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Photo Credit: Microsoft & Michael Cruse
An Error Occurred – Try Refreshing?

An Error Occurred – Try Refreshing?

Sometimes apps have their own mind and do not behave as we wish.  I have dealt with a problem where Microsoft MSN Money App for Windows 10 displays the following message on several tabs “An error occurred” and “Try refreshing?” with a link to “Refresh this page.”  Refreshing the page never helped.  I tried reinstalling the app, resetting Internet Explorer settings, and registering the App Store with PowerShell, but nothing corrected the problem.

I was able to fix the problem, but trying these steps is done so at your own risk. I did not look at the implications of taking ownership as described below and deleting the wrong folders will break your apps.

  • Uninstall Money by right-clicking on the Tile and choosing “Uninstall.”
  • Navigate with File Explorer to C:\Program Files\WindowsApps
    You may need to turn on the setting to display hidden folders, and you must grant yourself access to the folder by taking ownership.  This will cascade down through the folder tree.  You can do this just to the base folder and the specific sub-folders that need to be deleted if you wish (Look at Step 7 in the Ownership link or Google how to do it.)
  • Delete the three folders that start with “Microsoft.BingFinance.” DO NOT DELETE ANY OTHER FOLDERS.
  • Reinstall Money from the Microsoft App Store
  • Start the Money App!
Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Steven Goodwin
Sustaining Competitive Advantages with Synergistic Combinations

Sustaining Competitive Advantages with Synergistic Combinations

Long-term survival in today’s market is always questionable as many of the hottest businesses today will eventually fade away. Firms continually reinvent themselves to stay relevant and competitive (Voelpel, Leibold, & Tekie, 2004, pp. 259-276). Today, many of the old-guard technology firms are moving as quickly as they can to the Cloud. Intel and Microsoft announced less than stellar earnings this week and cited their ongoing efforts in moving their focus to the Cloud. These tech behemoths are confronting enormous challenges in their strategy shift. However, these moves are necessary as they pursue new models for sustainable competitive advantage.

The three most common elements cited for enabling sustainable competitive advantages are business strategies, execution excellence, and an engaged corporate culture. A significant portion of organizational performance is attributed to the synergistic effects of these three components (Heskett, 2012, pp. 19-22). However, a consensus does not exist about the most influential of these elements. Historically, the strategy has taken center stage. More recently, the pendulum has moved towards an engaged corporate culture as the critical contributor to long-term organizational performance.

Strategy is not set in stone
A business strategy encompasses the concepts, plans, and decisions that a firm makes for the purpose of achieving various marketplace advantages (Teece, 2010, pp. 172-194). Before an organization embarks on its business strategy development, It is time to go back to the basics. A serious discussion from the Boardroom to the lunchroom needs to happen regarding the firm’s vision, mission, and organizational values. The vision and mission of an organization directly inform the business strategy (Hart, 1992, pp. 327-351). It provides the basic goals, purpose, and fundamental operational parameters. As the mission and values integrate throughout an organization, it becomes the cornerstone of the corporate culture and tightly interwoven with each other.

A strategy exists in every business, whether it is overtly planned or organically derived. Having a brilliant strategy does not guarantee a competitive advantage or market acceptance. However, the lack of a well-designed and pressure tested business strategy often dooms the business right from the start.

Many of the strategies are formulated during the earliest stages of the organization. Business strategy is not often changed, but then again, it is not a permanent fixture. As businesses and markets mature, the strategy needs to be refined and updated. This process allows organizations to refocus their efforts on remaining competitive in the marketplace. Intel’s comments this week and the shifts saw in the last half of 2015 for both HP and IBM is solid examples of these businesses changing in response to the evolving competitive landscape. They understand the mantra of adapt or die.

Execution does not mean…
One of the reasons that strategies fail arises from breakdowns in execution. This is common sense, but our internal biases often lead people down the wrong path. The 2015 Harvard Business Review article “Why Strategy Execution Unravels—and What to Do About It” by Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull discusses some the execution myths that frequently lead to failures. This is one of the articles that should be on ever leaders must-read list. I will not bore you with a cheap summarization of their excellent work. Please take 15 minutes and read the article. It will change the way you think about execution.

Organizational Culture
An organization’s culture is not static. It evolves in response to the business environment and leadership actions. Additionally, research has shown a positive relationship between long-term business performances and advantageous cultural attributes (Marcoulides & Heck, 1993). When the organization’s culture aligns well with its strategy and execution, the factors that lead to the formation of internal barriers, confusion, and resistance are reduced. A healthy culture with engaged employees experiences higher levels of productivity and greater resiliency when faced with adversity (Damij, Levnajić, Rejec Skrt, & Suklan, 2015). By combining realistic expectations, proper resourcing, and a strong corporate culture, business strategy has the highest chances of being executed successfully and delivering on its goals.

