When I started working at Microsoft, I hadn’t been in such an open, technology rich culture before. And with so many IT systems around, and so many different software resources, my head was buzzing. In fact, I remember that at the end of the first week, the number of links in my Favourites was massive – just to internal websites.

I’d never used internet telephony, encryption, instant messaging, live meeting, SharePoint or Groove before, so I was all at sea until I could play around and work out how they were supposed to operate. Meanwhile, people who’d been at Microsoft for a while were metaphorically whizzing past me, as they collaborated, shared, published and distributed information. Whilst I was trying to work out how to answer my desk phone.

imageOne of the godsends for me was a set of documents called Work Smart Guides, which walked me through the basics of some of the new technology I was encountering.

As our IT team describe it, Work Smart Guides bridge the gap between technology and users. Work Smart guides provide employees with scenario-based, best-use productivity aids on Microsoft products and technologies.

We produce them because we expect to see more consistent, productive, and cost-effective use of products and technologies across the company – which helps the business ROI on IT investments, as well as helping people to understand the benefit the IT team deliver to users.

Ready-made IT guides

I found out today that we have also published them for customers to modify and use. This seems a great step – because I’m guessing that every college in the UK is producing user documentation where 80-90% of the content is identical. So these guides would make a good starter for 10, either for the format, or the instructions, or the simple screenshots. As an example, here’s the Email Basics one.

The subjects covered in the step-by-step guides for users include:

  • Environmental sustainability (hints like using Balanced power settings on your laptop)
  • Protecting data with BitLocker
  • Getting started with email
  • Transfer files and settings to a new computer
  • Collaborating with SharePoint
  • An overview of collaboration tools
  • Customising SharePoint sites
  • Integrating Outlook with SharePoint
  • Basics of managing email (Are you a stacker or a filer?)
  • Office tips
  • Outlook email signatures
  • New features for users in Windows 7

Download the Work Smart Guides

You can download the customisable versions of Work Smart materials from TechNet. There are 23 of them, and they come in one big Zip file for you to play with.

Bonus: You should also be looking at the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder, described by Long Zheng as a miracle tool. It does what it says on the tin, and the best bit is that the document it creates is brilliant for creating user guides, with screen shots and step-by-step instructions. Just stick “problem steps” into the search box of your Windows 7 Start menu.