Events from email in Outlook

This is a very convenient feature available in Outlook. You may be using it even without knowing about it. Outlook can analyze your incoming emails and create calendar entries (events) based upon them. Four categories are understood as of now, flight bookings, hotel reservations, car bookings and package delivery.

This is based upon machine learning algorithms – no human is looking at your emails. Once a mail is detected as an event, a calendar entry is created automatically. Here is an example of a travel booking.

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This mail was automatically processed by Outlook and the following calendar event was created:

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Check-in reminder

In addition, it created a reminder 3 hours before the departure time. That’s nice but there is more. Exactly 24 hours before the flight departure, I received an email reminder for checking-in. This reminder did not originate in my calendar. It came from a generic reminder service.

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Customize automatic processing

To change these settings, go to Outlook web access – Options (the gears wheel) – Automatic processing. Notice that the Package Delivery option is not selected by default.

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Although it sounds fairly simple, the internal working of this feature is quite complex. Why? Because there are thousands of different formats for hotel and flight booking mails. It has to understand the relevant fields and create the calendar events. This is where machine learning is helping us – behind the scenes.

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PowerPoint icons to shapes

PowerPoint provides 500+ icons in SVG format. I recently published a blog which has a downloadable version of all icons in a PPTX file. Scalable vector graphic format icons cannot be edited inside PowerPoint. You cannot treat them like any other PowerPoint shape. But now, we can convert icons into shapes. Once converted to shapes all the PowerPoint shape features available. You can also use the Merge Shapes option to combine or subtract shapes. Here is how you do it:

insert a new shape,  resize it as required , right click on it  and choose Convert To Shapes. 

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Read the dialogue which appears and click  Ok.

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The icon may get converted to one or more shapes. If it has more than one shape, it will be in a grouped state. So it is a good idea to right click on it and try Ungroup. If Ungroup option is inactive, there is only one shape.

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Here we have three shapes. Now the shapes can be used like any other PowerPoint shape.

What to do with the shapes?

Once Icons are converted to shapes, there are few things which can really add value. Color and animation. I will write separate blog for this but here is an example.

The icon above is from the Analytics category. It is a speedometer icon which is often used in performance management. Management dashboards showing KPIs often use this type of speedometer graphic. Here is how we can enhance the speedometer icon after it is converted to shapes.

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With Animation, the needle can be made to move to show the current state of performance.

More stuff on icons coming soon…

What is Microsoft Teams

May be you already know this. But still, read for just 2 minutes more to clarify your thoughts.  Teams is an app which streamlines teamwork. That is the obvious definition. But this is an incomplete description.

Coordinating with multiple persons is Teamwork. Agreed. But there are a plethora of apps available to collaborate with others. What is special about Teams?

Teams is an app which helps you work with all types of Technologies. So it is not just teamwork with other people, it is with multiple technologies as well.

Continue reading What is Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams: Knowledge Pack

Here is a list of articles I have written so far about effective usage of Microsoft Teams.
If you would like me to cover some missing topic or a specific area of your interest, please post it as a comment. This is a live book. As I add more articles about Teams, this list will be updated.

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  1. What is Microsoft Teams
  2. When to use Microsoft teams
  3. When NOT to use Teams
  4. Notice the notifications
  5. How to reply in Teams – Common Mistake
  6. One person Team – how to use Teams alone!
  7. List of Microsoft Teams connectors

Microsoft Teams Conversation common mistake

Microsoft Teams is a convenient way of working with colleagues without cluttering mailboxes. You post a conversation inside the Teams app and others can reply to it.

The common mistake is that instead of replying to your question, people start a new discussion. Here is how you prevent the mistake. Click on the Reply button.

Teams - How to reply

Learn more about Microsoft Teams – Knowledge Pack.

Missing messages in Teams? Follow the channels.

Notification icon animation - showing the number bouncing to attract attention. If you are trying to use Microsoft Teams, you will face this practical problem. The problem is that all your team members must notice the messages that are posted in the Teams app. Nothing is visible in the Inbox. This may lead to missed messages and delayed responses.  Start noticing the notification!

 

Three steps

Continue reading Missing messages in Teams? Follow the channels.

When NOT to use Microsoft Teams

See this article to know When to use Microsoft Teams first. This article lists scenarios where using Teams is counterproductive or plain simple wrong!

Do not use teams if one or more of the items listed below are true.

