Digital Workplace Crusaders

Reducing task management overburden

checklist for work management

Day-to-Day Task Management at Work

I have been using Outlook to manage tasks for over 10 years now. The integration is great if you live in an “email centric” world where you can quickly flag an email so that it  will end up on your task list to be eventually dealt with. I manage about 50% of my workload this way…

…That’s a problem! Work comes from all different sources, not just email.

Working in IT, have my own work queue for Incidents, Problems, Changes and other types of (ITIL type) tasks in my IT Service Management System. These are critical for my day-to-day, and yet, they do not show up on my task list in Outlook unless I flag the email notification (which adds to the burden of email) and now managing two work queues.

If you are in internal/external communications, you probably have a running list (backlog) of “postings”, articles, new employee announcements so on and so forth that need to be published on your Intranet, Extranet or Public portal. Again, these might come in the form of an email, however, most modern systems provide an approval or content review workflow functionality or at the least, the work is managed by using an online form that sends an email or creates an item in a list for you or anyone in your team to tackle.

This covers the day-to-day work for the most part. Now, if we add projects into the mix, we open another can of worms.

Project based work

Most traditional environments will use some form of project management software, such as Microsoft Project, which provides the team with the work items for the project. Again, in some cases this information is not usually stored in a centralized location.

In recent years, newer project management practices such as Agile or Scrum benefit from using tools such as Jira, Trello or Planner which can be used to create Kanban boards.

So, yes, more buckets!

Personal tasks

Last, but definitely not least, comes life related stuff!

Life is filled with other things such as errands, things to buy, “honey-do” lists, etc. How are those managed? My spouse asks me to pick a specific brand of cereal on a text message, that also needs to go on a list or I will forget!

I’ve used tools such as Wunderlist (and recently I’ve been exploring Microsoft To-Do) to manage my personal tasks. Also, on a whim, I’d probably ask Google to keep a reminder for me, which adds yet another bucket!!!

Bucket overload

Let’s recap the many “buckets of work” I keep an eye on, with the occasional fluctuation, especially in the projects area:


Can this be improved? You bet!

Simplifying personal buckets

Personal tasks should be the easiest to tackle, since there’s no need to consult anyone else. The key here is to reduce the number of buckets as much as possible and stick to one standard. I have chosen to stick with Wunderlist for the time being.

Moving to Microsoft To-Do is in my plans in the next few months, as the Wunderlist (now part of Microsoft) team has had a few months to polish the new app and improve it based on the feedback received early on when the tool was announced.

While using voice commands (with Google Now or Siri) to create tasks or reminders is handy, I find it only useful when my hands are tied with something else, I rather type my new task and have more control.

Project work management bonanza

If you are leading a digital workplace initiative, this potpourri of tools may not be a surprise to you. Any mid/large size organization will, at some point, have all these different systems and more. Some of them, being Cloud based (Software as a Service), don’t even need servers, and in most cases, a free version is provided in hopes that shadow IT will prevail.

In some areas of the organization, a project management tool will be deeply ingrained as part of the process, however, in other areas, managing tasks happens organically, but work still needs to be managed and tracked. The key here would be to find a common set of needs where the number of tools can be reduced, providing a common ground for most teams to be familiarized with. Another benefit to this will be cost savings, as some of these tools can be costly to manage and keep running

Day-to Day tasks, aka The daily grind.

Integration and savvy use of rules should help easing the load. While there are systems you can’t really change. Creating a few rules to move email notifications into folders could go a long way. For bonus points, enable a retention policy (If your license allows) to ensure you don’t keep those notifications for longer than you need.

In other cases, use tools such as Microsoft Flow, IFTTT, Zapier, that make automating tasks between systems a piece of cake. We will cover this type of tools later on.

Finally, my buckets of work reduced a bit, hopefully, further iterations and some work done at the project level can bring a simpler setup.


An ideal state would be to further reduce those buckets to a minimum. If you’ve also thought about this? What does your ideal look like? How do you plan to get there?

Mine looks like this:

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Brainstorm, prototype and sketch with Microsoft Whiteboard app (preview)

Part of the challenge of working with teams that are geo-distributed is having a tool to  work together and sketch or prototype new products or ideas together.

Microsoft is previewing a new service, Microsoft Whiteboard app. The tool (at the time only available for Windows 10 users) allows you to have multiple people work with notes, images and free form drawing, this experience is much better if you have a touch screen but you can use your mouse to draw, drag or select elements on the whiteboard.

Running a few tests I found the app to have some challenges zooming in/out and being able to exit the search menu. The main premise is there, so I expect this to be refined in a few months when they clear the preview label.

You can start using it on your own today provided you have a Microsoft account (like Hotmail, Outlook, etc.) or a work account with Office 365 enabled. Co-authoring is only allowed for Office 365 users.

