Archive for Office 2.0

Business Meeting coordination made simple

// June 30th, 2008 // No Comments » // Collaboration, Email, Office 2.0, Tech for the masses

One of the things that has consistently annoyed me about trying to set up a mutually agreeable time for a meeting, is the amount of back and forth emails and/or calendar counter proposals that are required. OK, it may be trifling to you, but it bugs the heck out of me.

So… to the rescue comes a simple new web app called When is Good. I like this app for two simple reasons, one is it solves a problem that has annoyed be for some time, and two is does one simple job, simply and very well.

So what’s the problem? We let’s say I want to meet with Larry, Curly and Moe, and they all work in different places. I send out a meeting invitation at a time that works for me and I invite all three. Larry and Curly accept the invite, so they can make it at that time. Great! However, Moe responds that he can’t make it and sends back a counter proposal for a different time on a different day. I check my calendar and that works for me, so I accept Moe’s counter proposal and and new invite goes back out to all three for the new time. Great so far. Unfortunately, now Curly can’t make that new time, but instead of responding back, he calls and leaves me a voice mail, without letting me know when he is actually available. Arrghh! It shouldn’t be this difficult, and now, thanks to WhenIsGood. it isn’t.

Same scenario, but now using WhenIsGood. I goto the website and click on the get started button. I am presented with a simple screen that has days listed across the top, and time’s listed down. I simply click on ALL the times that are good for me, enter a name for my meeting/event, and click on the create button. I get a unique code for my event, which they ask you to write down. I then get a link that I post into an email to Larry, Curly and Moe.

Larry, Curly and Moe, individually click on the link they get and are presented with all the times I say I am available. They click on all the times that would work for them. I can optionally get an email telling when they have responded, or I can go back and check the site using my unique code.

When I go back to check, all the times I specified, where Larry, Curly and Moe have all indicated they can make it are highlighted in green. Now I know when I schedule the meeting and be assured that they all can make it.

So let’s review

  1. I create the Event on WhenIsGood and indicate my available times
  2. I check back to the website to see when a mutually agreeable time is
  3. Send out a meeting notice for one of those mutually agreeable times.

I like it when simple, good and useful all come together. Go ahead and give it a try. Organizing family dinners just got easier too.

Like it or not, Spreadsheets are here to stay

// October 3rd, 2007 // No Comments » // Business Intelligence, Collaboration, Office 2.0, The Future of IT

The venerable and well respected site CIO.COM has posted an article called “How to Say Goodbye to Spreadsheets“, which caught my eye. Having lived through the early years of spreadsheets, and having witnessed their evolution into a standard tool of business, I was curious. Having had to deal with the follies and foibles of spreadsheet usage within the companies for whom I have worked, I was hopeful.

But alas, just another case of sensationalized, presumptuous and misleading headlines.

To think that BI tools will eliminate spreadsheets is naive in the extreme. Can BI reduce your dependency on spreadsheets, absolutely, but eliminate them?? No way. I herein cite several major reasons for why spreadsheets are here to stay:

  1. People are basically lazy. Spreadsheets are easy and accessible, BI tools take time to configure and are generally restricted to a select few (due to high licensing costs primarily) within an organization. The poor relations will still be using spreadsheets and thumbing their noses at the BI enabled elite.
  2. BI tools are only as good at the data they have access to (ie: the predefined views that some techie type has deemed acceptable for the users to, well, view) A good portion of spreadsheets in any size organization will no doubt have data that exists no where else but in the spreadsheet. This goes back to number one above, as it’s easier to create a spreadsheet to track new data points than to get IT to build it into existing systems, and then get it into the views accessible to the BI tools.
  3. My experience with two major deployments of BI tools in large organizations, is… that most BI tool users, use the BI tools for 90% of the job and then export to Excel to finish it. It may be stupid, redundant and unnecessary, but that’s reality
  4. Spreadsheets are the tool of the masses. They are available to everyone and are easily shared. It allows anyone with just a little bit of training and a good deal of spare time, to build, maintain, discard and re-build virtually anything and everything. Just as Wikis have allowed anyone to contribute their ideas on any topic on the wiki, spreadsheets have enabled business users to do their own thing. It’s called freedom baby.

Now, I am not condoning the misuse of spreadsheets and I agree wholeheartedly with the reasons why BI tools are better, but from a practical standpoint, it will be a long long time, if ever, before spreadsheets are gone. Just look at all the free open source and free web based spreadsheet tools out there (eg: Open Office, ZOHO, Google Documents, etc…) and you’ll see their usage is growing. Even if corporate IT departments were to deploy MS Office without Excel, people will find a way to get access to the spreadsheets they need.
So, Philosphically, using BI tools in place of spreadsheets would be almost nirvana for large companies, but philosophies are what gets the user’s jobs done.

What’s your take?