12 Tips for Working from Home

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Considering the potential increase of the coronavirus, many companies are encouraging–or even requiring–their employees work from home. Working from home can be a difficult transition if you are not used to it: housemates can be distracting. The couch can look oh-so-comfortable, and a 20 minute nap can easily turn into an hour and 20 minute nap. Working from home can seem like the perfect opportunity to get the honey-do list completed and chores that have been piling up can look enticing. The list of readily-available distractions could continue for miles.

We understand the challenges that can come with working from home: RSC is a virtual company. This means that we have no physical office space, so every employee works from home, and we have 20 years of experience and tips we’ve collected on creating an ideal work environment in your home. Below are our staff’s first-hand recommendations. We hope you find them useful!

1) Create a “Work Only” space.

An image of a home office by a scenic window.
Create a comfortable, yet distraction-free, work space.

Aside from helping you focus on work instead of binge-watching “Frasier”, setting up an area at home that is “work-only” can signify to others that you are working and shouldn’t be bothered. Additionally, it helps you de-stress once work is over, because you can mentally “put work away” and fully enjoy the rest of the house and activities that are going on.

2) Set office hours and stick to them.

An image of a home office with a computer, notebook, and other accessories on a desk.
Stick to your office hours.

Treat work hours like sacred time. Set a schedule–it helps to keep your at-home hours the same as a usual nine-to-five workday, or whatever is typical of your organization–and don’t vary from these. Don’t justify that a 45-minute run to the store won’t effect your schedule too much. Don’t let distractions like kids, peanut butter cookies on the counter, or playing with your pets pull you away from your focus.

3) Schedule meetings for mornings.

Leaving the beginning of the work day for meetings is a great way to stay focused throughout the day, because you now have a task that helps you know what you need to accomplish. It also helps motivate you to get out of bed and work instead of pushing your schedule back and procrastinating the work day.

4) Match your work hours to the schedule of your housemates.

An image of a woman wearing glasses at a desk working on a computer. She is smiling and is in an art studio with paintbrushes.
For a distraction-free workspace, work at the same time as the people with whom you live.

Maintaining the same working hours as the people you live with is a great way to enjoy your time off once work is done. It minimizes distractions so everyone can have a quiet environment to work in and doesn’t step on each others’ toes. 

5) Take frequent breaks.

Standing up from the computer is important not only for your posture, but also for your mental health. Getting up frequently and taking a stroll around the yard or house will help you keep a fresh attitude towards work and cut down on the mundaneness of working from home. Some of our staff hold to a strict “get up every hour” rule.

6) Schedule “Leave the House” time.

An image of a dog laying under a desk and office chair while someone in blue jeans, sitting at the desk, works.
Schedule a time to get out of the house and stretch your legs.

Schedule a time to get out of the house and detach from work. Usually, this would include activities like going out to lunch, working out at a gym, or taking a yoga class, but with the stay-in-place mandate applicable to most of us, this principle looks a little different right now. Going for a walk or drive can be great substitutes for this. If you have a garden or yard, walk around it. Even using technology like a wii could help you get in the mindset that will help you de-stress from work and clear your head.

7) Schedule your meals.

On the topic of breaks, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the “I’ll just do one more thing” mentality and forget to eat regular meals. Scheduling a specific time for your meals can help you keep a consistent schedule, maintain energy for the work day, and reinforce taking frequent breaks.

An infographic with RSC's twelve tips for working from home listed.

8) Get ready in the morning just as if you’re going to work.

Dressing the same way you would for the office can help you mentally get in the zone to work, separate your “work-only” space from the rest of the house, and keep you focused on tasks: even the rote, mundane ones. Changing clothes once you’re done working into lounge-around-the-house attire helps you relax and separate even more from the office.

9) Don’t go straight to your workspace in the morning.

An image of a home office in a bedroom with calendars on the wall, a surfboard leaned against the wall, and a small shelf.
Refrain from sleeping right up until your work hours in order to get a few more minutes of sleep.

