30 November 2011

Group Resources For Easier Booking With New Calendar Browser

The resource booking tool Calendar Browser for Outlook will soon come in a new version that will make it even easier to book a resource directly in the Outlook calendar. In Calendar Browser each resource has its own calendar, and users book a resource by making an appointment in the calendar of that resource.

Without calendar groups
Say that you wish to use Calendar Browser for booking rooms, vehicles and experts to held lectures. If you add all of these resources to one folder, the users have to see all the resource calendars when they want to book something. For organizations with just a few resources this works well, and for ten years satisfied customers have used Calendar Browser this way. However, for big companies with many bookable resources the new possibility to group the resource calendars in different Outlook folders will be very useful.

Group resources in multiple Outlook folders
If you make three calendar groups instead of one ‒ one Outlook folder for rooms, one for cars and one for teachers ‒ the people who book with Calendar Browser can choose calendar group depending of which kind of resource they wish to book. They of course know if they want to book a room or a car, so they just select the relevant Calendar Browser group in their Outlook calendar, search for the best alternative among the resource calendars in that group and make the appointment. Also, if they wish to see an Overview of future bookings and maybe book directly from the Overview, only one group has to be loaded ‒ which of course is quicker.

Admin does the work
To group resource calendars the administrator needs to make a multiple installation of Calendar Browser. In the example above there will be three installations in three separate network folders. The installation process also includes the creation of an Outlook folder.Just give each Outlook folder an appropriate name, like “Rooms” “Cars” and “Teachers”, and the users can easily add the calendar groups they need to their own Outlook. They just have to press an “Add CB Folder” button in the Outlook toolbar and choose among the calendar groups in a dropdown.

Calendar Browser
buttons in Outlook

The Calendar Browser description button works like before: select a resource calendar and press the button to see a description of that resource. If you have several Calendar Browser folders in your Outlook, the Search and Overview buttons (and the Manage button if not hidden by the admin) will give you a choice among these folders. Select folder, and then the buttons will work for the calendar group of that folder.

Grouping calendars may also be useful even if you have only one kind of resource. Maybe you want to separate rooms on different locations or cars of different sizes? I believe the new version of Calendar Browser will be useful to many organizations, and we all look forward to the release. It should come before the end of this year, and as usual upgrades are free for Members of Community. I will come back and tell you when it is time!

29 November 2011

Integrate Excel in SharePoint With Excel Web Services

Another demo by the CEO of Business Solutions has been published on the Tips section of the website. This time Peter shows how to embed an Excel model on a SharePoint site. It is done with the help of Excel Web Services, which is included in the SharePoint 2010 Enterprise license and also in the more advanced Office 365 licenses.

Excel model
As example Peter has chosen a model that shows how much revenues in dollars change when sales increase ‒ or decrease ‒ with certain percentages, and he starts by creating that model in Excel 2010. When the table is finished he also makes a graph of the data, to show the changes in a clearer way.

Save to SharePoint
In the second step Peter saves his model table and graph to the company’s SharePoint site, so that people who don’t use Excel also can see it. Maybe you even want to display it to all employees on the intranet homepage? Peter shows how to do that also. 

SharePoint and Excel expert knowledge
Peter Kalmstrom is a Microsoft Certified specialist on both Excel and SharePoint, and he has promised to take his time to make more demos of this kind in the future. So if you want to learn some more tips and tricks on Excel or SharePoint, keep an eye on this blog and on the Tips pages!

28 November 2011

Advent Gathering at Matriarch’s


Yesterday the Swedes celebrated the first Advent Sunday, as so many others in the world. Originally this is a Christian tradition, but nearly all Swedes ‒ Christians and non-Christians alike ‒ light candles during the four weeks before Christmas. December is a very dark month in Sweden, so we need all the light we can get. In the northernmost part of Sweden they even have some weeks when the sun never rises above the horizon.

group photo

My mother, “the Matriarch”, has always loved to bring people together, and she continues doing so today, even though she is well into her nineties. Therefore it is our annual tradition for the "clan" to gather in her home each year on the first Sunday of Advent. We eat some food, taste her delicious Christmas cookies and drink the “glögg” (hot wine with spices) which she still makes from her own secret recipe.

