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OuterVentures and travel Apps

As I wrote in my last post, the importance of getting out into nature cannot be exaggerated. Fresh off a week on the West Highland Way in Scotland I can definitely verify the benefits. Whilst on the walk I made use of several travel Apps. This post covers two of the most useful.

So first a little about the trip.

At left are just a few of the pics I shared on Instagram.

This trip doesn’t have to be covered in the time we took, a 7 day trek covering 160km’s, more or less.

The full journey is generally broken down into 7 stages but you can break the stages down further and you could opt to do just a few of the stages – no need to do the full walk.

We (four men) did it in 7 stages and used a tour company to organise everything.

I am so glad we did 🙌 They were excellent – find out more about them here: https://www.macsadventure.com/

We arranged to have our luggage transported to each days overnight stop (hotels and BnB’s) and we walked every day with just a light daypack.

Many we saw and met on the walk were camping and carried full kit – definitely more for the fit, brave and young 😉

Komoot

Not long ago I paid for access to Komoot Maps, a onetime payment option (there are subscription-based offers too) that comes in three flavours: world pack, region bundle and single region. I paid a discounted, special offer price on the world pack which provides reliable navigation where and when you need it – it allows you to access routes offline. More on all offers here: https://www.komoot.com/shop

Komoot App

Here is a little demo from the Komoot App.

You can see that I select from an entire route map that was provided by Komoot and I added to my collection.

It’s broken down in the stages I mentioned earlier.

Every day at the start of a new stage, I would start the navigation for that stage and it guides you in case needed (mostly not as the trail is so well marked). But what is useful are the route progress stats you get like mileage done, still to do, speed, etc.

There are a lot more options in each stage as you can see, I went through the elevation function and you should be able to see the added info you get in each stage to help inform you about the points of interest in that stage. It also covers community input.

I’ve been using Komoot for several months now and loving it. Another nifty feature which I haven’t shown is how you can plan trips and Komoot steers you based on validated paths that are frequently trodden. You can make the trip as far or short as you want. I often plan circular walks close to home.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet App

This is very handy when you want to collect expenses over the entire duration of a trip and especially when you are in a group and sharing costs. More on the App here.

As you can see in the demo video, I have several trips in there already that I used the App for. In the first few trips (family trips I wanted to manage a budget for, since I was paying) I was not sharing costs, just capturing them for myself.

On this trip, we all agreed to take turns paying for group costs as they arose and keep track of them and then make sure they were all equally distributed at the end.

You can see how you get a total to date and then in the bar chart what the distribution of expenses is amongst the group. I tweaked the original categories that are available out of the box (by type of expense), by adding new ones for each member. Thats the way the pie chart works, per category.

You can see that a further breakdown is possible by tag in the All Trip data view, which you see at the end and it’s also possible to filter expenses by tag so you can dive deeper.

Once the trip was complete, I exported a CSV file (done from Settings) with all trip data and then did a simple calculation to see who owed what to whom after first determining what the average cost for the entire trip was.

All in all, a marvellous hike aided by some very nifty technology.

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The unbearable weight of doing

One of the things you gain from going on vacation (as I did recently) is that you are liberated, if only temporarily, from the pressure of doing anything. At least in theory. Sometimes the habit of “busyness” we often pick up at work permeates into our holidays. We struggle to relax. Hopefully we are soon over this and into our stride of being on holiday.

My post title is somewhat of a play on the title from the famous novel by Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness on Being. From the Wikipedia article are some other points of interest that I would like to bring to [bear] – the philosophical underpinnings of the novel:

Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche‘s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again – thus the “lightness” of being. Moreover, this lightness also signifies freedom. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on life and the decisions that are made – to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor, it gives them “weight”. Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.

My views are firmly on the “light” side although I find nothing unbearable about this view at all, i.e. that we have only one life. If anything, for me it is liberating.

The parallels to work

When your work mimics a treadmill then you are in the same position of being in an eternal recurrence.

