#32: Windows 7 Must Die

Windows 7 Must Die

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>Windows 7 free support will be ending early next year.

>Why it’s important that you let go of Windows 7 and update to the latest OS.


In this episode of The Power Up Project, we talk about why Windows 7 must die.

Welcome back to The Power Up Project. I’m your host Ben Love, and today we’re going to be talking about why Windows 7 must die.

Now, what do I mean by that? I mean, that this is a very old operating system. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a real favourite of mine. I was big fan of Windows 7, but it was released in 2009. Now, it’s currently 2019, that’s 10 years. That’s 10 human years, and technology is working even faster than dog years, so 10 years is a long time for an operating system like this to be around.

So Microsoft have announced, and have been talking about it for a long time, that Windows 7 will be going end of life in early 2020. Now that’s not far away. That’s a little over six months away, as of now. But so what does this actually mean for the operating system to go end of life, or EOL? Well, let’s take a little bit more of a step back, and say, what does is mean to be running a 10-year-old operating system? First of all, there’s a good chance that if you are running Windows 7 on a 10-year-old operating system, you may actually have 10-year-old hardware out there as well. Now, 10-year-old hardware is going to be slow, and it’s going to be problematic. That is the first thing. You’ve also got the 10-year-old operating system, which means that you’re are missing out on a huge amount of features and usability that is being introduced and developed in the years since.

But very importantly, too, is we’re starting to see compatibility issues where Windows 7 will not run a lot of the apps that people are really wanting to run these days, particularly with such massive uptake of Office 365, and a lot of the newer stuff there. You don’t want to be on Windows 7 trying to use this stuff.

We’re also seeing, because Windows 10 is becoming so prevalent in organisations, where those organisations do have a handful of computers left still running on Windows 7, there is a very inconsistent user experience between them. Sitting down and using a Windows 7 machine, is actually very different to using a modern Windows 10 machine, so it’s a lot harder to convey training, and staff productivity between staff there, when you’re talking about essentially how to use very different systems.

So what does all of this mean for you? It means one thing, it means you need to understand whether you have any Windows 7 computers still in your fleet, and you need to factor replacing those into your rolling upgrade cycle. Now, just on that point, you do have a rolling upgrade cycle? Don’t you? By that I mean, that if we assume a useful working life for a computer in a business environment of three years, then that sort of tells us that every year we probably have to be budgeting to replace proactively, a third of our computers. Now, you don’t have to be as proactive as that, especially in smaller networks and smaller environments, but it is a very good thing for you to be thinking about replacing your computers proactively on some sort of a three to five year cycle, so that you are keeping things current, and you’re not waiting til computers get slow, and buggy, and problematic, and start really damaging that productivity.

So your take home for today, the thing I need you to do, is understand if you have any Windows 7 computers in your fleet, and that is a very easy question to ask, you just need to talk to your IT provider, to your MSP, and ask them, because they will be able to provide you with a full list, a full report on all of your computer hardware out there, including what operating system it’s on. And if you do have any Windows 7 machines out there, let’s get rid of them. Hey. Put it in the budget, get it done straight away, get it done in six months, but don’t let it sit there, let’s move those Windows 7 computers onto the great computer operating system pasture in the sky. Their day is done.

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Power Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT, and Digit IT. Please leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, and until next time, keep powering up.

#31: Microsoft Puts an End to Password Expiration Policy

Microsoft Ends Password Expiration Policy

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>Breaking news about the end of Microsoft’s enforced password policy.

>What it means for you and your business.

>How you can secure your account now that Microsoft won’t be forcing a password expiration anymore.


In this episode of The Power Up Project, we talk about why expiring passwords is no longer a thing. Well, according to Microsoft at least.

Welcome back to The Power Up Project. I’m your host Ben Love, and today we’re going to be discussing the expiration of passwords. Now, you should know what I mean by that, because we’ve all been caught by it, and it can be really annoying. That every 60 days, maybe every 90 days, we get that message popping up on our computer saying, “Your password is about to expire. You need to choose a new password.” And then, of course, we go through the process of trying to choose a new password. Do we use an old password and just change it very slightly or did we already use that one? Anyway, you understand what I’m talking about. We’ve all been there. Well, the interesting thing is that Microsoft have recently updated their security baseline recommendations, and the big news that a lot of people are talking about is that they are no longer recommending the forced expiration of passwords. What the?

