UPDATE as of 12/11/20: These instructions were written before changing your Teams background with a few clicks in the settings was a core functionality of the platform. Now it’s even easier to change your background! Read this for more info.
Got a messy background but too many conference calls to straighten up between meetings? Microsoft Teams has added the capability to use backgrounds during Teams meetings to hide your untended laundry piles or your lack of an extensive and telegenic private home library, but right now, your alt-backdrop choices are “background blur” and a selection of curated images with no readily apparent way to upload custom images.
While the curated images provided by Teams are pretty nice, you might want to upload a background that reflects how you’ve been spending your time during quarantine:
In honor of RAK Week (Feb 16-23) 2020, we’ve described three kinds of completely free actions that you can take today that will make someone’s day a little brighter – and likely yours as well!
We’ve all heard stories of random acts of kindness – scroll through virtually any social media platform and you’ll see evidence in scrawled notes, cups of coffee, and often just shared smiles. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all experienced more uplifting events in our lives more often?
Start by taking a deep, relaxing, breath – yes, please, right now… Now, close your eyes, for just a moment, and recall how you felt the last time you received, offered, or witnessed a random act of kindness.
You’re smiling now, aren’t you? Here’s how to pass on those life-affirming vibes:
Engage with Others
A genuine smile and an enthusiastic greeting will go a long way to make others feel at ease. Have you ever noticed that when most customers are in service-oriented establishments, they focus only on their business at hand, and not upon the people who are helping them? Imagine interacting with people all day, yet not feeling seen, heard, or valued! Make the effort to connect with the people you encounter every day. Ask them questions – and really listen when they reply. They will appreciate your acknowledgment and you might learn something or even make a new friend!
Share Your Gifts
You and I are on a collective journey around our sun as it moves through our galaxy and the universe. We can salute our fellow passengers and enhance their travel by sharing our talents. Maybe it’s something as simple as reading to a child or as unique as teaching someone how to tie the perfect fishing fly. Be open to letting people gain a glimpse of your inner world. Whatever your gifts, sharing your passions with others will expand their perspective; your example will encourage them to explore their own abilities which, in turn, will also add to the richness and diversity of our world.
“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.” – Morgan Freeman
We all feel better when we know that we are safe, we are understood, and we are accepted. Caring… compassion… kindness… these traits are frequently reserved to describe humans. As such, the burden is on us to be mindful of actually exhibiting characteristics of humanity in our day to day lives. Simple gestures of kindness often have impacts far beyond the moment. Open the door, hold the elevator, or share the load with someone who has their hands full (literally or figuratively).
In what ways can you be kind today to your coworkers, your friends, your family?
‘Tis the time of year for long-stemmed roses, heart-shaped pink frosted doughnuts, pastel conversation hearts and elementary school paper valentines… Beyond romantic gestures, modern Valentine’s Day observations now frequently extend to offering tokens of gratitude to all those we appreciate. This year, why not direct some sweet attention to all those hard-working folks who do their part in supporting your organization’s Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) eco-system?
Everyone playing a role – from the Tier 1 help-desk, to the Business Intelligence experts, to those championing Organizational Change Management, and the myriad of individuals connected to these roles – deserves kudos for their unique contributions to your organization’s mission.
Embrace the contributions of the parts
Despite the cross-organizational nature of PPM, it is helpful to occasionally isolate the moving parts and formally recognize the crucial role that each function plays in the strength and success of the whole. Openly sharing the significance of the contributing roles allows for reflection upon the inherent teamwork within the organization. Publicizing functional impacts helps each individual to contextualize how their personal contributions truly matter. In turn, deeper recognition of the value their colleagues bring can also be achieved. Embracing the contributions of all the parts helps elevate your PMO’s vibe.
Celebrate the achievements of the whole
Similarly, highlighting the influence of synergy reminds all the players of their collective goal and underscores the familiar axiom, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Being part of a cohesive team feels good – even when you don’t win all your games. If your organization has not yet conducted ‘A Year in Review’ for the past calendar year, mid-February is a perfect time to say thank you for a job well done and frame the year to come. Celebrating your PMO’s successes is a great way to spread some love!
