My Name Is Greg. I Am A List Addict.

Excel-to-SharePoint

Spreadsheet Awesomeness

Excel spreadsheets provide a fantastic way to display information. You can sort on a column. You can filter on a column. You can chart the data. You can make crazy awesome Pivot Tables. You can connect data sources to the spreadsheet, so it updates with new data automatically. You can even create an application out of a spreadsheet. I have even heard of a company that ran operations from a spreadsheet that was updated nightly.

You can even print spreadsheets, capturing a view at a point in time. You can carry them to meetings and everyone can talk about items on the spreadsheet, “Line 5 lists the design decisions.” I bet you have been in meetings where spreadsheets are used as a central discussion point.  “Hey wait. That is not what I have on line 5,” and someone realizes they have a different version. Then someone will ask, “What version of the spreadsheet are you looking at?”

Have you been there? This is one of the biggest issue with using spreadsheets, everyone can have a different version. So while spreadsheets have their awesomeness, you must be aware of possible issues when you use them. If you work a lot with spreadsheets you likely have a method for versioning.

A Better Way

There is a better way. As with so many things developed by Microsoft, the path leads to SharePoint. SharePoint provides a way for teams to collaborate on projects and related information, such as spreadsheet information. If information is in a spreadsheet, it can often be housed instead in a SharePoint List. This makes the data visible to all on the project. This makes the data easy for multi-user updating. Away goes the risk of versioning. Those on the project can subscribe to the list and get notification when there are changes. If needed, the data in the list can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet.

On large projects a shared repository of information is critical. SharePoint provides one method of making information accessible to everyone on a project and easy to maintain. When possible, exchange your use of spreadsheets for a List.

Lists Are Addicting

Lists can be used for many things. Below are a few ways a List can be used.

  • Action Items
  • Backlog of Work
  • Definitions of Done
  • Ideas List
  • Issues & Risks
  • Progress on Work
  • Project Status
  • Requirement Traceability
  • Task Assignments
  • Team Contacts

In addition to just being a List, items can be displayed on a web page, quantified, categorized, sorted and filtered. Lists can be reported on. There are so many things you can do with a List. Lists can track changes. Everyone can see the same List.

I will print and take a List with me to the grocery store and check items off my List. My wife has even gotten in on this and she makes me a Honey-Do List.  I have to warn you. Use of Lists is addicting.

My name is Greg. I am a List addict.

Word 2013 Copy Styles to the Normal Template

Graphic representing a Microsoft Word post. A big aqua color letter W.

The easiest way to move styles from one Word document to another is through the use of the default Word template, Normal.dotm or the Normal template. When the Normal.dotm file is used Word will Automatically Update Document Styles in the document where you want the styles applied. If you do not use the Normal template, well let’s say less than stellar results have been reported across the Internet. To put it another way, it does not work.

Getting to the Organizer

The easiest way to move styles from one document to the Normal.docm template is via the Organizer. Getting to the Organizer is a feat unto itself, unless you have the Developer tab in your ribbon. Steps to put the Developer tab in your ribbon:

  1. Launch Word 2013 and open the document containing the styles you like. The styles you want to copy over to another document.
  2. Click File, Options to display the Word Options window.
  3. Click Customize Ribbon, then under Main Tabs check Developer.
  4. Click OK to save your selection and now the Developer tab is available.

Now where is the Organizer? On the Developer tab, click Document Template, then at the lower left of the Templates and Add-ins window is the Organizer button. Yeah, click the Organizer… button.

Make a Copy of the Normal Template

Make a copy of your Normal.dotm file in the same directory where it currently exists, naming it something such as Normal – Copy.dotm. Normal.dotm is located at C:\Users\Yourname\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

If you do not see the AppData folder, File Explorer is hiding it from you. Microsoft’s way of keeping you safe from yourself. If you know Yourname on the computer you are using, you can use the path above replacing Yourname with your name on the computer.

Copy Styles to the Normal Template

On the left side of Styles tab in the Organizer is a list of customized styles in your open document (probably based off of Normal.dotm originally). On the right side of the Styles tab in the Organizer is a list of customized styles in the Normal template, Normal.dotm.
Select all of the styles on the left side and click the Copy button. If you are warned about overwriting existing styles, it is OK to do so. You did make a backup copy of Normal.dotm, right?