Every day is the same, boring, monotonous Groundhog Day.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable. We have tedious tasks that are repetitive but they have to be done. No job is devoid of them and sometimes they are just plain necessary.

Sometimes we make our own busyness. We equate it mistakenly with importance (i.e. it makes us feel important) and productivity when there is absolutely no correlation.

This adds a crushing weight to our work lives that in many cases, is avoidable.

For one, take frequent vacations. It’s amazing, if you really have let go of work and taken the time to disconnect, how light your perspective becomes.

The art of being

When we go about our work in a natural state of being rather than being pressured to do increasingly more, there is a freedom that impacts our creativity and productivity.

I totally get it all depends on your job, your economic circumstances and sometimes the inevitably pressured times that any job entails.

Most of the time, you can master the art of being. Just some pointers to consider:

  1. Don’t feel you have to join every meeting just because you were invited. FOMO is not real! Think carefully about whether you really need to join or could be more productive staying out of it and focusing on some other more valuable task, or just being for a while. If you really need to do something, meditate 🧘🏽‍♂️
  2. Aside from vacations, step outside every now and then and smell the roses, in every way. Make like famed philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau who built some of his most profound observations around them, and many others who knew the secrets of walking, and take a stroll.
  3. Detach yourself from the notion that busyness equates to importance or productivity. Sometimes less is more and the more time out you get, the more creative and ultimately productive you conversely are.
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Microsoft 365 customer questions – what and why M365

I work in the business of dealing with customer questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Question:

The customer is just about to launch Microsoft 365 so the decision has already been made about buying and using it. The question was more in relation to a kick off session to all staff in which I was asked to present in 10 minutes what M365 is and why it will add value to the organisation. I’ve also been asked this by others so I thought this would be a good exercise in any event.

Answer:

I’ve started my thinking on how to address this with a DanelDoodle, always a good way for me to narrow my thinking and generally sense make. As you can imagine, 10 minutes in which to explain M365, a platform so vast in capability, is not an easy task. Maybe impossible. But it is a good exercise. And on this point, this is just an exercise. This is not a definitive answer and will likely change as I prepare for my session and use this to gather feedback. Some explainers below the doodle.

Click to enlarge
  1. I started with a brief explanation in the first two blocks on the nature of Microsoft 365 in relation to the commonly held understanding that it is the Office suite you buy upgrades for every few years. It’s much more than just a set of document tools like Word, PowerPoint, etc. It also goes beyond a new name and business model. So the first block tries to explain that it is a subscription service and you get continues updates and innovation as a result. It also covers many other tools covered in the second block, more on all of them here: Microsoft 365 | Secure, Integrated Office 365 Apps + Teams
  2. I then wanted to cover the concept of the Microsoft Graph which is really important. This is pretty challenging, not sure I’ve done that quite yet. More on that here: Overview of Microsoft Graph – Microsoft Graph | Microsoft Docs
  3. I then tried to choose an area that M365 covers really well which is documents and processes. I chose some examples for each of these that showcase the two main functions. There are so many to choose from this is really difficult. I chose these because I think they capture the essence of innovative new features really well. Here is a little more on each:
    1. Analyze Data in Excel (microsoft.com)
    2. Create professional slide layouts with PowerPoint Designer (microsoft.com)
    3. Microsoft Editor checks grammar and more in documents, mail, and the web
    4. Microsoft Lists | Microsoft 365
  4. The last block covers Microsoft Teams which has become the de facto “front end for collaboration” incorporating so many other tools and components of M365. This article covers the concept I am trying to explain really well: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams – Microsoft 365 Blog
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Everything can change except values

I’m reminded of this truth in the title which comes from an early interview with Tim Cook of Apple I discovered the other day that I had bookmarked. It is focused on the technology business and it’s an observation on how Steve Jobs worked and it really resonated with me. It can easily transcend the technology business.

Here’s a relevant piece from the article:

There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers. Steve never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.