So I just want to dig into this a little bit deeper because we need to understand what’s going on here. This is a quote from Microsoft. “There’s no question that the state of password security is problematic and has been for a long time. When humans pick their own passwords, too often they are easy to guess or predict. When humans are assigned or forced to create passwords that are hard to remember, too often they’ll write them down where others can see them. When humans are forced to change their passwords, too often they’ll make a small and predictable alteration to their existing passwords, or forget their new password altogether.” Does that sound familiar to anyone? I know it certainly does to me.

So, what they’re saying there is that the previous recommendation to force expire your passwords is actually adding very little value to the security discussion. It’s not that they’re saying don’t expire passwords or telling you to never expire passwords even, but what they’re saying is that this is a very low value add activity when it comes to improving the security of one of our network environments.

Here’s another quote from Microsoft. “This reinforces a larger important point about our security baselines. While they are a solid foundation and should be part of your security strategy, they are not a complete security strategy.” And so what does that mean? Well, what Microsoft is saying there is that network security needs to come from many directions and in many layers using many different methods, and passwords are really only one piece of the picture. We’ve spoken many times on this podcast, in blog posts, at seminars, you name it, about multi-factor authentication. Okay, so that’s one example that Microsoft do not talk about in their security baseline, but they do very heavily allude to.

So what do you need to do about all of this? Well, here are the take-homes that I need to leave you with today. First of all, changing passwords is still a good idea.

Secondly, use a different password for different systems. So try not to use the same password for everything from your Uber Eats account through to logging onto your corporate email to your internet banking. Next, try and use a passphrase where possible. So, a passphrase is a series of words, it is a phrase that may mean something to you, it may be nonsense, but it is probably a lot easier for you to remember than some cryptic random string of characters in a password. But curiously enough, passphrases can often be a lot harder for hackers to brute force and to crack. So, not all systems out there will let you use a passphrase instead of a password, but if you can, definitely a good idea. And the last point that I need to leave you with regarding this is multifactor authentication. I sound like a broken record on this, but it is really important. It is very easy to enable on enterprise systems such as Office 365. We can also enable it on our Facebook, for example. Absolutely on things like Xero and on your internet banking. Multifactor authentication is currently the single most effective method that we are seeing of helping with network security. So there’s the take-home, folks. Microsoft is no longer recommending that you expire passwords periodically, however, it’s still a good idea. Use different passwords, use passphrases, and use multifactor authentication.

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Power Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, and until next time, keep powering up.

#30: Office 365: New Updates and Features!

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>The latest updates in your Office 365 suite

>What can these new features do for your business?


In this episode of the Power-Up Project, we do a quick recap of the most recent Grassroots IT webinar.

Hey. Welcome to this episode of the Power-Up Project. My name is Ben Love, and I’m your host for today’s episode. What we’re going to do today is a little recap on the webinar that we hosted about a week ago now on some of the latest updates from Office 365. Now, I’m not going to take you through the entire webinar. There was a huge amount of content in there, but you know what? The recording of the webinar is up on our website. Just go to to the blog, and you will find the recording there.

What I did wanna do, though, is just call out a couple of the more important points that came out of that webinar, and particularly some of the ones based on the feedback we had from attendees on that webinar and from the discussions that have come out the back of it as well as to what really peeked people’s interest the most.

Probably the first thing, it’s a really important point, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Skype for Business is going away, and it is being replaced by Microsoft Teams. If you have not already started the transition from Skype for Business across into Teams, and if you do actively use Skype for Business, obviously, then now is the team. You really must be looking at this. We do have some cheat sheets up on the website, and we will link to them again in the show notes here in case you need to go and have a look at Microsoft Teams and just work out how it’s going to work for you because it will work for you, it’s a great tool.

The other really interesting point of discussion that came out of that webinar was around Microsoft’s To-Do product. It’s a little bit of software called To-Do, Microsoft To-Do. As you would have guessed, it is a to-do list manager. A very simple tool that lets you create to-do lists, add some notes to it, tick them off once you’re done, couple of other little features on the side, but in the essence, that’s what it does.

For those of you familiar with Wunderlist, which still is a very popular list tool, that’s actually owned by Microsoft. A lot of the functionality and favourite bits of that are all being brought across into To-Do. But the interesting point of the discussions that we had after the webinar was the fact that To-Do is now synchronising with Microsoft Outlook, and specifically within the tasks section in Outlook. If you are a user of tasks, or I guess if those things could be of benefit to you, have a look at that because we actually had some people on the webinar pretty excited about the fact that tasks in Outlook and To-Do items in the To-Do mobile app are now actually synchronising.