Give yourself time to ease into the day, enjoy the morning, and prep for work just like you would any other day. Let your house be your house for a little bit before you go into work mode. This, just like many of the previous points, will help you separate the spaces between work and home so you can de-stress after work.

10) Use a headset or noise canceling headgear.

Minimize distractions by using a quality, noise-cancelling headset for when you’re in meetings or listening to music to stay focused. You won’t be able to hear anything that may want to distract you. You’ll be able to  focus well so the day relatively flies by.

11) Invest in equipment to help your posture and joints.

An image of a supportive desk chair by a wood desk with a computer on it.
Invest in supportive equipment for your home office.

Giving your body good support will help make your at-home office comfortable. It’s not worth it to ruin your back, neck, hands, wrists, etc. while working. Some essential pieces to consider for your home office may be:

  • Supportive chair with adjustable height
  • Adjustable-height computer stand for sitting and standing
  • Keyboard for carpel tunnel
  • Mouse for carpel tunnel
  • Footrest
  • extra back support

12) Take advantage of some creature comforts, but not too many.

An overhead image of a woman sitting with her legs outstretched on a bed or couch, working on a computer.
If sitting on the couch helps you focus, then take advantage of that. But don’t use so many creature comforts that you can’t focus.

If you work better with some background noise that you wouldn’t usually be able to put on in the office, then put on some music or white noise. If you have a favorite window to sit by, or a favorite spot in your house, then set up your workspace in that area. If you have a favorite coffee, tea, or beverage that you don’t usually get at work, then pour yourself some of that.

Creature comforts can easily infringe on the “Creating a ‘Work Only’ Space” idea discussed above. It’s easy to surround yourself with too many. Determine which ones and how many help you stay focused and which ones don’t.


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Bob Stephen’s Top 10 Business Books: #2 “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life”

I reference Marilee Adams’ book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life all the time. It has helped me immensely in my communication in the business world, because I have been able to strengthen my relationships with people.

It’s written in a narrative format, following the story of a man who has been having challenges at work and, because of that, decides that he wants to resign. He is counseled to talk to someone about his challenges before stepping away from the job. His journey and solutions are insightful, as he discovers that there are two different approaches to every situation: judging and learning.

Judger

We as humans beings naturally see things from our perspective. We want to judge situations and events according to how they line up to the world we’ve built for ourselves. Applying a single-viewed approach to any situation can lead to judging it incorrectly and reaching false conclusions, instead of asking questions to better understand why people act the way they do, why a problem was handled a certain way, or why the desired results are not being realized.

How I’ve Applied This Approach

One of my responsibilities outside of work includes participating in a board of members that handles travel and finances for a local organization. The communication style is such that members are constantly pointing their fingers at each other and trying to find  fault with one another for any problems that arise. I eventually decided to resign because the amount of exercise and energy it took for me to stay on the choice chart was overwhelming, and for my own personal growth, I chose to resign because I did not want to fall into the Judger Pit.

Learner

When we discount our tendency to jump to conclusions, and decide instead to ask questions that will help us better understand, some difficult and stressful situations will become experiences that allow us to level with people and strengthen relationships.

How I’ve Applied This Approach

A few years ago, a client of mine needed some help with the application my business provides. I chose a bright, quick employee, that I trusted would get the job done, to call the client and figure out what needed to be done. A few weeks later, my CFO came to me and said that this employee had used company time and money to fly to the client, book a hotel room, and pay for meals. I was confused and felt betrayed, because to my knowledge, the task would only have taken a phone call and a couple of hours.

I decided to apply the asking questions approach, instead of my usual approach that would lead to anger. I called the employee and asked what I hadn’t explained well about the assignment. The employee then recounted to me that he had called the client and realized that the task was not one, but multiple tasks, and that the client had authorized to pay for everything.

I am so glad that I asked instead of just getting angry. I understood the situation much better now, and I could see the logic behind the employees’ choices.

“Switching Lane”: Moving from Judger to Learner

Beginning to process an event as a judger does not mean that you will be limited to viewing things from a single perspective. The “Choice Map” allows us to see that there are different paths we all choose to take when tackling difficult situations. We can choose half-way through an event to see things as a learner.

