All posts by Ali Jackowski

Benefits of Using Resources In MS Project

Resoiurces in MS Project

MS Project has many pieces of functionality that are not well known, or just not often used, because many users are not sure how to use them properly. Resources is one of those tools not widely used. However, it is useful to help the Project Manager and company decision makers keep costs in line with the projections, or help to adjust future plans moving forward. A ton of data is not available for these projections, when only portions of MS Project’s functionality is used by the Project Manager.

Since cost, time, and scope dictate the success of a project,  tracking these constraints should be a regular part of project management, especially since all of these can be tracked in MS Project.

Resources help us track costs, but we must fill in the appropriate information, or link to the desired information. Depending on the needs of the company, creating templates with predefined resources, or linking to another file where the resources reside can be viable options. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Filling in the resources every time you start a new project is time consuming, but it is important to know how to add this information. First, let’s look at how to find this area in the application:

Finding the Resources sheetUnder the Task tab, within the View group, click the Gantt Chart drop-down menu, and select Resource Sheet. From here, you add all the resources, so that they can be allocated to the individual tasks.

While inputting this information can seem time consuming, templates can be used to help alleviate this monotonous task. Adding all resources to a template allows the same resources to be added to a project across the board, giving the Project Manager the capability to add or remove resources as needed.

Linking to a separate resource file ensures that resources are not overbooked, which is especially important when several projects are running at the same time.

Project resource links

Keeping track of the time each resource will be used in MS Project does a number of different things, but the two most important are the sum of the cost of resources used, and knowing when resources are over allocated. By using our resources correctly, we can see issues that are coming down the pipeline, allowing us to make critical decisions about how to rectify such issues. Note that the picture below shows us when resources are over allocated by placing red symbols in the Indicators column. You can hover on the indicators, in case you forget what they represent.Overallocated resource alert5

Knowing the resources you have available to you also allows the scope to remain consistent, which can be beneficial for future projects that are similar in structure. By tracking resources, as well as where issues have occurred, it is possible for the Project Manager to alleviate issues by being able to pinpoint when and where they regularly occur, and then make decisions in future projects to keep the same thing from recurring.

MS Project has so many tools that it can feel overwhelming to remember all of them. However, all of these tools are designed to work together to ensure successful projects. Resources tends to be the most underused functionality in MS Project, but when used properly, it can be one of the most important tools to keep issues to a minimum.

Learn all of the tools and functionalities of MS Project with a training course from MCT.

Using Forms to Add, Browse, or Edit Records in Access

Using Forms in Access

There are certain best practices for databases that are not widely known. One of these best practices is using forms to add, browse, or edit records. Often, we use the Datasheet view to do all of these things. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing things this way, but using the datasheet view for all of these things can lead to user error, as this view is not the friendliest view. It is a view that makes users nervous, even though they probably won’t admit it, because a user is looking at too many records at the same time. If the user clicks on the wrong records (which can easily happen when there are numerous columns of information) to make a change, then the data is corrupted, which may go undiscovered for a long period of time. This can lead to important decisions being made based on corrupt data.

Best Practice: Forms

Instead, we should use forms for adding, browsing, and editing records, so that the user knows they are looking at the correct records before any changes are made to them. If we need to review many records at once, then the Reports functionality should be used. This would include printing numerous records. By using Queries and Macros, along with forms for displaying the records, the process can be automated, and an extremely user-friendly interface can be created, ensuring users feel comfortable using a database, instead of hating the very thought of entering a database.

Forms are so easy to create, and there are several ways the create them. Once you have created the form, you can alter it to fit the needs of the users. Follow these steps to create a basic form:

  1. Select or open the table you want to create the form for in the Navigation pane, on the left side, once the database is opened. In this case, we selected the Contacts.Select Contacts Table
  2. Select the Create tab, and, in the Forms group, click the Form command. This will create an instant form, based on the fields of the table.Create a form

There are several other options for creating forms. Form Design and Blank Form create an empty form allowing you to create the form any way you desire. Just open the empty form in Design view or Layout view, respectively.Open other forms

Using the Form Wizard

The Form Wizard walks you through the steps to add only the fields you want on the form, which can limit what areas are filled in by users. It also gives you options for displaying the fields. Form WizardForm wizard designThe Navigation drop-down gives you options for a more dynamic look to your forms. Choosing a familiar view, or something that is easy to use, is a great way to ensure user-friendliness. Select form appearanceThe More Forms drop-down gives you additional options, based on need. Remember, just because you see Datasheet as an option, doesn’t mean it is best practice. However, it is available if needed. More Forms optionsForms are the best way to ensure user-friendliness is captured in a database, and, perhaps more importantly,  they ensure efficiency and confidence with the everyday user.

