Connect, Communicate, Collaborate
Continuous Improvement Imperative
I was first introduced to the concept of continuous improvement while working in education and witnessing the efforts required to constantly focus on making sure that our processes, methods, and practices were as efficient, accurate, and effective as possible. School improvement teams and attention to doing "whatever it takes" were the result of that focus.
Continuous improvement is best achieved through a combination of incremental and breakthrough improvements allowing you to deal quickly with smaller issues and yet giving larger items the additional care and attention they deserve.
Incremental improvements are easy to handle, as all you have to do is make the change when you spot the problem. Breakthrough improvements involve making changes to a process or method, which usually requires a review by your team and a unified decision on what to do.
The great University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler once said, "Everyday you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same." This simple truth applies to your organization, business, process, and technology.
In recent months we have been fortunate to help numerous organizations and businesses improve their technology infrastructure, upgrade multiple devices and operating systems, and provide assistance with secure cloud-based software solutions. Moving forward during this pandemic will require continuous improvement on all levels.
The Future of Work
Working from home is no longer something that is all that unusual. Doing so has become essential for our health and safety. So what will the future of work look like for many of us?
Even in industries like ours where remote work continues to be the norm, the challenge has always been to determine appropriate boundaries between home and work. It often becomes one where we are maneuvering between our work, managing remote learning for our children, and becoming caretakers for elderly loved ones. And many people now know more about our home office set-up, our pets, our children, and even our kitchens than we've ever imagined.
Effective leadership on the part of any employer must recognize the challenge and stress associated with these conditions. Forbes recently noted that a more empathetic work culture is a silver lining arising from the pandemic that won’t be easily undone. A fuller understanding of the person behind any position will hopefully promote an enduring human-centric shift in the workplace.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." We just may have more opportunity and time than ever before to care.
Microsoft Collaboration Solutions
Microsoft SharePoint uses OneDrive to expand its abilities to create a location where files can be shared and accessed by teams. For the uninitiated, SharePoint is like a combination of Google Shared Drives and Google Sites. However, it includes a myriad of tools and features that make it a more advanced and multi-faceted solution.
It can work as a shared file repository, blog site, web content management system, and most commonly an intranet. SharePoint relies entirely on the OneDrive product for it’s document libraries. Files that you wish to have shared with teams or other users, can be placed in a SharePoint document library.
A SharePoint site is a customizable website that allows its members to access any available resources pertaining to that team, such as notes, conversations, and documents. Document Libraries are online filing cabinets that all members of a SharePoint site have access to.
The look and layout of a SharePoint site is highly customizable. You can add and remove pages, change colors, and move sections around on a page to make the SharePoint site look exactly how you would want it to look for your team.
New Mixer/Matrix Solution
Sometimes you need to go "down under" to secure a solution. We recently partnered with Smart Digital Australia to install their new SDM100 microphone mixer with a HDMI matrix switcher providing 4 HDMI sources that output to 2 HDMI displays.
The mixer also includes 3 microphone inputs on the rear panel and one on the front panel. Bluetooth is also provided for wireless connection to audio output such as powered or active speakers.
Bloody good technology!
A Primary Concern
During the past few months you have probably learned that the confidentiality, integrity and the availability of your information is more vital to your success than ever before.
Your primary concern moving forward should be security.
The next generation of cyber-security professionals will focus on protecting people, not just the networks and devices we use. Since human error causes most data breaches, an important part of that protection should include Security Awareness Training, a service we recently added to our suite of managed services.
If you have not considered a managed service provider (MSP) that not only offers virus protection but also includes security awareness training, DNS protection, and other proactive service, then we should probably have some conversation.
Sure, we can help with your website or migrate your productivity solutions to the cloud through platforms like Google Cloud and Microsoft 365; but we also want to help protect the people who are a part of those “ecosystems” every single day.
Our managed services include packages with remote monitoring and management (RMM), network discovery, remote access, ticketing, professional services automation, backup, and so much more with plans starting at only $78 per month.
In closing, we want to thank those of you who have called upon us to help during these challenging times. We’ve been here for you and will continue to be present as you prepare your business for an unscripted future.