How I’ve Applied This Approach

I have had many experiences when I think I am explaining something very well, and notice negative reactions, or at least reactions that are contrary to what I expected. I take those opportunities to switch from a judger to a learner and ask questions that will help everyone to feel closer and strengthened. I try to apply this in our Tech and Staff Meetings. I oftentimes will have to ask for clarification and/or other questions so I can understand better and help my staff become more unified.

Learning This Approach Is a Process

We all naturally want to approach events and situations from a judger perspective. Honing the skills necessary to become a learner instead of a judger is a lifelong process. Consistently choosing to change your approach to situations will help with this process, but it is choice.


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Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

Friday Training Follow Up: AutoCAD Basics

Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC provides free 30-minute Client Training session every Friday at 10:00AM PST!  RSC prides itself in providing learning opportunities for our clients.  We feel that if our clients know the system better, we will able to work better with them to discover and implement the solutions that they need.

Last week Matt Ritzman, our AutoCAD expert, discussed the basics of AutoCAD.  In the training, Matt set 3 goals:

  1.  Learn how to get around AutoCAD
  2. Learn how to find out more
  3. Learn how to do specific tasks that relate to ARCHIBUS

Below you can find a basic outline for the bulk of the training.

Getting Started

When you open AutoCAD (and I encourage you to do so)  You’ll find an interface that is much like many Windows interfaces.  Standard Menus, buttons, status items.  One big thing that sticks out is the Command Line interface.  This element has a long history that goes back to a time before Windows.  Although you can get by without considering the command line, I highly, highly, highly recommend that you give it some priority.

Command Line

Even when you aren’t using the command line directly, you are using it.  So you might as well embrace it.  Always trust the Command Line.  The command line gives a history of what has happened.  Press F2 – to see an expanded view of the command line

Elements
  • Prompt – Command:
  • Enter to submit command
  • ESC Escape key to get out of a command (sometime you have to use escape multiple times)
  • Available options: Specify other corner point or [Chamfer/Elevation/Fillet/Thickness/Width]
  • The capitalized letter is a short cut

Buttons, Menu, Ribbon

  • Buttons
    • Click to engage a command 
  • Menu
    • Tree structure access to commands and tools
    • “A” 
  • Ribbon
    • “New” access to tools
    • Context sensitive
    • Potentially more dense 
  • Quick Access Toolbar 
  • Customization
    • EVERY element in AutoCAD can be customized

Mouse

  • Point Click
  • Middle Mouse Button
  • Right-click
    •  Enter
    • Click-hold = Context menu
    • Available everywhere
    • Context sensitive
    • Even in the command line 
  • Shift-right click
  • Ctrl/shift right click

Grips

  • Click to move, stretch, add vertex
  • Shift Click to select multiple
  • Ctrl click to duplicate object

Palettes

  • Tool Palettes ctrl+3
  • Properties Palette ctrl+1
  • Design Center ctrl+2
  • Layers, Xref and others

Status Bar Tray

  • Crosshair location
  • Snaps
  • Interface elements
  • Model Space

Modify

  • Turn Palettes on and off
  • Add and remove toolbars

Intro to Options

  • Most of the program preferences are held here 
    • Profiles
      • Setup for different tasks
    • Support File Search Paths 
    • Display
      • It may be worth changing the background for various profiles
      • Crosshair size (CURSORSIZE)
    • Drafting
      • Aperature size (cursor size when selecting an object)
    • Selection
      • Pickbox size (PICKBOX)

Workspaces

  • Save your interface

 

As a reminder, we will not have training on Friday 11/28 due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.  We are excited, however, to announce our next training on Friday 12/04.  Below are some details on registering.
Please register for RSC’s Friday Client Training: TOPIC on Friday, 12/04 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM PST at: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/3799759723318496001
This week’s free 30-Minute training will cover System Administration, specifically Roles & UsersTo attend the meeting you must register! After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the training.