I haven’t been into the use cases with those people yet, but I will be digging into that a bit more because I am curious. But for now, that’s a really good thing for you to know.

The other interesting point that came off the back of that webinar too was a bit of discussion around where the various project management and, I guess, task management tools from Microsoft all fit in. At one of the spectrum, we have Microsoft To-Do, which I just explained. It’s a fairly simple list maker that you tick off items on the list as you go. It has some basic collaboration and sharing features in there, but not hugely intended for that sort of role. It’s sort of more for one person to keep track of their own task lists.

The next step up in the family of products from Microsoft is Microsoft Planner. Now, for those of you familiar with other [inaudible 00:03:43] style tools, such as Trello, you’ll be very familiar with Microsoft Planner. It works in the concept of buckets, and then within the buckets you’ve got cards or items. You can drag and drop those items around between lists and change their status from in progress to completed and so on. Cards and items can be assigned to other people in your team, you can have multiple people looking at this board simultaneously. It really is a very simple but very powerful and effective way of helping a small team of people really stay on point with what it is they’re meant to be working on and who’s attention is where.

We start off with Microsoft To-Do, which is the simple one person end. We take the next step up into Microsoft Planner, which is better and more capable of dealing with teams and keeping a team of people on track. Then at the next step up, we move up into Microsoft Project, which is a fully fledged project management tool with a lot of the very powerful project management features that you would expect. It is the sort of the tool that, to be honest, unless you are a project manager, unless you have a little bit of training and some experience in that area, it may be a little bit too much. It may be not what you’re after. But of course, for the project managers who are listening, you’ll probably already be very familiar with Microsoft Project and all of its bigger team and larger project capabilities up at the top end there.

They’re probably the key points I just wanted to call out from the webinar that we hosted last week. Of course, as I said, the recording of that webinar is available on our website. There will be a link in the show notes to that recording. If you do want to have a bit more of a deep dive into what the latest updates are in the Microsoft 365 family of products and services, please check out the show notes and head on over.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Power-Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please, leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. Until next time, keep powering up.

#29: Farewell Skype for Business: Is Your Business Ready for the Change?

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>Where is Skype for Business going, what’s it being replaced by and when is it happening.

>How will your business be impacted by the change.

>Download the Quick Start Guide to Microsoft Teams at the base of the blog post.


In this episode of the Power-Up Project, we talk about the impending change over from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams, and what you need to know now so that you don’t get cutoff.

Hey, welcome to this episode of the Power-Up Project. I am Ben Love, and I’m your host for this episode. Today, we’re going to touch on something that we have certainly mentioned a number of times in the past, and that is that Microsoft is actively retiring the Skype for Business product. In its place, they are pushing forward with Microsoft Teams.

Now, the two products reached what Microsoft call “feature parity” last year sometime. That basically means that Microsoft Teams has all of the features in it that Skype for Business has. What we are now seeing happen and the reason this is very important for you to hear is because we are actually seeing this happen in the wild. This is not just Microsoft talking about it, we are actually seeing clients who go to use their Skype for Business one day, and it no longer works. The reason it no longer works is because the upgrade behind the scenes for Skype to Business into Microsoft Teams within their tenant has been done without them necessarily being aware of that. So, they go to use Skype for Business one day and it simply doesn’t work.

Now, this is just part of the phase upgrading and retirement of Skype for Business, it’s something that Microsoft has been very open about, they are publicising it all. At this stage, we are not sure of when individual client tenants are going to be upgraded. We’re seeing if we can get some of that information from Microsoft. To be honest, I don’t like our chances at this stage. What it does mean is that you really need to be actively thinking about Microsoft Teams, especially if your business relies on Skype for Business.

What does that mean? It means you need to look at your usage of Skype for Business and how you’re using it. Are you using it for chatting, for meetings, for video calls? Are you using it for webinar style presentations? Are you using it for your main telephony instead of a more traditional telephone system? There’s a lot of ways in which people have been using Skype for Business.

Now, all of those things are now available in Microsoft Teams. Teams is a very good product. I use it really heavily here at Grassroots IT with my team of people. We’re spread out across three different countries, quite a number of client sites, etc. It’s a fantastic tool, and we really love it, okay?

