Improving Efficiency in Managing E-mail

July 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I would like to share a nifty trick that I learnt last year. As all of you must already be aware that there is a great pain in processing tons of e-mails when you are back on vacation. Well, I found this blog which make this task a bit easier.

Basically, this trick helps in organizing mails by moving e-mails in your folder by a keyboard shortcut (like Alt+N). You need to do following steps

First, create a macro in outlook and copy/paste the code from this site.

Then you need to replace
Set objFolder = objInbox.Folders("_Reviewed")
with
Set objFolder = objNS.Folders.Item("Personal Folders"). Folders.Item("NIIT").

This is assuming that Personal Folders is your offline pst name and NIIT is the folder where you want to move. You might also want to update the double quotes.

outlook1

Once you have modified the code, you can test it by running the macro and ensuring it is moving the message in a particular folder. You would need to repeat this routine for each folder you wish to automate.

Once you have the macro ready, you can create a Menu/Toolbar command for each folder. You need to underline one of the alphabet by prefixing &. This is the alphabet you would use along with the Alt key. For e.g. Alt+N to move it to NIIT folder.

outlook2

If the alphabet is already mapped to a different function then you might want to update it.

That’s it. You are ready. I hope this helps.

Quality and Skills Mapping

July 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Our organization had renewed focus on CMMi initiative last year which involved rolling out Business Objective (BO) Mapping for all the projects. Our project teams were very much involved in this and one of the major challenges that we are facing is that the nature of work we do is quite different from the normal projects that are executed across the organization.

One of the action item on us was to come up with a BO mapping on one of the goal (Quality) over the weekend. One of my peers commented that if I figured out an idea then I can publish it in my blog! 🙂 So here is it….

But before I begin with my rant, I would like to give a brief background of our project.

  • Our project consists of various work packs or deliverables.
  • Work packs span across various application areas which have a many to many relationship between each other
  • Each of this work packs needs to be released in the production environment.
  • The success of the work pack is determined by whether it was successfully released or not.
  • Since our project teams release high number of work packs (typically 50 to 200 depending on project/team size), it can be measured in percentages.
  • Customer expectation is that we deliver at a success rate of 95% or more.

So this success rate becomes our project goal for quality by default and we are working on identifying the measurable processes that will help in achieving this goal.

To achieve this, let’s note down some facts.

  1. Work packs are assigned to individuals.
  2. Work packs can be categorized into application areas.
  3. As resources continue to deliver work packs in a particular area their skill in that application area increases.
  4. The skill of an individual can be measured in a particular application area as High/Medium/Low/None.
  5. Looking at the past data it has been observed that work packs assigned to high/medium skill individuals have a higher success rate.

Considering all of the above, we can summarize that the Performance Metrics for this goal can be measured in terms of “Number of Work Packs Executed by High/Medium Skill Individuals” with respect to “Total Number of Work Packs executed”. The Controllable Metrics can be the actual skill matrix that identifies individual skills across various application areas.

So, what do you think of all this? Do you agree or do you have a different view on this?

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Business Objects

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I use Business Objects for creating dynamic reports to measure project performance, budget and schedule while working with our client. As I have continued to use it over the period of years, I have acquired a great respect towards this product.

Well, first things first… What is Business Objects?

As per wiki, Business Objects (a.k.a. BO, BOBJ) is a French enterprise software company, specializing in business intelligence (BI). It has been acquired by SAP since 2007. Its flagship product is BusinessObjects XI, with components that provide performance management, planning, reporting, query and analysis and enterprise information management.

bo

I see lot of value in introducing this tool within our company. It can provide greater visibility to middle and upper management and will help them in making business decisions more accurately. It can help in

  • Identifying which projects are doing well in terms of finance, client satisfaction & project goals
  • Forecasting projections in terms of capacity utilization, Revenue, Gross Margin etc.
  • Identifying Resource Requirements & Resource Availability for the whole year
  • Setting Realistic Targets based on past perfomance, future prospects and expectations.

Here is an extract from one of its brochure

Your valuable business data already exists. But until now, static, predefined reporting traditions have made it nearly impossible to use that data effectively. Only with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer can business users unleash the true power and actionable insight hidden within their data, uncovering critical trends and business outcomes at different levels and groupings within their organization and industry.

