29 November 2012

Excel Reports On Resource Usage In New Calendar Browser for Outlook

Calendar Browser logo
In a few weeks Business Solutions will release a new version of Calendar Browser, our resource booking tool for the Outlook calendar. One of the important enhancements in version 8 will be the integrated Excel Reports.

With Calendar Browser you cannot only offer an easy booking in the Outlook calendar of rooms, cars, maintenance, lecturers or what ever resources your organization needs to have available for the staff  you can also study the bookings over time and make sure the resources are used efficiently!

Archive and analyze
Calendar Browser buttons in OutlookCalendar Browser uses resource calendars for booking, so to book a resource is as easy as to make an appointment in the personal Outlook calendar. There is a search feature that shows free resources for the time you need them, and each resource can be described with text, images and links.

For managers Calendar Browser has an archive features for old appointments, Outlook calendar bookings that have already been used. This feature saves the old appointments to a database and creates various reports on them. Earlier Calendar Browser had another reporting tool, but in version 8 we will use Excel reports.

The Calendar Browser Archive dialog

Use all Excel features

The reason we have switched to Excel reports is that they are easier to use than the old tool. Excel is a powerful platform for statistics and reports. and most managers already know how to use it. If not, there is a multitude of tutorials on the net. The Calendar Browser Excel reports are standard Excel reports and can be used with all the functionality of Excel.

Excel is also very suitable for use with other Microsoft platforms, which further increases the benefits of using Excel reports for the Calendar Browser statistics.

Many standard reports
Calendar Browser creates two sets of Excel reports from the Outlook calendar bookings, Cost reports and Appointment reports.

The five Cost reports show costs for resources and the supplies that can be booked with the resources.

The seven Appointment reports display various other aspects of the resource usage, like how many hours each resource has been booked or the number of resources used per project.

The default reports may be changed, and the changes can of course be saved. Both pivot tables and graphs are included, and with the inbuilt Excel graphic tools you can make nice presentations, like the one below on cost for resource usage per organizer.

Calendar Browser Excel report

Custom reports
We believe that the default Calendar Browser reports will be sufficient for most organizations, but if needed managers may very well create custom reports from the data in the database.

Just select a new sheet in the Calendar Browser Appointments or Orders reports file, add a pivot table and customize it as you like. Then save this report, and next time you archive appointments your custom report will be refreshed with the new data just like the default reports.

You are welcome to read more about the upcoming version 8 of Calendar Browser in two earlier blog posts,   from September and October.

26 November 2012

Application Development - New Microsoft Competency for

For more than a year Business Solutions has been a Microsoft Silver Partner as Independent Software Vendor. Now this competency is changed into Application Development, which really suits us much better.

Microsoft Silver partnerships
Calendar Browser iconIt is not too difficult to become a Microsoft Partner, but only around 5 % of all partners reach the Silver level. Therefore it was a great day for the team when we acieved our first Silver Competency.  To be acknowledged as a Silver Partner we had to show Microsoft:
  • that our products are good enough ‒ by passing certain Microsoft tests
  •  that we have sufficient knowledge in the team ‒ by passing certain Microsoft exams
  • that our customers like the products ‒ by giving references.

ISV Competency

TimeCard iconWhen Business Solutions first reached the Silver level it was as Independent Software Vendor, commonly called ISV within Microsoft. But how many outside Microsoft know what an ISV Competency is?  I asked the Microsoft representative that very question, because even if their definition on an ISV applied to I did not like the anonymous term.

New name - Application Development
Kanban Task Manager iconNow it seems as if Microsoft listened, because the term ISV Competency has been replaced by Application Development Competency. This is good news,  because now all who learn that Business Solutions has earned the Microsoft Application Development Competency will understand what we do and excel at ‒ buildning applications based on Microsoft products.

Or, as the Microsoft definition of the Application Development Competency says: "This competency recognizes partners who are expert in developing innovative applications on the Microsoft platform and potentially using Microsoft development tools. These applications can be custom or commercial, on-premise or in the cloud."