So, if you are heavily using Skype for Business, have a think about how you’re using it and go out and have a look at Microsoft Teams. It is probably already installed on your computer, if not, it is very easy to install it.

You just go to, and there’s a button there that you can use to install it, okay? Now, what I’m going to do in the show notes for this particular podcast episode is we’re going to leave a link to a little cheat sheet on Microsoft Teams**, and how you do various things in there, how you have a chat with somebody, how you schedule a video meeting, how you do all of these things. It should be nice and quick for you to get up and running with Microsoft Teams.

Of course, if you have any questions, just reach out. We are more than happy, of course, to help with the transition there in any way. But remember, your action point for this episode, if you are actively using Skype for Business, you must go out and look at Microsoft Teams instead because the change is coming.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Power-Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please, leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, and until next time, keep powering up.

#28: Taming Email Signature Chaos with Exclaimer

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>What is Microsoft Exclaimer all about?

>How to leverage your email marketing with Exclaimer


In this episode of Power Up Project, we’re talking about leveraging email signatures for marketing punch with Exclaimer. Welcome back to the Power Up Project. I’m your host for this episode, Ben Love. And today we’re going to be talking about a great little tool called “Exclaimer.” And specifically, we’re going to be talking about how Exclaimer can help you manage and, indeed, get some extreme value from your email signatures.

So let me walk you through a scenario we’re probably all familiar with. We all have businesses that use email, we all have staff and multiple people who use email. And I can almost guarantee that all of those people have got an email signature. Now, it would be a very safe bet, I would say, that if I would look at all of those email signatures across your business, I would see, let’s say a little bit of inconsistency.

I would probably see some different fonts in use, some different alignments, maybe the colours could be a bit different. Some people present mobile phone numbers, some people don’t have a phone number at all. Some people put a job title, other people don’t. Some people have still got the old logo there from before you changed it two years ago.

Does that sound like a common situation that you might have come across in your business? Here’s another one. Let’s say you’ve got a situation like that, and let’s say maybe even that your email signatures are fairly consistent. You do a fairly good job of keeping them all consistent, even though it means that every time there is any single change to be made across the organisation, every single person in your organisation needs to manually edit their email signature.

And of course, then you ask them to do that, they’ve forgotten how to edit their email signature. Some people might be using email signatures, other people might be using email stationery. Some people might have a different email signature for emails sent from their mobile device than when they send it from Outlook on the desktop computer.

So, these are all problems. There are all situations that are extremely common, but there is a very simple, and very affordable solution. And that solution comes in the form of a little product called, “Exclaimer.” So, what Exclaimer does, is it allows us to centrally manage all of the email signatures across our organisation.

Now, because we leverage them centrally, it means that we create those signatures once based on a single template, or we can have multiple templates if we really want to. But we create them centrally, and they are automatically applied to everybody’s email. No matter where that person sends that email from, whether it’s a computer, a spare laptop, their mobile device, whatever.

The same signature is automatically applied as that email is sent. So what we’ve got now, is we’ve got consistency. We’ve got consistency of visual design, colours, logos, layout. We’ve also got consistency of info. So all of your people are now sending email signatures out, delivering the same consistent information, such as a mobile phone number and a web address. The other thing that it lets us do though, is it lets us be very nimble and agile, and it opens up opportunities to use email signatures in a different way.

What we can do now, is we can start to use email signatures to communicate more effectively with all of those recipients, whether they be clients, suppliers, or other partners. Because what we can do is, from our centralised administration portal, we can very quickly and easily update the email signatures across our entire organisation with some new information.

So, you might have some office-closing hours over Christmas. Well, what you can do now, is you can very easily add a little line of text at the bottom of everybody’s email signature that announces those closure hours to everybody who receives an email from your business. You don’t have to rely on every staff member in the business to individually go in and add that line. You don’t need to worry about inconsistencies of design and font and colour. You don’t need to worry about them just not doing it at all. Forgetting to do it, it was a bit too hard, they couldn’t remember how to edit a signature.

Because now you’re doing it centrally, and you’re doing it for them. And it automatically applies to all staff. Take that a step further. Maybe you could start using your email signatures for a little bit of marketing. Have you won an award lately that you’d like to tell people about? Why not add that to the email signatures going out? Do you have a particular promotion coming up soon, a particular sales campaign? Maybe you add that in there.

