New Collaboration Features in MS Office 2010

The Microsoft Office Word team blog has a short video up describing the new coauthoring features in OneNote, Word, and PowerPoint.  It does sound a bit like collaboration nirvana.  As anyone who has worked jointly on a training document, a proposal, or a presentation can attest, version control and the merging of changes can be a major time sink.  Web services have had similar collaboration features for a while, but those sites lack the reach and/or functionality offered by the Office tools.

On the other hand, these new collaboration features will require a change in work styles which that will present the usual training and change management issues.  For example, if you are assigned to work on part of a client proposal for example, will you be reluctant to share your early drafts with the entire team, including senior executives?  Will people delay publication of changes to shared documents, limiting the feature’s utility?  I’ll be interested to see how quickly Office 2010 is adopted, and how these capabilities are used once it is.

ComputerWorld: How to Make Your ERP Roll-out Succeed

If you have been around ERP implementations for a while, you can be forgiven a sense of deja vu as you read this ComputerWeekly article, which says that training and change management “can be the difference between success and failure.”  Poor change management has been recognized as a leading element in project failure for at least a decade now, ever since the high-profile teething pains experienced by SAP and other vendors in the 1990s.  Many articles were written about the challenges faced by Hershey, Whirlpool, and other companies that struggled with their new systems because of primarily organizational challenges, and both ERP vendors and their implementation partners responded by improving their ability to prepare people for the changes a new system introduces. 

The real news then, isn’t that good change management is a critical part of making your multi-million dollar ERP investment.  It’s that ten years later, it remains such an impediment to ERP success:

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Dragon Speech-to-Text Arrives for the iPhone

image I occasionally suffer from writer’s block, and have been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech-to-text software (now owned by Nuance Communications) for something like 10 years now to get around it.  Whether I’m trying to write a blog post that’s just not coming together, the explanation of a tricky concept in a training guide, or a proposal, I’ve found the key is to get the ball rolling—get something down, after which the words come more easily.  And for me at least, talking through the first draft is often easier than typing it out. 

I bring this up because Nuance has just released an iPhone app that uses the same technology. 

Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon NaturallySpeaking that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages.  …You can also update your Facebook status, send notes and reminders to yourself, or Tweet to the world.

Transcriptions can be sent by SMS or e-mail or copied into any other app that accept text from the clipboard.  Not only does this bring a welcome element of portability to the Dragon line, it comes at a price that’s hard to beat: Dragon Dictation is free.  You can get download it from the iTunes store.

Microsoft Project 2010 at First Glance

Microsoft’s Office 2010 Engineering blog ran a nice overview of Project 2010 back in October, a quick read that highlights some of the new features in the upcoming release.  Now that the public beta has been available for a few weeks, I’ve finally had a chance to see what they’re talking about—and I must say I’m impressed.  Changes to Project have been positively glacial in many ways, especially compared to the pace of change in the Office suite.  Project for Windows debuted in 1990, for example, yet it wasn’t until sixteen years later that users gained the ability to Undo more than a single action arrived. 

It is immediately apparent when you open Project 2010 that this time is different: there’s a lot here that’s new.  Consider, for example, some of the changes you see as soon as you fire the program up and load a plan:

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How Long to Develop An Hour of Training?

Estimation is one of the more challenging aspects of project management, and is central to project success.  Formally or informally, most project work is tracked and evaluated against the expectations set up front for cost and time required.  Inaccurate estimates can have serious consequences for an organization, the project team—and the project manager.

The typical PM learns two things about estimation early in his or her career:

  1. It’s a bad idea to offer estimates before you have enough information to properly scope the project, because once people hear numbers coming out of your mouth, they will remember them forever.
  2. People will insist you do it anyway.

Good practice says that estimates, especially early ones, should be given as a range, with the width of the range set by the uncertainty of the estimate.  Even then, you still need a starting point.  Enter the rule of thumb.  For those times when you need a ballpark figure to gauge the size of a training project, many managers and organizations have history doing similar work they can draw upon to get started. 

But what if you are just getting started as a training manager, or have never developed a particular type of training before?  What if you want to gauge your personal experience against industry norms?  Back in 2003, Karl Kapp conducted a survey of learning professionals, and wrote an article that compiled estimates for developing of an hour of training using various techniques.  Kapp and Robyn Defelice have recently updated the original article with findings from a new survey.  The initial response pool isn’t huge (47 participants), so the results should probably be used cautiously, but it’s some of the best public data I’ve seen, and the new article covers a broader range of development approaches.  The authors note that estimate duration for several training types of development have increased since the 2003 survey, and suggests that issues with scope and change management—in both the project management and organizational sense—may be responsible. 

It’s also worth noting that the authors are continuing to collect estimates, so if you’d like to contribute to the study, follow the link to the article above and scroll down, or visit the survey directly here.