Attach the Updated Normal Template

Now to get these styles you just moved into the other document, follow the steps in my other blog post, Hey Microsoft! Word Up With CSS.

Hey Microsoft! Word Up With CSS

Graphic representing a Microsoft Word post. A big aqua color letter W.

LAME-O

I sure wish Microsoft would take a page from the CSS how to book on web page styling. Here I am reviewing a gargantuan pile of Word documents with multiple authors who for some reason felt the need to improve the styling. All of these documents are to be presented to a customer, but they are not cohesive at all. Turn this over to the customer and they will think LAME-O.

That is right, LAME-O. My term for, “Are you seriously handing this off as a piece of professional work when it looks like $#&!.?”

Word Fail

Ah, but Word styles will be able to handle this. Merely update the template on each and wah-la.  Perhaps you have tried this route? It is all over the web. Just change the template and check automatically update document styles. Why it looks so easy, you would think this was written in a Microsoft training guide, like back when Microsoft created useful documentation on their products. Yet, this does not work! The new styles are not applied. Can you believe it? This too is all over the web. What is one to do?

The Solution

For this I reached back far in the depths of my Word knowledgebase, stored deep within my brain. What if I just modify the Normal template? Messing with Normal ran all sorts of update risks in the past, this might just work. Well it does work!!! Attaching a Normal.dotm template will Automatically update document styles. Where is this on the web? Only here in this blog post.

Part A. Modify Normal.dotm with the Styles as you want them:

  1. Make a copy of your Normal.dotm file in the same directory where it currently exists, naming it something such as Normal – Copy.dotm. Normal.dotm is located at C:\Users\Yourname\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates
  2. Launch Word
  3. Open the Normal.dotm file using the File, Open feature of Word
  4. Modify the Styles as you want them
  5. Save

Part B. Open the file where you want the styles and apply the updated Normal.dotm:

  1. Open the file where you want the styles applied.
  2. Click File, Options
  3. Click Add-Ins
  4. Change the Manage selection to Templates and click Go…
  5. Click Attach (This defaults to the Normal.dotm directory) and select the Normal.dotm file, then click Open
  6. Check the Automatically update document styles
  7. Click OK

The styles as you modified them in Part A are applied.

 Word Up With CSS

I sure wish Microsoft would make updating Word styles as easy as it is for a web page, just change the cascading style sheet (CSS) and all is updated. Now if only those techies had applied Styles in the first place! Then there is the use of spacebar, spacebar, spacebar to line up text. Oh it is a tedious adventure to get it all corrected, but at least this stuff will not be LAME-O.

If you want an easy way to get Styles into the Normal template, such as copy all the styles in this one document into the Normal template, see my other blog post Word 2013 Copy Styles to the Normal Template

 

 

 

Where was the document Nazi?

The #1 Improvement for Government Software Projects

Software Requirements documentation by The Requirement Company

The number one improvement to be made on government software projects is to keep the requirement team around that documented the requirements. This provides a number of benefits:

  1. Saves time
  2. Saves money
  3. Provides accountability of requirements
  4. Improves deliverables

If you work in a non-government business you may wonder at this.

The False Belief

Many government agencies are under a false belief that they need to remove the team that wrote the requirements in order to avoid bias in awarding contracts. One contracted company documents the requirements (The Requirement Company). Another contracted company is awarded the contract (The Development Company). This is done to prevent The Requirement Company from writing the requirements with bias to awarding the contract to a specific company, such as their own.

Avoiding bias in contract awarding can be maintained without removing The Requirement Company who documented the requirements. The benefits to keeping The Requirement Company are many.

Saves Time

It can take a lot of time to document software requirements. There are two groups who spend time on the initial requirements documentation, The Requirement Company and The Business. When The Requirement Company is let go from the project, because the documentation is done, the contract is put out for bid and awarded to The Development Company.

The Development Company, as much as they believe they understand the documentation, will need to obtain validation and clarification on the requirements. Now The Business is again spending time doing what they already took the time to do once, explaining what is needed. This is a waste of time.