Do you have an event, maybe the next webinar or the next training workshop? You could add a little line into everybody’s email signatures with a link that would take people back to the registration page. So, I hope that’s given you some ideas to think about. Not only how you can get your email signatures across the business under control, but then how you can take that a step further and how you an start to leverage your email signatures to communicate consistently across the organisation, and out to your customers.

Now, the wonderful thing about Exclaimer as well, is that it’s bloody cheap. So, the pricing does work on a sliding scale depending on how many users you have. But to give you a quick idea, for 10 users, if you have 10 users in your business, it’s approximately 20 dollars per month. It’s very quick and easy to set up, it is very quick and easy to edit those email signatures once they’re in place. It really is a very simple tool, and it absolutely baffles me why more people aren’t using it.

So I hope that’s given you some good ideas to think about, with how you can take control of your email signatures. I’d love to hear how you’re using your email signatures in order to do more than simply put that necessary stamp on the bottom of your emails. Are you using your email signatures to promote upcoming events or sales campaigns? How effective have you found that? And another question there, how do you know how effective it is? How are you measuring the ROI on the effectiveness of those email signature-based campaigns? Let me know, I’d love to know.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Power Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT, and Digit IT. Please, leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. And until next time, keep powering up.

#27: How Facial Recognition Can Power Up Your Video Library

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>An amazing new feature from Microsoft Streams

>How can AI power up your Teams meetings?


In this episode of the Power Up Project, we’re talking about Microsoft Stream introducing facial detection and automatic transcription.

Hey, welcome back to the Power Up Project. I’m your host for this episode, Ben Love. And today we’re going to be talking about one of the Microsoft products that we’ve mentioned before, which is Microsoft Stream. It’s kind of like a private organisational YouTube, if you will, where you can upload your videos. But specifically we’re going to be talking a bit about some amazing new features that Microsoft have brought to Stream where they’re really bringing the power of a lot of their artificial intelligence and machine learning abilities to bear on the Microsoft Stream products. Now, the good thing is of course you don’t need to worry about it being AI and machine learning and all of this jargony stuff. All you need to know is that there are these great new features in Microsoft Stream. So let’s get started on that.

There’s a couple of little things that I think are really powerful here, but I’m kind of AI stuff, so I’m going to touch on these other ones first. The first thing is that you can watch videos in Microsoft Stream on the go, that is on your mobile device, while you’re offline. Now this is fantastic. So, that means that there is a little caching feature building in there so that your device can actually pre-download some of these videos for you so that if you’re sitting on the plane or your bandwidth is rubbish, wherever you happen to be travelling, you can still get access to those videos and watch those videos. Now this could be particularly useful as well combined with another excellent little feature that’s come through, which is when you use Microsoft Teams to conduct meetings, for example, video conferencing meetings and we’re all using Teams, right? Because, it really is the big thing at the moment. It really is where Microsoft is putting a lot of their focus. It is also the thing that’s going to be replacing Skype as well, and that particular timeline is accelerating. So, if you do use Skype for some of these things and you haven’t yet had a look at Teams head on over to have a look at Teams, it’s something you really need to be doing.

So of course, given that we’re all conducting our video meetings and our conference calls using Teams these days, one of the powerful features of that is that we can record the meeting. So, just click on the record button in our meeting there and Teams will automatically capture what happens there, the video, the audio, so on and so forth. But the good thing now is what it then does with that video recording, because what it does now is it automatically puts it into Stream. It automatically puts it into your Microsoft Stream video library. That means that it can then be made available to anybody on your team who happened to miss the meeting. There’s always somebody isn’t there, there’s somebody who says they’re going to be at the meeting, but then now they, I don’t know, they call in sick, which is fine, or they get called out on an important client meeting or you know what? They just don’t turn up. We’ve certainly had that in the past. So at least this way the meeting is automatically recorded, automatically uploaded into your Microsoft Stream video library for that person to catch up on. And of course now they can also catch up on it on their mobile device and even offline, which I think is pretty cool.

So let’s move on to some cool new AI powered features though. The first one is facial detection. Now this is a bit of AI that Microsoft to bringing to bear on Stream videos, which they’re really using for what they call speaker timelines. So what that does is it means that the video will be annotated with information about which speaker, as in which person is speaking when. And, it does that by using this facial detection technology just to identify that there are different faces speaking and whose turn is who or which particular face is speaking at a particular point in time. Now this is particularly powerful because if you want to search through all of your video libraries or if you want to open a particular video and skip to just the point where a particular person is speaking, then with this annotation put in place, you can now do that. And that falls in nicely too with the next cool bit of tech they’ve brought in, which is speech to text auto transcription. So simply as it sounds, Stream will now automatically provide a written transcript of everything that is said during the video recording.

