Government contest wants you for free!

Startups can enter government contest. But the winners might end up being the losers in this game.

(c) Jacquelyn Guderley for government contest
(c) Jacquelyn Guderley

Putting a foot in the door of civil contracts, it’s best to have a steel toe boot or enter a government contest.

It’s a laborious  process,  a lot of killing of virtual trees to submit bids to finally get the all-endearing approval after weeks or months of waiting.  But in the end, all the hard work is pay dirt.

Actually they don’t pay in dirt,  but you get the point.  So yesterday, I had to pay my utilities bill, so I head over to the West Sacramento city’s website.  And before I could blink, up comes “Wanted:  Startups to work with West Sacramento” Well, that got my ears to perk up and my finger clicking. The press release started with “The City of West Sacramento is recruiting startups to help develop technology-based solutions that address challenges facing the city. West Sacramento joins San Francisco, Oakland, and San Leandro, to form a regional Startup in Residence (STIR) collaboration led and managed by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation.  And the application only takes no more than sixty minutes of my time to complete?

I was in government procurement heaven.  The press release stated, “Startups can apply now to work on one of 25 civic challenges in Northern California. The winning team for each challenge will be selected to participate in a 16-week “residence period” from April to August 2016 to work with a city department on a prototype for their proposed solution. “Residence period?”  What are those quotes suppose to mean? I hate when my gut starts talking. So I go into investigation mode and my ears droop. It’s pro bono work.  And what is the businesses’ advantage? After sixteen weeks of development work, a required year of providing free maintenance, and allow them dibs on licensing. a possibility, but no guarantee of a future paid contract?

Obviously government agencies are looking for ways to save taxpayers money. We get it. But pay zero, nothing?  Do these same entities understand the need to put food on the table let alone the amount of work that goes into producing an application with an extensive custom interface to their specifications for free?  I know there are those who live only for the innovation challenges. And more power to them. But for me, I’ll be going back to killing virtual trees.

RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat.
Find out more at AXbean.com.

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Highlighting searches in Excel

Excel’s Conditional Formatting is the new BFF

Easier cut and paste
Relieve those tired fingers

I’m staring at a long spreadsheet with a whole lots and lots of numbers in a column and my fingers are getting cramped. The up and down keys are getting a workout. All I want to see are numbers less than zero. Using Excel’s “find” feature I’m constantly pressing those black keys over and over again for quite somet ime. “There’s got to be a better way!” I say out loud. Then Robert said ” Oh, but there is!” So after I threw at him a pillow with my one good hand, he told me about the wonders of Conditional Formatting. BTW, is also a feature for all you folks using Microsoft Access.

There are a number of things about this feature that are quite handy. First, it’s better than “find one at a time clicking” because with Conditional Formatting, it highlights the specific numbers all at once. For instance, if you wanted to see all the numbers less than zero. Second, since it has the word “format”, it means that once you do the highlights, it stays that way and becomes part of the spreadsheet. You then can send it to someone else and they can see the highlights too. And lastly, the highlights aren’t permanent, meaning if a number is changed, the spreadsheet changes too.

Okay, enough already, here are the steps.

  1. To find Conditional Formatting, click on the “Home” tab.
  2. Select and click on the header above a column. This will select that column.  For example, I want the column under header E to be selected.
  3. Head your mouse to the Conditional Formatting tab in the ribbon.
  4. Click on Highlight Cells Rules.
  5. Since I want to see amounts less than zero, click on Less Than.
  6. In the Pop up window, there is an average number in there already but delete that and type 0, for zero. This will automatically give a preview.
  7. There is a drop down menu in the Pop Up Window for the decorating part. Don’t care for Light Red Fill with Dark Red Text? Be your own person and click the down arrow and you will get more options.
  8. When you’re happy, Click OK.

Now, your fingers are wiggly with excitement. Yay!

AXbean Owners

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat. Find out more at AXbean.com.

Big Data and Equal Pay?

Using data analysis for everything, even paychecks

Equal pay
Bear in a Prius

Everyone who has bought a car, has probably experienced the Car Doppelganger Effect. You know, after purchasing a car and driving it around for the first time, you start to notice how many other cars are exactly like yours, down to the make and model and maybe even the color. And you’re probably thinking, “Huh, looks like I just bought other Ordinary.”

I’m having the same growing awareness as I have increasingly come across the unique usage of data analysis wherever I turn. Whether I’m reading a Douglas Adams book that happens to go into a storyline about Excel spreadsheets, or how the movie Revenant was the first to use wrist wearing devices to gauge audiences’ emotional responses, convert it into a data algorithm and find out how long people were captivated.In case you’re curious, 76 bear terrifying minutes of the film’s 156 minute duration.

But what caught my attention recently was how Big Data is being used to resolve the issue of equal pay. There has been so much political talk (really, political?) about whether women and minorities were getting a fair shake in their paycheck. There wasn’t any hard concrete data implemented to actually see if there was any fact-based pay discrepancy among employees, and if there was, how wide. Is the seventy-nine cents to the dollar gap, real or a myth?

