Featured post

Best in Class Training – Be delighted not just satisfied

Our new homepage goes live.

(April 10 2015) We have brought some firsts and plenty of innovation to our industry over the years. This has led to frequent “flattery” from imitators in our market and we feel it is time to provide even more proof to our claims.

To this end you will find our new homepage features proven performance. You can not only drill-down into our own record on performance – you can see what our customers say. Check out independent reviews and browse over 40,000 customer feedback testimonials.

We will continue to set the bar for quality, value and transparency in our market and wish our imitators the very best of luck. We thank our customers for helping us make a difference as a training partner and look forward to forging new long term mutually beneficial relationships.

Kind regards

All at Best STL

 

Featured post

Four benefits of Moving to Office 365

By J. Peter Bruzzese

The recent global recession is still quite fresh in everyone’s minds. From an IT perspective it forced IT administrators to tighten their belts and hold off on upgrades of both hardware and software for quite some time.
The growth of “cloud” solutions (like Office 365) has provided IT teams with another option when considering new hardware and software. Here we’ll take a closer look at the features available, benefits and a key consideration when moving to Office 365.

What is Office 365, and why move to it?

The name is somewhat confusing because it appears to be the next flavor of the Office product suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc…).  In fact, Office 365 is many things, it is a cloud-based, hosted services solution for Office applications, email, collaboration, and more.
Exchange, SharePoint and Lync have moved from a traditional on-premise hosting to Microsoft datacenters (i.e.. their “cloud”). Instead of paying for the software upfront, you pay as a monthly/annual subscription for those services (hence the term Software as a Service or SaaS).

Office 365 has a variety of different packages to choose from and some of them offer the Office Suite as part of the subscription too.  If you choose one of these plans you can put the latest flavor of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on desktops/mobile devices.  And there are a variety of other services offered with Office 365 like OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Office 365 Video and more.

There are some key reasons why a move to Office 365 can benefit your organization from the perspective of an IT team getting ready to decide on-premises vs. cloud.  Let’s consider four benefits for moving to Office 365 and one key user consideration for IT administrators.

Four benefits of moving to Office 365:

No-Cost Server Infrastructure:  If you are looking to modernize your server-side solutions the cost of upgrading your existing infrastructure could be exorbitant.  Moving mailboxes to the cloud eliminates that concern and cost.  Microsoft will worry about the hardware and storage, and you can pay as you grow for easy scalability.

No More Upgrades or Fixes:  Much of the stress of an admin is handling fixes and upgrades for solutions to ensure they are patched properly and as secure as possible.  With Office 365 this is all handled for you.

Availability:  Microsoft provides a 99.9% SLA for availability.  Whereas on-premise you would have to have redundant servers on-site and additional servers in an off-site location to provide that level of availability, Microsoft has it all in place from day one to ensure your users have consistent access to their email and other services.

Services Offered:  As mentioned earlier, Office 365 is a mix of different services.  It’s quite amazing really when you consider all the different tools provided.  You can access the services through traditional means (Outlook connected to Exchange Online) or through browser-based connectivity (Yammer or SharePoint Online through your browser).

Upon logging into your portal you are offered a variety of tools to choose from, and the list is growing!  Note the options in the figure below.  OneDrive, Sites, Delve, Video, Office Online (Word/Excel/Point/OneNote) … offering a compelling price/features proposition.

collaborate_office_online

Office 365 App Launcher – benefits of moving to office 365

So we’ve covered four benefits of moving to Office 365, what could the key consideration be? Here it is…

Training

Take a user who has been on Windows XP with Office 2003 for the past 10 years.  Give them a new laptop running Windows 7/8 (v10 coming soon) and Office 2013.  Introduce the user to the new tools for communication and collaboration like Yammer, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and so forth.  Instead of praising your team the users vent frustration at the dip in performance as they struggle to process all the new upgrades.

Don’t do that to your people.  Going from the menu structure of legacy Office into the new ribbon interface alone will be an overwhelming task for some.  If you have gone with Windows 8, the new interface is quite a step change (even for experienced users).

Support your people.  You want to give them the latest and greatest and you want them to experience the productivity boost that should come with new hardware and software possibilities.

But you must do so through training first.

Manage the change for users through classroom training, with all the benefits of hands on exercises under the guidance and support of an experienced trainer.  Or even run workshop sessions BEFORE you put that new laptop or desktop in front of them with all the new bells and whistles.

And then you might want to provide 24/7/365 support training through a video portal, which perfectly complements any classroom based training. An eLearning portal with an easy to use interface and short searchable learning clips helps users improve and maintain performance.