In the photo above you see her surrounded by the Swedish members of the team ‒ Oliver, Peter, Siret, Sigge and me. We all enjoy it and have a very good time, and when the party is over we already start looking forward to next year’s gathering!

25 November 2011

MS Business Intelligence Silver Partnership Coming Together For

MS Certification Business Solutions has earlier earned a Microsoft Silver Competency as Independent Software Vendor, but we are not the ones to sit and rest on our laurels. Instead we aim for more recognition, and as the testing of our products gave enough credit for the Business Intelligence Competency also, it was the most natural next step.

To get the Business Intelligence Silver Competency we needed a few more customer references and certifications, and now I am proud to announce that we have conquered that obstacle also. Helpful Community Members have given us recommendations with the special information about their use of the Office add-ons that Microsoft wants, and I have passed two assessments: Microsoft Sales and Marketing and Microsoft Licensing Online. This means that the will soon have two Silver Competencies and an even stronger position on the marketplace.

23 November 2011

Swedish finance minister best in Europe

As Business Solutions is a Swedish software company, we are of course delighted that Financial Times today has elected the Swedish minister Anders Borg the best finance minister in Europe for 2011. The newspaper calls him a "striker amid stumblers".
In the Financial Times motivation we can read that “Mr. Borg wins praise for spotting early the need to strengthen the banks and tactfully explaining how Europe could learn from Sweden’s 1990s crisis in the sector. His economy also performed ex­ceptionally well in 2011, at least partly thanks to past reforms and fiscal prudence.” And the truth is of course that the strong economy of Sweden today has been built up for a long time under various governments.

Also Mr. Borg himself tones down his significance for the good Swedish economy. “We are one of the countries where there is a strong backing for a prudent economic policy. In the end it is about having stable institutions and broad support for responsible policies.”

 Everything is of course not good in the Swedish society, and some have been forced to pay a high price for the stable economy we have today. We are still grateful that our company is Swedish and not situated in a country that has been hit by the economic crisis. We cannot do anything about the world economy, but we have the finances of Business Solutions in our hands and will do our best to be just as responsible and prudent as Mr. Borg says we are in Sweden.

Gartner analyze recommends subscription model like that of

Gartner, Inc. claims to be the world's leading information technology research and advisory company. Today I read one of the Gartner reports, and since it was about subscription models I found it very interesting.

What is a subscription?
Gartner defines a subscription business model as a model where a product or service is paid for on a continuous, periodic basis. The model gives the customer ongoing access to the product/service for the life of the subscription agreement. Gartner also remarks that the model fosters a degree of customer experience or customer loyalty that is unique and different from what you get with a purchased product. Community ‒ the right decision
This month I have written two blog posts about the subscription model, one about the two year anniversary for Community and another one about the statistics of that duration. In both posts I could conclude that transferring to a subscription payment model was a good decision, and now Gartner has come to the same conclusion about subscriptions in general.

Expanding payment model
Gartner predicts a strong increase of the "subscription economy". Especially companies who provide products that can be delivered electronically or digitally should consider this alternative. Gartner recommends businesses who are not offering subscriptions yet to put a priority on assessing this alternative now, to not miss the opportunity.

Subscription models raise new concerns
The team has long ago learned that the subscription payment model brings some new factors into the customer relations, and Gartner also points out that the subscription business models raise new concerns regarding managing subscriptions and subscribers. To this closer relationship to the user organizations is nearly always something positive. We were aware that the relation would change when introducing the Community, and we looked forward to it. on the right track
As I said in the earlier blog posts we are very satisfied with our transfer to a subscription model, but of course it feels good to know that world leading analysts recommend others to do just what has already done. We are also happy about all Community Members who understand and appreciate the benefits of subscribing to Office applications instead of buying them.

22 November 2011

Use Excel To Calculate Your Holiday Costs

The CEO is a Microsoft Certified Expert on Excel 2010 so he has a lot of knowledge to share. If you just know the tricks, you can use Excel to simplify many different kinds of analyzing and calculating tasks. You may also show the results in illustrative graphs and tables.

Demo on cost calculation with Excel
The video above was published in the Tips section of yesterday. Here Peter shows how to use Excel to analyze the costs for a holiday trip. Even if you are not planning a journey right now I recommend you to  have a look at the demo if you want to learn more about Excel 2010. When calculating the costs and changing the parameters Peter shows many things that you might find useful also when you work with other tasks in Excel.

