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Features that delight and distress when switching tech tools

Normally I talk about the former, features that delight, when I review any new use of technology or features I’ve come across. But there is most definitely times when distress is the case. And so in this post I have examples of both.

Spike in delight

First up is a new email app I tried on my PC called Spike. I’m absolutely loving it. They talk about “The power of email. The simplicity of chat.” Therein lies the first surprise, the way they convert email threads into a chat-like look and feel.

But it’s way more than that.

It’s also a very credible note taker. I have tried and use tons of note taking tools from Evernote (now replaced by OneNote) to Outlook Notes, Apple Notes and IA Writer, to name but a few. This is one of the finer alternatives. Most of the simple gif above shows the note functions.

I also love the way it integrates the many email addresses I have into one simple unified feed. And setting them up was no problem at all. I normally use Outlook Web App (in the browser) for work but I have lots of different email accounts on the Microsoft and Google platforms and Spike made short work of bringing them in. Since I do so much work in the browser, I didn’t want to have to open new Tabs for each of my email accounts. I was using the Windows Mail App but that was causing lots of problems with my many accounts.

All in all, email needs disrupting and this tool comes the closest I’ve seen to doing just that. Spike also does a great job of setting you up for success from the get-go with super simple in product guides and communicated instructions.


Migration hell

This is not so much about a feature or tool but more about a technology (platform) selection. For many years I’ve run email with my own domain on G Suite with Google for free. Now that the freeloading has been stopped, as part of a revamp and renaming exercise (to Google Workspace), I’ve had to consider my options.

And it’s how the companies facilitate the consideration of options that has been a bit of a nightmare and distressing to say the least.

Some of the challenges I’ve faced:

  1. Do I stay or do I go. If I want to stay on Google Workspace, do you think they make it easy to establish the cost of the alternatives – short answer, no. You have to go into your account as an administrator and go through the upgrade process and after only a few steps do you find out. The free alternative that I did have insight into does not include email with your own domain which is why I started exploring.
  2. Migrating to M365. I pay for Microsoft 365 already and use email from that subscription with another domain already. My first thought was, can I add a domain to the account after using the handy migration tool Microsoft set up: Perform a Google Workspace migration to Microsoft 365 or Office 365. I had known about the migration tool and thought the automated option would be pretty straightforward.
    1. A question of domains. However, on the questions of domains, although you can add as many as 900 domains to an M365 subscription without paying extra, what I could not find an answer for was whether I could send and receive email from the added domain.
    2. Using domains in email. I use that domain address for many accounts so it was imperative I could communicate with it exactly as it was. Firstly I could find no formal Microsoft documentation that verified I could. And then I found lots of forum topics that said it was only possible to send and receive email from the default domain which I was already using.
    3. Documentation distress. Also in the forum threads, I read that an alternative was to create a shared mailbox and set up the shared mailbox address with the newly added domain – this would allow one to send and receive with that domain email address.
    4. Support heaven. It sounded complicated so I decided to create a support ticket from my Microsoft 365 admin interface. Here was one bright spot – the response was almost immediate and I received a call. It was verified that a shared mailbox was the best way to set things up if I wanted the email address to show to the receiver in its original form (otherwise it will show as being sent from the default address). We tested this on the call and it worked. Here is some detail on how.
  3. In conclusion. Now that I had established I could use my domain, I went back to the migration process. It seems not to be so straightforward and I will likely have issues and spend more time on it than I care to. Not anyone’s fault, it must be complicated. For now I’ve decided to pay for one year of Google Workspace (Business Starter edition) which was discounted for me. I will try and migrate all the accounts with which I use the address with and then stop using that domain for email since its not my primary email.
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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.

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How to run a Hackathon for Microsoft Teams and Power Platform

I’ve decided, while I work in the business of dealing with customers questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly, I might as well 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 respect both sides sensitivities. This is where I started the activity and this post uses a slightly different format but is essentially the same approach.

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A review of the new Microsoft Whiteboard

Click to see larger view

Naturally I used Microsoft Whiteboard for the review itself. I then exported an image of it and that is what you see above. This is not so much a feature overview since you can find that all here: Welcome to the new Whiteboard! That was the announcement post from a few days ago. This is more about the drawing, writing and doodling capabilities of such a tool as I’m a massive fan – see my many DanelDoodle’s. For the record, these are the tools I use mostly on my iPad currently, as mentioned in the review: Paper and Procreate. As soon as the new Whiteboard becomes available on iOS, I’m going to try that and also in my next Microsoft Teams Meeting.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Viva Connections

I’ve decided, while I work in the business of dealing with customers questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly, I might as well 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 respect both sides sensitivities (some parts have been redacted) and the topic is covered in the post title. Answers in grey background starting with initial questions

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Minding the accelerating technology gap

Even if every company is now a tech company, there is still a massive gap between the early and fast adopters and the laggards. It goes beyond the chasm of initial technology adoption because now the assumption is all companies have to be using technology in some form or other to compete. The question is how well and how much are they keeping up.