Tim Cook, Apple

I do wonder if we in the Customer Success business as I am, sometimes focus too much on the clicks, active users, units consumed over the amazing that we help our customers deliver? Are our values and focus right?

I and many of my professional colleagues in the space have moved much more to a model where business outcomes matter. This is more values based, value for the customer.

But I am often guilty of obsessing over the changes in those numbers Tim refers to. Often it is in pursuit of the targets we are chasing, driven by senior executives. So one must guard against this.

Now as our world is changing rapidly before our eyes, and in many ways terribly, I am reminded of this truth more broadly.

It looks like the world is rallying around the right values. People, companies, countries are standing up for what is right and what they believe in while all around them, age old wisdoms about the order of things change. They have been reminded of what is important and what values matter.

Time will tell if the values were the right ones and whether they have prevailed.

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Stages of consciousness and the immaturity of tyrants

It’s difficult to stand by and observe the terrible events happening in Ukraine and not say something. Or to write about inconsequential things while people are suffering. At the very least, offer solidarity. Or light a candle rather than curse the darkness. I wanted to try do all of that in this post.

What do I mean by stages of consciousness and what does that have to do with Ukraine and the events there? My first thoughts are that the tyrant in question, Putin, belongs to a lower level of consciousness than do other human beings.

He may be sick, there is reference to his increasing isolation through the Pandemic and mental instability. But I think it is more deep seated than that.

The best reference for this thinking that immediately sprang to mind is Ken Wilbur’s integral model. This is based on his consolidation of many other peoples thinking:

Generally, in the Integral Model, we work with around 8 to 10 stages or levels of consciousness development. We have found, after years of field work, that more stages than that are too cumbersome, and less than that, too vague. One stage conception we often use is that of Spiral Dynamics Integral, founded by Don Beck based on the research of Clare Graves. We also use stages of self development pioneered by Jane Loevinger and Susann Cook-Greuter; and orders of consciousness, researched by Robert Kegan. But there are many other useful stage conceptions available with the Integral Approach, and you can adopt any of them that are appropriate to your situation.

From the Integral Life site

The stages of consciousness

Click the arrow to expand and see full explanation:

1. Crimson (Archaic) The Crimson Altitude (formerly “infrared”) signifies a degree of development that is in many ways embedded in nature, body, and the gross realm in general. The Crimson altitude exhibits an archaic worldview, physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), a self-sense that is minimally differentiated from its environment, and is in nearly all ways oriented toward physical survival. Although present in infants, Crimson is rarely seen in adults except in cases of famine, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. Crimson is also used as a kind of catch-all term for earlier evolutionary stages and drives.
2. Magenta (Magic) The Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or “square one” for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.
3. Red (Egoic) The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where “might makes right,” where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an “other.” Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.
4. Amber (Mythic) The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of “might makes right,” amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to “my” group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to “fit in.” Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red.
5. Orange (Rational) The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one’s religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that “truth is not delivered; it is discovered,” spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.
6. Green (Pluralistic) The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths (“All men are created equal”), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class….” Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism. The green worldview’s multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today’s intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters… not to mention another “lost” generation of students.
7. Teal (Integral) The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions. Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.
8. Turquoise (Mature Integral) Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).

In conclusion

So while my sympathies are clearly with the people of Ukraine, I don’t believe most Russians want this and are with them too. At least the ones that see this for what it is – the machinations of a tyrant.

I think the only way to overcome this (other than what sane minded authorities are trying to do to stop the war), is to advance our thinking. From the immature stages (clearly where I place people like Putin who is probably at the red stage) to the higher ones.

To reach higher levels of consciousness where we understand that war does not work and might is not right. That you cannot enforce your will on other people. That we are all in this together. That love conquers all and I send buckets of it, as well as hope, to all the people rising up in defence of these terrible actions by a madman.