Saves Money

It takes time to document requirements and there is an associated cost. However, it is wiser to not spend time doing the same thing twice (Rapid JAD principle – Document Once). The government is now assuming unneeded cost because The Business is explaining the same requirement a second time, this cost is a loss in productivity. This cost is needed when first documenting the requirements, but having to do it a second time is a waste of productivity, thus a waste of money.

Save money by keeping The Requirement Company around who can answer questions posed by The Development Company. This allows The Business to stay productive with their primary focus on the business. This saves time. This saves money.

Provides Accountability of Requirements

Keeping The Requirement Company around means they will be accountable for the requirements. If The Requirement Company is let go from the project, then they are not present to be held accountable for:

  • Missing requirements
  • Vague requirements
  • Poorly documented requirements

I have been on a number of projects where there are questions about the requirements and The Business cannot answer them! They say things such as, “I do not know what this requirement is either.”

The Requirement Company should be made an “active” project development leader. They have the vision for what is needed and should be there leading in development of that vision. The Requirement Company will have a vested interest in seeing The Development Company gets it right. The Requirement Company will be there to discuss, explain, or provide the business justification for any of the requirements. In this way The Requirement Company is accountable for the requirements. This is an “active” project development leader.

I have seen passive project development leaders from The Requirement Company where they are maintained on a project and refuse to answer questions about the requirements! Figuring out the requirements is the job of the Development Company they say. This is an excuse used by The Requirement Company for poorly documented requirements. This is the Requirement Company not wanting to be held accountable for the project requirements.

Improves Deliverables

Keeping The Requirement Company around improves deliverables because they have a vested interested in the success and happiness of The Business. They documented what is needed. They are there actively leading in the development. They want to see a successful software project. A successful project leads to happy customers and future business.

If The Requirement Company is gone and the software is not successful, they can blame The Development Company. They say, “We did our part. The Development Company bid on the project. If it is not correct, it is the fault of The Development Company.”  They can say this even if the requirements documentation had missing, vague, and poorly written requirements.

Summary

Good business relationships are valued. If The Requirement Company is maintained as an active leader, they need The Business to realize the benefits from the software and associate that success with their company. This will improve the delivered software system.

If you are in a position with a government agency where you are overseeing software development contracts, the number one thing to do that will help with the success of the project is keep The Requirement Company around and playing an active role in leading the software development. This is not in conflict with awarding of development contracts.

Rapid JAD

Rapid JAD (Joint Application Design)—specific techniques and practices that accelerate solution discovery, design, and development and increase quality.
Using the familiar JAD workshop framework, Rapid JAD methods emphasize:

  1. Advanced collaborative planning
  2. Single-source documentation
  3. High design visibility to produce actionable development specifications.

Using planning tools such as functional wireframes and process flows, with participants focus on clarifying the development objectives by defining the “definition of done.” Single-source documentation techniques that capture information at the time of discovery increase shared understanding, which reduces refactoring. Finally, creating shared access to a growing body of requirements documentation and system prototypes encourages and maintains customer engagement throughout the development lifecycle.

Rapid JAD techniques enable practitioners to discover sooner, and define more precisely, needed IT solutions for a given business application. Additionally, Rapid JAD practices increase client engagement, set the stage for productive training, and help to ensure rapid user adoption and optimal use of new system functionality.

Rapid JAD methodology  was developed by Erik Jul and Greg Swearingen

Mobile Stats: Wait honey, “Why not shop on your phone?”

Mobile Stats: Wait honey, “Why not shop on your phone?”

Tablet, phone, and laptop

When have you ever heard a CIO say, “We need a nice phone interface for our tablet users!”

Never. Never.Never. Nobody wants an application designed for a phone displayed on a tablet. The tablet has more real estate. So why do I see so many people spouting mobile statistics, but forgetting to separate mobile between tablet and phone?

When you think of someone surfing the internet on a phone what do you envision? What does someone shopping on a phone look like? Where are they? What are they doing? What is the situation? Take a minute to envision this in your mind. These are all things to understand when designing an application and building your user personas.

Now take a minute to think about someone surfing the internet on a tablet and ask the same questions, where are they? What are they doing? What is the situation?

The visions are different. The situations are different. A different interface for the two are needed. So why do so few use mobile statistics and not separate phone from tablet? Do we not have the technology to separate the two?