So again, this makes the video infinitely more searchable. So, as you develop a larger library of videos within Stream, this will give you more power in searching through those videos, across those videos I guess, to find the one you’re looking for. Or if you’re drilling down into a specific video, but you want to find the point in that video where a certain topic is discussed. Again, you can search through this automatic transcription to find the particular time code and the particular place in that video where that topic is discussed. So there’s some great new features that have been brought to Microsoft Stream there, brought to your own private little YouTube, I guess little video library for your business. It is a very powerful tool, it works very, very well. Either on the desktop environment or on the mobile App and now with these new features that have been brought in, it means that all of that content that you’ve got in there is infinitely more searchable when you do want to go back and find that particular piece you’re after.

Now here at Grassroots IT we use Stream a lot. We record a lot of our internal meetings. We record training materials, we record a whole pile of those things there and that’s how we get a huge amount of value out of this particular tool. I’d love to hear how you’re using video in your business, particularly if you’re using Microsoft Stream. And if you have had a look at these new features that they’ve got in there, such as the speech to text auto transcription, I would love to hear how valuable you’re finding those, if they are adding any value at all, and if so, how you’re using them.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Power Up Project brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts and until next time keep powering up.

#26: Rostering Made Easy with the Shifts App

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>a new feature of the Microsoft Teams’ suite: the Shifts app

>How the Shifts app can help with rostering your frontline staff


In this episode of Power Up Project, we talk about using Microsoft Teams to roster and schedule your frontline staff.

Welcome back to the Power Up Project. I’m your host, Ben Love. And today we’re going to be talking about a great new feature in Microsoft Teams, which is called Shifts. Now, this is a fairly new-ish feature to Teams. It used to be a separate product from Microsoft called Staff Hub, but they’re kind of phasing that one out and integrating the functionality into Microsoft Teams. As a side note, they are doing with a whole lot of other stuff as well. So if I haven’t said it before, I know I have, but for the sake of repeating myself ’cause it’s important: Microsoft Teams is getting a huge amount of attention from Microsoft. So if you haven’t had a look at it yet, go and have a look. Pay attention because this is turning into a bit of the focal point for what they’re doing over the next few years. But look back to the topic at hand. We’re talking about a feature in Microsoft Teams, which is called Shifts. Now, Microsoft used the word Shifts, and they refer to frontline staff and how you can use Shifts to schedule your frontline staff.

Now, that’s the Microsoft. It’s a little bit American with the lingo there. To my way of thinking, I kind of think of a more, for those businesses who are using casual and rostered workers, particularly maybe around industries like retail and hospitality where you have different staff coming on at different times of day to meet different peak loads in your how busy the store’s going to be and so on. So what this feature lets you do is roster or create the shifts, I guess, for these particular team members. And it really is a very simple tool, but it does seem to work so, very, very well. So if you are in Microsoft Teams already, you will find it there, down the left hand side is one of your options there. If you can’t find it, give me a call. We’ll find it for you. It’s in there, okay? So what you do is you go into Shifts, and the first thing you do is you create a schedule. And this schedule is for a particular team and covers particular data ranges. And then plain and simple, you can allocate or assign certain employees to different shifts on that schedule. So once it’s on there, the team member themselves will see that appear on their calendar within Microsoft Teams.

But more than that, from within there, they can also manage some of it themselves. They can update their own availability. They can request shifts. They can request time off. They can make shifts available for swapping and they can swap shifts with other team members who are also part of that schedule, part of that roster. So it’s available in the Microsoft Teams desktop interface, so the version that you use on your computer, on your laptop or desktop computer. It’s also definitely there in the mobile app for Microsoft Teams because that’s a big focal point for how it’s really intended to be used. A lot of shift workers, a lot of rostered workers wouldn’t necessarily have their own computer that they would sit down at to access these tools, but they would probably have their own mobile devices, their own smartphones. It really is becoming such a ubiquitous way to communicate and coordinate amongst all of our staff. So if you are in the sort of business that works with rostering your staff, maybe have a look at Microsoft Teams Shifts. Have a look if it will suit your purpose. I think it will in a lot of cases. It is quite simple but it does seem to tick a lot of the boxes that you need in that particular scenario.