If you plan to use it for work, during the preview, the app is disabled by default but your Office 365 admin can enable it for on your tenant. Keep in mind that at present, the data you generate will be stored in US soil (if you care about that kind of thing) but will be stored in other regions in the future.

My 2 cents here: try it out, but “let it simmer” for a couple of months before you try using it for something other than testing.

Want to learn more, check out the Microsoft Whiteboard help page

Everybody Lies, but not to Google, or your Intranet search!

I recently read Everybody Lies, a book that discusses how big data and, in some aspects, machine learning can be used to explain certain behaviours in today’s world and how our digital interactions can help explain current events. I highly recommend this book!

One of the main sources of information used in the book is Google Trends. If you are not familiar with this service, it allows you to explore and compare different topics and identify their trends over time.

For example, the chart below compares the terms “Digital Workplace” and “Intranets”:


Not only it will provide a graph showing the trends of both topics over time, but will also provide information on the regions where the term is most popular as well as related searches using this term.

While this works wonders for learning about interests and social behaviours at a global scale, this got me thinking about our options for “corporate land”. If people don’t lie to Google and for example, Trends can help to identify where an outbreak of a disease can start, or how an election was won despite many pools showing different results, the closest thing we have to this type of information is our Intranet search.

Well yes, our often neglected, left to it’s own devices, good old Intranet search can be a great source to identify the trends of what employees are thinking (or caring about) inside the corporate “firewall”.

Thankfully, the search history or top searches report of your intranet (most popular Intranet solutions have this out of the box, if yours does not, let’s chat!) doesn’t need much maintenance and is definitely a great way to take the pulse of your organization.

You can use your intranet search or top searches report for:

  • Creating new content (articles, how-tos, lists, resources) of information employees are searching for –  If, for example, people are looking for cost centres, but are not finding this information, compile it, publish it!
  • Rising the best content to the top – If people are looking for the term vacation, they are most likely trying to find the vacation policy. If your Intranet supports it, make it a best bet or a preferred resource.
  • Identifying trending topics – in today’s corporate world, chances are your have a topic or two that are top of mind. Consider using this to create AMA (Ask Me Anything) forums or use tools such as Slack or Teams to help employees engage with subject matter experts in real time.
  • Enrich your editorial calendar   There may be slow months (rare this days, but it could happen) where there are no big company announcements or events. Use this gold mine to provide employees with information and resources around topics they care enough about because they are searching for them.
  • Obtain ideas for a corporate bot –  A rising trend, an internal bot can help employees with their day to day work and there are tools out there (such as Tangowork) that are making this happen even easier. Use intranet top searches as input to help build the knowledge of topics your employees might ask your bot.

I hope this helps plant the seed to take a look at your Intranet search statistics on a regular basis, try also looking at abandoned search results and other trends in your analytics.

Are you using your top intranet search results in other ways? What other sources of information can you identify internally to help build that corporate pulse? We would love to hear your thoughts.

New “Waffle” Menu in Office 365

Another day, another change in Office 365 land!

This week the new waffle menu was made available to first release (first release allows Microsoft to push updates a bit faster on your tenant) users, I looked in my main tenant, and there it was, it all its glory!

It’s a quite clean take on the apps menu that will not only bring your “pinned” apps but also recent/new documents you’ve viewed.

The main benefits are:

  • Cleaner UI
  • Documents accessible from any area in Office 365
  • Pin/un pin certain Apps
  • Other enterprise apps can be added.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of not being able to unpin certain items, like Word or Excel, which honestly, being old school, I’m used to start from my desktop, not the web. Would be great to have full control over the menu.

A few also expressed privacy concerns over the recent documents viewed showing up while presenting to others, so keep an eye on what shows up there!

new waffle menu

Yummy Waffle image courtesy of Keith McDuffee under CC licensing

OneDrive (without the Fat!)

One of the jewels of upgrading Windows 10 to the newly released Fall Creators Update is the introduction of OneDrive Files on Demand.

In a nutshell, you will be able to see all the files and folders you have on your OneDrive account in the cloud without the need to have all those files download and take precious space on your PC’s hard drive.

Want a file downloaded, right click and select “Always keep on this device”.

Want to free up some room, select a file or better yet a folder you know you don’t use very often and right click to select “Free up Space” 🙂

This is great, almost like having a cake, but none of the calories!

Miguel A. Tena

I’m an IT professional focused on workplace productivity. For over 12 years, I’ve worked with communications and HR professionals to empower people to work better together. My technical experience is in tools like SharePoint, Office 365, ThoughtFarmer, Slack and others.
I love business process improvement,  finding opportunities to apply Lean methodologies and automation. Once a process has been optimized, technology can make everything faster!
I’m keen on gamification and machine learning (artificial intelligence) to make work a joyful experienceI hope to write and provide more insights on these areas as learn more about these exciting topics.
I hope you find my contributions helpful, as we are on the same journey of workplace excellence!
Catch me on Twitter at @mikeware_tena