Category Archives: ISM Inc. Blog

Office 365: An Enterprise Collaboration Powerhouse

By Umang Shah


The call for more choice in enterprise collaboration tools has been answered. Depending on your objective there are many different apps/tools within Office 365 that have very different functionality. First, let’s list of all the existing collaboration tools within O65 for individual analysis. From time to time we’ll publish an insightful article regarding each of the tools we identify today. We’ll call the series “O65 by ISM, Inc.” These Cloud-based, all-in-one tools are available with rich client (Apps) and can be accessed on almost any device.

Several apps are integrated with Office 365 enabling a seamless and secure work environment. From Yammer to Groups to Team Sites, Microsoft has done an excellent job packaging the ultimate tools for collaboration. Remember when porting an object from Word to Excel to PowerPoint was new? Now, Microsoft has extended those capabilities, allowing users to embed apps from OneDrive to SharePoint to Exchange or Teams.

To begin, let’s list all of the existing collaboration tools within O65 for individual analysis. From time to time we’ll publish an insightful article regarding each of the tools we identify today. We’ll call the series “O65 according to ISM, Inc.” These Cloud-based, all-in-one tools are available with rich client (Apps) and can be accessed on almost any device.

office collaboration1

  1. Exchange: The majority of internal collaboration is conducted via email. It is a three-decades-old technology that’s not going anywhere any time soon. Exchange is O365’s Cloud-based email that enables easy access to built-in apps and categorization of incoming streams. Exchange is not going away, but as other collaboration tools surface, we may see a slight decline in its usage. Response times may be longer but it’s a good tool for structured, one-on-one communications.

  3. OneDrive for Business: This is not a replacement of your website; it’s actually a replacement of the “My Documents” folder on your desktop. It is a great tool for external sharing and synchronization for offline viewing. Commonly used for sharing drafts with dispersed team members. We suggest starting OneDrive for business with limited people, and then moving to a more flexible SharePoint document library.

  5. Office Groups: Think of Office Groups as a container of user permissions (both internal and external). Confusion arises because our imaginary container has a user interface under office 365 Outlook, Yammer, and other 0365 services. Once you create a group it enables additional integrations such as conversations, files (OneDrive), calendar (Outlook), and personal notes (OneNote). Some people compare the experience with Yammer, Teams, and others. In the long run the use of Office Group will probably remain as a container for all Office services. Office Groups can be created from Outlook and Yammer to quickly collaborate with internal/external users. Users receive a dedicated email address for the group.

  7. Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is one of the latest collaboration tools for teams. Its Slack-like (persistent chat) tool integrates well with other apps in the suite such as Planner, Outlook, and Calendar. Throw in a little video conferencing capabilities and you’ve created a great way to increase team productivity and engagement. It’s not a replacement for Group, it’s a component of Group (Actual Azure Security framework). This tool is commonly used to quickly connect with specified contacts in a closed setting. Teams are able to plan, chat, share documents, and conduct a video calls in the secure app.

  9. Skype for Business: Most commonly used for impromptu web meetings and instant messaging. This is the quickest way to communicate one- on one or in a team setting. You can even extend it with Cloud PBX for peer- to-peer voice calling. The Skype app continues to outclass its competitors, and at a much more attractive price. Commonly used for daily stand-up meetings in which teams are geographically dispersed. Very useful for quick brainstorming sessions and informal communications that don’t require a saved record.

  11. Yammer: As an enterprise social network, Yammer has carved a niche for itself in helping internal/external teams stay connected. Its user experience and ability to engage large audiences is a huge advantage. It is non-structured and can be focused on large or small teams. The most common use is crowdsourcing ideas across the organization. Ideas can be shared and assessed within Yammer before any action is taken.

  13. SharePoint Site: The quintessential tool for managing lists and metadata, custom workflows, news, and more. Some components of the core site will be integrated with other office 365 tools. All of the other tools use the core concept from the SharePoint framework. Best for solving business issues quickly, creating lists with metadata, and using PowerApps and Flow for small business-centric apps. It has a good user adoption rate due to its popularity, and the SharePoint activity feed helps visualize activities across other office 365 tools.