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Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

Making Intelligent Use of ARCHIBUS Database Keys

Hi All,

My name is Todd Forsyth.  I’m the Technical Lead at RSC LLC.  We specialize in installing, hosting and managing ARCHIBUS IWMS systems.  This is one of a series of posts on how to make that process easier if you’re doing something similar yourself.

I started out my technical life not as an ARCHIBUS developer, but as a technology consultant at a major technology consulting firm.  In this role, I both installed packaged applications (including Oracle Applications and Kana Customer Service) and developed web-based applications and data warehouses from scratch.

One of the biggest surprises for me in digging into the ARCHIBUS application is how it uses database keys.  And when I say “keys,” I mean the unique values that identify a record.   Things like the Work Request Code (wr_id) in the Work Requests (wr) table.

I’ll talk about what I found surprising, the pros and cons I find with the ARCHIBUS approach, and give some practical advice on what you need to do to use these database keys intelligently.

First a little background on database keys.  As I said, the key is a single value that uniquely identifies each record.  Things like a Work Request Code, or an Employee ID, or a Room Number in ARCHIBUS.  In ADDITION to identifying records in its primary table, these values are ALSO used to tie a lot of data tables in your database together behind the scenes.  For example, each employee record in the employee table also contains columns for Room Code, Floor Code and Building Code, so you’ll know where the employee sits.

Before joining RSC, all the applications and data warehouses I’d had a deep look at used what are called “surrogate keys.”  That is, the key was always a made-up value, most often an integer number that had no intrinsic information stored in it.   In such a system an employee records might have an employee_id value of ‘291716’.    This number wouldn’t have anything to do with the real employee.  It wouldn’t be their employee number or badge number, and CERTAINLY not their name.  To find those, you’d have to use this number to look them up in the employee table.

By contrast, ARCHIBUS uses what are called “natural keys,” where the keys are meant to contain some information about the record they are the key to.  An employee_id in such a system might be something like “TFORSYTH,” telling us something about the employee’s name.

It turns out that there are at least a couple of different schools of thought about the “right” way to build application databases.  Some say that all primary keys should be surrogate, or arbitrary value, keys.  Others find good reasons to use natural, meaningful data as a key.  Let’s take a closer look at why both groups think they’re right:

The Pros and Cons of Surrogate, or “Arbitrary Value” Keys

This is the world I was used to; the way Oracle Applications, and SAP, and PeopleSoft all handle their databases.  There are strengths to this approach, and challenges:

Pros
  • The key has no intelligence built into it. Meaning you cannot derive any meaning, or relationship between the surrogate key and the rest of the data columns in a row.  If things change in a way which would require you to update the basic information about a record (say you want to re-number all your rooms, or institute a new employee numbering system), this can be done without changing this value in a host of tables.    You simply change the meaningful value in the primary or “home” table where that value lives.  You could just update the room number in the room table, for example.  This sure makes it easier when these values need to be changed.
  • Surrogate keys are usually integers, which only require 4 bytes to store, so the keys, and any database indexes which use them, will be smaller in size than their natural key counterparts.  All a fancy way of saying that big queries with lots of tables run faster with surrogate keys.
 Cons
  • If foreign key tables use surrogate keys then you will be required to have a join to retrieve the real foreign key value.  (Meaning if you store the room id where an employee is seated in the employee table, you ALWAYS have to look up the “real” room number in the room table).  You wouldn’t have to do this with natural keys.  Some meaningful data (like a room number) would already be right there.  If you needed to dig deeper, though, like getting the room name, you’d STILL need to go back to the room table to get it.
  • So surrogate keys are not useful when searching for data, since they have no meaning.  You have to go back to the primary table.

