One of the advantages of using Microsoft Office 365 is that incremental improvements are being made all the time.
You don’t have to wait a year or until a new version comes out to benefit from the changes.
And it’s interesting to note where Microsoft is putting its money. Investment is going into six key areas: productivity, knowledge, workflow, security, compliance and management.
Which can only be good news if you’re a VA using, or looking to use Office 365.
What’s coming up?
Here are just a few of the developments on the way or already in place:
Microsoft Teams has private channels, multi-window chats and task integration with To-Do and Planner. Improvements are being made to how it connects with Outlook to make collaboration easier.
A new version of the Microsoft Edge browser is due for release in the New Year to boost productivity – and link nicely with an integrated Bing search engine.
Microsoft is also phasing in a new Office app for mobile devices – which will include Word, Excel and PowerPoint in one app. No need to download each application separately. It should make content creation ‘on the go’ much easier.
Expect to see developments designed to break down barriers between apps – to create more seamless collaboration – and the rise of voice-controlled activity (for example, to catch up on and respond to emails hands-free).
Intense focus on maximising the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has led to function ideas like entering data into Excel with a digital pen, the option to transcribe an audio file into a written Word document and a coaching tool for those who present in PowerPoint.
What is clear is that Microsoft wants Office 365 to be the only application you need to get work done – productively, efficiently, securely and collaboratively.
As more features and integrations emerge, the need to buy separate apps, tools or platforms will continue to diminish.
That’s good news for the money-conscious VA who wants to be able to deliver a high level of service – without having to keep shelling out on all those extra monthly or annual subscriptions.
P.S. The money-conscious VA might also be interested to know that prices for Tomorrow’s VA Hub (the complete ‘box set’ of my online Microsoft Office courses) go up on 1st January 2020.
Act now and you can get lifetime access to ‘The Full Monty’ and never pay a penny more (even when new courses are added to the set). Beat the price rise and sign up before 31st December.
With the GDPR that came in on 25th May 2018 it is even easier for someone to ask for a copy of the data you hold on them, so do you know where that data is?
Perhaps when you were preparing for the GDPR you did a full survey of the systems you use and what data it holds, has any of that changed in the last year? New software? New systems? We are continually developing our businesses, which means we start using new tools that may not have been available before.
Updating our lists of what we hold and where can make it so much easier for compiling the information if a data request comes in.
Phones / Tablets
First place to look is our phones. Often overlooked, but can hold so much data in the various app.
The Contacts app is the first place, typically it has the name and phone number, more commonly now we also add in their email address. However, do you store their physical address? Maybe if you visit them notes on the best place to park, or maybe little notes to help keep you up to date for those better relationships.
The Calendar app, but what data could be here? Those appointments you book in, perhaps details of the job you’ll be doing, again possible addresses if you’re visiting them, maybe web links if it is a web meeting.
What other Apps do you use daily? Communications Apps (E-Mail app, Instant Messengers like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Txt Message). Note Apps (Evernote, OneNote, Notes). CRM Apps (Capsule, Infusionsoft, HubSpot)
This one is usually easier as we think about the data we hold on here much more, however many of these tools can be used on our phones or tablets (so we may not use a computer)
Our E-Mail software often is more than just e-mails, it often combines our calendars, contacts, notes all in one. So what data have you got in here?
Data files, do you store documents on doing your work with clients? Is it easy to find all those files? (Perhaps a Client folder where all documents are saved within to make it easy to find)
Web Tools, we may use to be able to access work on the go. CRM Tools, Task Lists (ToDo, Tasks, Trello)
With all these different apps out there that we may unknowingly flip between to manage our businesses, it can be worth taking a week where we just list every app we use as we use it, and what we were doing in the app. Yes it will take a bit of time, but it can make sure we know what we have and where. Then when that data request comes in we will never be left trying to find everything and possibly missing something.
Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Tristan from TLMartin Ltd – IT Services loves looking after Virtual Assistant businesses of any size. He truly understand the IT issues they face and offers lots of guidance to help them keep their data and the data of their clients safe.
What kind of learning do you undertake to improve your skills and your business?
I have been doing a fair bit of personal development lately. Whatever I learn will benefit my business as the more I improve my skill set the better I will be at doing the things I need to do.
It kind of goes without saying that I know all about Microsoft Office and that I can create what I need to create using the Office packages.
But what other skills do I need to run my business and where do I go to learn them?
Well as I am running an online business with online training, I need to know all about designing and delivering training in an online world including delivering sessions remotely. To that end I undertook qualifications from the Learning and Performance Institute a couple of years agI hold – COLF – Certified Online Learning Facilitator and CDOL – Certified Design of Online Learning.
I have had to learn how to use the online platform that hosts my courses and I am continually learning about that by attending their webinars and reading their blog posts.
As a business owner, there are many elements to a business, one of them being marketing. If no one knows about your business – well, how will you ever deliver/sell/provide anything?
