Saturday, March 10, 2012

Microsoft Outlook + Dropbox = Self-Serve Information Dispenser...and a few polymer pics

First, a few new clay pictures, since that’s why you come here! But then I’ll describe a system I set up at work that is going to prevent hours of irritation for me! It’s a magical self-serve system using Microsoft Outlook and Dropbox. If you have to answer the same questions day after day, and email jpgs, PowerPoints, and other documents frequently, you will find this useful.*
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I made this Purple and Pink flower brooch a few weeks ago. I like the shape and the design; what I don't like is the lack of shimmer. I forgot to add a little metallic pearl or gold in the mix for shimmer. Oh well, next time.

The Magical Answer Dispenser -- how it works:
At work, I am frequently asked for the same information by my co-workers and any number of our 7,000 employees. My first solution* for responding to these frequently asked questions was to create an answer to each one as a separate signature file in Outlook. You can set up as many as you wish and they can contain text, images, tables, or links – they’re very versatile. When a question landed in my inbox, I clicked reply, then inserted the appropriate signature, and sent it off.
Sometimes, however, the requestor might need a PDF file or JPG. An attachment can’t be part of an Outlook signature so I still had to browse for the file, attach, and email the file to them. To end this poor use of my time, I got the idea to store the files in my Dropbox public folder where they could be easily accessible by anyone with a link.

Next, I created an Outlook signature consisting of a simple menu list of links, each of which links back to an item in the Dropbox folder. The "sharing link" provided in the menu allows a user to open the file or download it, but they cannot edit my original or accidentally delete it.

Now I send out one email at regular intervals to key contacts so it's always handy. And when I get one-off questions from other people, it's very easy to insert my "Marketing Menu" signature and mail it off.
This new system will eliminate a ton of repetitious, non-productive activity that took too many 10-minute chunks out of my day, every day. Updates to the files are easy and as long as I keep the file name the same, I don’t even have to edit the menu. It’s extremely simple, but I really think it’s going to prove invaluable. I used it several times the first day I set it up!
(*The true first solution is our company intranet but it’s behind the firewall so it's very difficult to reach for those outside of headquarters. It's also cumbersome to upload, search and download. Not user-friendly at all!) 

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