Do you prefer a laptop? or a smartphone?

According to a recent mobile workforce survey from iPass, nearly two-thirds of 695 surveyed employees said they would prefer a smartphone instead of a notebook computer.  I don’t always carry my laptop with me but I would never leave my office without my smartphone.

Smartphone is a very powerful computer; some of the latest smartphones have equipped with 1 GHz CPU and 512 MB memory.  I used it to check email, surf the web, blogging, social networking and even VoIP.  I am not alone!  Global mobile data traffic surpassed voice during December of 2009, after growing 280 per cent during each of the last two years. Swedish vendor Ericsson forecasted global mobile data traffic would be double annually over the next five years.

We can also use our smartphone to provide internet access to our laptop / tablet.  It is called tethering.  Although we can find WiFi hotspots in a lot of places, e.g. coffee shops, hotels or libraries; it is not everywhere yet and we may have to pay for the usage or it is too slow due to traffic congestion.  Another concern of public WiFi is its security; most of the public WiFi do not scramble the data.  Thus, tethering can be very useful; it provides anywhere, anytime internet access in a relatively more secure environment.

Our cellular providers may already provide tethering without additional charge; Rogers announced tethering would be free for customers who subscribe to data plans of 1 GB and above.  Please confirm with your own provider about the availability and cost of tethering.

I am going to show you how to use tethering with my Blackberry. 

· First, I started the Blackberry Desktop Manager.

· Click IP Modem.

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· If this is the first time that you use tethering, click the Configure… button.

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· Click OK button to return to the above dialogue.

· Click Connect button.

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· A warning message would be displayed, click Continue button.

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· Now you are connected and if you want to disconnect, simply click the Disconnect button.

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You can now enjoy the freedom of a mobile worker!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Microsoft PowerPivot for SharePoint

It is not a typo!  Microsoft PowerPivot for Excel has a twin, PowerPivot for SharePoint.  Before I tell you what it is; let’s review what you can do with PowerPivot for Excel.  You can now consolidate all you data into PowerPivot, define the relationship among them and extract information in lighting speed.  Isn’t it great?  The only problem is now everyone would come to you to get their information.  You become the central information hub!  Well, you can store the PowerPivot workbook in a shared network drive; so everyone can get the information they want.  But Microsoft have a more effective collaboration platform, SharePoint, which allows feasible controls and extensive collaboration features.  Here are some of the key benefits of PowerPivot for SharePoint:

Excel Services

Once you developed a PowerPivot workbook, you can upload it to SharePoint server.  SharePoint has an Excel Services that would allow CxO and other decision makers to use the workbook interactively and concurrently from their browser.  They can do every analysis that you do on desktop Excel.  They don’t even need to install Excel 2010 and PowerPivot.  The best thing is that you don’t need to worry if someone accidentally modifies your PowerPivot workbook which is securely stored in SharePoint Server.

PowerPivot Gallery

This is a new feature for SharePoint; PowerPivot Gallery is used to specially store the PowerPivot workbooks.  Decision makers can preview all the PowerPivot workbooks in thumbnail.  They can see if everything is green without opening any workbook.  Executives can find financial dashboard, sales scorecard and other KPIs all in a single page.

Collaboration

SharePoint is a very powerful collaboration platform which allows workflow processes to be triggered automatically by predefined criteria, e.g. if one of the marketing KPI is below certain value, then an investigation processes would be triggered.  When the investigation is completed and VP marketing approves the report, it can be linked to the KPI that initiates the investigation.

Change Management

How many times did someone modify you Excel workbooks that were stored on network drives?  You have no idea who did it?  Why it was modified?  SharePoint provides a good set of change management tools like check-in/out, collaboration, version control, approval workflows, email alerts when documents are updated or new documents posted, retention policies, etc.

Automatic Data Refresh

You can setup SharePoint to automatically upload data to the PowerPivot workbook in any specified schedules.  Financial and sales data can be refreshed daily and hourly respectively; product categories can be uploaded once a month.  The consumers of your PowerPivot workbook would always get the latest information.  If any upload process is failed, SharePoint can alert you immediately via email, SMS or pager.

