Implementation Tools to Deliver Faster Cheaper Analytics™

11/15/2016

As business analytics coaches, we are constantly assisting organizations and individuals on achieving Faster Cheaper Analytics™. Today we are talking about implementation tools.

Like you, I am responsible for multiple daily and monthly tasks as part of my normal job. Add on some strategic projects that are key in pushing Lodestar Solutions forward. This takes a ton of organization. I found myself struggling to keep them all organized. As a result, I fell in a rat race of continuously delivering my commitments late. The work load felt heavy. I was frustrated and was literally suffocating at work. The stress impacted my personal life resulting in me being a subpar mother and wife. Internally, I was deeply disappointed myself and ashamed of how many commitments were not being delivered on time. I knew I was better than this.  There had to be a better way! I was committed to making my commitments!

The Search for a Better Solution...

Previously, I was using lists and found it deeply satisfying to cross items off as they were completed. You know that feeling.  Putting things on your list because it's easy to cross off. But random lists were not cutting it. I needed implementation tools to make me more scalable. This would allow the teams I was on to communicate and bring transparency to the real demands on my time. Turns out I was not alone in this feeling. Being a smaller company, most of us at Lodestar Solutions wear multiple hats. We were feeling the same frustration. The team started experimenting with different implementation tools. Our goal was setting project priorities and bringing transparency to the process.

Our journey to being incredibly productive and obtaining deep job satisfaction started with a discovery of a tool set. It's something Lodestar Solutions team members now use every day. Using this tool set is crucial in implementing our Faster Cheaper Analytics Program™. Since it’s Faster CHEAPER Analytics™, all the implementation tools mentioned below are incredibly economical.

Recording and Editing Software - Camtasia

Repeat after me…I need to be scalable. Part of achieving Faster Cheaper Analytics™ is knowing when and how to be scalable. Using video is an excellent way of making yourself scalable. Camtasia is an extremely inexpensive and easy to learn video recording and editing software.  Here's how Lodestar Solutions uses video for scalability:

1. Training - One of my favorite ways of using videos is to record software training sessions. End users love it! If they are needing a refresher or are too embarrassed to ask, they can just re-watch the video. In addition, Camtasia has functionality for creating interactive table of contents. This allows end users to jump to certain locations.

2. System Documentation - Let's face it. Nobody likes documenting a system. Furthermore, nobody reads it anyway. However, for tasks that only get performed occasionally or if new team members need to get up to speed quickly, documenting is extremely useful. Recording yourself talking about the system while sharing your screen is 10x faster than typing and taking screenshots. It's also more effective than trying to decipher screenshots.

3. Meetings and Demos - You can record meetings and demos. This allows individuals who were not able to attend to watch at their convenience.

4. Requirements Gathering - The best way of gathering accurate requirements is being 100% present in the meeting. However, we are not always afforded the luxury of a scribe. Recording the meeting allows you to stay totally attuned to the conversation. It cuts down the meeting time by half since you're not trying to take in-depth notes while asking pointed questions and reading their body language. One caveat is making sure the user(s) being interviewed know it's for their benefit and so you can be fully engaged in the conversation.

Online Work Management Software - Smartsheet

Early in our journey to a more productive work life, Lodestar Solutions knew we'd be needing a way to provide visibility into our client projects. We started looking at several cloud-based work management software applications. Then we discovered Smartsheet. Smartsheet is an intuitive online project management tool enabling teams to increase productivity using cloud, collaboration, & mobile technologies.

We are now using a Scrum board for Agile project management but still heavily rely on Smartsheet for:

  •  Onboarding processes and documentation
  • Detailed requirements and sample documents
  • End user testing schedules
  • Issue tracking
  • Internal project lists
  • Common place for procedures
implementation tools

Agile Project Management System - ScrumDo

You don’t have to be 100% agile to start reaping the benefits of agile tools. One such tool is a Scrum board. Even if you are still practicing a waterfall style of project management, we are recommending the use a Scrum board. It brings transparency and encourages team collaboration; two factors key in Faster Cheaper Analytics™ and increased productivity.

Many old school project managers will resist the idea of using a Scrum board. They still cling to their early 20th century Gantt charts as a source of comfort and power. I have never been on a project where the Gantt chart was even remotely correct. Additionally, these charts take tons of effort to maintain with no productivity benefits. We are trying to achieve Faster Cheaper Analytics™! If a task isn’t producing a productivity benefit, we need to question why we are doing it.

Utilizing a Scrum board, teams can see exactly what is being worked on, what is done and what has yet to be accomplished. There is no need for titles on hierarchies in this model. Everybody pulls their weight and contributes to the common goal. If they don’t, it becomes painfully obvious.

How Lodestar Solutions uses a Scrum board

On our internal Scrum board, we have a column for items being reviewed. Once approved, they move to the “done” column whereas when we are on a client project, that column may state “testing”. What you name the columns is irrelevant. All that matters is the team having visibility into the effort remaining and encouraging each other towards a common goal.