Yes, we can distinguish between phone and tablet. That can only mean it is the marketing group that is behind this push of misleading statistics. Do they not realize the damage? Wait, it is the marketing crew that is selling mobile services, ah now I see. There is an ulterior motive in grouping them together. Keep telling people what you want them to believe. You need a mobile application if your company is going to survive into the future. Then back it up with mobile statistics that conveniently include both phones and tablets. You see, “27% of the people on the internet are using mobile. ”

But wait honey, “Why not shop on your phone?”

I have never seen my wife reach for her phone when she wants to shop on the internet, even though it is right beside her! She gets her tablet. I have never seen my kids push their laptop aside and reach for their phone, even though it is right there next to them, when they want to surf the internet.

When do people shop on their phone?

  1. When they are at work
  2. When they do not have an internet connection for their tablet
  3. When it is the only option

Shopping on a phone is a last resort.

Thank you Danyl Bosomworth for including some stats that separate phones from tablets .

Q4 of 2013: 26.79% mobile

  • 14.58% tablet
  • 12.21% smartphone

Mobile interfaces are different. If you tell people they need a mobile application and then back it up with 26.79% are mobile, then you are misleading people. It is not a single mobile application that is needed, but rather a mobile strategy. Design for a phone and design for a tablet are different. It is not one solution, but two and the associated costs that accompany them. Business needs a strategy that includes both phones and tablets. A strategy that includes statistics on both so decisions based on accurate numbers can be made.

If people want to keep spouting mobile statistics without separating the two, it is misleading, but perhaps I should be grateful. After all, I am in mobile applications development.

The Search Design Mindset

By Greg Swearingen

Everyone who is creating website content needs to have a Search Design Mindset. A Search Design Mindset brings content creation and design together with designing for search engine results.

Someone with a Search Design Mindset thinks, “How do I create content in such a way that I can meet my goals & objectives and at the same time design for good search engine results?”

It is natural for people to focus on the content and look of a web page as they write text and add graphics on their way to meeting their goals & objects. However, many working in this area of web page content creation are often unaware of good search design principles. As a result they are creating nice web pages, but they are not designing for a search engine. Search engines are not ranking their web pages high, and thus not as many people are seeing the created web pages.

Additionally, people can spend time and effort on content and design and actually lower their web pages in search engine results! This is not done purposefully, yet this is exactly what can happen when the people working on web page content are not thinking about Search Design. This is not limited to those who are adding the text and graphics to a web page. This also applies to the programmers who are creating the framework for a website. I have seen programming that hurts web page ranking no matter what content is put on the page.

Search Design involves two principles:

  1. Know your target audience (a.k.a. personas). This includes thinking about your target audience, those for whom you are creating the web page content, and what words they are likely to use in a search when they are looking for your content or looking for something related to your content.
  2. Know your search engines. Know what search engine spiders (a.k.a. bots) are looking for when they crawl a web page (process the content on your website) and what they are capable of doing.

When you are working on website content and design spend the extra effort to design for good search engine ranking. Combining these together is known as Search Design. This does take a bit of effort at the start. However, as you repeatedly combine these together as part of web page content, design, and development you shape your mindset and it becomes natural and automatic. When you naturally and automatically incorporate search design into your web pages you have a Search Design Mindset.

Wireframing with PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a powerful way to quickly deliver development ideas via wireframes. PowerPoint already has the superb delivery to show your designs, something other wireframe tools struggle to do cleanly. Through the PowerStory add on you can quickly develop a storyboard that is easy to print and share with development teams.

At the BAPDD 2013 conference I presented an overview of wireframing and some of the available tools. The presentation included discussion on the use of:

• PowerPoint
• PowerStory story boards
• Balsamiq
• Andreas Wulf’s free Windows 8 icons
• Christian Naths’ free Redacted font set

 

When I polled the attendees, 100% of them indicated they have Microsoft Office available for use. That makes wireframing via PowerPoint a quick and easy option for many people. At the following link is a copy of my presentation which includes a PowerPoint wireframe example built before your very eyes and a tool reference list, Wireframing_An_Overview.

I highly recommend the use of PowerPoint for wireframing. PowerPoint is a way to quickly put together finished (high fidelity) or rough sketch (low fidelity) wireframes.