PowerPivot for SharePoint is a natural extension of PowerPivot for Excel!  You prepare the PowerPivot workbook.  Once it is ready, you upload it to SharePoint Server and let the decision makers to get the information themselves.  PowerPivot for SharePoint provides managed, secured, self-service environment.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Collaboration Systems – from floppy disc to Microsoft Office Web Apps for SkyDrive

You probably know how old I am when I mentioned floppy disc in the title; because floppy disc was the only way that we could share information on an IBM PC 25 years ago.  Later, we had local area network (LAN); and when I prepared the business case for installing the first LAN in my company, the key benefits that I mentioned was collaboration.  We could share information securely!  How amazing! But the collaboration was still limited to a small group of people, typically within the same department.  Then email has become very popular and we could share information with our business partners, customers, suppliers… etc.  And yesterday, I read from the news that Microsoft launched Microsoft Office Web Apps for SkyDrive which would take collaboration to another level, i.e. multiple users can discuss and edit a particular document concurrently.  Why has collaboration been so important?  Virtually all major software vendors provided collaboration systems, e.g. Google, IBM, Microsoft and even Facebook.

Should my company use collaboration system?  I believe most of us are using them now, e.g. email, shared folders or instant message (IM).  The question is if you want to bring in a more effective collaboration system.  Before you answer this question, you may want to ask you a more fundamental question: what are the benefits of collaboration?

Frost & Sullivan published a whitepaper which was based on a survey of 946 decision makers in key positions.  Below is a summary of its finding:

  • Overall performance: Collaboration contributes 36% of overall business performance; twice the impact of a company’s strategic orientation.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Collaboration is the sole influencing factor; driving 41% of customer satisfaction.
  • Labour Productivity: Collaboration delivers 35% of labour productivity; 4 times higher than company’s strategic orientation.
  • Product: Collaboration is also the main driving force for product quality (34%) and product development (30%).
  • Innovation: 30% and it is 7.5 times higher than company’s strategic orientation.

You may wonder how collaboration could deliver such incredible effects, how can you achieve such results?  I believe there are 6 main areas that are positively influenced by collaboration:

  • Communication: It is quite obvious that improved collaboration means increased communication and hence better innovation.
  • Innovation: Once you have better innovation, then you would improve productivity and increase quality of your services / products.
  • Customer: If you deliver better services / products, then more customers would come to you.
  • Planning: Today’s collaboration system allows your and business partners to do planning more flexibly and effectively.
  • Control: Improved collaboration also give you better control on your business; you can have a better and timely picture on your financial, operational and sales performance.
  • Stronger team: You can collaborate with your team more effectively, no matter if they are in different offices, working styles. You can all stay connected.

Most current collaboration systems allow you to:

  • Reduce time and cost that are required to do a face to face meeting.
  • Building team and developing new client base that were used to be out of your geographical boundaries.
  • Provide more responsive services to your clients
  • Effective control your time

If you are still using email as main collaboration system, then you may miss a lot of opportunities, i.e. improve bottom line, reaching out to new clients and building a stronger team. What next? You should at least try Microsoft Office Web Apps for SkyDrive and Skype.  They are both free collaboration systems.  And if you are ready and looking for something much more powerful, then Microsoft SharePoint Online and Office 2010 would deliver features that you would not even imagine.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Docs.com – Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps and Facebook

Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps is going to be everywhere.  It is first available to Windows Live users in SkyDrive, and now Facebook added a new feature Docs which would allow its users to create Microsoft Office 2010 documents, share them, edit them collaboratively and discover documents that are uploaded by their friends to their profiles. Docs.com is in beta, so no everyone can create and upload documents initially. If you see the following message on the docs.com home page, you should add your name to the waiting list. Once you gain access to docs.com, you can create Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents, share them with your Facebook friends and even edit them collaboratively. I am going to show you how to create a new PowerPoint presentation. Create a new PowerPoint Presentation

  • Once you are in Facebook Docs apps, you can select to Add a Docs and choose PowerPoint Presentation.

  • You would be directed to docs.com, then you can:
    • Edit your document
    • Changed the file name from Untitled to Hello World
    • Choose who can view and edit this document
    • Copy the Docs Link and send it to your friends
    • Once you click Finish editing, the document would be saved.

Where else do you think you can find Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps?

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

You Can Sell Insurance Online Via Web Conference – part 1

Time is money and it is especially true for insurance brokers. Have you measured how much time you actually spend on selling insurance products? How much time do you spend on travel? If you reduce 20% of your travel time and use them to sell insurance policies, how much more revenue you can gain every year? Can you reduce your travelling time? Let’s start from looking at how you sell insurance today.