 The Pros and Cons of Natural or “Real Data” Keys

This is the type of key structure ARCHIBUS uses, and all of these strengths and weaknesses are those that ARCHIBUS is subject to:

Pros
  • Since the keys store some useful data, you will usually require less joins/tables when writing a query.  I’ve definitely found this to be true in ARCHBUS.  Often you don’t need to join to the building or employee table; it’s enough that you know the key value stored in the local table you’re looking at.
  • Searches are easier because natural keys have meaning, and you don’t need to do so many joins to get to something meaningful
Cons
  • Much more work is required to change the value of the key.  Changing a Building Code, or “bl_id” value, for example, requires that ARCHIBUS look in over 100 tables where this key might be stored.  The ARCHIBUS applications are smart enough to make this change, but a developer who builds on top of ARCHIBUS must constantly keep this in mind, especially if these keys are being stored in custom tables or fields, of if such value updates happen OUTSIDE of ARCHIBUS logic (which can happen when those key values come in from outside, as through an Employee Sync with an HR system.)
  • Your primary key columns, and any indexes that looks at them will be larger because natural keys are usually strings, which take more space to store than “arbitrary” integers.  Larger key columns and indexes mean queries that take longer to run.  However, since ARCHIBUS databases are typically small in size, this isn’t usually a major concern.  Some tuning may need to be done as the database grows, however.

Using ARCHIBUS Keys Intelligently

Now, while the above has been an interesting exercise in the theoretical, it’s not a choice we really get to make in ARCHIBUS.  ARCHIBUS uses Natural Keys.  That said, this implies a few things you need to keep in mind in setting ARCHIBUS up:

  • Don’t pretend you have Surrogate Keys – I’ve known clients who are absolutely SURE surrogate keys are the way to go, even in ARCHIBUS.  They want to assign ONLY numbers to their building, employee, or department keys (or “Codes”.)  This is counter-productive for a couple of reasons:
    • ARCHIBUS exposes the keys in places many other applications expose name or description fields.  So if you want to have a clue what you’re looking at (who is this employee?  Which building is this?  Is this department Accounting or Legal?), you NEED to give this data some meaning.
    • You will find yourself customizing nearly EVERY form you use regularly to go look up the meaningful data you need from its primary table, where it’s being stored in the Description or Name field. This is a recipe for disaster when doing an upgrade.  Save your customizations for things that really matter.
  • Giving your data some meaning doesn’t mean keys are free-form text fields.  You need to be VERY careful about what you put in here.  You might want to think about exposing your potential key value schemes to these four tests before calling them final:
    • Is the primary key unique?  – My example above of using first initial, last name (TFORSYTH) as a primary key for the employee table is a good example of scheme that DOESN’T pass this test.  Adding the employee number might solve this:  (TFORSYTH F2314)
    • Does it apply to all rows?  – Are there some data points that just doesn’t fit the scheme?  What if you have an employee with a last name like “Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff?”  ‘Probably a bad idea to use the WHOLE last name.  Maybe X characters?
    • Is it minimal?  Remember, big size is one of the problems with natural keys.  Keep your values SHORT.  ARCHIBUS does a good job of enforcing this through their default key field sizes.
    • Is it stable over time?  This one is the real kicker.  Can you GUARANTEE that these values will never change?  Of COURSE you can’t.  But if they change ALL THE TIME, you probably need to look harder for something to use as a key.

I hope you’ve found this look at ARCHIBUS keys useful and informative, and that it can help inform the way you set up and use them in your system.


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Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

Friday Training Follow Up: Types of Reports in ARCHIBUS

Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC provides free 30-minute Client Training session every Friday at 10:00AM PST!  RSC prides itself in providing learning opportunities for our clients.  We feel that if our clients know the system better, we will able to work better with them to discover and implement the solutions that they need.

Last week Bob Stephen, our CEO & Managing Director discussed Reporting in ARCHIBUS. Specifically, we covered the Four Types of Reports in ARCHIUBS.  These reports include:

  1. C & VP Level Reports
  2. Director and Manager Reports
  3. Individual Contributor Reports
  4. Reports for Staff at Large

If you’d like to know more about this particular training, email us at training@rsc2lc.com

We’d love to have you join us for this week’s training on Plain AutoCAD Basics this Friday 11/20.  Please register for the training here:
https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/6239139519237186817

Registering is required to receive a confirmation email and a link to the training.