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3 ways to automate WordPress and improve content creation

This is a test post to some degree as well as an explainer. I’ve been trying to work out the best way to get a post out without needing to tend to some of the tedious chores of publishing a post every time. I want to get those out the way fast so I can focus on the writing. Read on to see what I am trying out.

I make use of featured images – a lot. I try have them in every post except when I create a DanelDoodle because then the doodle becomes the only image I want the reader to focus on.

Most of the time I create custom featured images for each post because when you share on social media, the central part of the featured image stands out. Sometimes it matters less so I looked at several ways of to automate the creation of a featured image.

One was super simple which I loved but there was no way to distinguish between posts and pages (Default Featured Image). Another broke my site since the plugin hadn’t been tested to work with my version of WordPress (Auto Post Thumbnail). The third worked a charm: Quick Featured Images.

The featured image (and thumbnail) for this post was automatically generated by using the plugin so its a step I can skip when creating posts with a specific tag. I’ve started with this and will see how I go but so far so good.

Social Sharing

click to enlarge

I had a challenge with the social sharing function in the past but I am now trying to see if it has been fixed. I’m referring to the Jetpack function that you see in the screenshot.

In the past, the message I would write for the audience would overwrite the heading and excerpt I normally capture at the start of the post or in the SEO description.

I don’t want that to happen.

I would prefer it if the message was displayed in addition to the title and the excerpt I normally see.

That is because each plays its own role in making content stand out. I have been doing it manually for the last year or so but am hoping this will now work and save me more time.

Once this post is published, I’ll come back and confirm how it worked.

Block Templates

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Reusable blocks. This entire page and its layout can be saved as a reusable block. I would first have to group the elements I would want to reuse and then save the group. There’s more on that from WordPress. This does not included the featured image however and nor the headline.
  2. Copy post. I could just go to my list of posts that have been published and copy the entire post. This would copy everything and then I just need to change the things I want to change but everything else in terms of structure, would remain. More on that here.
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Headspace review and other meditative musings

Another story amongst a series, this one based on my experience with Headspace after being given access to a free trial through work. Also a few added thoughts around the role of meditation in mental health and when it will not replace well placed psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment.

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Resilience is an attitude and other things you can control

I’ve just started a new initiative – setting up a store on this site. Its been something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but I’ve been dithering. I was reminded by this quote of the need for action.

If you focus on resultsyou will never changeIf you focus on changeyou will get results.”

Jack Dixon Welsh Rugby Union Player.

In other words, just do the thing or it, as a certain shoe maker also put it. Which I did do for the store, over the festive break.

So one of the things I can control, in reference to this part of the title, is what I change. But for me its not so much about change but the attitude I bring to it – cue a new DanelDoodle for the occasion.

It’s not so much a reactive approach but a proactive one. You have to make your mind up and take the right attitude.

On this last point I have to concede that this approach does not work for all and does not consider the severe debilitating effects that mental health issues have on this approach.

Resilience has a close cousin – perseverance. Perseverance equally requires a commitment to purpose that keeps us moving forward into the attitudes and activities that serve to fulfil it. More on that here: Thought rocket: arc of change and bending reality

This is not just important personally but also at work as Microsoft has discovered by looking closely at resilience: The Resilience Quotient.

For managers across a wider range of organizations, the key consideration isn’t whether an employee comes equipped with resilience as an innate trait. It’s gaining a better understanding of resilience as a state—and helping everyone on their teams develop their own capacity for resilience to the best of their ability.

The article goes on to explain that resilience has characteristics of both a trait and a state. “A trait is something that you presuppose cannot be changed,” he says. “A state is something you can change about a person.” In other words, some aspects of resilience seem to be with you for life. But some are fluid.

This fluidity is what I am referring to when it comes to attitude and being able to lean into it and choose the attitude you will bring to something or take in response to something.

So for me attitude is key, resilience and persevere is borne out of attitude.