Learn the best ways to make sure your databases are easy to use and your data is easy to find with an  Access class from Mission Critical Training.

Filter Data with Header Drop-down Filters in Excel

Filter data in Excel

All too often, when we are sent data from other, it is not presented in the view we would like. Changing the way our data looks, and being able to do it quickly, can save us some time, when we use the right tools.

In some cases, using a table has some advantages, while using just the drop-down filtering has different advantages. For example, some functions do best when contained in a table; so using regular drop-down filters allows for more complex functionality. Tables, on the other hand, have added functionality to add colors, totals (sum, average, etc.) at the bottom of the data, slicers, and other items not included with drop-down filters.

In our video, we are going to add drop-down filters, and walk through some of the functionality for filtering. Remember, the drop-down filters we use in the video are also available when the table functionality is used for data.

Want to learn more ways to make Excel work for you? Check out Mission Critical’s Excel training series.

Public Speaking – Getting Your Audience to Play Nice

Publi speakingPresentations don’t happen in a vacuum, and there are many things that can occur to sway your presentation away from how you planned it to run.  For presenters, the key is flexibility and control.  You must be flexible enough to adjust quickly to any shift in your presentation plans. This can mean calling for a break earlier than you had scheduled, or adding another exercise for a group that just doesn’t seem to be getting the material.  Simultaneously, you must always stay in control of the proceedings, from keeping the session on time and on track, to keeping control of your audience in the event of disruptions (cell phones, a noisy training location, interruptions, etc.).

Distractions can also arise when you have to deal with “hidden agendas” of participants.  Each participant may have things on his or her mind other than your presentation, such as an upcoming vacation, or the angry customer they need to call back; they even may simply be tired from a previous night of little sleep.  They may have personal issues, like feeling insecure about themselves, needing to prove to everyone that they know more than you do.

We are not saying you need to get your psychology degree to deal with your audience, but there are some quick tricks you can utilize to manage the audience, ensuring that you get as few disruptions as possible.

Dealing with hidden agendas and disruptions

There are often times when your audience just doesn’t play along like they should. How do you handle that, while still keeping control of the rest of your audience and maintaining the professional expert demeanor?  If you handle these people like a school teacher (e.g., Hey, be quiet, pay attention, stop talking, etc.), you will damage your rapport and professional persona with the audience and, ultimately, lose more control.

Let’s identify some of the types of disrupters you may encounter, and how to handle them:

  • Talkers or Non-participators – These are the people that talk during your presentations, creating background noise, or are phone gazers who are not paying attention
    • Subtly walk over to stand right next to them as you are addressing the rest of the audience – Get in their space. However, the trick is to do this while ignoring them, so that you are not actually being confrontational.  You just happen to be standing near them.  This technique directs all eyes of the audience to the talker, as they will be paying attention to you.  More than likely the non-participators will stop their conversation or put their phone down, as they are now inadvertently center stage.
    • Ask them a direct question – If you can find a way to ask them a question, they will have to come back to the content at hand. If they were not paying attention and can’t address the questions, they will feel embarrassed, and be more apt to pay attention moving forward, so that they don’t get caught again.
    • Address the chatter, but with humor, so they can save face: Is that the voices in my head again, or is it getting noisy in here?
  • Hecklers – There can be those that want to prove to the group that they are smarter than you, asking “stump the presenter” questions, even though they probably already know the answers.
    • These people generally want to be the center of attention, so bring more of it to them. Ask the group a question, but then direct it to the heckler:

So, who knows how X works – I bet Rick does.  Or, I know that Rich already knows, is there anyone else? 

  • If they throw out a “stump the presenter” question, you can:
    • Try to over-inform them with your answer – Go into more detail than they probably were looking for. This lets them know that you know your stuff, and they then will be less likely to ask any more questions in an effort to stump you, as you might make them look stupid.
    • Turn it into humor to let them know that their question is ridiculous, and you know it, but you will let them off this time. The group will laugh, but the heckler will get the point without losing face:

“Do you use brass or tin simm chips?”  Why?  Do you want to make jewelry?  Actually, we use metal that is compatible, and will not corrode.