A scrum board shouldn’t be expensive.  If your team is centrally located, you can even use a wall or whiteboard with sticky notes.  Poof! A free and effective Scrum board.

At Lodestar Solutions, we have tested several Scrum boards. The one we found to be the most economical and most desirable in its features is ScrumDo. ScrumDo aims to unleash high performance in your teams, innovation in your products and continuous improvement within your organization.

implementation tools

These are just a couple of the implementation tools we are using at Lodestar Solutions to achieve Faster Cheaper Analytics™.  However, we would love to hear about what tools you use to increase effectiveness and productivity. Please make sure to share your comments below.

In conclusion, just remember that a good tool makes you more scalable.  In addition, it allows teams to communicate effectively but also brings transparency to the real demands on your time.

Here's Your Call To Action:

For more on this topic, watch Heather Cole’s video "Discover More Time for Business Intelligence by Leveraging Recordings".  To find out more about increasing your productivity and our Faster Cheaper Analytics Program™, become a Lodestar Solutions Club member. This gives you access to an exclusive video library.

Should you have any specific questions about these implementation tools and how they can be integrated into your organization or other general questions, feel free to email us at Coaching@LodestarSolutions.com.

Create a Table of Contents for Videos with Camtasia

10/18/2016

Have you ever watched a video for training or documentation purposes only to realize it is so long of a video you let out a defeated sigh? You only need to watch for a specific topic, but most times it seems like you have no idea where it is covered in the video? Well, have no fear as Camtasia is here! With Camtasia Studio 8, creating a table of contents for videos you record is a snap. It's all about saving your viewers time as they can skip to only the sections they need to watch.

Camtasia has made it quite easy. Once you have your video completely edited and ready to go, just follow a few easy steps. You will have a table of contents for videos in no time at all.

First of all, venture into the editor, click the settings button (looks like a gear). Then click “Show Marker View.”

Table of Contents for Videos

Next, you will enter a new marker to indicate the start of a new section. Enter the name you would like to appear in the Table of Contents.

Table of Contents for Videos

You're almost done! It's that simple.

Your video is now ready to be produced. Click the appropriate size setting (most likely 1080) MP4 with SmartPlayer. It is the SmartPlayer that allows the Table of Contents to be displayed. Once the video is finished producing, you will have multiple files for the video.  Especially relevant is that all files must stay together in order for it to work. Finally, upload to Sharepoint, an internal network drive, or upload to ScreenCast.  Your viewers are now ready to go.

For more tips and tricks on making your video better beyond just creating a table of contents for videos, such as creating markers, watch our video on this topic using this YouTube Link. In addition, you can check out Heather Cole's other time saving tips and basic Camtasia editing guide in her blog & video.

To get your free trial of Camtasia, go to the Products page on their site. You can watch another tutorial on markers at Camtasia’s “Getting Started Series”.

If you have any questions or would like to hire Lodestar Solutions to document your Cognos system and provide you a finished video, contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Secrets To How To Be Productive With Business Intelligence

how to be productive with business intelligence
8/16/2016

Do you ever wonder where your time goes? You have a list of goals and strategic BI projects but you always seem to run out of time in the day. Maybe you have fabulous ideas on how your organization could better leverage data and business intelligence but you can never seem to get around to them. Maybe you have built some cool dashboards but the end users haven’t embraced them. You know you need to sit down with them and train them but when? Would you benefit from some tips on how to be productive with business intelligence and analytics projects? (Click the above image to watch the time saving tips video)

I used to live a life where I felt like I was always firefighting. I had plans to make a big impact in the organization but instead I found myself just barely getting the regular work done.  Spending hours having the same conversation with different people over and over again is not my cup of tea. I was frustrated, bored, and unfulfilled. It was frustrating having no time to analyze data and make the big impact I knew I could. There was an absolute need for me to become more scalable. In my search, I discovered a game changing tip for how to be productive with business intelligence and analytics projects.

How to be productive with Business Intelligence & Analytic Projects - RECORDINGS!

If I could record the information that I found myself repeating over and over again, I could regain hours in my week. I started playing with different recording software. I downloaded a trial copy of Camtasia from TechSmith.

how to be productive with business intelligence

It was so easy to use. I then started thinking about other ways I could use recordings so I could find more time for business intelligence and analytics projects. I scribbled down all the areas that I could leverage recordings and videos:

  • Training End Users
  • Recording Important Meetings
  • Pitching New Ideas/Demonstrations
  • Documenting Models

I started to get excited! If I could save myself even a few hours a week, I could carve out time for other things like automating processes which would give me even more time back. I would have more time for business intelligence and analytics projects.