Excel tips and tricks
While creating the holiday calculator Peter teaches us how to copy formatting and currency, name cells to use them in formulas,  format text as tables, add Total rows  and create a formula for calculating costs. He also shows how to lock certain cells in a table and leave others open for changes that will affect the totals.

BI tool for data exploration
If you need a tool for more advanced analyzes, I suggest that you take a look at the OLAP Reporting Tool. This application is integrated in most of the products, but it is also used separately by many customers to facilitate business intelligence.  Peter has of course also made a series of video demonstrations on how OLAP Reporting Tool helps management study and draw conclusions from data. You are welcome to have a look!

21 November 2011

Connect To On LinkedIn

For a rather long time I have not done much about my representation on LinkedIn, but now I have decided to use it as an alternative to Facebook and Twitter. Many in my branch prefer the more professionally aimed LinkedIn to other social media, and I have therefore updated my LinkedIn account with much more info than before. Blog
To make the Blog easier to follow for my LinkedIn contacts I have connected it to LinkedIn. This way all my contacts can see our latest posts on their LinkedIn homepage. The blog is the best way to follow what happens to the products, and we also give comments on other activities in the branch or near the team members. products
Kate has updated the LinkedIn information about Business Solutions and also added some of our products. As they are new on LinkedIn we have not yet received any recommendations on them, but I am sure they will come.

I have sent connect invitations to some Community Member who were suggested to me, but please don’t wait if you did not receive one yet. Connect to me instead! I will be happy to say yes.

Peter Kalmstrom
CEO, Business Solutions

16 November 2011

OLAP Reporting Tool Gives Community Statistics

Graph Last week Community celebrated 2 years, and we have now looked at the statistics a bit, of course using our own applicationOLAP Reporting Tool. Here are some interesting facts and changes.

How many products?
Community Members are entitled to use the applications freely, without any extra costs for additional products. This is obviously not the feature that dips the scales in our favor, though, because ever since the start most of the Community Members have been using only one of the products.

The main selling point when choosing kalmstrom. com is something else. Organizations search for a product that fits their needs, and when they discover the solution they find it worth the money regardless of the possibility to have more. Today 87 % of the Community Members are using one product, 8 % are using two and only 5 % are using three products. Nevertheless we will keep that option open to all our current and future Members.

What products?
PF HelpDesk iconPF HelpDesk has been the flagship for many years, and this tool for issue tracking within Outlook is still the most popular one. After it TimeCard for Outlook and HelpDesk OSP for Outlook and SharePoint has approximately the same number of user organizations. Calendar Browser Calendar Browser iconis used by only 10 % of the Community Members, but during the last few months we have had two new Premium Members on our resource booking application for Outlook. As we also see an increasing interest in evaluating Calendar Browser, we believe it will have a higher user percentage next year.

Who are the Community Members?
All kinds of organizations have joined Community, from small local businesses over public and governmental entities to large worldwide companies. It is fascinating to see how the percentage of Members from outside Europe and USA has grown during the two years of Community. From 8 % after 6 months the figure has now risen to 22 %.

We still get most new Community Members from Western Europe and the US, but we are excited about the expansion in other parts of the world. The fact that they know about and trust Business Solutions in New Zeeland, Australia and Canada is no surprise, but we now also have Members in South Africa, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, Greenland and Barbados just to mention some of the new countries.

Discount to schools and charities
50 % discountAs both Sigge, Siret and I are former teachers it feels good to be able to give a 50 % discount on the Community fees to educational institutions. The products are especially popular among universities. We also grant this discount to charities, and we hope it will give them a possibility to do a bit more good with the money they else would have paid for software ‒ or give them the possibility to work more efficiently with software they could not afford at all without the discount. The percentage of schools and charities has been relatively stable at around 18 % all the time during the two years since we launched Community.

Promising future for Community
Looking back gives knowledge and inspiration, but mostly the team is looking forward instead. We study the development in our branch, carefully choose our battles and select the challenges that might be useful to overcome or sidestep. The future for Community looks bright, and next blog will probably be about future plans or new releases again.

15 November 2011

Peter Kalmstrom, SharePoint Expert, Software Developer and Professor

The CEO is a true renaissance man. Peter is not only a skilled software developer with expert, Microsoft certified knowledge of Office and SharePoint, but he is also a good professor. He likes to teach, and therefore he has chosen to conduct a number of advanced courses for IT professionals.