  15. Delve: Delve is an intelligent, personalized site that uses Machine Learning (Office Graph) to discover and serve up content most relevant to you in real time. It is a secure tool with some borrowed featured from SharePoint for profiles and contacts. The biggest advantage is its Office Graph API. It’s intelligent enough to guide you along your content journey and it continues to get more accurate as you increase use. Good for informal research and understanding organizational structures.

  17. Co-author (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote): We can use the Office application in the Cloud and even in rich clients. We can co-author the documents simultaneously and see each other’s changes quickly. Great for collaborating seamlessly without worrying about version control.

  19. Planner: Planner provides a simple way to work together and organize tasks. It is extremely intuitive and easy to use. Teams are able to keep their projects separate and run visual status reports. Its integration with Teams and SharePoint ensures a seamless and transparent process for completing tasks and meeting objectives. Planner enables quick and efficient planning and management of multiple tasks. Teams can track progress, create sub-tasks, and access robust reports. Can be compared to Trello or Wunderlist.


Imagine you are participating in an active Yammer group to brainstorm ideas about a new product. Someone mentions a new technology that might help speed up the process, and the idea took off. There are several participants located around the world and you need to rally everyone for a quick huddle.You start a quick Skype meeting to discuss the details. During the Skype session, one person keeps close track of the conversation in OneNote. In the span of 10 minutes, a decision was made to move forward with the technology. As project lead you create an Office Team to initiate the project.As time goes by all of the original Yammer participants were invited to the new Office Team to plan the project. You also add Kartik, an independent consultant, to the Office Group and organized all project tasks in Planner. You measure the project’s progress using the charts within Planner, and then share them with your teammates in PowerPoint. I could go on but I’ll stop here. The possibilities for enterprise companies are endless. Office 365 E5 enables greater control of your communications process and ensures that you are operating in a secure environment with all of the bells and whistles at your fingertips.

As a Microsoft Gold partner, ISM, Inc. can help you choose the right app for your collaboration efforts and get you the best ROI from Office 365. Contact our Microsoft team today to learn more.

8 Key Drivers of IT Projects That Don’t Flop

Pravin Dabhi, PMP, PMI-ACP and Vanessa Saulsberry contributed to this article

Not all organizations fully understand the value of effective project management. Indeed, over half of IT projects fail. That’s a staggering percentage considering how important IT projects are in delivering real business value to the organization and its stakeholders. Nevertheless, many project management executives don’t know how their projects align with their company’s business strategy. The good news is that the rate of project success is on the rise. According to Project Management Institute, even though today’s companies still meander $97 million on average per $1 billion invested – it’s a sizable decline (20%) compared to the year prior.[i]

When user experience, revenue, and reputation are on the line, it’s vital that companies get it right. Some companies know all too well the woes of project failures. In 2009[ii], RBS’s customers were locked out of their accounts for two weeks following a botched software update. In 2013 the rollout failed to sign up the majority of Americans who tried to enroll ahead of the impending deadline[iii] What about Hershey’s not-so-sweet ERP project that caused an eight percent dip in its stock price?[iv] You get the point. IT failures have long been the subject of many articles, keynote speeches, research studies, and the like. In this post, we examine eight of the key drivers to IT project success.

