plan1 and E3 subscription management for multi-domain Exchange services with compliance vaulting; CRM administration including conversion to Salesforce.com; data file management, archive, backup and replication; virtual private networking for remote access. Avaya VOIP telecomm.

Name Withheld (family office)
March 2001 – July 2008

MIS Administrator for twenty-five users on Windows 2003 five-server network with XP workstations serving private wealth management company and stock-trading hedge funds. Reorganize then rebuild all services to achieve operating standards including server administration, workstation configuration and end–user support, inventory control, license and support tracking, and on-going action notes. Maintained sterling “uptime” record. Testing Vista/Office 2007 options.

Establish network security, stabilize remote access, articulate data security-retention policies; enable virtual private networking with SSL VPN, and Outlook Web Access. Sole tech resource for principal, exec, accounting and admin users. Exchange and BlackBerry Servers. Symantec AntiVirus and Mail Security. Bloomberg Professional with quad-panel displays. Email and Instant Message archival for SEC compliance. SQL application server-side support. DNS and web-site management. Avaya Definity G3si phone system. Lenel/Entrance Controls automated suite security.

Hiatus Year: 2000

Name Withheld (law offices)
January 1992–August 1999

Network Systems Coordinator for Seattle domain LAN Man/Windows NT network administration for 30+ users including workstation roll-outs. Compaq servers and workstations; HP printers and scanners. Backup/archive server data. Dial-up Internet.

Design and deliver technical training services for 160+ users in two sites. Produce in-print and on-line procedural documentation for users and technical staff. Support then assist in the redesign of advanced SQL-based document management system including template creation and fill-in form customization.

Establish Tacoma office Technical Services department staffing, standards, work flow and advanced techniques; technical interviewing and recruitment of supervisor. Train and monitor Help Desk staff.

Independent Solution Provider

Design and deliver automation proposals, computerization plans, knowledge transfer and user manuals. Procedure analysis to deploy office automation for legal firms and similar businesses. Technical interviewing.

Reliable and repeatable procedures

The key to organizational success is to establish reliable and repeatable procedures that cover the tasks required, including the one-off variations.

HOW TO procedures are specific stepped-out actions to complete a stated purpose.

The purpose should be distinct.  Do not have a multi-purpose purpose.  Don’t create one complicated procedure called Handling Accounts but focus on three procedures:  Open Account, Change Account, Close Account.