The Answer is the Synergistic Combination of the Three Elements
Sustainable competitive advantage is the amalgamation of strategy, execution, and culture. When these elements are brought together successfully, organizational performance abounds. I am not sure a single central contributor exists for fostering the creation of a sustainable competitive advantage. If one element of the triad is removed, the structure will not stand. Only by combining all three elements do we build the business, foster innovation, and enable the organizational resiliency.

Photo Credit: www.microsoft.com
Windows 8.1 Playing Nice…Network Connected

Windows 8.1 Playing Nice…Network Connected

For over a week, my Windows 8.1 Enterprise installation has been reporting Limited Connectivity while connected to our corporate wired local area network. It was odd that it only happened on the LAN and not on WiFi. Actually, it was irritating to no end. All the Metro Apps would not access the Internet even though the desktop apps worked online just fine.

I completed several Google searches and tried everything I found. I updated my Network driver, reset WinSock, replaced network cables, and executing several netsh commands. If I logged in locally, the problem continued. However, when I connected to my home network (wired), I did not receive the same limited connectivity error. This does not seem a problem with hardware or the underlying OS.

I was going to wipe and reload the OS. I removed the computer from the domain, removed BitLocker, and clear personal data. Luckily for me, I had an immediate need to get some work down so I put my computer back into the domain. I rebooted and logged back in. Oh my – the problem went away. Removing the computer from the domain, and putting it back in, and the problem was corrected.

My network is showing connected and happy. No OS wipe and reload required.

***Update***

A week later, the problem returned. I wiped the OS, and so far, it is working much better. Last time it worked for a week or so before the problem started. I hope that this time, that will not occur.

Opportunities at the Application Layer

Opportunities at the Application Layer

I saw a headline earlier today that Bill Gates spent the day installing Windows 8.1.  I too, in my free time, have spent the last couple days beginning to set up a new Windows 8.1 laptop.  I am certainly known to be an advocate for Microsoft since I built much of my career on their products, but by no means would I consider myself a fanatic.

The installation of the operating system has gotten easier with every release of Windows since the early days.  No matter if you are a Microsoft or Apple fan, I would argue that every release of the operating system for both platforms continues to get better with time.  I certainly am not enjoying the wipe and reload process related to replacing a laptop, but it is certainly better than what 5 or 10 years ago.  Back then, it was a balmy 8 to 10 hours to complete the job.

The operating system is probably the easiest part to get installed.  Drivers and Windows updates come down extremely easily. My frustration with the entire process continues to be the application layer.  It takes absolutely forever to install all the applications and utilities back on your computer after replacing the hardware or just completing a fresh start with a clean operating system.

It will take about an hour to get an operating system installed and patched, but it could easily take me 4 to 6 hours to download install and configure every application utility that I use.  Each time I do this, I always swear that I am going to make an image of the hard drive before I start using it.  The idea being that the very next time I need to do this, I can just drop an image on it and be done.  Needless to say, I never do it for some strange reason.  Maybe it is just my own morbid fascination with the process.

The market is beginning to challenge application providers to come together with easier and more portable application installation and preference retention methodologies using the cloud.  It unquestionably should not be that hard to track all of your application settings and write those preferences to the cloud. Imagine the very next time you install the software and login, it will bring down all of your preferences to the device.  Time Saver!!

Google with Chrome certainly has done this and Microsoft has made significant strides with the latest version of Office that are tied to a Microsoft account.

These are two examples where the software manufacturers got it right, but there are myriad of other applications and utilities out there that do not leverage this simple time-saving and customer beneficial enhancement.  Mobility is driving innovation with applications that span all platforms and remember whom you are no matter what device you are using.  This is the new frontier and opportunity for all application vendors to innovate and modernize their platforms to become more customer-focused.

The “Big Players” are moving to Software-as-a-Service

The “Big Players” are moving to Software-as-a-Service

One of my team members has a picture of a rural home that was in for an unlucky day as a funnel cloud heads toward it. The picture is captioned by “The Cloud, it is coming for your data.” Every time I see it, I crack up just a little. We are amidst of a Cloud revolution, and it will change the world as we know it. Web 2.0 is only the beginning.