W. Clement Stone writes, “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” We all know that projects start with inputs which in turn generate outputs. But we seldom distinguish between outputs and outcomes/impact. Imagine a project in which we build a bridge. Building a bridge that is ready for use is an output – a short-term goal. Building that bridge so that it generates millions in revenue for the state, and reduces traffic jams is an outcome or the long-term impact. Intended or consequence, knowing your projects short- and long-term goals are crucial to success. As such, it is the very first driver we address:

  1. Identifying short- and long-term goals: Some projects are meant to bear fruit immediately, and others ramp up in value. For example; let’s say that one of your projects is to add business intelligence (BI) and predictive analytics to your current data analytics system. The other one is a project to build a mobile application for an upcoming tradeshow. The goal of the embedded application project is apparently long term, while the main goal of the mobile app is short term. The outcome/impact of the mobile app may be positive because if people fall in love with the experience and rave about it for years to come, that’s an added benefit. The short-term goal is to engage attendees; keep them informed, organized, and connected throughout the live event. According to Project Management Institute, only 64% of projects meet their goals. It would seem that a good portion of that outcome is due to either misinterpreted or misguided goals.
  1. Insufficient planning: Benjamin Franklin writes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” 39% of IT projects fail due to lack of sufficient planning. The valuable time you put into planning your project at the outset will help guide the execution of phases seamlessly and make provisions for managing time, cost, quality, change, risk, and more. Brian Tracy writes “Every single minute of planning saves 10 minutes in execution, yielding a 100% return on energy”.
  1. Scope creep: “Projects are like icebergs; it’s easy to see the third above the water, but it’s the two-thirds below that sink the ship”—Eave Capital. We’ve all been there. Misunderstandings or last minute additions which, by the way, are “nice-to- haves” versus “essentials,” are often due to poor requirements gathering. Upon a thorough assessment, however, some changes bring much more value to the final deliverable and are worth pursuing. As such, developing a flexible change-management plan is vital.
  1. Inadequate leadership: A recent IndustryWeek article identified three types of leaders: One-Step-Ahead Managers, Two-Steps-Ahead Managers, and Three-Steps-Ahead Managers. The premise is that the unique leadership qualities found in each of these leader types (from the risk-averse tweaker to the risk-taking visionary) are all necessary qualities for effective leadership, especially when attempting to implement significant change. At the same time, someone who holds a position of leadership is not necessarily a good leader. Some leaders lack the interpersonal and motivational skills to rally team members and provide the necessary direction. They tend to be more focused on executing tasks versus overseeing the project and ensuring measures are in place for success.
  1. Poor communication: Communication is a core competency for organizations. All stakeholders should feel as though they have a voice in the project’s outcome. Listening to and addressing their concerns, where feasible, promotes transparency and aids in problem-solving and decision-making. According to a study conducted by PMI, poor communication is one of the most important factors responsible for project failure and ranks second to poor planning. When executed poorly it can polarize project teams and its stakeholders, leaving the project doomed for cost overruns, rework, and even worse—failure.
  1. Conflicting priorities: Companies must identify which projects will bring the most value to the organization and its stakeholders, and then make those a priority[v]. Working on a project for the sake of checking it off your list is a waste of time, energy, and resources. Instead, coordinate with business leaders, who are sensitive to the needs of the organization and customers, and then assess the business impact of each project on your list. Be sure to involve your CIO early on in the project so that he or she can help align the project outcomes to the strategic goals of the organization.
  1. Stakeholder management: Stakeholders have a vested interest in the project. A project is only successful when objectives and expectations of its stakeholders are met. Typically, the more stakeholders involved in your project, the more complex and stressful it becomes. Earlier we mentioned keeping the lines of communication open for stakeholders throughout the project. It is equally important to create a process by which ideas can be vetted properly for either inclusion in the current project or reserved for a later date. The criteria outlined below is essential to managing stakeholders effectively:
  • Interpret their expectations
  • Define clear success criteria
  • Accurately assess their influence
  • Keep them involved and informed
  1. Resource misalignment/overallocation: Assembling the right team with the right capabilities, experience, and skill sets is critical. PMI found that less than one in three companies currently prioritize the continued development of technical, leadership, or business skills, rendering most teams ill-equipped to manage complex technology projects. Overallocation is another issue for organizations looking to embrace new technology for competitive advantage. There are just too few people participating in too many projects, snuffing out any real chance of success. When this happens, it not only dampens team morale, it creates a lot of undue stress.  Outsourcing your IT project might be a feasible option as long as they have experience within your particular industry and follow an agile methodology for speed and flexibility. Indeed, 75% of highly agile organizations met their goals/business intent, 65% finished on time, and 67% finished within budget, according to PMI.