  1. If there are too many people involved, do not use Teams. Technically, the limit is 2500. But you decide practically. Teams is designed for extensive interaction between team members. If there are lot of people, you cannot expect extensive interaction. Think about using Yammer. It is good for predominantly push and interaction-on-demand kind of functionality.
  2. If the team means the whole department and you already have a departmental Team Site in SharePoint. Use that site. Do not use Teams to create another Team. Why? Because, behind-the-scenes it creates another SharePoint site. Defeats the purpose.
  3. This one is obvious but still makes sense to mention it: If all team members do not have access to the Teams app, do not use Teams. In this case, you will need to do double communication manually. I will not call it inefficient usage – it is misuse.
  4. If the communication and coordination with the team is required but not critical, do not use Teams. Non-critical, but functionally necessary stuff can continue using traditional email.
  5. Do NOT use Teams unless every member is aware about its actual benefits. If you try to force it on ignorant people (Ignorant about Teams, I mean!) , it will not work. Educate them first. The best way is to show a nice and compelling demo.
    If only few people in the team use the Teams app and others do not, it defeats the purpose.
  6. If all members have not understood that they have to check the Teams app as frequently as they check for mails in the Inbox.
    The benefit of Teams is that it does not send anything to your inbox. Conversations and communication happens within the Teams app. If some members forget to see the activity in the app, they are effectively not working as a team.

That is all I can think of as of now. If you know more scenarios where Microsoft Teams is contraindicated, post them as comments.

 

 

 

 

Testing Quiz Feature. Pls Ignore.

 

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When to use Microsoft Teams

When to use teams

The obvious answer is – “whenever you want to work with your team”. But that is not enough. Here is a more precise answer. If all (or most) of the requirements listed below are true, you should use  Microsoft Teams.

  1. Your organization has Office 365 Teams license available for all the people whom you intend to work with as a team.
    As on Jan 2018, if you intend to work with people in another organization, they also need to have Office 365 license.
  2. The kind of work you do with the selected team members has to be specific to a common topic of interest. It could be a project, a new initiative, a deliverable, an outcome …
  3. Usually there is an end date for such things. But that is not a must.
  4. The work being done is not just about sending messages and informing each other. You need to keep track of who said what, need files, images, notes, collaterals and so on.
  5. The kind of work you do is frequent. For infrequent work, just use email.

Yes. That’s it.

You can create a new team even for just you and someone else. Remember to create multiple teams for multiple contexts, even if some members may be common. More on that later.

Finally, DO NOT create too many Teams in the app. You will need another team to manage all these Teams.. ha ha!

Good to know When NOT to use Microsoft Teams as well.

Office 365 Best Practices: Maximize Adoption and Consumption

Office 365 platform is very powerful. However, I have noticed that most customers derive only fraction of the potential benefits. There are many reason for this bleak outcome. Refer to my series on Office 365 Worst Practices for details. In this article I will highlight the reverse Office 365 Best Practices.

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This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Jargon explained

Adoption, Consumption, Effective Utilization, Efficiency Maximization, Workplace transformation, etc. are the words / phrases used while describing maximum and relevant usage of all Office 365 tools by all users. They all mean the same. The objective is to maximize ROI and work efficiency in order to drive personal as well as organizational growth.

Office 365 Best Practices

Do not buy the cheapest option

Many customers just want to move from on-premise to cloud. They think that is the ONLY benefit of moving to Office 365. Just convert from CAPEX to OPEX – save on-premise overheads and that’s it. This is not the ONLY benefit of O365. There are a thousand more. Think of empowerment of all users (while saving money).

Go for E3 or E5 SKU. For ALL users. Yes. The cost will be significant. But if utilized appropriately, unimaginable improvements will follow in months. Break-even can happen in as little as six months.

Disclaimer: I do not benefit monetarily by sales of Microsoft products. As you know, I am an MVP (evangelist) and RD.

IT alone should not drive Office 365 adoption

There may be very compelling reasons for IT to spearhead and drive the Office 365 migration project. However, it is not just an infrastructure migration. Unlike most products, Office 365 is NOT transparent to end users. In fact, it is very visible to them. Every user spends 4 hours or more using Office tools. If you want to change (improve) their usage of these tools and add many more tools, you better do it in a manner that is compelling to all users. Push does not work (unless it is a security issue).
Pull is requried. IT alone cannot generate that pull. IT must do this along with the business side.

Involve top management throughout the project

Top Management is the crucial component which is often missed. It is not enough to have a couple of powerful sponsors. The top management has to experience the efficiency transformation first-hand. Only then they will be able to support the initiative wholeheartedly. Otherwise they just cut a ribbon, give a motivating speech at the launch and then nothing happens. Everyone remains inefficient happily thereafter!