I’d love to hear how you go with Microsoft Shifts. I’d really love to hear if it does suit your business and if so, how effective you have found it. I’d also really be interested to hear if you do look into it, but you decide that it doesn’t suit your business. And I’d really like to understand from you why it doesn’t suit your business. What is it about how Microsoft have built this particular feature that doesn’t quite match the way you operate? Let me know.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Power Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please, leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, and until next time, keep powering up.

#25: Harness the Power of Simplicity with To-Do

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

>What is Microsoft To-Do all about

>How simple is it to use Microsoft To-Do

>Can you integrate Microsoft To-Do with other Office365 applications


In this episode of the Power Up Project, we’re talking about keeping things simple with Microsoft To-Do lists.

Hey, hey. Welcome back to the Power Up Project. I’m your host for this episode, Ben Love, and today we’re going to be talking about powering up your business with Microsoft To-Do. In fact, we’re gonna flip that around a bit and we’re gonna talk about keeping it simple with Microsoft To-Do.

Now when I say Microsoft To-Do, I’m talking about a product from Microsoft. You see, back in about 2015, Microsoft bought I guess one of their competitors, they bought another tech company called Wunderlist. Now Wunderlist was, and to a degree probably still is, I guess, a really popular application and app you could have on your phone which basically did to-do lists. So, pick up the groceries, buy milk on the way home, book the dog in for a haircut, all of that sort of stuff.

So Microsoft bought Wunderlist back in 2015 and since then has been working on their version of it and converting it over to their version of it, which they’ve called To-Do. So, Microsoft is obviously very creative when it comes up to naming their products, so that’s what we got stuck with. Microsoft To-Do. Essentially, though, it is a very powerful product. It is very simple and a lot of the power comes from that simplicity that you can have a look at this product yourself. It’s out there. Go and have a look. is the website. There is also a mobile app. You can log on to that with your existing Office 365 account if you have one. If you don’t you can log on with any Microsoft account, such as a Hotmail account or, it’ll all link in there together.

So let’s run through a couple of the features of this very simple organisational tool. The first thing you can do in Microsoft To-Do is you can create multiple lists. Now a list is simply that. It is a list of to-do items that helps you organise all of your to-do’s a little bit better. So your list might be shopping list, for example. Or your list might be organising for your upcoming holiday. So you can create all of these separate lists and within a list you can add these items.

Now when you add an item, it’s very, very simple. They call them tasks, actually. So when you add a task, there is quite simply a little plus button that says, add a task. You tap on that and you type in your task. Once you’ve typed in your task, it will then appear in that list and you can then work with some more detailed information within that task if you want, but you absolutely don’t have to.

Next to the task that you’ve created, is a nice big dot, or check box that you can tap on to say, I’ve completed this task. Now when you go into one of these tasks that you’ve created, you can add a certain amount of additional information about that task. You can add a reminder, you can add a due date, you can add attachments which is interesting. That’s a fairly new feature addition. You can also add a repeating schedule on this particular task, so it’ll keep coming back for you.

One of the other things you can do in there is that you can add steps. Now a step is essentially a sub-task. So you can add all of these steps if you wish. So your top level task might be publishing new episode of the Power Up project podcast. And then underneath your sub-tasks, or your steps as they’re called, you would have things such as identify the topic, research topic, record audio, edit audio, publish podcast episode and as you go through those steps, you can take each of those off individually until you’ve completed the actual task.

So you can see, it really is a very simple to-do list organising application. There are a couple of little features, though, that I find quite compelling. One of those features is that you can invite other people to share on of your lists. So for example, if you share a grocery list with your significant other, then you could both have access to it. So, whoever happens to drop into [Wooley’s] on the way home this afternoon has access to that up to date list.

The other really compelling feature for me is that Microsoft To-Do integrates very, very tightly with a lot of the Office 365 Suite. For example, Microsoft Outlook. So in Microsoft Outlook, you might be familiar with tasks, is what they’re called. If you go into your tasks, you will actually realise when you’re using To-Do that the two are synchronising. They’re essentially one in the same. So if you add something into Microsoft To-Do, it will appear over in Outlook as a task and vise versa. You can keep both sides of your life there very well synchronised and you can work with those To-Do lists from whichever interface you like.