The online services lead the way, the enterprise is just starting to look, but the software players are actively investing. The software giants’ move slower than the “web guys” but have deep pockets and are the real market makers. So, what am I talking about???

Well, Adobe announced it is moving some of its core software to the Cloud and will sell it as a SaaS product. Microsoft has commented that it will take a cautious strategy by playing both sides of the fence for a while supporting both boxed and cloud software versions. For now at least, Microsoft will keep boxed software and subscription Cloud-based software for a few years.

I don’t buy the Microsoft position. Adobe is leading now, and Microsoft will not be far behind. The SaaS opening makes so much sense for these companies. Let us consider a few wins that SaaS offers…

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Photo Credit: Michael Cruse
Read this before you publish Blog Posts in Word 2013!

Read this before you publish Blog Posts in Word 2013!

My last post briefly outlined the steps to publish a blog post with Word 2013. Microsoft Word makes a very good tool for creating and publishing blog posts, but once you publish the post you are not done. Some good old-fashioned post-cleanup must be completed. Because of this, I think the “Publish” button should never be used in Microsoft Word 2013. Publish the post as a draft and then publish it from within WordPress or your preferred blogging platform once the necessary post-cleanup is complete.

After doing a few posts with Microsoft Word 2013, I was surprised when I looked at the code version of the posting. I was expecting an extensive amount of Microsoft inspired HTML embedded in the post. This has been my experience when someone uses Word to edit a web page, but shockingly, the blog post was perfectly cleaned and well-organized. This was a very pleasant surprise and has reaffirmed my opinion that word makes an excellent blog authoring tool. So what are the cleanup steps needed?

To start off, we need to add tags to the post. Word allows you to add categories to the post but not post tags. Your blogging platform may call these by different names but essentially a category is an organizational hierarchy, and tags should be considered more as keywords. Based on your theme and/or platform, you may need to edit another post to remove some categories from them. This is common if you have a featured category that highlights a particular post on the top of your blog and does not necessarily take the most-recent post. When you publish from within Word, you have to remember to go back in and make possible category adjustments. If you are in you are already in your blogging platform to do the publication of the post, it is easier to remember to do some of these category cleanup steps because you are right there.

You need to preview the post to make sure that all formatting is correct. Some text formatting is usually required. For example, I often use justified text in my blog posts, but Word 2013 does not support justified text for blog posts. I also ran into several issues where I had it to go in and add a line break to the code of a blog post to get some specific text spacing I was looking for. Albeit, these are minor little issues that anyone would run into and would have to be done anyway no matter what authoring tool was used.

I found that all the images were uploaded at the properly scaled size. When I inserted an image into my blog post, I scaled it to 45%. I was expecting a similar force scaling on-line, but I found that word had scaled the image properly when it posted it to the Web server. This was extremely convenient, and a delightful find. You should also take a few minutes to clean up the image names and descriptions in the media library. Otherwise, you will be left with the random names that Word decided to call the images. Furthermore, you will need to set the Featured Image if you use that function in WordPress.

If you use post plug-ins, such as SEO, you will need to add the information to the post. It is common for most bloggers to use these types of plug-ins and you often have to fill out additional information such as custom post titles, keywords, and description.

One other tip, do not make iterative Publish as Draft from within Word if you have added images to the post. I found that each time I published a draft, images were uploaded to my WordPress site. When I looked at my media library, I found the images had been uploaded five times for a single post. This corresponded to the number of times I saved via my work via ‘Publish as Draft’. If you do wish to save your work-in-progress multiple times, then Publish as Draft but complete the needed cleanup in your media library.

Have other usage tips?  Please leave a comment and share!

Photo Credit: Michael Cruse
Using Microsoft Word 2013 to Publish Blog Posts

Using Microsoft Word 2013 to Publish Blog Posts

A while ago, I wrote a post about using Microsoft Word 2007 and Live Writer as a blog writer and publisher. I have always written all of my posts in Microsoft Word but manually copied them up to my WordPress blog. With Word 2007, I would occasionally do all of it, including posting, directly from Word. My only gripe with the process was image management. I thought word did not manage the posting process of images as effectively as doing it all directly in WordPress. Of course, I do not think I really should expect Microsoft Word to be as efficient as publishing blog posts in WordPress as WordPress, but one could always hope.

Today, I upgraded to Office 2013 and wanted to see if anything has changed. The good news is that it is almost identical as the earlier versions of Word for creating and publishing blog posts.

Rough steps include the following:

  1. First Select a Blank Blog Template: Start Word 2013 and select Blog post

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