Suitable definition for
Folder HelpDesk iconWe are happy about the name change and the new definition, because both apply very well to Business Solutions and what we do. For twelve years now our CEO Peter has developed both standard and custom applications on the Microsoft platform, using Microsoft development tools, and during the years he has gathered a group of talented people around him that has grown into the team.

Business Intelligence
KBase Business Solutions also has another Silver Competency, for Business Intelligence, and here we have been satisfied from start. The name says exactly what we have earned the competency for. Most of the products have an integrated statistics and reporting tool that helps managers analyze data extracted from work with the products and understand how tasks can be performed more efficiently.

Aiming for more
HelpDesk OSP iconMicrosoft has recently announced the launching of a new competency for SharePoint, and as SharePoint is an important platform for our future development we will try to achieve this competency also. It will take some time, but I am sure we will get there!

22 November 2012

Ticket Time Tracking - Folder HelpDesk Gives Four Options

Folder HelpDesk Ticket TimeHelpdesk and support center staff have important tasks to handle, and for the issue tracking manager it is crucial to understand what incidents will take long time to solve and what are quick or can even be answered with a FAQ.

Therefore all good helpdesk systems should have a way to measure the time spent on a ticket. The incident management application for Outlook, Folder HelpDesk, has for a long time had three different options. From today's update there are four!

Ticket time always in database
Folder HelpDesk adds a lot of information about incidents and issues to the selected database – currently Access, SQL Server or SQL Azure but a SharePoint alternative will be added next year. The time tracking data is of course included and used for the statistics reports integrated in Folder HelpDesk.

Folder HelpDesk logotypeThe user specified time is shown in the ticket also, while the two admin specified values are shown in the settings and added automatically when the ticket is closed. The fourth, new, option for ticket time tracking is only shown in the database, as it is a pure calculation.

1. Minutes worked defined by responsible
Folder HelpDesk converts incoming e-mails into tickets that are shared in an Outlook public folder or shared mailbox. It is also possible to add a blank ticket to the list in Outlook, for example if someone calls about an issue.
Work done field
In the ticket the responsible person may add how many minutes he or she has worked on the case. This can be done several times, and the sum is added up in a field that cannot be changed  important for example when several people work with the same ticket. This is probably the most accurate way of measuring, but it takes some time to add the minutes for each ticket.

2. Admin defined by incident type 
Often the manager or administrator knows approximately how much time each type of incident takes to solve, and then a value can be defined in the Folder HelpDesk settings. This value is added automatically when the ticket is closed, but only if no value has been added manually.
Folder HelpDesk settings
3. Admin defined for all tickets
The administrator can also define how many minutes will be applied to all tickets where an incident type value is not defined and no value is added manually. Maybe the time spent on each ticket is not very important, or values for incident types are only applicable in some cases? Then this method is convenient.

4. Hours open
In the update of Folder HelpDesk released today the tool will make better use of the Hours open entry in the database, as it will track the first closing time instead of the latest. The value will now be calculated from the creation of the ticket until it is closed for the first time. Reopenings will not be counted, so the helpdesk staff can reopen the ticket for reference anytime without affecting the value for Hours open.

In the calculated value for Hours open all time the ticket was open is included, not just the time when someone actually worked on the case. It is an interesting value for managers, both as such and to compare to the value entered for Minutes worked. The time is given in hours with two decimals.

Folder HelpDesk upgrade iconFor more information about the new update, please refer to the Folder HelpDesk Revisions page. As usual Members of the Community are welcome to upgrade their installations of Folder HelpDesk without extra costs.

Please also read my earlier article about future updates of Folder HelpDesk to learn about our plans for the tool for issue tracking in Outlook.

Try it!
Folder HelpDesk Test iconIf you need a tool for issue tracking and incident management that is powerful and yet easy to learn and use, you are welcome to evaluate the full version of Folder HelpDesk for Outlook for 30 days. We give free support to evaluators, as well as to subscribers, so please contact us if you cannot find the answers to your questions in the Folder HelpDesk documentation.