Also, it is really simple to use. You can try it out at this site. It has amazing amount of views & options. You can either use some pre-defined data or even upload your own data to check it out!

Wife 3.0

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The other day on the tea table, I was discussing with my friend about family life and work balance. We were comparing married life with software products and a whole new perspective came about!!

Let’s assume 1 year of married life is 1 version of a software product release called ‘Wife‘. So, 1 year anniversary is Wife 1.0, 2 year anniversary is Wife 2.0 and 4 years and 3 months would be Wife 4.3.

If you start thinking about it then you can find lot of similarities between software development and married life. For example,

  • In the earlier product version there is lot of excitement within the project teams.
  • There is lot of temptation to add new features to the product (gold platting).
  • With each release of product the software gets more and more bloated.
  • Higher product versions have higher maintenance and higher risk of issues..

I am sure you get the idea. :-)…. Well I am at Wife 3.0 but I get loads of good advice from my friend who is at Wife 9.8!!

Disclaimer: This blog post is categorized in the humor section. There is no prejudice against any of my female colleague but they are welcome to share their views!!! I just hope my wife does not read this… 😉

Eye-Tracking

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Eye-Tracking is a process of identifying “where the user is looking at”, to improve user experience. This is NOT a new technology. In fact Eye-Tracking goes as far back as 1879!!

One of its main commercial application is Web Usability. It is very useful in designing the web user interface.

eyemap

This video by Joe Leech gives a high level overview on how Eye-Tracking helps in creating a great user interface. Joe highlights the following benefits of eye tracking

  • The developer sees what the user sees
  • It makes design decisions easier
  • It helps in designing the User Interface fundamentals
  • It helps in evaluation the effectiveness of what user reads on a page
  • It is a great way to engage the project team

There is already lot of research done on interpreting Eye-Tracking results to maximize hits. This 5 part series explain the intricacies of understanding Eye-Tracking results.

eye result

Why does Eye-Tracking work?

  1. Eyes are hardwired into your brain and the eyes cannot lie.
  2. Eyes can’t be “put down” like a mouse between clicks.
  3. Eyes + clicks + subjective questions give a comprehensive view into the user experience.

So have you used Eye-Tracking in any of your web designing projects?

I Believe I Caused This…

February 20, 2010 1 comment

All of us have a faced a technical problem sometime or the other that we need to solve urgently. Let’s take this particular case…

I am working on a project and everything is going well. I have thoroughly unit tested the code… code review is done… QA is done… and the customer is positive about their progress in the acceptance testing. I am already thinking of the project that I am going to work on next! But suddenly in one of the customer tests, the system goes down!!

Our first instinct in such case is naturally to figure out what went wrong. We will look at interfaces, external systems, system capacity etc. and try to do everything to understand the problem & recreate the scenario.

Deep down we always hope that it is NOT our code that has caused the issue and try to find other reasons for the failure. We think since we have followed all the processes in making the code ready, it cannot be our fault and we hesitate to look at our code to find the issue.

I can empathize with the above scenario but do not agree with it. If there is an issue, then we need to always believe that it is caused by our code. If we believe that the issue is caused by us then it is much easier to find the cause of the issue. We will first look at our code to find mistakes & will be able to resolve the issue more quickly!

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All About CAPTCHA

February 13, 2010 3 comments

We all have seen similar screens (as shown below) while registering a new account or submitting some comments on public site.

captcha

Well this is CAPTCHA. Its objective is to tell humans and computer apart. One of its main purpose is to act as a security in preventing spams. CAPTCHA was introduced way back in 1997 by Alta Vista and so it has a long history.

But there is always a challenge to keep CAPTCHA’s up to date. Hackers and Researchers are always coming up with several ways to break CAPTCHA’s. This has resulted in creation of more comlplicated CAPTCHA’s and these days, I have noticed that, they are becoming increasingly difficult for humans to interpret.

There are also other uses of CAPTCHA’s like digitizing books and playing games. For example tagging images (Google Image Labeler) and guessing you gender!!

gwap

Well the jury is out and CAPTCHA’s are here to stay. I know that sometimes it can be a pain to enter these words but at the same time we can also have a lot of fun with them!!