I work with Sarah and Kevin Arrow of the Online Visibility Academy learning how to market my business in an online world and a few weeks ago I attended a day of training on building Sales Pages. Every online product needs a Sales Page of some description and there is an art to writing them.
I am also investing in learning how to write persuasive copy. I know that I can write, but does my message always shine through? Does my reader understand the benefit of what I write for them? So today and tomorrow I am out of the office learning how to write better, copy, how to get my message across.
I love learning and one of my favourite things is when I learn from my learners – when a question comes up on a course or on the blog or in the Facebook group and I need to go away and research or test the answer. I love that!
How do you invest in your business?
Do you invest in yourself and your business? What skills would you love to have that would really help you?
Last Sunday we had a day out with our son and daughter in law and their 19-month-old. We went to Cambridge for the day. It was a really fun day out. We went first to the Centre for Computing History. Now if there is a mention of computers there I am! Amazing really as most of the things that we saw were invented after I was at school! Therein lies the point of this post. So much progress in what is a very short space of time.
We found the museum in the back of an industrial estate and from outside it did not look like much. However, once inside, it was a treasure trove of history and some old and some newer machines. When you enter you are greeting by the sight of the largest Micro Processor currently in existence. We were assured that it has been checked and verified as the largest one. It is used to demonstrate to school parties who visit how the Micro Processor works. As you can see from the photo it spans several large boards!
Largest Microprocessor – The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge
The 80s Classroom
We then entered the 80s Classroom – that is the room’s name! Inside there were banks of old model BBC computers and some computer games which those of us who have been around for a while might recognise. I did not recognise any of the machines in this room as they were all invented and used after I left school and before I got into computers (that is a story for another day…)
The 80s Classroom at The Centre for Computing History
My son on the other hand had great fun recognising the machines in this room. I was much more fascinated by the history on the walls. There were snippets of information wherever you went. I do remember having our first home computer with a huge monitor and two floppy disc drives – no such thing as a CD drive never mind a DVD!
The big room
We then headed into the larger room which was choca-block with the history and evolution of computing. We saw the first payroll system, developed by Lyons Tea House! They needed to solve the problem of the sheer volume of transactions that had to be recorded, from suppliers to payroll to costing. They eventually set up the LEO system which was in use up to 1980! It cut the amount of processing time by 0000% and was able to run the payroll too!
The most amazing thing for me was the amount of progress made in a relatively short space of time. From the invention of computing and the realisation of how it would enable, to the development of the current systems is not long at all. The first portable computers – what we call laptops – were very heavy and not that portable but if you were a roving reporter for a magazine or newspaper they were very useful for writing your copy. Although the internet as we know it was not yet quite in use.
One of the early portable computers
Internet and Email
I was very excited when I saw the picture of the CompuServe screen. We got a subscription to CompuServe in the early 90s but I discovered it had been around since the 1980. It was a dial up system that used the telephone line and the charges were for the service and the telephone and it was expensive and not too speedy, nothing like the speeds of today. It was so expensive that we rationed the use and logged in to email just twice a day! Imagine that now. Just checking email twice a day, however you can be so much more productive without those outside distractions.
CompuServe – email since 1980
A different type of workplace
The workplace was a very different thing and you really had to GO to work. Literally out the door and to an office. Even if you had a computer there, it was so large that it was fixed in place. In fact my husband who is an accountant was very excited to see a version of the first computer that he had in his office. It was a full-sized desk. The keyboard built in to the table top and the monitor above. It ran the payroll and was controlled by punch cards or tape.
What does this have to do with VAs?
If you have read this far, you may be wondering what on earth all this has to do with a VA? Well it got me thinking. Seeing how the workplace has evolved. The tools we now have – the computers, laptops, printers – the idea that we are no longer tied to an office – going to work can now mean the kitchen table or a home office as well as actually going to an office.
The role of the VA was unthought of although in the tailoring industry you had seamstresses who would do piece work and be paid according to how many items they produced. I am sure this kind of work existed in other industries too.
However, Office work always had to be done in the office!
How lucky we are now
We are so fortunate these days to have access to the coolest computer set up (getting cooler all the time) and the true portability of our work. Work from your kitchen or dining room, your home office, someone else’s office or even the beach.
The ability to work from home at a time to suit us or our clients. You can work for a client on the other side of the world and they can leave work for you to do at the end of their day, you do it whilst they are in bed and they can wake to completed tasks. Or you can work around your children or elderly relative and your care responsibilities fitting in the work when it suits – making sure that your clients are always supported.
What kind of work would you have been doing?
If the opportunity to be a VA was not available to you – what would you be doing now? How would you be working? Would you be slogging away by bus, train, car, tube to get to an office? Would you be resigned to staying home and bringing up your children with less disposable income?
Let me know in the comments what you would be doing – it is an interesting thought.
