SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Smartsheet – Not Your Parent’s Project Management System

I have a dog in this fight. In graduate school my MBA concentration was in project management from a construction industry vantage point (fortunately my skills easily transferred to IT and the rest is history). So when Smartsheet announced its first ever user conference, I marked it as a must do. It was time well spent and, yes, I’ll yelp that I will repeat. Heck 1,000 attendees can’t be wrong (note this was an IT Pro audience with 55% self-selecting as super users).

Smartsheet

Fig 1: Hangin’ with Smartsheet CEO Mark Mader at the September 2017 conference.

What is Smartsheet?

Historically I’ve framed up Smartsheet as online project management on steroids. Growing from a residential house (in Bellevue, WA) in 2005, Smartsheet currently has over 400-employees heading to 800+ within the next 12-months. Today Smartsheet is all about positioning itself as a SaaS application for collaboration and work management using an intuitive spreadsheet-like interface. As the name would imply, the product is a series of “smartsheets” based on the underlying project management paradigm to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, share documents and manage other work. The underlying mission pillars for company transparency, practicality, effectiveness and accountability has resulted in an “…ethos that brought people together in the old yellow house to help companies achieve more...uplifting how we work.” According the CEO Mark Mader in his inaugural keynote address. “We love surveys. We found that you spend 11-hours per week on repetitive tasks and routines. We grossly underestimated how changing the way we work would be disruptive…the web…how expectations had changed, etc.” Loosely translated, Mader is saying, Smartsheet is trying to change work culture. I’d offer it’s trying to do it in far less than one generation (for context, read this interesting article on how a reformed Poland took a 20-year generation to change its culture. http://www.modernsurvey.com/blog/20-years-for-cultural-change) “When Smartsheet was established, we sought to establish a new language for work.” Mader said.

Ease of Use

Clearly the Smartsheet asset is its ease of use. “Smartsheet is about self-help and not taxing IT to work with a SaaS-based collaborative solution.” Mader added.

Will a Robot Take My Job?

Mader’s mission is automation. He hit the Robot fear factor head-on in his keynote. “People are receptive to automation - enables you without coding, to execute, etc. We believe the automation released today will take you to the next level.” Mader is referring to the “Smartsheet Report: Automation in the Workplace 2017” which is survey results released at the conference. Two nuggets are:

65% of workers use some type of automation in their day-to-day work.

78% say automation will allow them to spend more time on the interesting and rewarding aspects of their job.

Bottom line

While the conference as customer facing with IT pros (e.g. Alaska Airlines employee), I can appreciate that spot opportunities for MSPs and partners exist. That’s my next blog!

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My Moto Summer Fling

With the Fall Equinox upon us, I can now share my summer research findings concerning mobility.

This is truly a case of starting over. This summer, I tested the Android-based Moto Z Play2 as part of my journey post-Windows Phone (Nokia 1020). The decision was very simple. Increasingly the apps I want and need were not on the Windows Phone platform. And I’ve been there; done that
with the Apple iPhone (I had the iPhone 3G in 2008). As leading Microsoft partner and IAMCP executive Jeff Shuey said “…time to get appy” when briefed on my intentions. I gave my test unit and the mods a stress test by attending the recent Microsoft Inspire conference (conference in Washington D.C. in July 2017- this conference was formerly known as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference “WPC”).

Intel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 1: I’m with a Lenovo rep discussing the Hasselblad True Zoom mod at Microsoft Inspire.

My NEEDS!
Years ago I listed my basic needs in a mobile phone in a blog at SMB Nation. Basically beyond the whiz-bang apps, it amounted to phone service, testing, photos and sound plus battery life. Those are still my core needs and the Moto Z Play2 really excels here. Why?” Because these featured are enhanced via the mods you can attach (and I’ve now tested).

Sound. The JBL-based sound mod, that snaps on to the back of the phone, is really a super cool conference phone feature in my opinion. While at Inspire, I placed several calls on speaker and had multi-person calls (including a few people standing next to me in a busy and loud tradeshow hall. Everyone was impressed. Finally a phone that was a real speaker phone. Bonus was when I stream Xfinity content while traveling (watching CNN), I have world class external audio.