16 November 2012

Beta Release Of Kanban Task Manager For SharePoint

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotype
The other day I wrote about the approaching Beta release of Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint, and to my delight it came even quicker than I thought.

I hope you want to try the latest application, a sandboxed SharePoint solution for project and task management.

As Kanban Task Manager runs totally on a SharePoint site it is very suitable for geographically dispersed workgroups, and managers who supervise several workgroups will have them all easily within reach.

With Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint the colorful tasks can be dragged and dropped between phases, filtered for project or responsible and searched with a tool especially designed for the Kanban Task Manager.

Most of what you need to know is gathered in the installation video below, but on the website there is also a slideshow and a manual.

You are very welcome to download the Beta version of Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint from the website, and we look forward to hearing your comments!

14 November 2012

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint - Activation and Configuration

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint logotypeDue to the extensive interest for a SharePoint version of Kanban Task Manager, Business Solutions will shortly publish a Beta of this tool for task and project management.

Today I can show you how the solution is added to a SharePoint site, activated and configured.

Admin does the tricky part
In the demo below, SharePoint expert Peter Kalmstrom, who is our CEO, shows how easy it is to "install" Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint. I use quotation marks around install, because it is not a real installation but rather an upload and activation, standard procedures that every SharePoint administrator understands.

The "installation" and configuration is handled by the administrator, so the users only have to log in and start creating tasks.

Drag and drop SharePoint list items
Even if they can be dragged and dropped and are nicely colored, the Kanban Task Manager tasks are standard SharePoint list items.

If you are used to SharePoint, I am sure you will recognize most of what Peter shows in the demo. Kanban Task Manager uses the best of SharePoint, and the configuration lists and tasks may be handled just like any other lists or items.

Beta release
My earlier blog post about Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint have had many readers, and some of them have contacted for more information. Therefore we have decided to release a Beta
version of the new tool. It still lacks some functionality and is
Kanban boardnot fully tested, but all the important features are there and with the help of interested Beta testers we soon hope to find any remaining issues.

I will soon come back with more news about the release of Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint! Until then you are welcome to watch the demo and read more about Kanban Task Manager on the website!

12 November 2012 Office Manager Makes Work Run Smoothly

Good office management is crucial to any company, and we are lucky to have a very capable person in this position. This week Office Manager Vipul Dindulkar has been with us for one year.

Support assistance
Vipul is the only team member whose main tasks are not directly connected to the applications, but he is involved in the answering of support e-mails and I think most Members of the Community know him in that respect.

New office
When Vipul joined the team his first task was to find a bigger office for the Indian team members, and after some searching he found the place that Peter could inaugurate during his visit to Indore in December last year. It is a nice office with room for a growing team.

Employee care
Another task for Vipul is to recruit new team members and to take care of the ones already employed. He is the one who performs the first interviews and arranges everything around the hiring, he pays salaries and insurances and keeps track of leaves and vacations.
Team Photo 1
Our Relations Manager, Siret, is grateful to have Vipul as her right hand at the Indian office: "Vipul is my eyes and ears in Indore, and it is mostly thanks to him that our Indian team has such a nice, comfortable and relaxed work environment. Vipul is often the one to suggest changes and improvements to better the work experience for the whole team", says Siret.

Team builder
Vipul is the one who organizes dinners, outings and other pleasures that allow the team members to meet and get to know each other better outside work. We encourage such activities, because we want our employees to feel happy with both work and work mates. Vipul also makes sure everyone's birthday and other special occations are remembered and celebrated.

Recently Vipul organized a course in medical first aid, and there will be more courses in health and safety to come, as the health and safety of the team is one of Vipuls number one priorities.

Authorities and supplies
Office management includes a lot of contacts with authorities, and Vipul  makes sure everything runs smoothly, that we have all the necessary permits and that the taxes are paid. He also takes care of everything that need to be bought and replaced, from small things to computers and electricity backup.