Indeed, this pandemic is forcing us to adopt various means of interacting, learning, and working. And for many, that includes using Zoom for the first time. Here are some basic precautions and suggestions when working on this platform:
Don’t publicly share your Zoom “Meeting ID.” Send it directly to the people you want on the call.
Set a password for the meeting, then share the password only with the right people.
To avoid the Zoombombing trolls, make sure screen sharing is set to “Host Only.” That prevents other people on the call from abruptly blasting text or images onto the other participants’ screen.
Use the waiting room feature. It prevents new participants from joining the call until the host approves.
Use the Zoom registration feature to schedule a meeting. Participants must register with their email, name, other questions, and custom questions.
Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic five days ago, we have entered unfamiliar territory. Pandemics not only disrupt the economy, but social functions like school, work and mass gatherings like conventions and church.
Our world is much different than it was 100 years ago when we were affected by the 1918 influenza pandemic. And even since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, our response to the current situation is inevitably going to be different. Today's technology has already been helpful in that response.
I was scheduled to speak at the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) in Grand Rapids last Thursday. Conference goers had already appeared at the DeVos Center on Wednesday only to discover that the next day would look totally different. I did present, but my session was a virtual experience via an online Zoom meeting room.
With the governor of Michigan declaring a state of emergency and closing schools, many organizations have shifted to a greater virtual presence. Many churches even decided this weekend to cancel gatherings and some opted for streaming worship services. We were able to provide some assistance with this effort at Forest Park Covenant Church. More than 500 people viewed the stream.
I am not sure what the script for this week will look like. However, I am thankful that many of us can remain connected through the technology we share; and we can provide information to support our friends, family, and co-workers during these unfamiliar times.
Workflow & Process
Workflow requires a strong connection to process. Whenever an inquiry comes our way at Dunewood, we begin with the discovery process. This phase allows us to assess needs and gather a client's requirements and is carried out before any formal agreement is established. We try to keep it independent of any obligation.
Once the discovery phase is complete, we continue our collaboration in the design process where we often introduce various alternatives, applications, and products that may accompany a solution. This interactive phase sets the stage to determine the scope, sequence, and estimated cost of a plan or project.
A few of our clients choose to deploy solutions themselves. On most occasions, however, customers engage us in helping them with this phase. Project management, communication, knowledge transfer, and training are key elements of deployment.
All three phases tend to be recursive and are subject to iterations. They are the basis of our workflow at Dunewood and allow us to remain focused on solution development from beginning to end.
A Good Friend
Working together, even in a family business, can be challenging. Many organizations and businesses claim collaboration as a core value, but struggle with truly understanding that value.
A chief technology officer of Cisco once said, "It is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made." One might even conclude that collaboration often exposes disagreement.
For those of us at Dunewood, disagreement has often strengthened decisions and solutions. We've discovered that disagreement can be our friend, because it tests the power of our convictions.
Your Ideal Customer
Some of you may have discovered Alignable, the online service where small business owners build trusted relationships and generate referrals. Well, while recently creating the information about DTS, they asked us to describe our ideal customer. It's not as easy as you may think, but an exercise that I would recommend for any business. Here is what we came up with for Dunewood.
Our ideal customer or client is someone who gets their exact needs met by the technology solutions we offer. From the creative freelancer or entrepreneur to small and medium size business, we look for customers who share a vision to collaborate with us in relationship to the technology they require to keep them doing what they do best. We believe there is an intersection between what business demands and technology delivers; and it’s at that junction we find our ideal customer.
Many solutions for productivity these days address workflow. Kanban [kahn-bahn] is not a new process, but the digital iterations are exquisitely designed to help teams work together more effectively.
When implemented at Toyota (right), the company applied kanban to a manufacturing process. Today, kanban project management is used by people in all industries, including Dunewood Technology Solutions, to plan and manage tasks in a prioritized, agile manner.
A kanban board is a display on which cards represent the individual tasks that are being progressed according to priority and delivery. These visualization tools enable you to optimize the flow of your work and get things done.