You may show your clients some background materials about the insurance products; use software that can evaluate insurance need and illustrate the insurance policy. Of course, you have to go over the insurance contract. There may be other gadgets as well, e.g. pen, paper, calculator or even Excel / PowerPoint. Today’s insurance products are quite complex and it would take you a lot of efforts / tools to show your clients what their insurance needs are and how the proposed package can fit their unique needs. You may have to call and visit your clients many times before they agree to sign the contact. It is a very time consuming processes and to be make it lengthier is the travelling time.

I am going to use Microsoft Office Life Meeting to demonstrate how you can use web conference to market your products / services. But there are many different video conferences software / services available on market, e.g. Skype, GoToMeeting and WebEx. Please discuss with your IT consultant on what would be the best for your business and customers.

Microsoft Office Life Meeting allows you to share with your customers whatever content you show to them during a face-to-face meeting, e.g. marketing materials, insurance contract, newspaper, PowerPoint presentation, video, needs analysis, policy illustration…. etc. Below are a few examples:

  • Upload and share multiple contents with your customers.


  • You can upload a wide variety of content, e.g. PowerPoint presentation, PDF document or even video.


  • Leverage the full capabilities of PowerPoint presentations such as animations and slide transitions.
  • Review and edit any printable document, and you can even zoom in and out the document.


  • Share a program – you can show your customers about their financial needs and policy illustration by sharing the programs with them.


  • Share desktop – if you want to share multiple programs, then you can choose to share the whole desktop or just part of it

 

  • Draw, annotate, and type simultaneously to simulate the natural interactivity of an in-person meeting environment.


  • Share ideas while collaborating on a whiteboard or brainstorming on a text slide.


  • Retain all meeting documents and ongoing annotations, edits, and whiteboard and text brainstorming sessions, so you don’t have to start from scratch during your next meeting

This blog is only the first of the series, which I discuss about the features that would be useful for one to one meeting. Microsoft Office Live Meeting provides many more useful features that you can use to host event and training. I would go into more details in near future.

In the meantime, if you have any question about video conference, please do not hesitate to email me at chan_a@algconsultings.com. I can provide a free 30 minutes Microsoft Office Live Meeting demonstration to the first 4 people who request it; of course, via Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Video Conference can expand your geographic market and increase sales efficiency

It is no secret that video conference can expand your market to new location and increase sales efficiency. But you may not know how cost effective and user friendly it has become in the last few years. Skype is free to use; Microsoft offers Live Meeting would cost you US$4.50 per month and even GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx are a little bit more expensive, it is still only US$49 per month. And your attendee does not need to pay anything!

It is simple to use. All you have to do is to install a very small piece of software and available broadband internet connection; you don’t need an IT consultant to operate it. Your services provider provides a secure, reliable, enterprise grade infrastructure and you can deliver a presentation, kick off a project, brainstorm ideas, edit file, collaborate on whiteboards and negotiate deals at a fraction of the cost and without the hassle of travel.

You can use video conference to deliver online meetings, events and training. Video conference does not just include video and audio; you can add other rich media such as PowerPoint presentation, Word / PDF document, electronic whiteboard, and even online application demonstration plus more. Video conference is suitable from one-to-on collaborate meetings to large training events.

You can integrate video conference with onsite workshop; e.g. you can deliver a workshop at the headquarter of your client office and at the same time, staffs from branch offices all over the world can attend the same workshop through video conference. You can also record the workshop, so that whoever misses it can watch the workshop from the internet or download it to their iPod later on. You can save your travel time and your clients’ training budget at the same time.

During the video conference, you can use interactive whiteboard and other annotation tools to improve online collaboration and deliver more informative and dynamic presentations.

You can also engage your audience with question / survey or even deliver handouts during the meeting. You can trial the services and choose the one that is most suitable for your business. Video conference is a very cost effective and user friendly tool that can help you to develop new market and increase sales efficiency. Try it today and you would love it!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Voice over IP (VoIP) can do more than just save you money

Every time I bring up the subject on VoIP, I always hear “I know about VoIP, it can save my phone bills”. No doubt, VoIP can save your telecommunication budget, but it can do more, much more than you can think of. It can help you to improve productivity, increase your clients’ satisfaction and it is also a critical component of your business continuity plan (BCP).