As you see Vipul has many tasks to juggle and he is managing them all. Thanks for good work, Vipul! We are glad to have you in our team!

08 November 2012

Issue Tracking Tool Gets New Glory In Two Step Rebuild

Folder HelpDesk logotypeThe team has long reaching plans for product development, and to our flagship application for issue tracking they mean profound architectural changes that will make it even stronger for future development.

Issue tracking in Outlook
Folder HelpDesk is the most used of all products, and first created in the year 2000 it is also one of the oldest. The popularity of this tool for user support and incident management comes from the convenience of having everything in Outlook. We currently have version 12 of the software.
Folder HelpDesk animation

Folder HelpDesk converts incoming e-mails into tickets, manually or automatically, and the ticket list is also found right inside Outlook.

During the years many good features have been added, but even if the build of the product has been modernized several times there are still some old code and limitations we want to get rid of. The modernization will be done in two steps in version 13 and 14.

New sharing options

Even if we will keep the features that users all over the world have come to like and rely on, the technical leaders have decided to make profound changes to the Folder HelpDesk architecture in both version 13 and 14.

The Folder HelpDesk foundation will continue to be Outlook, where there is a lot of functionality for us to build on, but Folder HelpDesk will no longer rely on a shared network folder or public folder.

Instead we will give three options for sharing and storage of data: an Access database, an SQL Server database and a SharePoint site. Folder HelpDesk will also be entirely based on the VSTO tools and .NET, which will give us many new opportunities.

Compatibility enhancements in V13
Work with Folder HelpDesk V13 has now begun, and here the build will be changed to give a much better support for Office versions. Currently Folder HelpDesk is only compatible with the 32-bit version of Office 2010, Even if that is enough for most users we want to support the 64-bit version also - and now we have to consider Office 2013 too.

Many users of applications are eager to try new versions of the Microsoft products we build on, so we know that some of them will get Office 2013 even before the final version is released. Therefore we will make Folder HelpDesk V13 compatible with the 32 and 64 bit versions of both Office 2010 and 2013. It will of course also work fine with Windows 8.

No more OWC
In the current version of Folder HelpDesk you need to install the Office 2003 Web Components to use the settings and statistics tool. Even if the 2003 OWC version is suitable for later versions of Office too, this is of course not a good solution in the long run. In version 13 we will therefore replace both the settings forms and the statistics application with better options and thus get rid of the OWC dependency.

Kanban Task Manager Settings form

New settings dialog
The settings dialog in version 13 will look like the one in our new application Kanban Task Manager - which is not dependent of OWC. The screenshot here above comes from the project and task management application.

Another benefit of the new settings form is the possibility to change the names of different values, like category or type, without getting problems with the statistics and search of old tickets. The old tickets will just take the new name, and the statistics and search can continue as before.

Excel reports
Excel iconInstead of using the current OLAP Reporting Tool as the default platform for statistics and reports, version 13 of Folder HelpDesk will have integrated Excel reports. An extensive number of standard Excel reports will be created, and as they can be used with all the Excel features the possibilities are nearly endless.

Even if OLAP Reporting Tool is a great application that has served well for many years, it is unfortunately a bit complicated to learn. The new Excel reports will be much easier to use.

Common solutions
If you have followed this blog, you might recognize some of the Folder HelpDesk changes and enhancements from articles about Kanban Task Manager, KBase or Calendar Browser. You can for example already find Excel reports in Kanban Task Manager, and they will soon come in KBase and Calendar Browser.

This similarity is intentional, because we want the products to have more common elements than they currently have. This simplifies development and troubleshooting for our technicians, and it is also very convenient for users.

A membership of the Community gives the right to use more than one product without extra cost, and those who take advantage of this offer in the future will recognize some parts in their second or third application and find them easier to understand.