So what does all of this mean? At a high level, leading companies are leveraging technology to transform every corner of their businesses and are driving positive outcomes as a result. To achieve this IT projects must receive the proper oversight to bring tangible value to the organization, its stakeholders, and customers.  We recognize eight key drivers of IT project success ranging from effective planning to transformational leadership. Most importantly, industry-specific challenges and nuances require seasoned project teams with an agile approach to delivery. Daily tasks and activities, stakeholder engagement, and continued innovation are crucial for navigating large-scale IT initiatives, as is salience in understanding and advising on complex requirements. When in-house projects stall or never get off the ground, a trusted service provider can step in to help busy executives navigate the technology landscape.  A good strategic IT partner will keep your implicit and explicit needs at the center of its approach to ensure your project’s success and long-term business outcomes. The end goal is to be able to answer yes to the most important questions. Does it meet the intended scope? Did we stay on or around the budget? Was it delivered on time? Does it provide the organization and its stakeholders the intended value?

For a deeper dive on this topic download our latest e-book which includes more advice for bringing the best out of your IT teams: 8 Tips for IT Projects That Don’t Flop


The Power of Advanced Analytics in Manufacturing

Hitesh Soni and Vanessa Saulsberry contributed to this article


12.3 Million. That’s how many workers the U.S. manufacturing industry employs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting for almost 1/10th of the workforce. That’s a lot of jobs supporting growing families and businesses. Clearly, with the industry representing over 12 percent of the United States’ total GDP[i], manufacturing companies are a critical component to building a stronger economy.

Manufacturing leaders are facing some tough challenges and immense competition. The only way to stay competitive in this environment is through good old-fashioned innovation. Despite outspending global counterparts in R&D[ii], there are untapped opportunities hidden in the vast amounts of data manufacturers collect.

These opportunities are wide ranging and include:

  • Improving the customer experience
  • Retaining top talent and increasing employee engagement
  • Margin recovery
  • Enhanced product quality and safety
  • Boosting supplier and vendor relations
  • Improved efficiency on the plant floor

The possibilities and potential applications are endless. Indeed, IDC predicts that by 2020 the global Big Data and business analytics market will increase by $73 Billion[iii].

Over the last decade the complexities often associated with gathering and analyzing large volumes of data, including Big Data, IoT, and now IIoT, have dissipated. Modern data science and business intelligence tools go one step further, allowing department heads to serve up highly-visual, ad-hoc reports on their own, eliminating much of the heavy lifting by IT.

Manufacturing companies that embed predictive analytics can pry open new doors for additional insights regarding future outcomes. Suddenly, business leaders have transformed legacy systems into something far more valuable, unlocking greater ROI and influencing positive business impact.

For a deeper dive into this topic read the white paper: Leveraging Modern Data Science, Predictive Analytics, and BI for Competitive Advantage.

[i] Bureau of Economic Analysis, real value added by industry (accessed January 13, 2017) –
[ii] U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective Marc Levinson Section Research Manager January 18, 2017

A New Year of Opportunities and Challenges


2017 is sure to bring its unique set of challenges and opportunities for companies across the globe. From an upsurge in cyber threats to advances in AI and 3D printing, we’re headed for some of the most interesting developments we’ve seen in some time. Not to mention a host of economic, political, and social developments to consider.

For enterprise companies to stay competitive and profitable they must find ways to stand out from the crowd—a new or enhanced product or service, a new customer-first culture, or streamlined and cost-effective operations; they’re all top of mind for savvy business leaders.

Faster – better – stronger; that’s what all companies want to become. The problem is that it’s not easy to get there without commitment from the top down. Flat or shrinking budgets, along with lack of executive buy-in can bring these types of far-reaching initiatives to a screeching halt. The good news is more companies are considering sizable investments in people, process, and technology. It should make for an interesting year and we can’t wait to see what 2017 ushers in.