I became obsessed with recording meetings and processes. The results were AMAZING!  I became more scalable.  Team members had the training they needed and I didn't spend hours training them (see our Increase Your ROI While Decreasing Training Costs blog). I stopped having the same conversation over and over again as well as having up-to-date documentation of systems, models, and processes so tasks could be delegated. In addition, keeping people updated even when they missed meetings was HUGE! Finally, people started noticing my increased productivity.

how to be productive with business intelligence

Most of all, I felt more fulfilled in my job. As a business analytics coach, I now have more time for the fun and creative projects that would help take the organization to the next level. 

It's time to get scalable for business intelligence!

Find out if your company has Camtasia or a similar recording/editing tool.  Check out this Top 10 Free Screen Capturing Software blog which recommends some competitors to Camtasia as well. Do you want to know what tools we use at Lodestar Solutions along with Camtasia?  Check out our Leveraging Videos For BI Training Of End User? (What We Use) blog.  We suggest getting a copy of software and start practicing making recordings. If you'd like a to test drive, check out Camtasia's trial copy.

Make a list of things you do repeatedly like teaching end users and monthly processes that you could record and delegate. Don’t worry. The recordings don’t have to be perfect they just need to help you get your time back!

You can also check out our short video on Time Saving Tips For Business Intelligence and Analytics Projects which includes a demonstration of Camtasia. If you like our content, join our free Analytics Coaching Club by clicking "Join" on our website LodestarSolutions.com. If you would like personal or team coaching on how to be productive with business intelligence and analytical solutions, contact our business analytics coaches at coaching@lodestarsolutions.com.

Once you get started, you should check out Kelly Ray’s Tips For Editing Your Videos With Camtasia video. This and other information like this is available to members of our Lodestar Club, so make sure you sign up at LodestarSolutions.com and don’t forget that there is NO COST TO YOU to join. Please tell your friends and co-workers to join the Lodestar club too! Contact us at 813-254-2040 or Services@LodestarSolutions.com.

Increase Your RIO While Decreasing Training Costs

As I’ve said in my numerous blogs, Lodestar is a big proponent of training. However, all too often, companies see the value in licenses and installation, but cheap out on training. Without proper training, maximum ROI cannot be achieved. An inexpensive and cutting edge way to decrease training costs to team members is to create short instructional videos that can be accessed from a shared drive or company web portal. Not only can videos be made to demonstrate how to use Cognos products, but also on common IT policies and procedures, and common questions. The best part is that they are reusable. This means that as additional employees are added, there is no additional cost to the company, only value.

Making these videos is easier than you think. Lodestar uses Camtasia recording software to create internal videos used for on-boarding policies and training. We also have also created custom Cognos BI tutorials for several of our clients.

Camtasia Studio is the complete recording solution. It provides editing capabilities and the abilities to share high-quality screen video on the Web, YouTube, DVD, CD and portable media players, including iPod.  It easily records your screen, PowerPoint, multiple audio tracks, and webcam video to create compelling training videos, screencasts, and presentations right from your personal PC.

Although the software is easy to install and use, take heed of my mistakes and reduce your learning curve by avoiding these pitfalls and “gotcha” moments.

Write a Script!

Weird things can happen to your mental and physical abilities when you try to record your voice and move the cursor at the same time.  Software you’ve been teaching and demonstrating for a year suddenly becomes foreign. As soon as you click the record button, you are unable to form proper sentences. Your tongue feels swollen and you feel like you have a mouth full of marbles. To overcome this, write a script. Not only will it help your stage fright, but you will increase the professional dialect tenfold. This is especially true when creating a PowerPoint video, but even when trying to describe a feature or property, it helps to write it down as a fully formed and clear thought.

Practice Out Loud

After you have written the script, practice speaking it out loud.  This serves two purposes. First, it will help you rewrite your script to be more natural and in more of a conversational tone. Second, the more comfortable you are with the material, the less takes and editing you will have to do on the back end.  Also, it is a good way to warm up your voice.

Before Recording – Double Check Screen Settings

A gotcha that has bitten me hard several times is not having the recorded image set properly.  Several times I have recorded a masterpiece; my voice was right on, the scripting was read perfectly and I effortlessly moved the mouse from object to object, only to find out during editing that part of the screen was cut off. Trust me when I say this is absolutely devastating and soul crashing. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, get in the habit every time before you hit the record button to press the full screen button and then adjust as needed.

Record Small Segments

Breaking up your recording into logical segments not only helps you keep the energy up and, if things do get funky in the recording, it’s only a minor setback. Sometimes, for an unexplained reason, the audio and visual don’t match up and since they are recorded on the same track, there isn’t anything you can do but re-record.

Edit as You Go

Editing your takes as you go is a preference, but I find that it is easier to edit a segment while your mistakes are fresh in your mind.  You can then add special effects at the end to add emphasis.

Finally – you’ll get better!

It’s like anything; the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get and the more relaxed you’ll be about the whole process.

If you would love to decrease training costs and increase the ROI of your BI/BA investment though building a public video library but don’t have the time or manpower to get it done, contact one of our representatives at Lodestar to get a quote on having training videos made for your organization.

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