Merging of two issue tracking applications
For several years already Business Solutions is offering an issue tracking application for Outlook and SharePoint. When we now plan an addition of a SharePoint option for Folder HelpDesk these two products will come closer to each other, and eventually we will combine the good features of both into one single software.

This is a long term plan, though, and before it comes true we will make sure that HelpDesk OSP is kept up to date with Folder HelpDesk.

New features
When you have read this far you might ask yourself if there will be only architectural and compatibility changes in version 13 of Folder HelpDesk?

Not at all! We will add several new features, some of them kindly sponsored by Community Member Swiss Post. I will tell you more about them in a later blog post, but you are already welcome to the Folder HelpDesk Plans page for an overview.

Release next year
We plan to release version 13 of Folder HelpDesk in March next year, but Swiss Post will get their version earlier. We always give sponsors a chance to test and approve of "their" features before release.

We hope to have version 14 ready at the end of 2013, and by that time Business Solutions will have an extremely powerful helpdesk application. This is an exciting perspective, and I am looking forward to telling more about it and to seeing it become real.

05 November 2012

Kanban Task Manager Superior Among Blog Subjects

Kanban Task Manager logotypeThe October blog statistics tells me that there is an overwhelming interest for reading about Kanban Task Manager. Other popular October articles deal with  three other applications and with products from two of our partners – Microsoft and PamFax.

Project and task management in SharePoint
My articles about Kanban Task Manager for Outlook have been popular for several months, but in October the post about the SharePoint version of Kanban Task Manager has an outstanding position in the statistics.

I know that CEO, Peter, is happy that so many are interested in our new software. He has all the available certifications for SharePoint 2010 and is a strong advocate of the Microsoft SharePoint platform. Currently he is also engaged in a SharePoint Quality Assurance project for a major Swedish company.

The issue tracking tool HelpDesk OSP,
that combines Outlook and SharePoint, has been on the market for several years, and we are currently preparing the addition of SharePoint as an alternative to Access and SQL Server in all our products.

Kanban Task Manager for SharePoint will however be our first application that is intended solely for SharePoint. Document Tagger for SharePoint document libraries will also be ready for launch soon.

Resource booking in Outlook
Calendar Browser logoMy article about the upcoming version 8 of Calendar Browser was published at the very end of October, but to our delight it has already recieved many readers. The work I describe continues, and later this month it will lead to the release of the new version – and a new blog post about that!

Knowledge base for multiple platforms
KBase logotypeKBase for Outlook has been part of the portfolio for many years, as a separate application and as a complement to Folder HelpDesk for Outlook, our other helpdesk tool.

Now it is time for a fundamental re-build of KBase, that will also make this application more useful outside Outlook and stronger for future development.

Name days for all calendars
iNameDays logotype Well, I should not say all, because if you still have your calendar in book format, the apps NameDays and iNameDays can not add name days there.

But Business Solutions offers name days (and also Swedish week numbers) for digital calendars like the iOS, Outlook, Mac OS X, Google and Yahoo! In the beginning of October we added the namedays and week numbers for 2013.

Online faxing
PamFax banner 2In October we congratulated our partner PamFax on the update of their online faxing tool. The update meant some extra translation work for me – into Swedish – and Siret – into Estonian – of the product that Peter was involved in when he worked for Skype.

Tiles user interface
Last month Microsoft released Windows 8 for all, and in the team we feel it is a bit sad that the tile interface has been so dominant in the discussions about the new operating system. In my October article about Windows 8 I questioned how popular the tiles actually are.

All these different kinds of product news dominated the Blog in October, but I also took time to write some non-technical articles. I described my fascination of glass art in a story about The Kingdom of Crystal and my joy that the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Price, and I also told you how my home town revived its Viking heritage in a festival.

We need  fun, beauty and peace in our lives too, not just technology!

02 November 2012

Swedish Grammar Rules And Exercises On New Website

My Swedish grammar website is published, and you are all welcome to visit it! This blog post will have a summary in Swedish below.