SharePoint development
Last week Peter had a‎ 5-day SharePoint-course for developers on the subject of  Developing Solutions with SharePoint 2010. The course gives an overview of all the different kinds of SharePoint development. Both server-side and client-side data access methods are covered, and the attendees get a chance to try as well Silverlight as Java script and .NET coding against SharePoint.

SharePoint a flexible tool
Lately Peter has held no less than four different whole-week courses, covering SharePoint from the developer, administrator, power user and designer/
webmaster perspectives.

Peter finds SharePoint an extremely wide platform, with an immense potential for building applications, collaborating and managing documents. By teaching Peter can let others share his knowledge about all of these things.

Rewarding task
Peter himself also learns a lot from the attendees on his courses. They come from large Swedish organizations and consulting agencies and possess experiences that Peter is interested in learning from. He brings his new knowledge to the team and lets it influence his decisions, and that way Peter's teaching sessions in the end also benefit Business Solutions.

14 November 2011

How TimeCard Can Report Time For People Who Don’t Even Use TimeCard!

TimeCard Report on behalf of feature TimeCard “Report on behalf of” feature
In an earlier blog post about TimeCard I introduced a new feature that will come with the next version of this application for time reporting from within the Outlook calendar. The new TimeCard feature is called “Report on behalf of”, and it allows one person to report the time other people have appointed in their calendars.

No TimeCard installation
The team of course wants everyone to use TimeCard, but with the new feature it is actually possible to report time also for people who don’t have TimeCard installed on their computers. It could be for example someone who needs to use a Mac instead of a PC. Let’s call this person Linda.

Shared calendar
In this case a person with TimeCard installed - I will call him Jack - must have access to Linda’s Outlook calendar. This calendar may very well be on Microsoft's cloud based Office 365, if Linda and Jack are not connected in a local network.

Add person to the TimeCard database
For this to work Linda has to be added to the central database used for TimeCard reports. If Linda is not there the first time Jack reports her time, he will be asked if he wants to add her. Adding persons to the database may also be done manually or with a little tool for add/edit/delete users that the team has developed and will send to Community Members on request.

Tagging appointments with time reporting data
As Linda has no TimeCard application installed, she cannot tag her appointments with the values that convert them into timesheets. Instead John will to that for her. This is easily managed, since the values for Customer and Project ‒ or whatever John’s and Linda’s company has chosen as metadata visible to the end users ‒ are selected from dropdowns.

Reporting time
Report hours and expenses directly from the Outlook Calendar - use TimeCard! When John has tagged Linda’s calendar appointments with TimeCard values he simply clicks the OK button to report her time. When Linda is added to the database and Jack has entered her calendar, her name comes up as the default name in the User dropdown John can choose from when he reports time. To be sure everything is right he is also asked if he is sure he wants to report time for Linda.

Staying in Outlook
As TimeCard is fully integrated in Outlook John never has to leave it when he reports time. After reporting Linda's hours he may go to a new calendar and repeat the process for another person ‒ or continue working with other tasks in Outlook.

09 November 2011 Trusted By Microsoft's Office Marketplace

Microsoft’s Office Marketplace is an important meeting place, where selected software vendors may present their products to IT responsibles and others who are looking for suitable programs for their organizations. For several years already, around 20 % of all visitors to the website have found their way to us through the Office Marketplaces of different countries, so it is really important for Business Solutions to have good representation there.

Strict requirements
To be allowed to present the applications on Office Marketplace we must fulfill certain rather strict requirements. When these are reached we have to apply for each product at each country’s Office Marketplace. Earlier we had to renew the applications for each product and country every year. After the renewal the Microsoft staff of each country again examined our products and their presentations on the website, before granting us permission to continue showing our software at Office Marketplace for another year.

Now I am delighted to announce that Microsoft staff in a number of countries have given us the confidence to stay much longer time on their Office Marketplaces without the need for renewal. For Germany we now have renewal dates in 2020, for Mexico in 2026 and for Canada and Australia even in 2029 for several products! This of course makes us happy and proud, and it also makes our job a bit easier!