Some organizations use kanban more loosely to order tasks to assist teams: project-based learning in schools, storyboard development, project management of all types, new hire onboarding, document workflow, and more. The applications are only limited by your imagination.
Recently, our team committed to meeting weekly to address the topic of productivity. The concept of flourishing was at the forefront in our meeting last week. So how do you define flourishing?
Well, I remember my philosophy studies at GVSU where we learned that Aristotle was probably the first to deal with the topic. However, author and executive coach Stephen Graves more recently defines it as "to live life to the fullest in an authentic and sustainable way."
Andy Stanley seems to address 5 primary components of flourishing:
"Positive mental health is a presence: the presence of positive emotion, the presence of engagement, the presence of meaning, the presence of good relationships, and the presence of accomplishment. Being in a state of mental health is not merely being disorder free; rather it is the presence of flourishing."
I believe that our personal and professional well being is the result of integrating these five realities--and doing so on the basis of character. It includes being a good person and creating a company culture based on those realities.
The Internet of Things
If you haven’t seen a reference to the term Internet of Things (IoT), then take a closer look at what it references and discover it will mostly likely power the fourth industrial revolution. The third revolution centered around information technology and digitization; but now it's all about machines and devices that can continuously communicate with others over the Internet.
All these things are bound to make a significant shift in our workflow, automating a plethora of tasks minimizing human efforts and increasing productivity. From the consumer perspective, your smart speaker or virtual home assistant is already able to interact with environmental control (thermostat), lighting, door locks, window shades, security monitoring, and more.
will provide ample opportunities for organizations and business, too, allowing them to venture into workflow automation and optimization. Many technical and manual operations can be simplified when devices share data and functionality. In a very real sense EVERY business is now a technology business; and with this new frontier comes opportunities and challenges.
In short, the IoT future will require alliances with those who can manage the complexity and jungle of underlying IoT platforms. Dunewood is ready to tackle that challenge.
Game-Changing Shared Drives
Many current systems of communication do not encourage a transparency of practice, build shared responsibility, emphasize core values, and organize team efforts in a secure and sustainable manner. How can you move from “living through your inbox” to effectively managing workflow and developing a knowledge base through cloud technology?
Google Shared Drives (formerly known as Team Drives) are a powerful tool for school leaders to build a functional knowledge base for their staff. Shared Drives provide a secure space where every staff member can easily store, search, and access common resources. And since these digital assets belong to the team/group instead of an individual, the files remain even if someone leaves, allowing others to continually access information and get work done.
In addition, integrating Shared Drives into a Google Sites platform, your business can provide a digital workplace that will improve productivity overnight. Maybe it’s time to seriously consider the benefits of G-Suite for your business or organization.
Creating a digital workplace for a client with more than 100 employees is one of the best integrations of Google Shared Drives with Google Sites we have encountered. Their workflow is not changing drastically because they are comfortable in the collaborative environment that Google offers. It’s just that they now have an intranet that is extremely efficient at file management.
Shared Drives allow the digital assets of employees to remain in a secure environment for everyone on the team to use, even if a member is no longer a part of the team. A shared drive is particularly useful if you’re working on a project or event with a group of people who all need access to the same files. And for highly sensitive files, you can limit access to information and add extra security.
I think you will be hearing a lot more about the digital workplace Google Shared Drives and Sites can create for organizations and businesses of all sizes.
Maybe it’s the fact that 30 years ago my $4k Macintosh SE/30 came with Microsoft Word™ on a floppy disk, but I struggled to see my personal Office 365 subscription come due on, of course, Tax Day. It’s not the $69.99 that even disturbs me so much as the amount of bang for fewer bucks that our company gets from similar productivity tools from Google.
I have experienced less need to use the Microsoft suite since migrating to the Google ecosystem in recent years. While Microsoft still dominates, more than 4 million businesses have made the shift to Google’s G-Suite, primarily in part to its collaboration abilities. Shared Drives, for example, are a game-changer.
Also driving the change is the fact the G-Suite is less expensive for business and younger employees tend to prefer Gmail functionality over other email clients. It’s not always easy managing the change, but we can manage the process.
I may live in a hybrid environment in 2019, but the ecosystem is changing rapidly.