Until recently there have been talks about using big data for this hot button issue.  In the news was the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proposing that large companies submit data reports based on employees’ W-2 forms to see if there are any inconsistencies in salaries and if there are, execute programs to rectify the salary discrepancies.

One of the companies that did come out on their own volition to address this contention was Intel. And what they found out in their company after analyzing employee experience, responsibilities, education, and job evaluations that there were no gaps to speak of. Which of course, rendered Danielle Brown, the Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, speechless. Well, it was more like, almost fell off her chair. It will be interesting to see if cold hard data analyses can be used to end other volatile issues. How about not buying the same car as pretty much everyone else?

Gets me worked up every time.

RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat.
Find out more at AXbean.com.

Losing your anonymity for fun and profit

The loss of our privacy by our own hands

Selling privacy
Photo courtesy Pat Pllon

Back in the day we used to have a landline phone (not this one)

And every so often to the point of irritation we would get debt collector’s calls for people who had our phone number before and apparently had created a huge mountain of debt.

We started out politely stating to these callers that they got the wrong number and ask to be removed from the list. They said they would and the calls ceased. For about as long as a cat stayed off the kitchen counter.

The problem is these debt companies would buy a list of names who owed money, go through the list and when they couldn’t wrangle more money, they would sell the list to another debt company and we would start getting calls again. So good riddance to the landline.

Big Data and selling of people’s information can be put in the same barrel as bill collectors that pass along lists down the debtors’ line. But it only works if people are willing to let go of their privacy to get something in return.

Whether it’s good or services, we are willing to give up vital information about ourselves to get a new credit card, free concert tickets, sign up for NetFlix or trying to get certified as a Woman’s Owned Business (But that is a whole other ranting blog post.) But we all do it.

We have let go of our privacy and hope that when we do, our confidential information is not being sold or worse, falling into dubious hands. Unfortunately, it is on both counts.

So my recommendation is to pay cash for everything and if that’s not possible, is it really worth buying? And get a library card. And if temptation is still too great, a Time Machine will do the trick. Just fill out this here form and it’s yours.

RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat.
Find out more at AXbean.com.

A spreadsheet into a music sheet?

Can Microsoft Excel be Turned into Beautiful Music?

Photo by: Baltazar Hertel/Suspekt

“You see, any aspect of a piece of music can be expressed as a sequence or pattern of numbers,” enthused Richard. “Numbers can express the pitch of notes, the length of notes, patterns of pitches and lengths . . .”

“You mean tunes?,” said Reg
Excerpt From: “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” by Douglas Adams.
Funny how work seeps into leisure time especially when I’m trying to not think about spreadsheets and charts and it just randomly pops up in a book. When I started to read it, that I thought couldn’t possibly have anything to do with spreadsheets and charts. But alas..
So the subplot of this book is the character named Richard is trying to create music from work-related spreadsheets without much luck.
That got me curious enough to try a little experiment, since there has been music created on Excel but not that I’m aware of, where spreadsheets are turned into sheet music.
Our computer lab happened to have an electronic keyboard waiting to be played.
We created an Excel spreadsheet with fifteen random numbers from one to eighty-eight, the standard number for piano.
Then we copied the high and low notes to the keys of the corresponding numbers. Plotted them out and played them on Robert’s electronic keyboard hoping to create some music magic. Below is the spreadsheet, the piano key layout that shows how it was done. And the resulting um..audio.
Spreadsheet:
Keyboard Layout:

 

RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat.
Find out more at AXbean.com.

Data Analysis talk on Periscope

See on Periscope for 24 hours before it’s gone

On Periscope, Robert just finished up his live Periscope talk on “What is Data Analysis?” Thanks everyone who saw the video and hope you enjoyed it as well. Anyone who wants to see the video again or for those who missed it, you can see the presentation again. Only catch,  it’s only up for twenty four hours on Twitter before it implodes. Their rules.

So here’s the link:

http://bit.ly/1ntKcW4

RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat.
Find out more at AXbean.com.

Data talk on Periscope, plus new video

A data analysis chat. Plus a new video

Robert will be doing a live data talk broadcast on Periscope. Talking in depth about “What is Data Analysis?” Tomorrow, Friday, January the 29th. Starting at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Come and learn.  Post questions. Robert can talk about this subject all day if I let him but the broadcast should last for about fifteen minutes. Below is the Periscope link:
And there’s a new training video called “Excel in 2D” with yours truly doing the narrative. Here’s the link to the video:
Thanks in advance for watching.
RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat.
Find out more at AXbean.com.

Is Hillary Clinton too data driven?

If Hillary was a business owner

Hillary Clinton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since  my last post using Donald Trump as an hypothetical example about the differences in data analytical software for SMB (Small Medium Businesses), I thought it was only fair to drag Hillary Clinton’s name as well into the world of data analytics.

Lucky her.

Using Clinton’s hypothetical self to pose a business question, is excessive data mining a risky endeavor to strive for authenticity in the eyes of consumers?