We are certainly living in exciting times.  Cloud solutions like Office 365 are offering small-midsize business an opportunity to have enterprise grade solutions right at their fingertips, without all the server side heavy lifting being placed on the IT admin.  The end-users will love the new possibilities opened to them and the increase in productivity through new communication and collaboration tools.  Exciting times indeed!

J._Peter_Bruzzese J. Peter Bruzzese (Office 365 MVP) is the CIO of ClipTraining.com, providers of short, task-based video training through an online portal solution.  He is an internationally published author with over a dozen titles to his credit about Windows/Office/Exchange/etc.  He is a technical speaker for Microsoft and others.  He writes a weekly column for InfoWorld entitled “Enterprise Windows” and is a strategic technical consultant with Mimecast.  You can follow JPB on Twitter @JPBruzzese and email him at jpb@cliptraining.com

For information on eLearning services in the UK, ClipTraining partner and UK distributor, Best STL, can be emailed at info@microsofttraining.net

Further reading

Office 365 Training in the ClipTraining Library
Classroom based MS Office training

36.5 Office 365 Features That Will Boost Your Productivity
What’s In & What’s Out In Office 2013
A well-trained I.T. team: Your company’s secret weapon

 

Excel Dashboard

Creating an Excel Dashboard – Election Special Video

What is an Excel Dashboard?

Dashboards are essentially reports in Excel that help you visualise and analyse complex pieces of data.

In the following video we look at an example Excel dashboard to guide us through the mind boggling data being produced by the current UK general election.

A further look at Excel Dashboards

Why use dashboards?

We can store a huge amount of data in Excel but it is not very easy in a large worksheet to quickly get the information we need. This is where an Excel Dashboard can be a very efficient and time  saving option.  Once a dashboard is created in the right way it can be easily amended.

the whole dashboard2

Top 5 reasons for Dashboards

We need dashboards to:

  • Visualise data
  • Spot patterns and trends
  • Improve appearances
  • Make the numbers more digestible
  • Provide interactive selective reporting

How should an Excel dashboard be created?

Before creating a dashboard, you need to spend some time planning. What is the objective and who is your audience? Make sure that your audience can get the information they need from your dashboard.

Ask yourself: “What do I need to track in the dashboard”? Try to get a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish.

When creating a dashboard, think about how the dashboard will be viewed to make it meaningful for your audience. Some may need a clean, compact dashboard with simple visualizations. Others may want to be able to use more complicated tools and more sophisticated visualizations to dig deeper into the source data.

Dashboards should always be created in a way that data can be added or removed from the source data without time consuming updating of ranges, functions and other Excel tools used in the Dashboard.

Interactivity is an important part of a dashboard.

excel dashboard

By adding interactivity such as drop down lists the dashboard can be very dynamic and feed us with even more useful information.

Excel has many statistical tools which can supply us with important information in  the dashboard such as trend analysis, forecasting, rank, correlation, average and much more.

stats

KPI’s are another very useful ingredients in a dashboard to visualize the performance.

kpi

Additional Resources

As you can see creating an Excel dashboard is really a combination of Excel skillsets. These include pivot tables, chart creation, filtering data, lookups and plenty more.

The following resources can help you on your way to creating Excel dashboards.

What is a Pivot Table?

Excel 2013: 3 New Ways To Customise Your Charts

Excel Dashboards 1 day training course

Create a drop-down list in Excel

What are the odds like for the UK General Election?

The UK general election is almost upon us and it’s a tight race! It’s the most unpredictable election in memory and has already produced some lively debates and political speed-dating as potential alliances are considered.

There are so many sources from which to gain the latest on likely election winners, and one such are the bookies. There are some great websites with up to the minute odds on all the political parties and it got us thinking wouldn’t it be great to capture and analyse this information in Excel….

After several cups of coffee and Excel wizardry one of our Excel trainers has created a rough but working Excel 2015 UK General Election spreadsheet.  You can download the spreadsheet here.

What it does:
  • Automatically updates with latest betting odds every hour (you can refresh at any time)
  • View a chart to analyse the betting odds
What you can do:
  • By having the latest data you have the ability to create more charts to your heart’s content!
  • Capture the live data so that you can view it historically. How did the odds change over the week? Which party gained/lost the most (from an odds perspective!).
  • With a bit of VBA pokery you could even create lookup reports focussing on specific parties.

There is a lot of opinion out there on the general election but you could do worse than follow the signals of those who are putting their money where their mouth is!

Learn more:

If you would like to learn more about how we produced this spreadsheet; you may wish to track other live web data like stocks, competitor pricing and more, then just click here.

Acknowledgements and useful resources

http://www.oddschecker.com/politics/british-politics/next-uk-general-election/most-seats

Election 2015: Poll tracker

http://www.ft.com/indepth/uk-general-election

Betting odds explained

Learn more about available Excel training courses