All possible business heads should be a part of the Office 365 project. Why? Because, all of them stand to gain substantially from the potential productivity transformation. If some business heads refuses to support the initiative, leave them alone. After they see the success stories around them, they will happily join the mainstream.

If you cannot convince the Top Management, do not bother to convince the users. Your adoption drive has already failed.

Launch is important but not enough

Everyone plans for the launch. It is an event to show off your contribution, gain recognition, motivate more users to join, demonstrate tangible improvement and so on. No problem. Great. Go ahead and put posters, change desktop images, insert banners on intranet home pages, create mailers, create a buzz, conduct quizzes…

That is just the beginning. If nothing happens beyond this, the end comes swiftly. Any kind of excitement reduces soon.

If excitement was sustained, it would be called boredom!

Unless you convert that excitement into a necessity (a good habit), the benefits will be very short-lived. ROI will be a distant dream. Remember, Office 365 is a subscription, but it does not include wisdom and capability transformation. Software cannot do it alone. We need sustenance.

To achieve this you need many things including – having a significant training budget, internal team to drive efficiency and ability to highlight internal successes to motivate all users on a long-term basis.

Office 365 is not just a small utility. It can transform lives and organizations. Give it enough time and perseverance to transform you.

Learning is not FREE

Office 365 contains 20+ tools. Most users know only four – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.  At least they think that they know. 
Unfortunately, nobody knows how to use Office efficiently. We are all trial and error artists!
Just adding 16 more components and conducting a half a day training is not going to change anything. This is the height of wishful thinking.  Each tool needs to be explained in terms of the need and its benefits.

In most cases, the rollout of tools (and related training) is phased out over a year or more. In this case, every user does not even get exposed to every tool – which is a perfect recipe for failure.

Roll out all products at once – in phases

This is contrary to common practice of deploying one component at a time. Provide all tools together. Sounds complex? No problem – break it down into phases. In each phase include a manageable set of users. It could be a location, team or department. Initially have smaller set of users, learn from the rollout and then expand the horizon.

Make sure the learning activities are synchronized with the rollout. The worst case scenario is a user who returns from a training – highly motivated to try the new stuff, to realize that the laptop is still running older version of Office and no trace of Office 365. It is a frustrating experience for users. This creates negative word-of-mouth publicity which can destroy the adoption drive.

Exchange down and all others up

This should be the larger objective. The most common reason for work inefficiency is the misuse of Outlook. Now with OneDrive, Teams, Skype, Groups, Planner and other tools, the need for using email is reducing dramatically. All these tools eliminate mails and provide a more focused channel for working together.

If email usage continues to grow with minimal increase in the usage of other tools, your adoption strategy (and execution) has failed. In this case, relook at the content, provide more focus on new tools, also explain why email misuse is bad and provide more hands-on experiences to convince users. Publish internal case studies to make people aware that it works within our organization as well (not just in other company’s case study).

Empower users with analytics

Depending upon the product(s) you have, emphasize on teaching the new method of analytics. Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map constitute the new platform called Power BI. If every user adopts to Power BI, there can be unimaginable improvement in everything that the organization does. This happens even without branching into big data, IOT and other recent technologies. Ever since Power BI was introduced, I have not seen a single organization which has leveraged this powerful toolkit across all users. What a waste!

Office 365 contains Office. Remember that!

Almost routinely, I see that the adoption plan just does not include Office itself! The logic is, we have been using Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for many years (or decades). Everyone knows how to use these tools. Why waste time and money? Just cover OneDrive, Skype, Teams, Groups and OneNote.  Wrong thought process. Why?

Office has been around for decades. Any new product Microsoft adds is DESIGNED to integrate with Office. Nothing is created in isolation. Therefore, for all these cloud tools to be utilized efficiently, they must be used from WITHIN Office.

Integration is the most important feature of Office platform. By excluding Office from the training and adoption plan, you are literally ensuring sub-optimal results. No question of having a good return on investment.

One more reason for including Office. It has evolved beyond our imagination in 30 years. Unfortunately, nobody keeps track of how Office is becoming better and offering more and more benefits with lesser effort. Reinventing Office is a great way to transform efficiency – along with the new cloud tools.

There is more… But for now, this is a good start.

Your opinion matters.
Feel free to post your experiences as comments.
Queries are also welcome.