Our weekly client trainings are held Fridays from 10:00 to 10:30am.  This is an opportunity to learn more about an area of ARCHIBUS that you may not be familiar with.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

10 Keys to a Successful IWMS Integration: Pt. 6 — Pace Yourself

This week we are proud to bring you Part 6 of our 10-part series on successfully implementing an IWMS.  In this article we will discuss the importance of pacing yourself in an IWMS implementation. Read the previous article on Understanding Your Business Process if you haven’t already.

There are many applications in a complete IWMS system.  These applications can include Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), and Real Property & Lease Management (RPLM).   Many companies desire to implement all the applications at once, to take advantage of all the possible features from the very beginning.  We highly doing it all at once.  Instead of rushing in, take some time and implement your system properly.

“Bigger is better” promotes the idea that the value of an item increases with size, scope, or price.  This may be true when talking about diamonds, but not so much when implementing an Integrated Work Management System (IWMS).  In fact, in many ways, the best idioms to follow with an IWMS implementation are “good things come in small packages” and “take things one step at a time.”

Too many applications at once is an organizational nightmare for those implementing the system.  It requires a lot of energy from all parties and can cause much frustration between departments (IT, FM, CRE, etc.) who may not be used to working together.  Instead of implementing Space Management, Strategic Master Planning, Lease Management, Portfolio Management, Asset Tracking, Building Ops, Preventative Maintenance, and Green Building (phew!) all at once, pick the most important application to implement and focus solely on that.  Once the most important application has been implemented successfully, move on to the next one.

Allow each application implementation to be its own success.  Pick
Space, Lease, Preventative Maintenance, or Asset Tracking first.  Allow
it to succeed.  Once it has succeeded, build on top of that.  Move from
one item to the next, ensuring that the application on which you’re
building has a firm foundation.

Implementing too many applications simultaneously can
overload the system users.  If an individual disagrees with part of
your IWMS implementation, it is easier to address the issues that arise
piecemeal rather than all at once.  Generate success stories with one
application.  Gather advocates as each new application is installed.  As
users see the benefits of the system and feel that their input is
valued they will use the system and encourage others to do so as well.

Taking time allows the development of robust standards (see part 4: Standards).  Move strategically and methodically.  Put a lot of thought into how you’re naming your buildings, leases, assets, etc.  Additionally, taking your time allows you to verify data and business
processes (see part 5: Understanding Your Business Process) as they are developed, thus increasing the trustworthiness of the
data.

Trying to do everything all at once (taking on the bigger is better mentality) in a shortened time frame can be counter intuitive.  It’s not impossible, it just needs to be done carefully with all parties taken into account.

 

Our recommendation is to take baby steps. You will find your IWMS implementation highly successful as you take each application you want to
implement one step at a time. When you take the time to set your system
up properly, individuals using the system will like
it, understand it, and use it frequently.

To be successful you don’t necessarily have to go slowly, you just need to set a reasonable time frame for your company.  Be sure to allow whatever time you may need to ensure realistic success.  It’s not about getting the biggest system up or getting your system up the fastest, it’s about thoughtfully working through each scenario and implementing the applications properly.  Ultimately, you will more often than not get the full system up and running more robustly than those who dive blindly into the chaos of a “bigger is better” implementation.


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Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

Friday Training Follow Up: System Navigation

Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC provides free 30-minute Client Training session every Friday at 10:00AM PST! RSC prides itself in providing learning opportunities for our clients. We feel that if our clients know the system better, we will able to work better with them to discover and implement the solutions that they need.

Last Friday’s training was led by our Tech Lead, Todd.  The topic he covered was System Administration, specifically Page Navigation.  Todd discussed the four basic types of navigation:

  1. Accessibility Navigator
  2. Process Navigator
  3. Dashboard
  4. Page Navigator (Home Pages)

Before taking a deeper look at Page Navigator.  During the in depth overview, he covered:

  • How to use Page Navigator
    • What you can have on your Home Page
    • How to toggle between multiple home pages
    • Working on Tasks
    • The Applications Tab
    • The “My Favorites” Panel
  • How to build a Home Page
    • Adding a Navigation Page
    • Building the xml Descriptor Page
    • Background Shading
  • and  of course some Best Practices

If you’d like to know more about this particular training, email us at training@rsc2lc.com

We are excited to announce this week’s Client Training!  It will be held on Friday 11/13.  Below are some details on registering:

Please register for RSC’s Friday Client Training: Reports, specifically Basic Report Types, on Friday, November 13, 2015 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM PST at:https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/743991509845256705

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the training.>

Can’t wait to see you there!


