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Reduce your workload when you return from your vacation

VacationWith the holiday season fast approaching we’re all busy planning our own vacation. We’re all looking forward to a couple of weeks of well-deserved peace and quiet, far away from work and all the fuss around it. Fortunately not everyone is going on vacation at the same time. Even in our absence the world keeps on spinning around. If we’re lucky not as fast as usual but still, the pile of work keeps on growing when we’re gone. Files, emails, questions from costumers, projects, reports and much more are waiting for our -fully recharged- return. How can we avoid having to plan a new holiday to recover from getting back on track?

 

By using some of the standard tools, combined with some SharePoint and Skype for Business possibilities, you can already get ahead on track, doesn’t that sound interesting? Here are some of our own tips to minimize the amount of work that will be waiting for you:

 

TIP 1: Make smart use of your out-of-office

The out-of-office function is a standard part of Microsoft Outlook. During a certain period, it automatically sends a message to anyone who wrote you an email. In this message you can explain how long you’ll be unavailable, perhaps why and who they can contact in your absence. Make sure this message is written in all the relevant languages so all of your contacts can understand it.

Having an out-out-of-office message that is well set up will make sure your contacts won’t send you as many emails during your vacation, they will be informed why you can’t answer them right away and how they can be helped by one of your colleagues in case of an emergency. So this means less emails for you and less work to catch up with.

 

TIP 2: Inform your customers and colleagues correctly and well in time

This might sound obvious, but is often forgotten. Inform your clients and colleagues personally by emailing or giving them a call to discuss the situation. It also gives you the time to inform your contact how he can be helped during your absence. If you’re lucky, the project or task can be postponed till your return. People appreciate it when they are contacted in person and you’ll be surprised how this will provide you with more good-will from their side as well.

TIP 3: Help your colleagues during their vacation

Your colleagues also like to go on holiday of course. They are also facing the same issues with a growing pile of work. It’s guaranteed that when you help them during their absence, they’ll do the same for you.

TIP 4: Automate your workflows

Thanks to SharePoint you can automate many business processes. Approvals are automatically requested at the right (available) person, questions from costumers are automatically answered and channeled or the right department is informed at certain occasions. During the whole year tasks are taken care of faster and more efficient so this works during your holidays as well. Moreover, you can set up the workflows so they take the availability of your coworkers into account. SharePoint knows, thanks to your out-of-office, that you’re not reachable and will channel the work to the right person next in line. Get inspired about this way of working and the advantages of SharePoint in one of our free inspiration sessions.

TIP 5: Make use of the self-service portal as much as possible

You can’t imagine not having self-service portals anymore. Taxes, accounting, travel, internet services, telephone subscriptions, groceries,… you can manage nearly everything on a online platform. There probably are a serie of actions and tasks your colleagues and costumers can handle themselves providing them one of those portals, whether you’re in the office or not. If your contact can do it himself, that’s one thing less you’ll have to take care of at your return.

TIP 6: Use smart ‘bots’ that can do your work for you

Bots are preprogrammed contacts in your Skype for Business contact list. These ‘robots’ are available 24/7 and can help your costumers and colleagues if necessary. They can get their information from within the whole company which allows you to ask them anything. Outstanding invoices, received payments, current projects, status updates, KPI follow up, reports,… the bot knows and can do it all. Even if there’s something he can’t handle himself, he’ll guide you to the right person or department, taking their (un)availability into account. Do you want to know more about the endless possibilities? Read our blogpost about CEBP.

Working efficiently Working efficiently

Op 18/06/2015 door Nicolas Van Geluwe

Website usability guidelines - forms

About forms

Forms are a very important part of the page. In general, a form on a web page allows your user to enter data that is sent to a server for processing, for instance to contact, register, provide shipping or credit card data etc. Usually, it consists of a combination of interaction elements like input text fields, selection fields, radio buttons and checkboxes.

Tips to improve forms usability

Tip #1

If you don’t want to annoy your users filling in a form on your website, you should clearly mark the required fields, validate the input values as soon as possible, highlight problems and explain what was wrong. How can you achieve that?