Attitude is everything and in our control

What is not in our control are things I have positioned outside the circle in the Doodle:

  • Timing: Right attitude with right timing is an invincible combination. But how do we know if the timing is right? Rarely can you, unless in hindsight. So always veer on the side of having the right attitude, because our attitude is in our control, while right timing is pure chance.
  • Events: ‘Events, dear boy, events’, as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said, or to put it a little more pithily, shit happens 💩 When it does, find some lemonade or put on some rose tinted glasses and see things with new eyes.
  • Other peoples responses: You cannot control how other people respond to you but you can control your response to them. So if someone treats you badly or responds badly to something you have done, don’t take it personally and that applies to life.
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Writing with intent – new directions for InnerVentures

Blogging as a craft or pursuit is under pressure and being assailed from all sides. But writing will never go out of fashion, especially good writing, in business or in our personal lives. So it doesn’t matter what you call it and whether you believe blogging is dead, dying, or not. The point is to write well, whether for peoples entertainment or to make sense of the world as I do. And if in the process you share some of that sense making with the world for its benefit, so much the better.

All of which is to say that I have done a bit of tweaking with my blog in terms of the topics I cover and categories and tags I will be using. I used the following framework to help my thinking. I don’t need to say much more other than I hope this will sharpen up my focus and aid my writing and ultimately anyone who reads my posts and also writes, in the spirit with which I ended my last paragraph 😉

Click to enlarge
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Making your personal goals stick in 2022

I’m about to share how I do what is described in the headline. That’s not to say it’s guaranteed to work for you. But I’ve been doing this for at least the last 5 years and its starting to stick and work better and better for me. Maybe it helps you too or you get some ideas.

First some screenshots of my phone screens and then some explanation.

The first thing to explain is that I manage this all on my iPhone because that is probably the thing that gets most of my attention day in and day out. The first screenshot above is of my Lock Screen and the other two are alternative views of my home screen. This nails my first approach on effective goal setting – visibility – but let me handle that and others separately.

Visible

So I’ve mostly covered this point in the last paragraph above. The only thing to add is that I cover different aspects in the different views. The Lock Screen is where I have tangible goals around my creative output. Of the other two, one is intended to change every month and guide that month’s intentions and the other every quarter for similar reasons.

Written

There are a ton of articles (many based on good research) that describe why writing things down makes it more likely for what you wrote down to stick. This applies to goals. I use an app called Scribblet which allows you to add written notes to widgets – the second two screenshots above. For the Lock Screen I just used the Paper app.

Attainable

Not all my goals, aspirations or intentions are as quantifiable and tangible as the ones you see on my Lock Screen but all are attainable. And you may argue my Q1 aspirations are too vague but I do have ideas behind each of them – I just didn’t want to take up screen space by writing them down in detail and also I’d prefer not to have them be seen.

That’s it, in essence.

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How to view the guides developed on this site – PDF

I’ve just completed a new trend report and I am making it available for purchase and download as a PDF. I wanted to explain why and how best to consume it. I did cover the why on both the page where you can buy it and where I provided some background but here is a little more and a demo.

Continue reading How to view the guides developed on this site – PDF
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21 essentials for the digital enterprise in 2021

I was asked a question the other day from someone wanting to know what would be required to become a fully digital company. Big question I know and I didn’t have much time in which to answer. I came up with a fast list. This is an attempt to remember and add to it but still in the spirit of off the cuff thinking, so I’m not going to dig into too much detail. Great exercise, you should try it. So this list is extended beyond the original list to include 21 items in total, for 2021 natch and seeing as that we are at the end of it 😜

Continue reading 21 essentials for the digital enterprise in 2021
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Product led growth is not a panacea – it is a good start

Imagine not having to employ any sales or customer success people or adopt any of the tactics they use – because the product sells itself or gets utilised by users without any help. I’m being facetious, but in a nutshell that is the promise of product led growth.

Continue reading Product led growth is not a panacea – it is a good start
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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity

I work in the business of dealing with customers questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

Continue reading Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity