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Abusing Outlook

For many of us Outlook is always running. If used to its full potential Outlook will work for you and make a busy day more manageable. Many fail to utilize the many features Outlook has to assist you with hundreds of incoming emails and/or a full calendar. I am sharing a few tips that will help you be more organized and efficient with Outlook.

Use Commands

These commands will help keep your hands on the keyboard and off the mouse.

  • Ctrl + R: Reply to email
  • Alt + W: Forward email
  • Alt + S: Send email
  • Insert: Flag email
  • Ctrl + N: New Email
  • Alt + F4: Close window

File into Folders

The folders in Outlook work similar to those in Windows Explorer. Believe it or not, you can keep your Inbox clean! I find it helpful to move emails to a folder (or sub-folder) once it is out of my mental queue of things to do. NameThe information is always there for reference later. Best practice for finding an email is to search from you inbox and then click “Find more on the server” if you need to drill down into your folders.

I have a folder for each coworker I communicate with often. If I can’t remember anything about the email I am looking for, usually I can remember who sent it. Or a coworker might say “I don’t remember, but it was in the email Bob sent last week”.

Another trick is to use an underscore before the name of a folder so it will be arranged just below your inbox instead of alphabetical order. This works with subfolders as well.

Lastly, once your folders have too many files you can create a sub-folder named with the previous fiscal year’s date and dump emails there that fit that time period there. All these methods make it easy to archive and/or delete files if you begin to reach your usage quota.

Clean Up!

Right click on your inbox or a folder and click “Clean Up Folder”. This will delete older emails that have been repeated in a back-and-forth conversation, but will leave the most recent thread.



Categories are one of the most helpful features when facing a cluttered inbox. Why do I need to categorize my emails? The simple answer is to sort! Imagine that all your emails from accounting were clumped together and separate from emails about your current project(s). Aren’t those what folders are for? Yes and no. Personally, every category I use does have its own folder as well, but information doesn’t get put in folders until I have used it (like a physical file cabinet). Even then, some categorized emails will be put in sub folders of that category.

Sounds confusing?

In simple terms, categorizing works as a compliment to your folders.

By categorizing emails as they come in or having a rule set so Outlook can do it for me (later explained), I am able to focus on one task, ticket, crisis, or whatever it may be without shifting through other information that is irrelevant, but chronologically similar.

Custom Sorting

Sorting compliments using the categories feature. Notice a pattern? You may want all your flagged emails to be on top, and then have your emails with high importance next. This is possible with custom sorting. Don’t worry, beyond and within your custom layers, emails will still appear in the order they are received… unless you want new emails to appear on bottom, you can do that too.

Here’s how:

Right click “Categories” in the title bar / “View Settings” / Sort

Make Rules

Rules give program like control without any coding. They are formatted like an “if” statement (if this happens, then do this). I currently have over 50 different rules. Rules respond to your role within the organization.

Here are some examples of rules you might use:

  • If I receive a company newsletter, then mark it as unread, and put it the “Newsletter Folder” (never touches your inbox)
  • If Sally sends an email to Tom only, and I am cc’d, then display an alert window
  • If sender is “Amazon” and email contains text “Your order has shipped”, then put it in the “Amazon Shipments folder”
  • If Jon sends me an email, display it in an alert box with [custom text]

Rules are accessed through the home tab when viewing mail. I could spend days talking about rules, but instead I’ll leave the exploring to you.

Outlook Today

In the left pane click on your email address (above the inbox folder) and you will see a hybrid view that contains a list of your calendar items, your task, and a summary of mail folders that you choose to display. The “message” section displays the number of new emails you have in the folder. The customize button can be found in the top right corner of this view.



As you can see there are many things that enhance Outlook beyond the out-of-box settings. Although these suggestions work for me they may not be useful for you. Outlook is designed for you to tweak it in a way that is unique to only you. Other things you may want to explore include assigning policy to folders, conditional formatting, unique calendar permissions, email templates, and so on.


New White Paper: A Guide to On-Premises SharePoint 2013 Upgrades

A lot of what we talk about here on the Perficient Microsoft blog focuses on the cloud, and that reflects market trends, and what we are seeing with our customers. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote earlier this month in his email to employees, and so many at Microsoft have said since, we now live in a cloud-first, mobile-first world. A Guide to On Premises SharePoint 2013 Upgrades

And there is no doubt, hosted SharePoint is a great option for many organizations (in fact, you can tune in to an on-demand webinar we had recently where one customer describes the reasons they chose SharePoint Online). So while Office 365 is an ideal fit for some, for other customers, on-premises deployments are still the way to go. There are a number of industries that mandate certain data types are kept on-premises. Or maybe you have a ton of custom applications that would need to be reworked should you move to the cloud.

Bottom line, each and every SharePoint ecosystem is different, and if you are on a previous version of SharePoint, you are probably taking a hard look at whether or not to migrate to SharePoint 2013.

If you’d like to learn more about your on-premises upgrade options, take a look at our new white paper, A Guide to On-Premises SharePoint 2013 Upgrades. Perficient’s Adetayo Adegoke and Suzanne George shared their knowledge and expertise from many, many SharePoint migrations to create this comprehensive guide describing the new features, capabilities, and your options.

To download the guide, click here.

Why We Collaborate – Exploring Yammer Maturity & Engagement

A few weeks ago, a colleague posted a TED Radio Hour from NPR on our Perficient Yammer network titled – “Why We Collaborate”. After listening to the broadcast, I thought this would be a perfect segway into a post I have been working on for a while now. I want to discuss some of the high points of the broadcast, while weaving in some personal observations about our own network at Perficient. My hope is that by providing some context around our experiences at Perficient implementing Enterprise Social networks, it might help grow your own Yammer network’s maturity and engagement.Yammer-logo

The first part of the broadcast was an interview with Jimmy Wales, one of the creators of Wikipedia. If you didn’t know, Wikipedia has over 80,000 people who update it, and they do it for free. They have 19 billion page views per month, in the top 5 of all internet websites. That’s a ton of traffic, viewing a ton of content, all administered for free by people all over the world.

Why would they do it? Why do they do it for free? Jimmy says -

Its fun!…and I made the world a little bit of a better place

This is a very powerful concept. To me, the idea of having 80,000 unpaid employees is a quite advanced. You start to think about their motivations and what about this endeavor is appealing to them. We’ll explore some of these thoughts later in the post.

One of Wikipedia’s earliest challenges was how to handle controversial subjects. They ended up with a policy of “Neutral point of view. Don’t take a stance, only report on what reputable parties say about it.”

In Yammer, we have similar challenges. What’s appropriate to post and what’s not? Conflict is a natural part of collaboration. How do we handle conflict on our Yammer network? Its important to handle these challenges up front and proactively. Read the rest of this post »

SCOM 2012 R2 Management Pack for O365- Available Now

The new System Center Operations Manager Office 365 Management Pack can be used to:

  1. Add and configure Office 365 subscriptions to be monitored in Operations Manager
  2. Proactively monitor connection health for subscriptions
  3. Automatically discover services and features available for each subscription
  4. Proactively notify when Office 365 Incidents that affects services operational status appear, being changed or resolved
  5. Reflect Office 365 Incidents and informational Messages for the subscription to Operations Manager alerts
  6. Intuitively visualize subscriptions health and corresponding alerts via dashboard.

Monitoring Dashboard provides following features:

  • Get a landscape view of connection health for all configured subscriptions
  • View lists of active, resolved incidents and informational messages for the selected subscription
  • View tree of Office 365 Services and Features available for the selected subscription and summary count of currently active incidents for each


You can download the System Center Management Pack and O365 Management Pack Operations Guide for Office 365 here

Kapow to Sitecore Migration: Part 3

In two previous posts, I gave a Kapow overview and an outline of the extraction and transformation process. This article will cover the upload of migrated content into Sitecore.

Once data is extracted and transformed, the clean data is sitting in database tables ready to be uploaded into Sitecore. Sitecore has an Item Web API available for uploading data, but it is limited to basic retrieval, creation, and update operations. How was I going to tie related records together? How could I perform basic if/else operations that were necessary? It was obvious almost immediately that the Item Web API would not be adequate. Read the rest of this post »

Will Enterprise Collaboration Drive Digital Transformation? has an article titled, “Enterprise Collaboration Will Drive Digital Transformation“.  Perhaps a more descriptive but longer title would be, “Digital Transformation Will Happen But Those Who Succeed Will Collaborate Across The Enterprise”  It’s not the catchiest title of course.  However, it highlights how to make any transformation successful.  The author, Matt Kapko, notes

“The CIO is more important than ever before,” says Solis. Instead of working against a technology roadmap, CIOs are now focusing on organizational processes and objectives that matter more to different types of customers and employees.

Now this is in CIO Magazine so it’s from a CIO perspective.  But the accompanying graphic from Alitimeter group tells you something

Who is the Executive Champion?

Who is the Executive Champion?














CMO’s and CEO’s are driving digital transformation more than CIO’s.  That more than anything tells you that even though we are talking about digital transformation, it’s not just about the technology.  Matt Kapko has it right when he says that technology has to be an enabler and that it needs to be aligned with a bigger mission.

I especially like the Sephora example in the article.

Companies like Sephora are making this transformation by grouping every employee that touches a digital customer into a single team. Social media, customer service, sales, support and other functions are now equally equipped, informed and capable of meeting various customer needs.

“It all started with this greater intent to recognize that the digital customer is different than solving any one of these problems alone. To the customer we’re one brand, so we should act like it internally,” explains Solis.

I think that nails it on the head and brings enterprise collaboration into focus.  Enterprise Collaboration tools purport to break down silos and enable people across an organization find each other and get work done.   When you say digital transformation and customer in one sentence then, like Sephora, you have to cut across multiple organizations.

Read the whole article for other interesting graphics and information.

Webinar: Ensuring a Successful SharePoint Migration to the Cloud

Last week, at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, it was mentioned that there are one billion Microsoft Windows and Office users today, and Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest growing business in its history. At Perficient, we are definitely seeing this. Our customers are using Office 365 more than ever, from SharePoint to Exchange and Lync to Yammer and Power BI. webinar - internet education concept

That being said, when it comes to SharePoint, if you are considering moving your on-premises SharePoint environment to the cloud, you aren’t alone. There are a plethora of reasons to make the move – with Office 365, SharePoint is easy to manage, has enhanced security, and is accessible from just about anywhere. To add to that, you have OneDrive for Business, you can extend the collaborative nature of SharePoint with Yammer, and you can find tons of SharePoint apps in the Office Store  to extend functionality.

If your company is considering such a move, and you want to learn more, join us on Thursday, August 14, at 1 p.m. CT for a webinar, Best Practices for a Successful SharePoint Migration or Upgrade to the Cloud. During the session, Jason Bell, senior solution architect and SharePoint guru at Perficient, will show you how to make the migration process less daunting, including key details needed for a successful migration to Office 365. He’ll also cover: Read the rest of this post »

Partner Spotlight – AvePoint Online Services for Office 365

Perficient has many great partners that support our development and deployment of the best of breed solutions we provide for our clients. This post is the first in a series that will highlight some of the products available from our partners. Today, I’ll be presenting AvePoint and their Online Services for Office 365.

Requiring no installation and no agents, AvePoint Online Services is the industry’s first and only 100% Microsoft Azure-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for Office 365. With simplified Office 365 administration, compliance, and governance, AvePoint Online Services empowers organizations to extend cloud computing as dictated by specific business needs.

There are 3 main components to the solution:

Office 365 Management

avepoint logoOffering granular content protection for SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, and Exchange Online as well as comprehensive configuration and audit reporting, DocAve Online provides administrators enhanced management and control of Office 365 users, permissions, and content.

Manage. Protect. Report.

  • Enhance management with DocAve Online’s unmatched controls for Office 365 security, configurations, and content.
  • Ensure data loss protection with quick, granular restore and easily reorganize content to accommodate enterprise scaling.
  • Optimize platform performance with real-time publication and synchronization. Gain valuable insights with customizable reports, allowing for comprehensive understanding of SharePoint Online environments.

More information

Read the rest of this post »

Partner Spotlight – Metalogix Diagnostic Manager

Perficient has many great partners that support our development and deployment of the best of breed solutions we provide for our clients. This post is the second in a series that will highlight some of the products available from our partners. Today, I’ll be presenting Metalogix and their Diagnostic Manager for SharePoint. 91583_Metalogix_Logo2011

Metalogix Diagnostic Manager ensures SharePoint performance and availability at all times. It monitors SharePoint content and servers from a single console, quickly identifying , diagnosing, and resolving problems before users even notice. It also provides critical planning information by storing size, count, and performance data of both servers and stored objects. Diagnostic Manager also monitors SharePoint in real-time, enabling administrators to quickly pinpoint performance and availability issues with servers, resources, HTML controls, web parts, and web controls.