Why this faith in
We are of course grateful for the confidence Microsoft has shown us. Not only do they let us present our software on their prestigious sites but they also trust us to keep up the high quality for many years to come! Perhaps our Microsoft Silver Partnership plays a role, but the first extended presentation periods were actually given to us before we achieved the Silver Competence. I think our long time at Office Marketplace and the high ratings from users are more decisive factors. Business Solutions has been on Office Marketplace since 2006, and all our products have received very high ratings.

Five star ratings
On Office Marketplace visitors are given a possibility to rate products they know on a scale between 1 and 5, and it is a great satisfaction that many of the products have achieved the coveted 5 stars. See for example HelpDesk OSP, that connects Outlook to SharePoint or the time reporting tool TimeCard for Outlook ‒ or OLAP Reporting Tool, the statistics application that is integrated in nearly all products but also may be used as a separate product.

The team is acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with the trust Microsoft has endowed in us, and we will do our outmost to retain the high quality of both software and website presentations.

08 November 2011 Community - Satisfying Software Licensing For All

In the beginning of 2009, when Business Solutions had been selling software licenses for nine years, we experienced a growing feeling that we did something wrong. Our applications for Office, Exchange and SharePoint were fine, and our CEO Peter saw a great development potential in them. However, we saw problems with the payment model we used at that time: buy a license and then add a support contract if you wish to use the services after the first year.

Unknown users with traditional one-time payments
We sold a lot of licenses, and many of the customers continued to use our products and were known to us. But there was also a big, anonymous group out there who once had bought a license but whom we no longer had any contact with. Were they still using our product? What were they thinking about it? Was it helping them the way they had hoped when they bought the license? For whom were we actually developing our software?

Right to support and upgrades
Another issue was that all organizations were not prepared to pay for support and upgrades of their application. Instead they used old versions as long as possible to avoid the cost for a support contract. It did not feel satisfying to know that users were not having the best possible versions of their product, but we found it difficult to give free support and upgrades without finding a source of income to finance it.

The Community model
After many discussions within the team we decided to transfer to a subscription system for the use of our products. We would create a Community of user organizations, and Members of that Community would always get support and free upgrades. That way we could make sure that users of software from really had got the very best we could offer. Community Members would also have the right to unlimited use of all products. More users and products would create a stronger bond between and the Community Members, and that was exactly what we wanted to achieve.

The crucial question
Finally, in November 2009, we took the big step. We all felt certain that the Community model would be better for all parties in the long run, but it was still not an easy decision. Would customers be prepared to pay month after month or year after year for the right to use a product?

Peter, the creator of the applications, had confidence in their value to the users. But Sigge and I were worried that we would lose customers. And we did lose some ‒ old customers who did not want to transfer to the subscription system and potential new ones who only wanted to make a one-time payment. But we got other customers instead, customers who appreciate the security they get as Members of Community.

Improved customer relations
Today, after two years, we are happy we made the transfer. We have a solid base of Community Members, and that means we feel strong when planning for the future ‒ ours and theirs. Now we cooperate with the users in a much better way, because with the Community Members there are never any discussions about support contracts or the right to upgrade.

Instead we all work together towards a common goal: to solve problems and constantly enhance the Microsoft add-ons so that they even better meet the requirements from the Community Members. We say a warm thank you to all who have shown trust and faith in the team and in our products by joining Community!

07 November 2011

New KBase Feature: Export Knowledge Base Articles to Excel

KBase Export to Excel dialog KBase for Outlook is a knowledge base that does not require a database. The articles can be saved in any Outlook folder, and they can also be integrated in a SharePoint site and exported to HTML web pages. Now there will soon be another possibility ‒ Export KBase articles to an Excel data sheet.

Community Member Swiss Post needed to export their KBase articles to Excel, and they were willing to sponsor the addition of this feature to the standard version of KBase. This way they can be sure the feature is updated to support future versions of the Microsoft products that builds on. An extra plus is of course that many more Community Members may take advantage of the new KBase feature, and that fact is also part of the upgrade insurance! The more Members who need a feature, the more the team will prioritize its development.

Export selected KBase articles, categories, types or articles created by certain user?
KBase - the knowledge base that can be kept in an Outlook folder or exported to web pages, Excel or SharePointIn the knowledge base for Outlook the articles may be organized in categories and types, and with the new KBase Export to Excel feature you may export all articles of selected the categories or types. Other alternatives are to export one or more articles already selected in the KBase Outlook folder or to export all articles created by a given person.