Like what you read? Subscribe to the blog and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin to keep up to date with the latest news from RSC, LLC.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your insights.

10 Keys to a Successful IWMS Integration: Pt. 3 — Ownership

We are excited to bring you our third part to this ten part series. If you haven’t seen the previous article, read about the second key, Appropriate IT Collaboration. Today we will discuss the third key to having a flawless IWMS implementation: ownership.

What do we mean by “ownership”?

In an IWMS, there are many types of data.  This data originates from different departments within a company.  “Ownership” is who owns that data, or who from each respective department is responsible for inputting and keeping the data up to date. Every department must have someone in charge of this, not only for reasons such as confidentiality, but also organization while inputting and modifying the data in later dates.

The IWMS shows financial information, employee information, lease information, geographic information, technical information, and much more. Not one single department holds all the information for IP addresses, buildings, desks, chargeback, internal contact, etc. We at RSC encourage the departments responsible for these varying sources of information (IT, Corporate Real Estate, HR, Finance, etc.) maintain stringent ownership.  If you’re in IT, and notice John Doe is not in the IWMS, it is NOT your responsibility to update the record to include him.  It IS your responsibility to contact HR and encourage them to update or sync their data to ensure all employee information is current. Part of this ownership is running an employee synchronization on a regular basis as changes occur within a company.

What happens when ownership is established? What happens when it isn’t?

When a strict ownership of data is created, there is no confusion when it comes to reporting.  If any information seems inaccurate or flawed, everyone knows who has stewardship over what pieces of information and who is ultimately responsible for the data. The data then stays pure.  With clean data and clear business processes on who manages what data, it is possible to get a 95-98% accuracy rate on all data.  When the data is accurate, the reports are accurate.  When reports are accurate, a company is able to make better strategic decisions. Conversely, when ownership is not defined, data pours in from multiple areas.  The data may have duplicates or inaccuracies.  Without strict ownership of data, maintaining clean, organized, and accurate data is extremely difficult and creates bad reporting, which, consequentially, creates mistrust of the IWMS.

For these reasons, RSC firmly believes ownership is the third most important key to a successful IWMS implementation.  An IWMS that cannot be trusted will not benefit your company. Successful reporting and results from and IWMS starts at the beginning stages of implementation when the data is being added to the IWMS and everyone fulfills their role in keeping the data up to date from then on.


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What’s wrong with my AutoCAD file?

AutoCAD used to have a reputation for crashing and corrupting files regularly.  Talk to any long time CAD user and you’ll hear plenty of horror stories.

The program has gotten much more reliable, but it is still very complex, and there are a lot of moving parts, so I am often consulted on drawing problems.

There are a lot of tools for investigating what’s in a drawing.  One of my favorites is the QSELECT command. QSELECT provides a console to create a selection based on various criteria.

Certain objects tend to be problematic:

  • Points
    • Since they don’t print, points can be placed anywhere.  They often throw off the drawing extents.
  • Blocks
    • Blocks are extremely useful, but blocks can also become corrupted.  It is worthwhile to keep track of your blocks and know what blocks are supposed to show up in your drawing.
  • Attributes
    • Attributes are ALWAYS supposed to be contained in a block.  If you have an attribute outside of a block, it should be deleted.
  • Proxy objects
    • Proxy objects are created by add-ons to AutoCAD.  They can become corrupted or they may not render properly in a version of AutoCAD that doesn’t have the add-on.
  • Splines
    • Splines are not always rendered properly.
  • 3D shapes
    • 3D shapes add a lot of extra data to the drawing.  It is an extra burden that can cause a drawing to render slowly.  I prefer to remove them when possible.
  • Empty text
    • Text and Mtext containers without text inside can increase the size of a drawing with no benefits.  Recently the PURGE command was adjusted to deal with empty text objects.