Building blocks
The figure you see here below meets you on the homepage of Svensk grammatik och ordbildning (Swedish grammar and word formation), and it is a symbol for my way of looking at language rules. They are building blocks that create a strong foundation for developing a deep knowledge of Swedish. And grammar is fun!

When you understand the Swedish language rules you will also know how to use the words you have learned. The grammar rules tell you how to put them together, and the word formation rules help you understand and remember new words.
First tested in education
Before I begun working with the applications I taught the Swedish language to immigrants for many years. It was an interesting and rewarding task, which engaged me a lot.

I often made my own Swedish grammar instructions and exercises when I could not find anything on the market that suited my students. Most of them had high educations from their home countries, and they were not new beginners. This meant that they could benefit from theoretical and logical reasoning about the Swedish language, but they needed written information and exercises on their level.

I learned from experience what worked and what did not work for this group of students, and the documents I made for them became the basis for the grammar books I published.

My son and our CEO, Peter, helped me transform the content of some of the grammar books into a computer program, that was sold as a cd-rom. Now this program is transformed again, into a website with Swedish grammar rules.

English translation
When we added the Swedish grammar rules to a website it was possible to also add an important enhancement - translation. By clicking a radio button students will get an English translation of the rules beside the Swedish text.

Currently work is in progress to add a Finnish translation also. I hope it will be possible for us to translate into more languages in the future, because it is of course not optimal to get the explanations in the language you are learning and not in your own language! But for the Swedish grammar books and the cd-roms that was the only alternative, if you did not want to have a clumsy, multiple language text all the time.

Examples with sound
Loud speaker iconThe Swedish grammar rules are illustrated with examples, often with recorded sound. This way the students will get a better understanding of how the rule works in Swedish sentences and phrases, and I hope they will listen to the recordings many times to acquire a set of "templates" for their own language building.

Word formation rules
Not only Swedish grammar rules are included in Svensk grammatik och ordbildning. The website also contains all the important guidelines for Swedish word formation. To build a vocabulary you must understand how words are related to one another. The Swedish word formation rules can even teach you how to create new words, for example the compounds that are so common in the Swedish language.

Svensk grammatik och ordbildning also contains a section about Swedish pronunciation. This is important, not only because the students need to learn the pronunciation rules, but also because these rules sometimes actually govern the grammar and word formation.

Grammar exercises
After many of the grammar rules there are several kinds of exercises, where the students can test if they have really understood the rules. Also here we have added sound when possible.

Just like the grammar rules the exercises are on several levels, so that both advanced students and others who have not come that far will find something useful. Svensk grammatik och ordbildning is however not intended for total new beginners.

Cooperation project
The Swedish grammar site has been built in cooperation between four people with different expertise. Peter Kalmström, has been the project leader and managed the technically most advanced parts. The Graphic Designer Jitendra Joshi has created the website design and helped me to enter the Swedish and English text. Siret Kalmstrom has proofread my English translation, and as she is learning Swedish she has also commented on my explanations of the Swedish grammar rules.

Further development
Now Siret and Jitendra are working with the Finnish translation of the grammar and word formation rules. As both have other tasks it will take some time, but we hope to release the new version by the end of this year.

We are also planning an app for iPhone and iPad. It will be a convenient help for many learners of Swedish to have the grammar rules so readily at hand in their mobile devices.
Swedish flag
Swedish summary:
Svensk grammatik och ordbildning är en nypublicerad webbsajt for studier i svenska som andraspråk och främmande språk, avsedd för skolor som anordnar svenskkurser för invandrare och för utländska lärosäten med svenskundervisning. Sajten bygger på mina läroböcker och på det datorprogram som tidigare getts ut av Tallstugans förlag.

Svensk grammatik och ordbildning innehåller regler och övningar, exempel med ljud och en möjlighet att få all regeltext översatt till engelska. Sajten är avsedd för ungdomar och vuxna som redan har grundläggande kunskaper i svenska.

Kate Kalmström
COO Business Solutions