Key Features

  • Preventative Care, Not Just Emergency Care

Diagnostic Manager provides constant insight to your server and content performance. It continuously monitors, diagnoses, discovers, analyzes and resolves SharePoint performance and availability issues.

  • Diagnose Without Delay

Read the rest of this post »

Readmissions Analysis using Epic’s Cogito and Microsoft Tools

One of the myriad of new requirements tucked inside the Affordable Care Act is for healthcare service providers to implement strategies to reduce the number of inpatient readmissions, which in many cases are deemed to be costly and indicative of poor quality of care.

One way to drive such a reduction strategy is to enable analysts and providers with business intelligence tools that put various readmissions metrics at their fingertips.  Additional value is garnered when those metrics can be filtered, sliced, diced and compared against a number of useful dimensional attributes.  Developing and automating such tools helps business users avoid having to write monotonous queries, piece together disparate data from various sources, and manually compile things like month end readmission rates.

To accomplish this goal at a recent client engagement, as a member of a larger Perficient consulting team, I chose to build a Microsoft SSAS Tabular Model, a new feature of SQL Server 2012, paired with Power View to enable a self-service BI visualization layer.  Additionally, this particular client chose to leverage the fairly new Epic Cogito Data Warehouse (CDW), and thus the semantic and visualization layers were built on top of that existing data model.

A tabular model was chosen in lieu of an OLAP cube for a few reasons.  The engine that runs tabular models is columnar based and fully in-memory.  In short this means queries execute extremely fast.  Additionally, tabular models tend to be simpler and faster to develop than cubes, which is good for future maintenance and extensibility.  Finally, tabular models offer the bulk of features expected from a multidimensional data source.

Early client conversations were organized into 3 main topics:

  • Measures:  what are all the various types of calculations needed regarding readmissions
  • Dimensional attributes:  what are all the ways the client would like to filter, slice, and aggregate these calculations
  • Security:  who are the various audiences that will access this data, and what should their level of granularity be, especially regarding HIPAA compliance, patient and provider level detail, etc

Once I felt confident with the requirements I’d gathered, I started reverse engineering the Cogito DW to figure out what fact and dim tables I would need to leverage.

Inside the tabular model, I decided to go with two customized fact tables:  one at the encounter/admission grain, and one at the readmission grain.  This second fact table involved self-joining encounters back onto themselves on patient id, and building some date logic to include only those patients readmitted within 30 days.  From there, I developed around 40 various DAX calculations that performed rollups in different ways.  Examples include various permutations of:  admission counts, discharge counts, distinct patient counts, all cause readmissions, cause readmissions, readmission rates, non-readmitting discharges, and readmission percent of total.

For dimensional attributes, many existed as part of Cogito DW natively, and it was just a matter of trimming records down to inpatients and newborns only.  Examples of such dimensions include:  date, department, patient, provider, coverage, primary diagnosis, drg, billing account service profile, and admission profile.

Some dimensional attributes were trickier, however.  Some were not part of native CDW, and therefore had to be added as extension tables first in the data warehouse.  Some, such as all discharging diagnosis, had many-to-many relationships to fact records, and therefore had to be massaged into comma-delimited lists that became 1-to-many related.  Finally some attributes incorporated extensive business logic, for example Unit, which was based on an AdmissionDischargeTransfer fact table not part of native CDW.

The final security implementation could likely be an entire blog article on its own, but in short, the strategy involved:  slightly customizing fact tables for different audiences, creating limited attribute dimension tables, varying relationships per audience, limiting certain calculations, and leveraging perspectives for an overall clean user experience.

The final readmissions tabular model was leveraged via SharePoint in multiple ways:  Power View dashboards we developed along with the “self-service” capability for business users to create their own dashboards, SSRS integrated reports, and direct model browsing in Excel with classic pivot tables.  The platform was very positively received by our client, and I performed a series of trainings to enable members of their internal IT to build tabular models on their own.



Finally, here’s a screenshot of the final tabular model, resembling a general star-schema:

Readmissions Tabular Model 2014-05-16








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