Export attachments and HTML?
The KBase Export to Excel application also lets you decide if you wish to include article attachments in the export or not. The text version of the article body is always given in the Excel data sheet, but you may also opt to include the body in HTML.

New KBase coming soon
The image of the Export to Excel dialog above is in German, because that is the only version finished so far. As soon as the sponsor has approved of the solution we will add the other languages and release an updated KBase for all. It should not take long!

02 November 2011

The Online Chat Gets A New Look chat icon If you are a frequent visitor to the site, I am sure you have noticed our new chat icons. I hope you like the cartoon style created by our talented graphic artist Jitendra Joshi? Personally, I am fond of the little yellow mouse sticking out on one side. It gives just that little extra touch needed to make the image interesting.

The online chat is very popular among users and evaluators of our Outlook add-ons. For more complicated questions that require long descriptions the e-mail is better, but the chat is perfect for short inquiries. Website visitors get an immediate contact with a member of the team and are given quick answers to their questions.

The support and sales team

The chat is also used extensively in remote sessions. While the developer studies the remote product configuration to find the error, he or she can get information from the user via the chat window. This is valuable cooperation and helps finding the solution to the problem. 

The team gets transcripts from all chats automatically. That way we have a record of what has been discussed in the chat, and it is easy to share interesting info within the group. If you have been chatting with and want your own transcript, just press the e-mail icon to send it or the print icon to print it.
transcript icons  transcript icons

We have chosen to place the chat icon on nearly all the web pages, so that visitors don't have to search for it. We don't have the chat manned around the clock yet, but if no one is able to answer you may instead leave a message for us. That message will of course be read and answered as promptly as when you send us an e-mail.

After the chat is finished, visitors are asked to rate the given support or sales info. The rates give important info about what we can improve and what is important to keep in mind. The team is often praised for quick and good answers, and we do our best to live up to all the kind words given in the comment field of the Rate dialog. Be sure they are read ‒ often more than once!

01 November 2011

"Report On Behalf Of "Feature Added To TimeCard for Outlook

With TimeCard you report time and expenses directly from within the Outlook calendar TimeCard is a popular Outlook tool for time reporting, both for single users and within organizations. Users just select some extra info from dropdowns in their Outlook appointments, and then they report both time and expenses to the database directly from their Outlook calendars.

Reporting for others with TimeCard
The South African insurance company Hollard is a Community Member that appreciates TimeCard. However, they had a problem when an assistant wanted to report time for someone else. This is possible in the current version of TimeCard, but the application will post the Outlook login name at the reporting occasion under Person in the database. To get the correct name on the report, an assistant who reported for the boss had to log in as the boss.

Sponsorship of new TimeCard solution
Hollard wanted to give their assistants a possibility to report time for several people more easily. The developers offered an elegant solution, and Hollard agreed to pay part of the development cost with a sponsorship. This way Hollard gets exactly the feature they need at a low price. They can also feel sure the new feature will be upgraded to support new Microsoft technology, since will add it to the standard product and offer it to all users.

With TimeCard you report time and expenses directly from within the Outlook calendar New dropdown in the TimeCard Reporting dialog
Organizations who don't need the "Report on behalf of" feature simply avoid checking the box for it in the Common Settings dialog. Then their TimeCard applications will work just as before. If the box is checked, a new dropdown will appear in the Reporting dialog, like in the image here to the right. It will contain all the users from the database, and the logged in user will be the default choice.

Simpler procedure for "Reporting on behalf of"
With the new solution the Hollard assistants may quickly report time for other persons in this way:
  1. Select the other person's calendar
  2. (Mark appointments with metadata if this is not done)
  3. Click the TimeCard Reporting button in Outlook to open the Reporting dialog
  4.  (Make changes if necessary)
  5. Select the right name from the dropdown
  6. Report time and expenses by clicking the Post button
Each report will have the correct name, and the procedure is fast and easy.

For all TimeCard users
 We are sure more companies will like the "Report on behalf of" feature. Today a new TimeCard setup was sent to Hollard for their approval, and when the sponsor is satisfied we will release an updated TimeCard for all users. That way many people will benefit from this sponsorship!