Form labels, required fields, validationUse client validation on top of the server validation. Thanks to that, the user will be informed while filling in the form that something is wrong. When something is indeed wrong - clearly show where and what is the problem by highlighting this field or label and adding a meaningful explanation.

 

 

Input data formatting and masksTo reduce the number of mistakes, explain what type of data is required. You can add formatting examples or even use a mask.

 

Elements grouped in logical way

Tip #2

Consistency. Keep all fields’ labels at the same place (all above, or all left, closely to the field), so the user is sure where to provide the data. Keep the same placement and coloring of cancel and submit buttons through the site. Make sure that a submit button is easily distinguishable. You don’t want users to miss-click cancel/submit buttons.

Tip #3

Group the elements in a logical way. If you are asking for contact details, ask for all the data in the same block of input fields.

 
 
 

 

Tip #4

Allow your users to navigate using only their keyboard, not every user prefers to use his mouse to jump around fields.

Form navigation

Moreover, it simply might be faster to use the keyboard navigation while filling in data. Make sure that using the TAB button will allow them to fill in data in a logical order and the ENTER button will allow them to submit the form.

 

 

 

 

Ask for confirmationTip #5

Prevent doing things by an accident.

The user tries to close his browser or clicks on the back button while having entered but not submitted data? Let him know what is going to happen and ask for a confirmation.

Disabled submit button

 

How long does it take to submit your form? Consider disabling the submit button to prevent multi-clicking and multi-submitting your form.

 

Tip #6

Final confirmationFinally, when the user filled everything in correctly and submitted the data – confirm that. Make sure that user knows that the process ended up successfully. There are several ways to do that. It can be a a summary page, a pop-up window etc.

 

 

 

Are you thinking about having your own website? In this serie of guidelines we will give you an overview of all the essentials when setting up a new website.

Read also: our usability guidelines about  standard websites elements and navigation

Technology Technology

Op 15/06/2015 door Lukasz

Website usability guidelines – standard website’s content

 

Are you thinking about having your own website? In this serie of guidelines we will give you an overview of all the essentials when setting up a new website.

First we’ll guide you trough the standerd website’s content.

Pages

This may sound obvious: every website should have a homepage. Explain there who you are and what you do, but keep it short and simple. This page should be easy and quickly digestible. It’s a good idea to include a one sentence tagline.

Put only necessary data and tools on the particular page. Make sure that the page is not overwhelming. The goal of each page should be clear for your page visitors.

Try to avoid using elements that look like an advertisement or may somehow mislead your visitors - this will only annoy your users.

Compare the examples below to better understand what we mean:

Nicely designed homepageOverwhelming website

‘About us’ and ‘Contact us’

The ‘About us’ section should explain who you are and give your users an overview about the company and links to relevant details about your products, services, company values, business proposition, management team, and so on.

The ‘Contact us’ section should include all contact information (such as a phone number, email adress, mailing address, opening hours…).

Both should be easily accessible – these links can be placed in the header or the footer. So they are accessible from every subpage by just one click.

Company logo

Place the company name and/or logo in a reasonable size on a noticeable location. Make sure that clicking on the logo redirects the user to the homepage. You can also consider customizing your favicon. This will make your page look good on a tab bar.

Styles and Titles

Styles should be used in a consistent way. Headers, paragraphs etc. should be clearly distinguishable within the site.image

Use meaningful titles, by adding keywords and avoiding linking words. The <Title> tag content is presented in the search results and the tab description in the browser, so you should avoid starting it with “Welcome to our…”. The <H1> title is visible on the page and its content should correspond with the <Title>. Below you can find an example of meaningful and meaningless titles:

image

image

Search

The search bar is available on almost every page. But there are some rules that should be applied. The search field should be placed in a clearly visible place (usually the top right corner). There should be a search button or an icon placed next to it to trigger search engine. Besides that, the search should be triggered by the Enter keyboard button – that is very handy for your users. The input field itself shouldn’t be too wide cause then users tend to search for whole sentences instead of keywords, what can result in less relevant results. A field box size of 27 characters would accommodate 90% of the queries.

clip_image007

As the initial search should be straightforward and simple – it should be possible to narrow search results using filters, facets, etc.image

imageWhat about the search results? First of all, results page should indicate what was searched and it should be easy to edit and resubmit the search. The results page should present results in clear blocks, with a teaser of the article that it points to, where the link will lead user, what kind of result it is, etc.