Managing Questions

Questions can be a good thing, because it means our audience is engaged in your presentation.  However, if you don’t manage them, they can get out of control and derail your presentation.  Here are some ways to manage them:

  • At the beginning of a presentation – You can gather questions at start of the presentation. This works especially well if you have limited time, need to eliminate disruptions to keep the presentation on schedule.
  • During a presentation – Have participants write down questions on Post-it notes or 3×5 cards, then put them in a designated location, letting them know there will be a period within the presentation during which you will review and answer all these questions.
  • To close the presentation – Ask your audience to hold questions until the end of the presentation, as it will help the presentation stay on track and on time, and that some of the questions they have at the beginning are likely to be answered during the presentation.
  • If you can’t answer a question, here are three responses you can use:
    • See me later That’s a great question that will require some more in-depth discussion, so why don’t you come see me at the end of the presentation. (They usually won’t.)
    • Ask the audience Good question! Does anyone know the best way to answer that one?
    • Expert consultationI don’t want to give you only a partial or incorrect answer on that one, so give me your contact info and I will talk with X directly, and get back to you.

All of these techniques can help you maintain control over audience issues that may arise during your presentations.  This will help your presentations run smoother, and keep you looking like the expert.

 

Want to learn more about the art of public speaking and effective communication?
Take a class from MCT’s Communication series!

MCT’s Boot Camps = Training for Career Success

Boot Camp training for career successGet your skills in shape, and get your career moving!

Mission Critical Training offers Boot Camps that can energize your career by taking you from beginner to master, in just a few action-packed days:

  • Excel Boot Camp – Learn to make Excel do the heavy lifting, when it comes to your spreadsheets. In just three days, we pack in everything from our five most popular Excel courses to make you a master of the spreadsheet. This is not an overview class. This intensive Excel course, includes all content from MCT’s Intermediate, Advanced, Pivot Tables and Charts, , Managing Databases classes, and most of the content from the Functions and Formulas class. MCT’s Excel Boot Camp can show you all of the ways that Excel can automate and simplify your work, putting your data to work for you.
  • Access Boot Camp – Do you sometimes feel like your information is in a state of chaos? Our four-day crash course in Access will help you get your database set up and organized, so that the information you need is always at your fingertips. This course covers the materials in our Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Access courses, and even finishes with a workshop in which you can get input from the instructor on your real-world projects. Get the skills to build and manage a solid database, while keeping it organized and accessible.
  • SharePoint Boot Camp – This powerful application has become the platform of choice for document management and information sharing at many companies. Our five-day SharePoint Boot Camp will teach you to build, edit, and maintain your company’s SharePoint The course covers everything from our SharePoint Level 1, 2, and 3 classes, as well as SharePoint Designer. This course will give you all of the tools and techniques you need to manage your company’s SharePoint site.
  • Word Boot Camp – In two days, our Word Boot Camp takes students from word-processing novices to masters of this essential application. Within Word, there are tools that can help you create documents that are organized, creative, and professional, and have the visual impact you need to make the right impression. Our boot camp is packed with all of the content from our Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Word classes. (This course is currently only available for private group training. Please contact our sales office for more information on setting up private training for your organization.)

 

Get yourself, and your career, moving in the right direction, by getting the skills you need with training classes from MCT!

Register online, or contact our sales office for more information at (303) 900-0850 in Colorado, (602) 955-7787 in Arizona, or training@mcstech.net.

 

Open Doors to your Future

Open doorsWhen you loaded you backpack for the first day of school, do you remember feeling that sense of excitement and endless possibilities opening in front of you? While we may not have been able to put it into words, we understood that, with everything we learned, with every concept or skill we mastered, we were changing the trajectory of our lives. Education opens doors to the future, to taking your destiny in your own hands, to undiscovered opportunities. As adults, it is easy to settle into our routines, to accept that today’s status quo was our yesterday and will be our tomorrow. But what would you do if you could recapture that sense of a new future unfolding before you? It is possible to, once again, use the opportunity to learn new skills and to open the door to new prospects.

Mission Critical Training is here to help you develop the skills you need to ramp up your career trajectory.

MCT’s computer training classes can give you the skills to compete in today’s business world. You can become a master of spreadsheets with our Excel classes, or even learn how to automate some of your daily tasks with our Excel Macros class, freeing up your time for more interesting and rewarding tasks. Our Access classes can teach you to set up and manage basic to complex databases. SharePoint training can show you how to set up and administer your company’s information platform. And Time Management with Outlook can give you the tools you need to maximize your productivity, without adding time to your work day.

MCT also offers professional development courses that can help you step into a new role at work or polish your skills to be ready to take the next rung up the corporate ladder. Interested in learning the skills to be a Project Manager? We have courses for that. MCT can also help you develop in sales and marketing, or  learn to be skillful in management. We also offer a full slate of communication classes to help you get your iOpen doors to your careerdeas across effectively, and successfully navigate interoffice relationships.