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Spread some Valentine’s lovin’ for PPMin’
Looking for inspiration on how to express the Valentine’s spirit beyond the company newsletter and donuts in the breakroom? Here’s a flexible idea that’s as appropriate for the cash strapped start-up as it is for the fully flush monopoly (and all budgets in between) and will effectively convey your heart-felt regards:
Have your PMO leadership hand sign “Valentines” to each team member thanking them for their unique contributions to the organization. These can be store-bought, created in house, or custom-printed. Enhance the sentiment by including a gift-card. Consider the standards, such as a popular local restaurant, theater, museum or zoo, or get creative with “coupons” for lunch-with-the-boss, a half-day off, or a birthday holiday. Really level-up with a profit-sharing bonus reflecting the company-wide results of the previous year!
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to consult with multiple medical specialists. Among the many fascinating aspects of these encounters, what stood out to me the most was what was missing! In reflecting upon the lack of holistic perspective in patient care, I was reminded of how valuable generalists are in business endeavors everywhere. Are you actively engaging your generalists?
Here are a few ways generalists can help your business:
Generalists are not vested in how you’ve always done it
Specialists have frequently spent years perfecting their methods. They are the highly trained, highly skilled, and highly vested in the solutions they’ve created. In our rapidly changing world, sometimes the optimal solution has its roots in unexpected and seemly foreign fields. This is at the heart of knowledge transfer and often leads to amazing innovations. Generalists, by definition, know a little bit about a lot of different things. This broader exposure allows them to quickly grasp the essence of a situation, consider whether similar challenges in other disciplines might have bearing, and follow the logic along a path often dismissed or completely unseen by those with more concentrated professional experience.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
– Albert Einstein
Generalists see the big picture
The wide-ranging exposure that generalist have typically leads to greater experience in overarching organizational roles than that of their specialist counterparts. Their experience affords them a 50,000 foot view of both the interconnection among individual business functions and the influence of forces outside the organization, such as regulatory agencies; competitors; customers; and trends or events that may impact the company or the industry as a whole.
Generalists are flexible
Typically, generalists also have a solid command of the many soft skills necessary for business success. While the responsibilities overseen by generalist may vary considerably, what most have in common is that their job descriptions are, at least in practice, loosely defined (such as manager) and their day-to-day tasks include a robust blend of problem-solving, decision-making, team-building, communications, negotiations, and leadership skills. Their behaviors, as well as their thinking, are inherently flexible making generalists exceptional at delivering out-of-the-box ideas that are both creative and innovative.
Actively engage your generalists – and leverage their progressiveness, vision and flexibility!
Welcome to a new month, of the new year, in a new decade! Are you feeling the clean-slate vibe yet? Ready for a fresh start? This article will point you in the direction of greater productivity with a tried-and-true method to more quickly achieve whatever professional and personal resolutions you’ve set your sights on.
May your quest begin!
Here Be Dragons!
Facing yet unexplored territories often conjured fears of imagined dangers in the hearts and minds of medieval adventurers. Dragons represent a nearly universal way to express that sentiment. In today’s world, our dragons may more aptly represent those goals that we tell ourselves we want but have not yet achieved, those desires that seem too intimidating to pursue. Perhaps you’d like to switch careers, write a book, or pursue a new hobby. Sometimes it is simply inertia holding you in place. Consider eating some frogs for breakfast to get you knocking down those aspirations!
Frogs for Breakfast?
Okay, so not real frogs! Frogs are those tasks that you dread doing, the ones that you actively avoid but you must still accomplish, those things you waste time procrastinating! A business frog might be a writing a challenging performance review. Doing the dishes could be an example of the ugliest frog in your home life. This technique works wherever you could gain efficiencies. The notion is that by tackling the worst item on your list right off the bat, that action will leave you energized to tackle the things you’d prefer to be doing for the rest of the day. So, yes, frogs for breakfast!
“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Personal Productivity Conquered
The prescription for slaying your dragons by eating your frogs is simply this: 1) frame out your dragons with the specific tasks that must be done, 2) identify your frogs, and 3) eat one or more each morning.
Innovative-e renewed its partnership with Microsoft in early December. We have been a Microsoft Gold partner for more than a decade and are certified in the following areas:
These partnership levels highlight the strengths we bring to our customers and partners. Maintaining Gold or Silver partnership with Microsoft requires expertise in the competency areas, certification of our SMEs and compliance with the high standards to which Microsoft holds its partners.
As a key Microsoft Partner, Innovative-e provided strong support and a robust thought leadership role when Microsoft rolled out its major update to Project in October 2019, unveiling Project for the Web to bring better work management to pro project managers as well as team members whose work entails everyday, ad hoc project management.
The gentleman on the right is Bryan Quick, our Director of Sales. Bryan spent years with Microsoft as a Solution Sales Professional and is now leveraging his expertise in Microsoft’s work management suite to improve our customers’ day-to-day work life with increased visibility, agility and control. We’re thrilled to have Bryan sharing his knowledge and positive energy with the Innovative-e team!
Microsoft isn’t the only partner we’ve worked closely with during 2019. We’ve partnered with edison365 for years and have watched them grow their suite of tools, built to work seamlessly with Office365. In 2019, edison365 announced major upgrades to:
“We had a pretty good foundation in place for project management and we were looking to take it to the next level. Microsoft Project Online got us there and now, with edison365ideas, businesscase, and projects added on, I’m in love! – Gail Strausser, Application Manager, The Guthrie Clinic
We also produced several webinars and other knowledge pieces with edison365 during 2019, the better to show you these fantastic tools that make it easier for you to work smarter, not harder.
The edison365 folks also launched a great new podcast, Innovation Brew, late in 2019. We’re so grateful to be partnered with Ivan Lloyd, Tad Haas, and the other marvelous members of the edison365 team! Thank you for a marvelous 2019 – we look forward to even greater successes in the coming year!
We had a great year with one of our other partners, Bravo Consulting Group, which works largely with government customers to leverage Microsoft products for strategic, technology-enabled innovative solutions. While we do a lot of behind-the-scenes work with Bravo to enable our customers (and theirs!) with work management solutions that improve collaboration, effectiveness and visibility, one of our most popular joint ventures was a webinar, “All in – 3 Steps to Digital Transformation. It’s win/win!” that was such a hit that we did it again a few weeks later. Shout-out to Gino Digregori and his team for years of successful partnership in bringing digital transformation and cloud services to our customers! 2019 was amazing, and we think 2020 will be even better!
Sure, we packed in a lot of success with our partners and customers in 2019, but we’re not stopping there!
Innovative-e is in the process of developing an expanded selection of educational offerings for 2020, and broadening our offerings with DIY-style content to help you beef up what you can do on your own with the expansive work management tools from partners like Microsoft and edison365. We’re also deepening our offerings for project and portfolio managers; for years, we’ve provided solution-specific training to our customers, but we’re adding PM skills training and other work management-related courses to our curriculum.
We’ve already loaded up our editorial calendar to keep bringing you (free!) thoughtful and practical content in 2020 to help you improve your work life with more effective work management practices and tools. We and our partners like edison365 and Bravo Consulting Group are eager to share new e-books, whitepapers, articles and infographics in the coming year, so keep an eye on our blog, our YouTube channel, and our website for more knowledge pieces. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – and subscribe to our newsletter! – so you can see when we or our partners drop info that will make work management easier for you no matter your job role.
If your 2019 was as good as ours was, then you’ve had a very good year, indeed! We’re looking forward to an even more successful 2020, and we’re glad to have our partners – and you! – with us for the coming new year!
The Project for the web service from Microsoft is an intriguing project manager experience in the sweet spot between “back of the envelope” planning of Roadmap and Planner, best used perhaps for a sense of timing and high-level resource estimates, and the full rigor of project management with the comprehensive toolset of Project Online and its attention to details like costs, risks, issues, and resource workload management. Project for the web challenges the status quo for traditional users of enterprise PPM software with a simplified interface, easy to adopt, and an engine under the hood power users will love.
Project for the web looks little like the Microsoft PPM tools familiar to most. At first, you may be lost looking for the projects you’ve created using Project for the web. You may find them on the Project Home page, under either the Favorites section (if you’ve marked any as a favorite) or in with the recently used or modified projects.
You access Project Home by clicking the Project link in the App Launcher.
The link to the Home page appears as a “home” icon:
These out of the box views of Project for the web will no doubt be augmented soon by product offerings from Microsoft Partners, if such products have not been announced already. In the meantime, one can build one’s own applications to view, report on, and/or act on project data using the Common Data Service (CDS) and PowerApps. Here is a simple recipe to build a viewer for all the projects shared with you in Project for the web.
Log in to O365 with credentials that can access Project Online and PowerApps.
Launch PowerApps (powerapps.microsoft.com).
Click Create then select Canvas app from blank.
Name the app (e.g. “Pftw QuickView”) in the App Name* field, select the Tablet radio button, and click the Create (Skip the introductory tour if prompted). (Save the app (Click File, then Save) and autosave will begin to happen as you make changes moving forward.)
On the Insert ribbon, select Vertical Gallery and a gallery screen will be added, populated with sample data. Search for the term “proj” in the data source dialog and notice the number of available CDS entities for Project.
Select the Project entity from the list of data sources and the vertical gallery display should switch from sample data to values from your Project environment and now you have a view listing all the projects in your portfolio!
All new projects created using Project for the web will generate an “Untitled project” project until the title is changed. If you want more detail than an untitled title, follow these steps:
Rename the gallery you just created (e.g. “Gallery_MyPortfolio”).
On the Insert ribbon, select Vertical Gallery and a new gallery screen will be added, again populated with sample data. Drag the new gallery side by side with the 1st gallery.
Rename the new gallery (e.g. “Gallery_ProjectTasks”). Change the new gallery items to be [“Portfolio_MyGallery”.Selected.’Project Tasks’]. In our example so far, if you used the same naming suggestions given, the Items for the Gallery_ProjectTasks gallery would be Gallery_MyPortfolio.Selected.’Project Tasks’.
You can make the viewer “prettier” and easier to understand by adding labels above each of the viewers and you can change the data fields that get shown.
Press F5 to run the application to preview it works.
Publish the application to share with whom you like if you like.
This has been a very brief overview describing one approach to viewing content in your Project for the web portfolio. Subsequent posts will show how to leverage not only the portfolio but also the Grid, the Board and the Timeline, as well as how to use Project for the web with robust project management techniques such as risk management.
Whether or not you’re a project manager by profession, odds are good that if your job parks you behind a desk, you manage projects on a regular basis. Much of what you and your colleagues accomplish day to day is part of a process that must be managed, even if it’s on an ad hoc basis, not part of what you would consider a formal project management process. Contract managers, HR professionals, educators, marketers and other professionals manage projects all the time, often cobbling together tools like spreadsheets and emails to get things done.
Microsoft sees a gap between formal project management and task management in the marketplace – and we think they’re right. Microsoft designed the new cloud-based Project for the web to help everyone who manages projects. If you’re somebody who is not formally trained in project management, but you’re still responsible for getting project work done, Project for the web will help you do it more efficiently with a simple but powerful interface. Those of us who informally manage projects need a better tool besides Excel, SharePoint or other third-party SaaS tools stitched together to meet our needs.
The new Project is entirely web-based, more user-friendly, and easier to get started with. I’d like to show you some of the things Project for the web can do, even if you – like me – are not a project management pro, but still have project-style tasks and teams to manage in the course of your work. My next post will feature digging into creating a project using the new interface, so roll up your sleeves and get ready to see what Project for the web can do!
Is a more simplified product, geared towards less sophisticated (some say ‘citizen’) project managers, a race to the bottom? On the surface, one might think so. Some will say the new, easier to use, Project doesn’t cater to the enterprise customers who will always require robust PPM solutions. They are wrong. The key to understanding the vision for the new Microsoft Project is in the subtle, but critical distinction Microsoft makes that Project isn’t a PPM platform, it’s a platform for PPM.
The incredible potential of “The world’s computer”
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, has stated that we can consider the entire world as one big computer. The crux of this statement is that digital technology is pervasive everywhere and that cloud computing and AI have become the norm. Project for the web is built on the Power Platform, the same platform as Flow, PowerApps and PowerBI for the best integration yet! For IT and security professionals, the new Project offers an opportunity to provide users with a more lightweight project management tool in Office365, which is safe, private and compliant.
All-up work management Nirvana visualized
Microsoft has made the distinction that Project isn’t a PPM platform – it’s a platform for PPM. Project for the web offers powerful scheduling, task, resource and dependency management to everyone, including team members who are not formal project managers but who need robust project management capability. But Microsoft’s aim is to expand to improve not just project management, but work management. Project for the web isn’t a PPM platform – it’s a platform for PPM for overall better work management for your entire team and organization.
While the new Project makes it much easier for all team members to collaborate and manage their work, thus ensuring that project and portfolio data is more complete and actionable for the organization as a whole, the new Project is more robust than ever and continues to enable all-up project and portfolio management for mature PMOs staffed with experienced project managers. The reimagined Project enables all teams within an organization to work together effectively to provide Project and Portfolio Managers and their executives visibility, agility and control, which supports the achieving the organization’s objectives and missions.
Innovative-e wants to help you leverage the new Project platform to rapidly innovate and be able to solve collaboration, work and project management problems in ways that allow people to work the way they want it give organizations the results they need.
We’d love to show you around Project for the web so you can see what’s new and what’s better than ever before! Send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll schedule a one-on-one demo for you to see what it’s all about.
We’ve all heard stories of famous failures – in sports, in music, in medicine, in invention… our entertainment is replete with fictional versions of the same. What is it that fascinates us about failure? And how can we use failure as a springboard for success?
Most of us also remember first-hand experiences with failures of our own that shaped our lives.
Here are a few of the gifts that failure offers.
Failure Clarifies and Refines Motivation and Goals
Sometimes failure is an invitation to delve more deeply into a personal and profound understanding of the ancient Greek aphorism, “know thyself”. Whether the failure is with the optimal recipe for your favorite desert, the design of an alternative energy mode of transportation, or an aspect of your interpersonal relationships, failure helps us to become clear on the fine details and essential elements of what you really want.
Failure Inspires and Fuels Determination and Stamina
There is nothing quite like falling on your face, literally or metaphorically, to connect with your grit! Failure, especially public failure, is a situation most people typically find intensely uncomfortable. These unpleasant feelings provoke an equally or more intense resolve to overcome the obstacles just encountered – along with any other potential roadblocks that may arise. In this way, failure drives the perseverance required to get the job done.
Failure Builds and Fortifies Courage and Action
While anticipation of failure may lead to dithering indecision, actual failure, ironically, often leads to focused achievement in the face of fear. The experience of failure alters your outlook on conceived outcomes. If “the worst” has already happened, then you are more willing to risk ABC (Audacious-Bold-Courageous) measures towards the potential of living your goal.
So, now that you recognize the wins of failure, fail fast and fail often!!!
This piece was written by Sylvie Fortier, one of the Project Managers at Innovative-e. Sylvie Fortier is an experienced leader of culturally and geographically diverse technical and non-technical teams. She has contributed to fledgling start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and organizations in-between, supporting functions from strategy development to full product lifecycle management. Whatever the role, Sylvie is passionate about cultivating creativity, innovation, and the pursuit of continuous improvement – for individuals, their teams, and society at large. She is particularly fond of Thai food and delights in photography, travel, and SCUBA diving as well as everyday adventures with her teenage twins.