How does that connect to an ongoing election, you might ask? Well,  I happened to come across an eight month old campaign job post online in which Clinton’s staff were seeking employee positions for a Data Scientist, Modeling Analyst and Survey Methodologist.  In the act of being Hillary, does breaking down emotions into ones and zeros make a better human candidate?

It can be said that if Clinton was a business owner in today’s market, it might hurt businesses like hers when they become too data driven,  especially when customers are seeking companies they can have an emotional attachment to. Consumers are increasingly putting their money in the hands of companies that are more concerned about having a greater global footprint than compiling a massive dataset.

When buying a product such as footwear from Toms, for example, customers feel good knowing that some of the company’s profits are helping to improve the lives of someone who doesn’t have shoes.

There’s always going to be a need for data analysis to be a successful business, no question about it. But there’s a hazard of over analyzing with algorithms and data models or in the Clinton job post, “…build and validate predictive models for voter behavior to ensure efficient voter contact.”

As in business, consumers are becoming more aware that they are being exploited for their dollars.

Robert and Debbie Wallis, founders of AXbean

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat. Find out more at AXbean.com.

Trump, a Quickbooks, Excel or Access user?

If Trump had to start over in business

Trump Tower Las Vegas
Trump Tower Las Vegas

If Donald Trump was starting out as a small business owner today, let’s all stop and think about that for a moment.

Now that we all got that out of way, his bigger than life personality will probably be the driving force behind what he might choose. Will he immediately pick something like a straightforward accounting software program like the very popular Quickbooks? Using this is very much like living with the parents.  Because the software is laid out in such a basic instructional format, if someone wasn’t technical savvy,  this program will pretty much hold the user’s hand.
Remember, he’s bigger than life, a user friendly software won’t keep him happy for long.  Can you picture Mr.Trump living in some basement?
How about Excel? It might work for the The Don.  If say, Mr. Trump bought a New York apartment, there are features in Excel that can let an accounting spreadsheet be customized without worrying about the parents’ rules too much. You can’t walk into other living areas of course. The neighbors wouldn’t like that. But, it will be more personal to the business instead of an one size fits all program.
Even though I don’t know Donald Trump, he’s probably a “Go Big or Be Nothing” kind of guy and he wouldn’t be happy with Excel for much longer.
Microsoft Access or any database program is like buying a New York building on the upper west side. There are a lot of apartments all under one roof, like having many spreadsheet files, and after taking a sledge hammer to them, they can be renovated to connect to each other without a wall standing in the way and can freely share and compile any information Mr. Trump’s heart desires.
With being a real estate mogul, one building would not suffice for this fellow. Whatever he picks, it will eventually be in the cloud.

RobandDeb

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat. Find out more at AXbean.com.

Small Businesses benches big data

SMB’s Relegate Big Data to the Sidelines

Sitting on the sidelines. SMB and big data
Photo by Jay Phagan

 

 

We have an upcoming presentation (TBA) to SMB (Small Medium Businesses) owners about getting their businesses to better utilize and integrate the data they have collected with the software programs that they are using. Because no matter what they have, I guarantee their database program wants to scream “ I have so much more to offer and I want to help so badly, Use all of me, please!”

While I’m preparing for this upcoming event, I have jotted down some fragmented notes that I’d like to pass along to you all.

Most small and medium businesses under utilize their data collection and their database software.

What happens when data doesn’t get analyzed enough, or is done incorrectly? Most people in SMBs don’t use their software programs beyond the rudimentary features. It’s important to get more details from your collected data and into your database, then it can give you more of a complete picture. Not just the basics like accounts receivable, accounts payable, employee hours and inventory.

You might need to include other factors such as the upcoming weather, or special events around your business. Here’s an example: There’s a farm stand near where we live and has the best produce. It has the same hours, every Sunday, because the farmer believes that day was the best for that location. But once a year the fire station next door has their open house on a Saturday and between 300 and 400 people that attend have to walk by his empty stand to get to the fire station. Be aware environmentally.

Many programs today have the capabilities to collect more data through cloud applications and integration.

There are software features that can help but you must make the time to learn your system and your data. Time taken now is time well spent later. In 2002, The Standish Group, an IT Research firm in Boston conducted a study that found 80% of computer users access and utilize only 20% of their software program’s features.

You don’t need to spend like the big players to get deep analytical results. Many SMBs buy extra unnecessary applications for features that more than likely they unwittingly already have.

Today there are many software programs vying for the piece of your pie since Big Data is here to stay and businesses want an edge over their competitors.

Past behavior is not always an indicator of future behavior unless you want the same outcome to occur every time, but in business most everyone, I believe, wants some upward growth.

AXbean Owners

Debbie Wallis and her husband Robert, are owners of AXbean, a guiding light to all things Microsoft Access and Excel. They reside in the central valley area of Sacramento, California between agriculture and government central. When not working, you can see them running about outside, exploring shops, chowing down at all kinds of eateries and whenever possible, being more curious than a cat. Find out more at AXbean.com.