By using filtering abilities in QSELECT you can find, adjust, and potentially delete individual items that cause drawing issues.Like what you read?  Subscribe to the blog and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest to keep up to date with the latest news from Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC.

Thoughts? Questions?  Comment below and let us know what you think!  We’d love to hear your insights.

This phenomenal article was brought to you by our very own AutoCAD Wizard Matt R!  Matt is our go to guy for all things AutoCAD.  Matt is always willing to help out no matter what the task or assignment is.  His knowledge and expertise in AutoCAD is one of the many things that makes him an invaluable member here at RSC.


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ARCHIBUS Client Server & Excel Pivot Table Reporting

BAATUG is a wonderful training event because it is more than just information on ARCHIBUS.  Often times, head of Robert Stephen Consulting, LLC, Bob Stephen, demonstrates tips, techniques, and best practices that make your workflow significantly easier.

A while back, Bob Stephen shared some tricks at an amazing BAATUG event hosted by Stanford.  This little technique Bob taught was so good that we created a tutorial to share with all you who missed the event.

This tutorial is broken into two parts:

  1. Writing reports in Microsoft Excel
  2. Exporting ARCHIBUS data to Microsoft Excel and updating it regularly

Sometimes you need a report that just isn’t in ARCHIBUS, or that you don’t want to be in ARCHIBUS, because you’d rather use the flexibility and power of Excel to combine the data from ARCHIBUS with other sources, or to slice and dice it using Excel Pivot Tables.  All of these things are possible using the technique described below.

The reason this works is because ARCHIBUS Client Server uses ODBC connections to reach the database, and so can Excel.  From this point forward, we will assume you know the afm password to the database.

Below are the steps:

  • Open a new, blank workbook in Microsoft Excel.
  • On the “Data” tab, choose “From Other Sources” then “From Microsoft Query” from the drop down, demonstrated in the image below.
  • A box will appear that lets you choose from which database you want to pull data. 
    • These are all ODBC data sources.  If you don’t see the one you want,  go into Client Server and set up a Project to connect to that database.  Once you’ve set up the Project connection it will become available.  (ARCHIBUS Client Server creates ODBC Data Sources to make its own connection to the database; we are piggybacking off that.)
  • Choose your data source and click “OK”.
    • For now, we’ll leave the “Query Wizard” box checked.
  • A database login dialog box will appear.  The Login ID will likely default to “afm.”  In order to move forward, you will need to know the password for the database.  Enter the password and hit “OK.”
  • The Query Wizard will now appear.  You should be able to choose which database table you would like to use for the data.  In this example we will use the em and rm tables.
  • Pick the columns you want and hit the “Next” button.
    • NOTE:  If you pick data from different but related tables, the Query Wizard does the join for you.
  • From there you will be taken through some other forms;  it is safe to click the defaults to get the data into Excel.
  • You should see something that looks like a grid — a rich set of data about rooms and the people that occupy them:
  • With just a little more effort a more detailed analysis can be done with Count of seated employees by Division Department sliced by Region/Site.
  • If and when the data in ARCHIBUS changes, you just need to Refresh it using the steps below:
    • Return to the “Data” tab.
    • Right click on the data, and click “Refresh”.
    • Your data is now up to date.
    • If you are using Pivot Tables, you will need to refresh these as well after making the changes.
  • Want to Edit your Query?
    • Click on the data table.
    • Select the “Data” tab, then “Properties” from the drop down menu.
  • Push the button to the right of “Name” to get “Connection Properties” dialog box.
  • Click the “Definitions” Tab, then “Edit Query” tab.
  • And you’ll be right back to editing the Query.
  • A Quick Note of Caution:
    • Queries are not portable.  They want to be run from the machine on which they were created.  If you email the spreadsheet to a friend, they will be able to see and change the pivot table, but will not be able to refresh the data or access the query.

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