Improve Productivity VoIP allows you to record your phone conversation in a file with a single mouse click. You can attach it in an email, or even automatically save it in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. There are so many ways that you can improve your productivity with such mechanism. Let me use an example to illustrate it. If your business is developing software, your client may call to report a potential bug. Your supporting staffs have to spend a lot of time to write down details about the problem. With VoIP recording, your supporting staffs only need to summarize the problem and forward the incident with recorded message to programmers for further details. How much time your office can be saved? And not only saving time, how often have your staffs forgotten to document critical points about their conversation with your clients? One is already too much!

Increase Clients’ Satisfaction If you’re a lawyer, financial planner or real estate broker, you can record the VoIP conversation and make sure you fulfill all your client’s requests. You can also integrate VoIP with your CRM system. Your CRM system can automatically keep track of all your VoIP activities and remind you when you should call your client again. If you forgot what was discussed a year ago, don’t worry! You can call up the last conversation and refresh your memory. If your sale person has left, you may be glad to find out that all his previous conversations are stored in your CRM system. If your client calls you, your CRM can automatically bring up all the latest information about your clients. And you would stay connected with your clients even if there is a disaster hit your office; they would never get neglected!

Business Continuity Planning (BCP) BCP is a huge subject so I am not going into details but one of the critical requirements of BCP is to stay connected with your clients. Your clients should be able to communicate with you through email, fax and phone call no matter what happens to your office. With VoIP, you can make / receive call or check voice message, no matter where you are; as long as there is internet connection. So your clients can find you when are at the office, home or even vacation at Europe.

Other Innovative Ideas Both Microsoft and Google have launched their own 411 services; Bing 411 and Goog 411 let you find local business, restaurant and check weather, traffic or even movie time. What else you can do with VoIP? Discuss with your telecommunication and IT consultants.

Conclusion VoIP can reduce your phone bill, improve productivity, and increase clients’ satisfaction. It also gives your staffs a more dynamic and flexible working environment. If you don’t have it now, then you should look for a telecommunication consultant to setup one for you. If you already have VoIP, then you should ask your IT consultant to integrate it with your CRM system. If you have VoIP already integrated with CRM, then you may want to consider video! If you are looking for VoIP providers, you may want to check the following providers:

But make sure whatever you choose, can fit into your IT infrastructure and integrate with your existing systems.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps and SkyDrive – Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs

 Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps Technical Preview is available on Windows Live SkyDrive, a free, 25-gigabyte virtual hard drive on the Internet, accessible from any computer, e.g. Windows, Mac, or Linux at your office, at your home, at your friend’s house, so you don’t need to carry around a physical disk to transport files.  You can easily create, edit, and share your Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents.  All you need is a computer with a web browser (IE, Firefox or Safari) and an internet connection.

Create a new Office document

Edit an existing Office document


Share Office Documents

Office 2010 Web Apps is easy to use because it is the same Office tools that you are familiar with, in a Web environment.

Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps will be officially launched in June, 2010, so why don’t you get ready and start using Windows Live SkyDrive now.  You can seamlessly integrate SkyDrive into your Windows environment as a network drive.  Does everyone in your office need a full Microsoft Office license?  Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps may give you an opportunity to cut some IT budget.

If you have any further question, you can reach me at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

 

 
 

Knowledge is power!

Google Docs – online documents with real-time collaboration

Google Docs provides anytime, anywhere secured online access to your documents.  You can work on your document from your office, at home and on the road; and you can also use Google Docs on PC, Mac, Linux and even mobile phone.

 
 

Google Docs allows you to:

  • Create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online – you can create your document from scratch or start from a template.  Google Docs supports a wide range of formats, including DOC, XLS, ODT, ODS, RTF, CSV, PPT, etc. so you can upload your existing documents to Google Docs as well.

  • Share and collaborate in real time – You can instantly share your documents with other peole.  Multiple people can view and make changes at the same time. There’s an on-screen chat window for spreadsheets, and document revisions show you exactly who changed what, and when. Viewing a presentation together is a breeze, as anyone joined in a presentation can automatically follow along with the presenter.

  • Safely store and organize your work – Your documents are stored online so you needn’t need to worry about local hard drive failures; however, it does not mean you don’t need to have a disaster recovery plan.  You can organize your documents by creating appropriate folders / subfolders hierarchy.

  • Publish your documents – You can publish your documents to website with one click.  With Google Apps, you can easily share important documents, spreadsheets and presentations within your company or group.

 
 

Did I mention it was FREE?

If you have any further question, you can reach me at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.