Power. The most useful mod was clearly the Moto Turbopower Pack, a battery recharger (I use it daily). Like anyone, I fiddle with my mobile phone all day every day. I typically hit the later afternoon low energy zone. Viola – I attach the Turbopower Pack (often on my commute home) and return to full power quickly. This is important because the nature of my evening commutes has me away from power.

It should be noted that each of the mods I used came with their own power supply (e.g. up to ten hours power for the speakers or projector). However, these Mod built-in batteries only ran the actual function (e.g. sound, projector) but did not have a reverse current flow to charge the actual phone. Only the Turbopower Pack had that ability. I wish the engineering would support both the device power (speakers, projector) and recharge the phone. Why? Because it’s unlikely I’m going to run my projector for ten hours.

Projector. I used this mod the least but I do feel it’s essential as a mobile businessman. I’ve used it for pleasure, to stream a short high school graduation spoof vid for my son’s big day at the celebration dinner. I’ve used it for business to show web sites, such as a predictive analytics firm, when I was having a business discussion. And I’ve used it to show PowerPoint presentations on the fly (I showed this off at a recent tradeshow where I had a booth). Bonus is that the Moto Insta-Share Projector is available complimentary (as I write this) with the purchase of Moto Z phone (offers may vary). But for free, it’s one hellva must have.

Camera. Truth be told, I only used the internal camera (front and rear) regularly. As a blogger/analyst, the built-in camera(s) are sufficient for my digital media needs. I quickly tested the Hasselblad True Zoom camera in the Lenovo booth at Microsoft Inspire (see Fig 1 above). So it’s hard for me to remember a verdict on the Hasselblad True Zoom camera mod. I was able to zoom into the audience as seen in Fig2 (non-zoom) and Fig 3 (zoom) and clearly see the results. The non-zoom pic was about the same quality as the built-in camera, but I’m a shutterbug and I understand the value of the Hasselblad True Zoom camera for more specialized needs (such as print magazines). This mod has the effect of allowing me to leave my Nikon D5000 SLR at home when I travel for business (the Nikon would still be part of my luggage when I travel to Alaska for scenic photography).

Kindly note one matter concerning the camera function. If you have your phone brightness turned down (to save power), it results in dark pics. For some reason, the auto adjusting/lighting feature just doesn’t work well. Once I restored the phone’s brightness to a sufficient level, my pics got brighter if that makes sense. Learn from Harry on this one.

Jabra Faraway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 2: Broad non-zoom shot using the Hasselblad True Zoom mod.

Jabra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 3: Same shot. Approximately 10x zoom shot using the Hasselblad True Zoom mod.

Android. I’m learning as I go with Android. So far so good with respect to the UI. But there are a few nuances. For example, the Microsoft Office 365 mobile version for Android is not as robust as the Windows Phone version (go figure). The Outlook application, while supporting my multiple business calendars, doesn’t have a proper pop-up notification when an appointment is approaching. Ergo I have missed a few appointments over the summer and have ad to modify my work habits to set alarms with the Clock app. (I’ve tried other calendaring apps such as Business Calendar Version 2.23 but found these apps struggle with supporting multiple business calendars – your reader suggestions are welcome).

My favorite summertime application? Strava. My God – you can accurately record your bicycle rides! It uses the internal GPS capability. See Fig 4.

Chilly Hilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 4: Big Data meets cycling with Strava – my summer bking as part of my Moto Z Play2 mobile app test bed!

A shout out to the FM Radio app (native Motorola Mobility app version 02.02.0146). I can listen to real over-the-air radio when I’m on the ferry/bus or evening travelling in new cities (e.g. Austin, TX) and want to absorb some local sound. Interestingly the FM radio capability is new in the Moto Z Play2 edition; it did not exist in the original Moto Z Play and I was spoiled from this capability with the Windows Phone and my commute time radio listening habit. Bonus: the use of the FM Radio does not consume data or voice minutes on your mobile phone plan (I use AT&T). It behaves like an FM transistor radio (kids won’t get that).

AT&T. As I mentioned, AT&T is my carrier. But the native Moto Z Play2 support is for Verizon. Ergo I used an unlocked phone version to support AT&T. I always worry about having the unlocked version because I don’t feel you get the same performance or patch cadence. But during my summer romance with the Moto Z Play2, I have no quarrels.