Of course one of the nice things about being able to-do that within Outlook is within Outlook you can do a lot of dragging and dropping. You can drag those tasks, those to-do items onto your calendar, for example, to block out time. You can drag emails into the tasks area to make a task out of that particular email. So there’s a lot of this integration that you can do within the various Office 365 applications.

So, in summary, Microsoft To-Do could be a very useful and simple, yet powerful tool to help you stay organised and stay on top of all of those lists that you have been keeping on little scrapes of paper or various other little apps and note keeping places all over the place. So check it out

I would love to hear how you go with Microsoft To-Do and how much of an impact it helps you make on your organisation.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Power Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts and until next time, keep powering up.

#24: Why Your Business Needs You to Take a Break

In this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

〉How can the holiday break help you and your business for the upcoming new year

〉Why it is important for you and your business to enjoy the holiday downtime


In this episode of The Power Up Project, we talk about why your business needs you to take a break.

Welcome back to The Power Up Project. I’m your host Ben Dampney and today we’re going to power up your business

#23: Create Amazing Business Graphics with Canva

Create Amazing Business Graphics with CanvaIn this episode of The Power Up Project, we cover:

〉Canva is a web-based graphic design application perfect for creating awesome marketing graphics

〉Allows collaboration and provides a very user-friendly alternative to other complex graphic design tools



In this episode of The Power Up Project, we’ll be talking about a free, web-based app called Canva. Hello, I’m Annie, and today I am taking over the sound waves from the two Bens to talk to you about a topic that’s quite close to my heart. I’m the community manager at Grassroots IT, so I look after our branding and marketing. And, today I wanted to talk to you about a free web-based graphic design programme called Canva. In the history of graphic design programmes and software, years ago, there was a programme called Quark. It was really expensive, and really took some special skills from graphic designers in order to be able to use it.

Then, Adobe came on the scene, with their programmes such as Illustrator, and InDesign, and Photoshop, and really took over the industry. They have an amazing array of creative programmes, and many of them are still used today by most graphic designers. But what happened in 2012 was that a new guy came on the scene, an Australian company that brought in a free, web-based app called Canva, and really, what this did is brought the power of graphic design to everyday people and their businesses.

So, Canva is a free, web-based app, and it really enables people to put together their own graphic images, which they can then use on social media, or blogs, or websites. Now, I should put in a disclaimer here, that I think it is really important that you employ the services of a professional graphic designer in order to put together your branding strategy, so when it comes to things like logo, and colours, and fonts, you are putting out the right message into the world about who your business is and what the personality of your business is. I’m also very passionate about that branding message being consistent across the different channels.

Now, where Canva is great, is that once you have your branding strategy in place, you can then put together your own images, for social media channels. You can use it to make posters, or business cards. You can create images or you can create PDFs that you can send off to a printer, to have professionally printed. When you’re within the Canva app, it is super easy to use, and you have access to lots of different functionality. There are many fonts, and colours, and lines, and graphics. There are thousands of stock photographs that you can access for a small fee. There are predefined templates that you can customise for your own designs. There are different templates for various social media channels, so for example, if you want to create a Facebook post, it is the right dimensions for a Facebook post, or Twitter, or YouTube channel art, et cetera, et cetera. You can think of it. Canva’s probably got it.

Now, while the free version of Canva is awesome, we’ve taken as step up, and we use the paid version, which is called Canva for Work. Now, while it is a paid version, it is not super expensive. It’s about $150 per year, which is a small percentage of some of those professional design packages. You can pay that monthly or yearly. You can pay an additional charge if you want multiple team members to access that same account.

Now, where Canva for Work comes into its own is, I think, its ability to resize images. So, if you for example, set up an Instagram image, and then you decide you also want a version of that image to appear on Twitter and on Facebook, you can, with the click of a button, copy and resize that image, and it will automagically put it into the right dimensions for those other social media channels.

Now, if you’ve spent time fiddling around with images, trying to get them the right size, then you will know that this is worth its weight in gold. So, I think that is awesome. One of the other features of Canva for Work is that you can upload your own fonts, and you can set up basically a canvas of colours, so that all of your branded colours are in one place, and it’s really easy for you to access, to set up new templates and new designs for your business.

Now, if you just want to dip your toe in the water, there is a 30-day free trial, so head on over to Canva and have a play. Get creative, and see what you can create for your business.

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Power Up Project, brought to you by Grassroots IT and Digit IT. Please, leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts, and until next time, keep powering up.

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