Just like when you were a child, the fall is the perfect time to seek out the skills you need to open new doors for your career and your future.

Register for classes online, or contact our sales office for more information, including private group training, at (303) 900-0850 in Colorado, (602) 955-7787 in Arizona, or training@mcstech.net.

 

 

Risk Management and Project Planning

Risk Management and Project PlanningWhy is Risk Management the Key to Successful Project Planning?

Every project runs into hiccups and bumps along the way. Some project managers will close their eyes and pretend that everything will go as planned. These managers are ill-prepared to handle issues as they arise. A good project manager will try to foresee what challenges may possibly come up as the project progresses.  They will develop plans to address possible issues, as well as try to mitigate problems before they become crises.

Good Risk Management minimizes the likelihood of bad things happening, and enhances the chances of good things happening. It can also minimize the impact of the bad things, and maximize the impact of the good things. Taken together, these factors reduce the variability in the likely outcome of the Project.

In other words, your Project is more likely to succeed!

Learn the skills of Project Management with a class from Mission Critical Training!

Following Documents in SharePoint

Following Documents in SharePointFollowing documents in SharePoint can be an efficient way to keep track of where a work  process is from day to day. This is especially if there are many hands working on the documents, as it allows you to quickly track changes. (This technique outlined here works for sites, as well.

To follow a document, you simply select the document (1) you wish to follow, then click the Follow button(3)  in the Files tab (2)on the ribbon of the library. Remember, you need to do this in the actual library, as you will not have the option if you are viewing documents in a web part.Follow a document in the SharePoint ribbon

Once you have done this, you will be able to track any changes to the document from the Newsfeed section of your personal information. To get here, click on your name’s drop-down menu and select About Me (1), then click on Newsfeed on the left (2), to see the documents you are following. If you want to open the document, click on the document link (3) to see changes that have been made.About Me dropdown

SharePoint Newsfeed

Get the skills you need to master this important information platform, with a SharePoint  class from Mission Critical Training.

Creating Excel Templates

Excel TemplateCreating an Excel template allows a person to reuse a workbook setup over and over, without the need to recreate the wheel every time, nor continuously to clean out old information. By using a template, your workbook is ready and waiting for you to enter data; everything else will happen automatically, when you automate your workbook.

Most of the time, when we are told to use a particular template, the file we are asked to use is not an actual template. This is why the person telling us to use the template also reminds us to do a Save As and rename the file, so we don’t overwrite the existing file. That’s the first indication that it is not an actual template.

The nice thing about a template is that it forces you to save your newly opened template as a workbook. Thus, it is extremely hard to accidentally overwrite your template. To overwrite a template, you would need to follow a number of steps and rename the updated template with the exact name of the old template.

Want to up your skills in Excel? Check out what MCT has available for you in our Excel course series.

Time for You

Time for You to developLet’s face it: Summer just isn’t the time to work on you. With the kids out of school, family gatherings for the Fourth of July, backyard barbecues, and trips to the local pool, the closest you likely could get to working on self-improvement was working on your tan. Now, however, we are settling into the routine of fall; kids are going back to school, Labor Day is the last summer holiday to worry about, and the local pool will soon be drained for the winter. What better time is there to focus on yourself?

Mission Critical Training has classes that are all about working toward a better you. Whether you want to make better use of your time, take the next step forward in your career, learn to better access your emotional intelligence, or even just find and build on your strengths, MCT has the professional development courses for you.

  • Our Management 101 class can build your management skills, so that you are ready to take the next step up the corporate ladder into management.
  • MCT’s Communications series offers classes that address common obstacles to effectively communicating your ideas and needs to others. Effective Presenters 1 and 2 can help you master the important art of speaking in front of an audience. Our popular Emotional Intelligence course will help you develop the skills to be more effective in communication, manage conflicts better, and encourage more positive response from the people in your life.
  • Time Management with Outlook will teach you important concepts toward maximizing your productivity, without increasing the length of your work day, as well as show you how to utilize the powerful organizational tools available through Microsoft’s Outlook application.
  • Mission Critical now offers a workshop on Clifton StrengthsFinder by Gallup. This half-day workshop builds on the assessment, and gives you insight into your individual strengths, as well as how to better leverage them within a work environment.

Autumn is a great time to make a fresh start. Get the skills you need to build a better you!

Check out MCT’s full schedule to see all of the classes we offer.

Register online, or contact our sales office for more information, including private group training, at (303) 900-0850 in Colorado, (602) 955-7787 in Arizona, or training@mcstech.net.