By Jen Sweeney
As we celebrate our 25th year in business, we’ve examined what has changed in the last quarter of a century. In today’s blog, we’re focusing on a few things that have largely remained the same.
As skilled as workers are today with technology, and as intuitive as it has become, some software applications have consistently generated the most support and training requests. When Vitalyst opened for business 25 years ago, they were Outlook, Excel and Windows. Today, those same three top our list—Outlook continues to confound even the most astute employees, Excel still generates high levels of anxiety, and Windows remains an enigma.
It’s not surprising that Outlook is high on our list. Email is the primary means of communication in most workplaces. According to recent Microsoft surveys, 4 trillion emails have been sent with Office 365 alone. For many people, it’s the first application they open in the morning and the last one they close at day’s end (if they close it at all).
But Outlook is more than just an email application—it’s a calendar, a meeting scheduler, a collaboration tool, a task manager, a list maker, and a Rolodex. And with each new version and update, it becomes even more indispensable. The application has introduced nearly 40 new features over the last four version releases, plus countless improvements and other functionality changes.
As skilled as workers are today with technology, and as intuitive as it has become, some applications have consistently generated the most support and training requests
It’s a critical tool in today’s workplace. When it doesn’t work, neither do the people who rely on it heavily. Likewise, when people aren’t aware of its capabilities or don’t know how to use advanced features, the potential for increased productivity is lost.
For many people, Excel has always been intimidating. Its thousands of features and complex capabilities are beyond what the average worker will ever need. In the last two versions alone, Microsoft has added almost 20 new tools and more than 50 new functions.
Still, it’s a workplace technology staple, and, for many, a force to be reckoned with.
The problem with Excel—now and 25 years ago—is partly due to how it is perceived. Its seemingly infinite depth and complexity can be intimidating. It has countless features and tools. It can handle more than a million rows and thousands of columns of data. It can evaluate unimaginable amounts of data in mere seconds.
In reality, though, most people will never need to become complete Excel experts, even if they work in finance. They will need to thoroughly grasp the basics— such as terminology, formatting, formulas and functions, data visualization, and others—and master some features. This takes support from management, training, practice, and time.
One approach is to incorporate some of Excel’s more advanced features into overall learning goals. For example, if one of your goals is to create Excel dashboards, you can start by learning how to create and modify pivot tables, and progress to tasks like customizing pivot tables, creating pivot charts and using slicers.
For some people, talk of a Windows migration—or any significant change to tools they rely on—stirs up dread and other unpleasant sentiments.
That’s because with migrations, it may seem like you and your fellow employees face the most significant challenges—even greater than the hurdles IT must overcome for the technical side of a migration. You have invested time and effort creating systems, routines, and other methods to accomplish your tasks accurately and efficiently. A migration can upend processes, impact performance, and weaken confidence.
But changes, like a migration to Windows (no matter the version), can also enable you to be more productive, efficient, collaborative, and innovative. It just depends on how you approach it.
Resistance is a natural human response, but it’s impractical. First, frequent change is now the default state. On personal devices, there’s a steady stream of software updates to install and new or changed functionality to figure out. Business technology is catching up, too. Windows 10 marks the start of Microsoft’s “Windows as a service” approach, with updates and new/changed functionality rolling out as they are ready.
And while your employer can provide support and training to keep you productive, in this new world of work, productivity is a shared responsibility. Your contribution is your willingness to take advantage of the services provided, and to embrace change.