 

Error pagesclip_image014

Avoid presenting the technical details of an error. This is considered as a website’s vulnerability and might be used by hackers to attack. The error page should be customized and helpful. Inform your user about problem but also lead him to a solution.

 

Read also: our usability guidelines about  forms and navigation

Technology Technology

Op 14/06/2015 door Lukasz

Allowing information to find you: Office Graph, Delve & Clutter

If classifying, sorting and searching for information is taking up an increasingly bigger chunk of your workday, we have some good news for you. From now on, you can do away with classifying all together. Even better: information will be finding you, almost on its own accord, thanks to Office Graph, Office Delve and Clutter. Being a user of Office 365 you already have the necessary technology at your fingertips, but perhaps you were never aware of it.

What you do know is that we are all wrestling with a torrent of information. Every organisation aims to streamline the structural organisation of its data to enable everyone to access it as efficiently as possible. However, there are always people who refuse to follow instructions for data structuring, or who spend too much time classifying information that has nevertheless become obsolete in a relatively short period of time. It’s as if we are fighting a losing battle.

Smart technology

Nevertheless, there are other options available! Why is it that we can flawlessly find information on search engines, while nobody has ever classified this? The answer is: they make use of smart algorithms. Office Graph is a similar technology that was recently incorporated into Office 365. Not only does Graph structurally organise and retrieve data, it also promotes its exchange within your organisation.

Office Graph is a system that runs in the cloud, invisible to Office 365 users. Every time you compile a document and save it online on SharePoint or OneDrive, Graph “remembers” it. It keeps a record of the subjects in your documents, the colleagues reading your documents and the people to whom they are sent. Graph also decides which contacts are important to your work based on your email traffic. It uses all of this information to build up a network of information and contacts for every employee individually. The system also indicates which of your colleagues have expertise in a particular field.

This way the categorisation of information - and therefore the ease with which it can subsequently be retrieved - is no longer contingent upon the efforts or goodwill of every user. Everyone will automatically be directed towards the right information, restricted only by access rights.

 

Personal dashboard

While Graph works as an invisible motor in the background, the end users can make use of all the new applications offered through Office Delve, Office 365’s smart search engine. Delve presents the information for each individual user through his or her very own dashboard, taking into account the “distance” between the user, the information, and the colleagues that are essential to him or her. Finding and sharing information was never as fast or efficient as now!

 

Tidy-up robot for email

Another new application offered by Office 365 is Office Clutter, a tool to keep your Outlook inbox well organised. Based on the same machine learning capacities as Graph, this software decides instantly which emails should be moved to a “clutter” folder for low-priorityemail, where they will simply remain until you have time to address them. This way, you can deal with more important or urgent messages first. Your Clutter Folder will contain emails in which your address is one of many in a CC list, while the emails about a subject that you are frequently involved with will automatically go to your inbox. As this system is intelligent, it can be trained: every time you manually move an email from your Clutter Folder to your inbox (or vice-versa) Office Clutter will automatically remember this for next time.

How can Orbit One help you?

Orbit One helps organisations become more productive, both internally and towards their customers. We are happy to put them on the road to enhanced productivity with Office Graph, Delve and Clutter. We can also link Graph to other applications such as Microsoft CRM to enable the system to retrieve information from here as well.

Contact us for obligation-free advice

Technology Technology

Op 12/06/2015 door Olivier

Backup of the Microsoft cloud

My customers often ask me about the best way they can protect their data in the cloud. How do I back up my files, mailboxes and databases that are in Office 365, Azure or CRM Online? How much does it cost and is it really necessary?

The cloud demands a totally different approach to backup strategy than in the past, when data was stored on your own servers.

