But have you watched someone adept at using them, like a carpenter?
They know how to use this simplest of tools in a way that I can’t. And a hammer only does two things: puts in nails and takes them out.
So where does that leave us using complex tools? Say, business productivity tools?
You know the tools I mean: the ones most people use; the ones from the Microsoft Office suite.
I’m not talking about the specialist tools for scheduling (Project) and drawing (Visio).
I’m talking about the word processor, the slideshow and the spreadsheet tools: Word, PowerPoint and Excel. The ones you use all the time.
Are you making the most of the Office tools?
Do you manage or create templates for your business? Do you have something to do with ensuring your communication is aligned to your brand?
Well, I’m betting you haven’t been on a formal course to learn how to use your business productivity tools. Am I right?
In completely unscientific polls that I’ve conducted, I’ve found that most people haven’t had formal training to use the Microsoft Office tools.
I reckon I’d be fairly safe assuming you haven’t, either.
I think in the last 25 years I’ve been on one WordPerfect course (remember WordPerfect?) and one Word course. What I know about the Office tools I’ve taught myself by playing with them, reading Microsoft’s help and speaking to experts.
It’s just that it’s a little ambitious to manage and create templates, and support your company’s brand, if you don’t know everything the tools can do and how to use them properly.
Office is a party pack of amazing features
- Are you using a post-2007 version of Office?
- Did you play with it before rolling it out to the whole organisation?
- Did you change any of the default settings to control format compatibility?
- Did you add themes for your company’s brand?
- Did you make a preferred theme the default?
- Do you even know what I’m talking about?
The features available in the post-2007 versions of Office are great but, as I read in a blog somewhere, they’re sort of making average users think they’re graphic designers.
The good news is that the tools enable a lot of stuff to be customised.
The bad news is that you have to know how to do it.
And without the training or inclination to find out what can be controlled and how to control it, you’re leaving a lot of people with the potential to create of lot of ugly, unbranded material.
Can your business afford to release material like that?
Think about customising your Office tools
I’ve set up loads of templates using Office 2003, making plenty of mistakes along the way. One thing I’ve learnt is that it’s imperative to get to know the tools and their features.
I’ve learnt a lot about Office 2010 while using it to set up suites of templates for various organisations. And yet I still have a way to go before fully understanding it.
It’s different from Office 2003 … in some ways it’s really different. And I’m not talking about the ribbon and the tabs and the general look-and-feel. I’m talking about its features.
So, if you’re involved with managing or creating templates for your organisation, or you’re responsible for brand aligning communication, I suggest you read up on the features of the tools.
There’s so much you can customise. For example, in Word you can:
- restrict the formatting, which disables features like bold, italics and text alignment, and forces writers to use your defined styles
- create your own table styles, and make one of them the default style
- create a default theme using your brand’s colours and fonts.
Until you understand these sorts of features, think again before creating templates — especially ones to be used across your business.
Your brand depends on it.
A little investigation goes a long way … so do some investigating
Understanding the tools, and deciding which features you want to allow, are the first steps to creating your templates.
- Get some training.
- Use Microsoft’s help. (Yes, really!)
- Read up on blogs and forums of people’s experiences using the tools.
- Play with the tools until you’re expert (or at least more experienced) at using them.
And ensure you have some sort of support structure to help people use the templates: training, FAQs, a troubleshooting guide, video tutorials, whatever.
Your templates will be so much better when you take full advantage of the features in Office
Unfortunately, typewriters aren’t dead. They’re just called word processors now … which means feature-rich tools like Word don’t get used to their full advantage.
Aim to create templates that are more than just a table of contents or a couple of slide layouts.
Make use of the features that are built into the tools.
They’re called business productivity tools for a reason.