I have been musing lately about my two businesses. I run a face to face IT Training Business – The IT Training Surgery and am setting up an online portal to deliver short sharp training sessions to VAs – tomorrow’s VA
I was thinking about the way my main business runs and then started to think about the correlation between my business and that of a VA. I have a lovely VA who helps me with my social media and admin and we also needed a process to determine how we work together.
Here are some of the questions that as a business owner you need to answer. I will add in supplementary questions that relate to both a VA and a Training or Coaching business.
How does your business work?
Do you know how your business works? Where your clients come from and crucially what the steps are to turn that enquiry into a paying client?
This whole journey can be turned into a process. See the questions that follow. These apply to any business however there are a few that are very specific.
A business process makes things much easier
Could be via email or a phone call – where do you log this?
You respond and possibly send some information or direct them to information on your website.
Then a bit of back and forth and then maybe a few meetings and then down to business.
Once you have agreed to work together what happens next? Do you have a process for handling the booking?
Does your new client know what to expect? What is included or excluded?
Do you have proper Booking Terms?
For example, The IT Training Surgery has formal booking terms which are issued to clients at the point where training dates and costs have been agreed. It states all manner of things, what is expected, what the costs will be, what the payment terms are and the cancellation or postponement policy.
Working with Associate Trainers
If I am going to trust associates with my clients, then I want to make sure that we have a good basis of understanding of what is expected. Each associate trainer has a contract and then for each piece of work we issue a Work Order (you might call it a Purchase Order or something else). The Work Order covers the requirement and the amount to be paid for that piece of work.
Working with my VA
I have a contract with my VA as well an overall contract that sets out how we will work together and then again Work Orders for larger pieces of work. We agree how we will work together and what that constitutes.
Cancellation of training
For The IT Training Surgery we have a cancellation policy. It states when charges will be made in the event of cancellation.
When is it triggered?
Is there a cancellation charge?
Postponement of training
What happens if a client wants to postpone a training course? Do you have provision for that?
Delivery of training
If you are a training company do you make the training requirements clear? Such as a room to train in and freedom from interruptions? Does your client know what to expect?
Post delivery of training
Do you offer post course support?
Is there a defined follow up system?
How do you know your training has been successful?
Delivery of Admin work
If you are a va – when does your client expect the work by? Do you agree deadlines in writing before each piece of work or do you have a general agreement?
Do you have the relevant documentation, Insurance, Policies?
How do you cover holidays/sickness
How do you communicate with your client?
Do you ask clients to refer you on to others who could use your services? This applies equally to both training companies and VAs, in fact it applies to everyone who runs a business.
All of these are steps in a process and you may or may not have documentation to help.
For example – do you have a system to store the names and addresses of the people you meet and those who call? If you do, do you comply with the GDPR?
What other documents do you have, or might you need? – Booking Terms, Terms of Service, Cancellation Policy etc.
Where did I get my legal agreements?
I use KoffeeKlatch to provide my contracts. They have lovely agreements in plain English. I have my trainer associate contract and my VA contract from KoffeeKlatch. They also do a range of other types of contracts and terms you can check them out here.
If asked, you would probably be able to place yourself and other VAs you know into different categories.
You may have different names for the categories – how about the ones below?
The Office Hero
This person stands out in the crowd. They are passionate about their work, full of energy, and bring plenty of vision and ideas to the table. They do not settle for second best. They like to get great results.
The Office Hero is also wonderful for morale. They get to know their colleagues and lighten up the room when they enter.
The Office Extra
Like an “extra” in the movies, this person gets things done in the background. They’re steady, quiet and do what they’re told. They can be easy to manage but less likely to dazzle with flair, speed or a dash of brilliance.
They may have been in their role a number of years and had their enthusiasm gradually eroded by the system, red tape, endless change and the “same old, same old” of weekly routine.
The Office Zombie
Is someone who appears to have been last in the queue when they were dishing out motivation and get-up-and-go. It’s not just that they are sluggish or may barely look competent. They can also be a pain in the neck. Grumbling. Winging. Complaining. Running the whole place down. Infecting others with their negativity.
Greig Johnston, chief technology officer at Insights, says this is where coaching and training can help.
It certainly can and it’s also worth looking at how people are operating with the office technology.
The behaviors and attitudes of office “Extras”and “Zombies” may reflect their lack of confidence with computers and software packages. That could be a signal it’s time to up their skills with some IT training.
Remember not to forget the office “Hero”. If they’re the productive and creative type, they may be looking for the latest or most powerful applications to help them achieve even more.
Are you an Office Hero? or would you benefit from up-skilling yourself?
If that‘s you, remember to think about what skills you need to get more done in less time. Would improving your Microsoft Word skills help you get more done in less time or perhaps you spend hours and hours in PowerPoint or Excel? Whatever you do make sure that you invest in yourself and enable yourself to work smarter not harder.
Hop over and take a look at the courses on tomorrow‘s VA. Get more done in less time by upskilling yourself in your spare time.
Based on an article from Learning Professional Network Online.