We’re planning some pretty cool things ourselves. Starting with a few updates to our website, we’ll also be developing some new content resources that we hope our customers and friends will find useful. We’ll also be sharing ideas and seeking feedback from our customers and new friends. Stay tuned, as we’ll be rolling out these updates over the next few months.

From our family to yours – have a happy and prosperous New Year!

The ISM, Inc. team

Appreciating Mahatma Gandhi and Teaching Leadership

May 27, 2015 – Written by Divan Da’ve

Appreciating Mahatma Gandhi and Teaching Leadership

Mahatma-Gandhi-and-Teaching-Leadership-300x199“I’m glad to reveal a picture of my own grandfather, who was not only a true Gandhian, but Chief Minister of Gujarat and five a time Member of Indian Parliament, Shri Ghanshyambhai Oza. Here is he with Gandhi on a train station in Gujarat. This picture was taken somewhere in the 1930’s. The man in a black hat with raised hand in front of Gandhi is my beloved grandfather.”

ISM Inc. CEO Divan Dave with an inspiring article about Mahatma Gandhi & teaching leadership.

I have an overwhelming appreciation of Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and immense contribution to India’s struggle for freedom. Through referencing Gandhi’s efforts, I teach leadership basics to the ISM/OmniMD team. Quoting Maharishi Patanjali: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new great & wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculty and talents, come alive and you discover yourself to be great person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” My belief is while leaders are both born and created, leadership cannot not be taught. A leader to be must want to be a leader. Many leaders are made out of necessity, while few are born with certain leadership traits.

Leadership traits I learned through Mahatma Gandhi’s work:

  • Have a self-initiated objective to achieve, which inspires you. Don’t do something for heck of it. Life is too short and too precious to waste on mediocre achievements. Take an example from Mahatma Gandhi, he had life mission to free India from British rule.
  • Find a solution commiserated to your nature to achieve the objective. Mahatma Gandhi devised the non-cooperation and the non-violent movement, as that was his TRUE nature. He wouldn’t have been too successful on the path of violence.
  • Believe in an objective and solution fully and unwaveringly. Stay committed throughout – even in toughest of times. Tough times are the true testaments of one’s leadership. Set examples your team can follow, always show how committed and focused you are. Throughout his struggle for the freedom of India, Mahatma Gandhi was steadfast in his commitment to non-violence.
  • A true leader devises an effective method to communicate his/her objectives and solutions to the masses. Your team must believe in your project & methods by which to achieve it. Win followers and friends, convert foes into friends and they will communicate your objectives and solutions. Remember everyone is on the Frequency, WIFM (What’s IN For Me?). Show them why, how, when and what they need to do. Gandhi orchestrated many acts to gather masses like the Dandi March to collect salt.
  • Leadership is full-time work. Be a fulltime and fully committed leader, there is no such thing as part-time leadership. It’s said Gandhi worked 18 hours/day, seven days a week.
  • Be a likable leader. Though leadership in NOT a popularity contest, one must make oneself a likeable leader. You’ll have far less resistance. Lead by inspiring, rather than through fear. Many decisions will be hard and unlikable, but everyone you’re dealing with must follow you. One of the key achievements of a leader is willing followers. Many disagreed with Gandhi. There were many freedom fighters, even who believed in violent struggle against British rule, but Gandhi was able to convince the majority of masses, otherwise; a great achievement on his part.
  • Produce results. Without results there is no leader. Leaders don’t make excuses, they get things done. Gandhi, with the help of many freedom fighters, did achieve India’s freedom from British rule.
  • Leave a legacy. A leader creates his/her legacy. During his life and after, Gandhi created many leaders who still follow his vision today. An organization or philosophy created by a leader should not fall apart after his/her departure. A leader creates a principle based organization, not founded on his/her personality. People come and go, they can make mistakes and their image can be tarnished. A principle based organization will not have such an issue.