Summary

I the start of this blog, I shared I know my needs as a mobile traveler, businessman and media/press analyst blogger: pics, sound, basic phone service, long power, basic apps and hero apps. The Moto Z Play2 meets my needs completely and receives the coveted “Astro” award (Astro is the mascot of SMB Nation). Bravo Moto!

ASTRO APPROVED WWW SMBNATION COM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 5: Moto Z Play2 wins an Astro!

PS – one suggestion. I would be nice to stack mods. For example, If I could have both the projector and the sound mods usable at the same time, my streaming entertainment content would sound divine (instead of the projector defaulting to the internal speaker on the actual phone). Today it’s one mod at a time baby.

PPS – shout out to my friend Jerry Essenpreis, IT Manager at the Bremerton Housing Authority, for encouraging me to you the finger print logon security. After a brief training session capturing my thumb print, it worked splendidly and no need to tap in a PN code.

 

 

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Microsoft connects LinkedIn and Office 365 via profile cards, starting to capitalize on $26B deal

BY NAT LEVY on September 25, 2017 at 6:00 am

 

Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. (Microsoft Photo)


More than a year after Microsoft announced its plans to purchase LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the technology giant is rolling out some of the first integrations with the business social network.

At its Ignite conference in Orlando this morning, Microsoft plans to announce that Office 365 will include a new “profile card” that can display LinkedIn information. For example, interviewers using Outlook would be able to easily access LinkedIn profiles of job seekers. This integration, the first between Office 365 and LinkedIn since the acquisition, is designed to make it easier for people to search for others inside their organizations.

Here’s how it works, according to the company: “Users who have access to this feature can access LinkedIn profile information by hovering over a person’s name and navigating to the ‘LinkedIn’ tab on the new profile card. Microsoft service administrators continue to have control over organizational privacy and connected features in their tenant. We respect end-user privacy and will honor your LinkedIn privacy and profile visibility settings.”

Microsoft is also connecting LinkedIn with its Dynamics sales and recruiting technology. LinkedIn InMails and messages will soon be able to be sent directly from Dynamics 365 for Sales, for example, and customers will be able to quickly integrate LinkedIn profile photos and other content to enrich lead data.

Microsoft completed its high-profile purchase of LinkedIn last year. At that time, Microsoft detailed a few of the integrations it was pursuing at the time, providing a roadmap for the work between Microsoft and LinkedIn.

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Why Asking for Advice is the Best Thing for Your Business and Yourself

BY: Annabelle Short

Do you remember as a teenager, your mom or dad would give you some advice on a relationship or maybe on how to do your homework?

You would respectfully ignore it because…

What do mom and dad know, right?

But, looking back, there were probably several times where you wished you had only taken their advice.Help

It is easy to display the same sense of pride when it comes to your business –

Your business is like your child. You developed the idea and have put time, effort, and money into ensuring its success. So, obviously, you are adamant that you – and only you – could possibly know what is best for it.

But, consider this:

Think of your absolute favorite article of clothing.

Maybe it is your favorite team’s t-shirt or that pair of jeans that fit just right…

Now, when you go to wash that article of clothing, the first thing you do is check the clothing label for washing instructions.

Can you dry it?

Will it shrink?

Does it have to be washed on cold only?

So, why should you not search for professional advice the same way for your business?

You can avoid obvious mistakes.

There are plenty of obvious mistakes that are not so obvious to you at the time-being…

You haven’t made them yet, so how would you know to avoid them?

But, there are plenty of other business owners who have and who would be more than happy to share their story, give you their insight, and allow you to learn from their mistake.

Some of these mistakes might be overwhelmingly embarrassing or just plain costly – but either way, if you could avoid them up front, why not?

It will energize you.

Running a small business can get lonely.

You can easily find yourself consumed with the many hats that you wear as a business owner. However, by getting involved with other business owners or finding a mentor, you can listen to how they approach their businesses…

Not only will connecting with others give you insight into how others do things but it could foster new ideas you have never considered and help your stress, leading you to realize you are not alone.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This is a saying my parents have told be a million times over…

You don’t know what you don’t know.