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Internal Communications is more important than ever but missing a trick

If you’ve been following anything I have written in the last few months around employee experience, you’ll see that it is equally as important and indeed crucial to customer experience but often lacks attention, although that is now changing. It’s similar to enterprise software which has often lagged behind end consumer software in terms of innovation and adoption. Likewise, internal communications is a vital ingredient in employee experience but I think its been missing a trick.

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The supremacy of business outcomes in a low code no code world

You may know of the new low code / no code approach to developing technology solutions (good primer if not). Simply put, it offers a development platform to users that requires little to no coding capabilities to build applications. There are benefits to this but also challenges which is why its important to consider the adage, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In this post, I consider the importance of business outcomes, choosing the right platform, governance and pitching your solution.

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Considering buying a new technology platform, ask this about their customer success

I’ve been on both the receiving and offering end of efforts so can speak to both. In the Software as a Service business especially, if that is how the platform is offered, the vendor should have a team supporting how the platform is deployed, adopted and maintained. Moreover, the team should be focused on helping the customer maximise their investment in the technology by helping to achieve the business outcomes the technology was purchased for.

If they don’t, that should already be a warning sign that they are not a mature vendor. If they do and you are comparing vendor offerings, use these notes as a basis for evaluating them on this aspect of their offering. Bear in mind that these notes apply to enterprise B2B scenarios, technology platforms and customer success teams.

If you are unsure of what customer success is, there is a primer on this page.

Methodology

They should have an approach to customer success. It need not use or have become a renown and universally accepted strategic framework. If anything, it should be lightweight, iterative and intended to grow usage/adoption and value outcomes over time. It should drive growing organisational maturity in terms of platform capabilities and ever increasing value delivery.

It should focus on users and use cases and prioritising them as well as identifying key measures of success. These should be tracked periodically with the support of the customer success manager.

Broadly, the methodology should have an envisioning stage, identifying overall goals then those specific to priority uses cases for any given period. KPI’s should form part of this.

Then an execution part where users are supported in adopting the features, functions and workflows specific to the priority use cases.

Finally, an evaluation stage where progress is tracked against goals. This then feeds back in a loop to target improvements for the next phase of planning and execution.

The approach is very agile and borrows from lean startup methodology which is the way some of the worlds greatest technology products and companies are grown successfully.

Deliverables that a Customer Success Manager and the vendor are committed to

Note that some of these are ideal states or options and just because a vendor does not offer them fully, does not mean they will not do a good job for you. Each option or state will have to be weighed up in priority terms you set. You could create a weighted scoring mechanism as many customers do to aid decision making.

Usage, Adoption and Value Delivery

  • Success strategy development support that leads to a clear vision, plan and outcomes
    • People will have a clear understanding of the purpose of the tool in the organisation
    • Plan covers all the right use cases and workflows and it is communicated clearly
    • A path is created for users to be inspired, educated and efforts can be scaled

Insight Reviews (monthly)

  • Progress tracking against planned usage and adoption and business outcomes achieved
  • Success and best practice sharing from global customer base

Business Reviews (quarterly)

  • Use case and KPI reviews and outcomes evaluation
  • Recommendations on best ways forward
  • Platform roadmap reviews

Customer Advocacy

  • Provide a window for the customer to product teams and vice versa for special needs to be communicated and usage insights to be shared that drive further product development
  • Access to the right stakeholders on both sides (senior executive engagement, special interest stakeholders, etc.)
  • Access to other customers on reference calls, on Customer Advisory Boards, at customer meetups, etc.

Customer Support and Services

  • Learning material and clear documentation that is constantly updated on a central and easily accesible repository
  • Professional services around adoption and change management enabling user/data driven behaviour change
  • Clear customer support commitments around logging issues, response times, etc.

Product Support

  • Onboarding help and guidance including and especially in-product and also ongoing user support
  • Planning and tracking capabilities
    • A way to plan user activities (plan elements and outcomes targeted) and track and correct where necessary, ideally with automated tasks – feedback loops for administrators and users to see progress and take remedial action where necessary and/or have automated
    • Robust analytics and reporting tools to track usage and activity that the customer (administrator and end user) can access
    • A means to correlate activity with business outcomes – especially for administrators or those responsible for the platform to be able to feed back to relevant parts of the business

Is the vendor asking for your commitment

If they are not, chances are they don’t understand all of the dynamics needed to drive success. These often take the form of:

Senior exec stakeholder/s:

Its important that the technology has a mandate from the top. A stakeholder that communicates the need for users to be in the platform and why its important

Project/Program Manager:

Someone or a team who’s core responsibility is developing a good success strategy and execution of it (supported by CSM). The person/s will also support users and report to business executives in terms of making sure main targets are met. At least a single person should be dedicated to the task full time. In larger organisations with many users it’s a core team. They should have commitment to pursue deep knowledge (through training) with time available to support the platform and be committed to it.

Administrator:

Someone who is responsible for the maintenance of the platform from a technical point of view, adding users, configuration, SSO, etc.

Champions:

Super users who are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the platform and are willing to spend time outside of their normal jobs to support the core team and users with driving adoption and value creation for the company.

What else, any I missed?