Here are my tips and advice:

Think about the situations in which a ‘restore’ is needed

It is important to analyse what can go wrong, because every situation demands specific ways to resolve the problem:

  • An employee accidentally deletes or overwrites a file. A few minutes, days or weeks later, people realise that the file is no longer there.
    A lot of cloud systems have a 'recycle bin', which allows you to restore deleted files with one click. But be warned, this is only for a limited period.
    "Many businesses believe the recycle bin provides adequate backup, but the bins are purged automatically after 30 days for Office 365 and 90 days for SharePoint Online. Once purged, that data is gone forever,”
  • As a result of a virus, hacker or a programming/script error, the data is (partly) corrupt and no longer usable. The data needs to be restored to the state it was in just prior to the incident.
  • A complete mailbox, user, SharePoint site, Azure database … is deleted. Some time later, people realise they still need it.
  • Due to a technical or human error/disaster in one of Microsoft’s datacenters, your entire environment is no longer available or has been deleted.
    At that moment, you’ve lost everything, and you have to wait until Microsoft is able to restore your environment. If this is not possible, and you have not made a backup with another provider, you have lost everything. But this is a highly unlikely scenario.

Agree with your management team on the degree of certainty that is required.

Before you can decide on how far you want to go – and therefore how much you need to invest for backing up your data, you must first achieve consensus on the impact of losing data, and therefore about the business continuity or liability.

  • How many days/weeks/years must data be stored? (= Back-up retention period)
    =
    the number of days/weeks that the backup is kept, in other words how far back in time you can go if something goes wrong.
  • The maximum number of minutes/hours of data that is allowed to be lost when a problem occurs.
    =  if an employee is booking in invoices the whole time, and something goes wrong with the software at some point, what is the maximum number of minutes of work that has to be done again? (= Recovery Point Objective)
  • What is the maximum amount of time allowed between the request for a recovery/restore and the moment that the file/data is restored? (= Recovery time objective)
  • What risk do I want to take of my data no longer being able to be restored in the case of a disaster?
    There are three options available here:
    • Geographically Redundant: indicates that a copy of your data is maintained in various geographical zones, several hundreds of kilometres apart, for example in Dublin and Amsterdam. This way you are sure that if a disaster occurs in one of the locations, a copy will be available at the other location.
    • Zone redundant: several copies of your data are stored in at least 2 separate datacentres, but within the same geographical zone/province.
    • Locally redundant: several copies of your data are stored within the same datacentre/building

Read the small print, what does Microsoft offer?

The Microsoft Cloud already provides a lot of security that is available to you at no extra cost.

The first step is to see whether the security is adequate for your requirements. In many cases, the standard Microsoft data protection will cover 50-80% of your needs.

In the areas where this is not adequate, you can look for alternatives.

Take extra assurances

When the standard assurances offered by Microsoft do not appear to be adequate, you have 3 options:

  • Upgrade to a higher level of services from Microsoft.
    For example, by upgrading from AzureSQL Standard to Premium, so that your retention period is increased from 14 days to 35 days.
  • Make use of an external cloud back-up service provider.
    This will duplicate the data of your Office 365 or Azure cloud to another environment, for example in the Amazon Cloud. A lot of companies are coming up with solutions in this area. It is advisable to look for a strong partner that is Microsoft-certified and experienced in these matters. Keep an eye on the prices, Office 365 backup quite easily costs EUR 4 to 6 per month per user, which is a lot compared with Office 365 prices. Here are some well-known players in the market:
  • Copying your data at regular intervals to a local hard disc or cloud storage via scripts or manually.
    I would only recommend this approach for one-off backups of data that hardly ever change, because if you forget to do it, or it has failed on one occasion, you will not be protected.

A few examples:

 

Example

I was with a client yesterday that has 250GB of files on a local file server.
The aim is to migrate to Office 365 in SharePoint Online. The client makes it known that it is legally obligated to keep documents for certain periods of time.

After digging a bit deeper, it appears that bookkeeping documents are required to be kept for 6 years, and signed financial contracts for 10 years. These make up just 2% of all the documents.

The standard Microsoft data protection policies will adequately cover the other 98%.

For the other 2%, we will make use of SharePoint record centre, where, via policies, you can define for how long a document must be kept (and therefore cannot be deleted or modified).

Would you like to start making use of Microsoft Cloud?

Orbit One can help you take the right decisions, as well as assisting in the technical migration and advising you on optimal use.

>> starter pack O365 roll-out plan

Technology TechnologyWorking efficiently

Op 09/06/2015 door Olivier