And, it is as simple as that.

You might be missing out on the most cost-effective solution for your business that you have been actively searching for.

And, you know what?

It could be right there waiting to smack you in the face if you would just ask for help.

You and your business will prosper.

Ultimately, asking for help will only make you a better person and your business a better business.

You will learn new things that you can apply both to your personal life and to your business practices, you will meet new people who can introduce you to their audiences and help further your business, and you will have someone to call on when the road gets tough.

Final Thoughts

Being a business owner can be hard enough:

Many hats to wear and new challenges to face each day.

Why try to do it alone?

You are only being stubborn not asking for help and continuously missing out on opportunities that you might not even know are available.

Do yourself and your business a favor – swallow your pride and ask for help. When you and your business begin to prosper, you won’t regret it.

 

Annabelle Short is a writer and a seamstress of more than 5 years. She loves making crafts with her two children, Leo (age 9) and Michelle (age 11). Annabelle likes to write about business, crafting and sewing, and parenting. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles and writes for Wunderlabel. You can visit her blog to learn more about her and her handmade creations.

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Tips to Create an Office Space That Increases Staff Retention

People take a great deal of pride in their work, and they want their efforts to be as meaningful to employers and society at large as they are to them, on a personal level. But having more authority, more responsibilities, and a friendlier boss doesn't cut it these days. You'll find out soon enough that there's only so much you can do, as an executive, to keep employees running on all cylinders and happy on the job, before you turn to office interior design.

But what could a designer do to address staff retention problems? Typically, it should start with an in-depth analysis of how employees work, what they need throughout the day to carry out tasks effectively and what they Office Spacerequire to take a break and come back to work feeling refreshed. This knowledge should be a major source of information to help turn your business premises into the ideal workplace environment and commission the right office fit for your company. The idea is that a more employee-centric design would not only draw prospective candidates to your company, but also help existing employees focus and feel at ease at the office. As any designer would tell you, optimizing design and managing noise levels more efficiently fosters creativity and innovation. Here's how:

1. Take a Page from the University's Book
Switching from college desk to corporate office is a slow and sometimes painful transition. Working on the go is something graduates continue to yearn for even as their office looks nothing like the campus. It's entirely achievable with an office that focuses on flexible and movable furniture created for remote and spontaneous work.

2. Go from Unisex to Universal
It used to be that an inclusive work environment meant one where men and women worked together in harmony. Today, it's about catering to people of all abilities and ages. In other words, your office interior design needs to make work accessible to everyone, using specific types of furniture that is the right weight and placed at just the right height or distance. To round it off, you need to back up this approach with the latest technology and the right kind of general office attitude toward diversity.

3. Listen to What 'Mother Nature' Has to Say
Green never goes out of style. If there's one thing a plant will never be, it's 'outdated'. So, swap expensive end-to-end, turn-key designs for low-maintenance plants and trees that can turn your décor into something truly inspirational.

4. Light Up with Excitement
It goes without saying that people need fresh air and daylight aplenty to give it their best on the job. Don't let seasonal affective disorder or bad mood hold them down. If your windows aren't large enough, resort to glass, mirrors and other shiny and reflective surfaces to make the most of the light ingress.

5. Look Outside the Cage
Considering all aspects of office, check one last thing before you give the designer the go-ahead. Is it pet-friendly? Studies suggest one in two people worldwide have at least one pet, and it's not unusual to have a pet awareness day at the office every now and then. Some companies even go out of their way to have their own workplace pet. If that sounds like something you'd like to have for your employees, then it could be time to start making the office feel at home to more than one species.

6. Be Smart with Art
Is the photo frame on your desk the one and only accent piece at the office? You need only say the word, and your office interior design will be brimming with character. Opt for youthful colour schemes and don't be afraid of unusual contemporary combinations, such as mint and copper, blush and gold, soft Greek blue and silver, etc.

Author Bio:

Reno is the founder and director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a leading office interior design and office fit-out Company in London, specializing in retail designs, graphic productions, signage systems, office refurbishment, event branding, office space planning and much more. He specializes in experiential marketing and event productions. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on twitter.

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