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Gluing distributed organisations together (& the associated leadership challenge)

Summary: My wife just recently shared David McGraw’s article “Communication Tactics For Remote Companies” with me. Reading it made me realise that it contains a lot of implicit “reason-why” for the current situation of the Digital Workplace in many companies. I want to build on what David has written about start ups which, in many ways, experience the same challenges as globally distributed enterprises. And I want to elaborate on the leadership aspect that should go way beyond preaching connectedness and start to take action and balance empowerment and motivation (or shall I say “gentle enforcement”) of the required behaviour.

First of all, I have met people who frown on a military past when it comes to business leaders. For those who mistake the military business to be a pure command & orders structure I can assure you: there is nowhere better to learn to trust people with your life. I am not American and I have served only for a very short amount of time. But the people I met and that were respected as well as high up the military ranks were empathetic, charismatic and trustworthy characters. It made me seriously rethink my picture of the leadership aspect in the armed forces.

David writes about three core aspects: “(…)

  • Why transparency, leadership, and even celebrating play a critical role
  • The value of consistency by formalizing communication channels
  • How employees and leaders might suggest ways to improve the current virtual environment

(…)”. Let me pick up on those and add my personal thoughts and a “Digital Workplace” spin on the subject as well.

Building a purposeful “we care about what others do” culture

The foundation for a successful organisation is a joint purpose. People need to understand the contribution they make, where it connects to what others deliver and how it’s a piece in the bigger picture. Simon Sinek is probably the best known speaker about purpose and “How great leaders inspire action“.  Seeking the “why” seems to be built into our DNA and is almost instinctive. Why else would young children persistently ask “why” when they are forbidden or asked to do something? Most parents will confirm that “just because” is the worst answer one can give in that situation. In large corporations it’s no different.

The same goes for “caring about what others do”. Leaders and managers need to make sure that success is not determined by delivering on individual goals and KPIs. Furthermore, and this has been a rule  of mine whenever I have been in charge of distributed teams, not being physically present should not get in the way of the success of others. It’s important to understand that personal freedom, for example the place one prefers to work from, must not be allowed to impact others in situations where input is required. A virtual meeting requires a proper connection and everyone to be able to look at the same shared screen. Frankly, I can’t count all the conference calls and virtual meetings in which attendees were in fact driving cars, walking through an airport or simply “just popping in but I don’t have my laptop with me”…it makes me palms sweat just writing about it.

Formalising the “us”

David writes about stand ups and distinct channels for sharing success, progress or even whereabouts. In my experience “celebrating success” is one of the most essential things that can act as glue for distributed teams.

However, I’ve just recently run an analysis for a large company to determine the performance of their intranet function for thanking others publicly and the results were rather modest. Even though it isn’t the usual “launch spike & fade out” scenario, the people distributing recognition were few and the adoption of the opportunity was almost exclusive to the HQ and main markets. Saying “thank you” hadn’t become part of the corporate culture despite the availability of a distinct channel just for that. Together, we determined quickly that the shortcoming wasn’t technical, it was simply the lack of leadership and management attention (and contribution) to this idea. Only very few intrinsically motivated people kept up the good spirit.

It is essential that a collaborative attitude is established, led and lived sustainably. In particular when companies grow (organically or from M&A), maintaining the spirit of common purpose and “we help each other” is what leaders have to really strive for in addition to securing effectiveness, productivity and growth.

Governance, or in my words: Simply knowing where to go for what.

In his article David writes about standardising the communication channels. Honestly, there is no greater challenge than this in global organisations. The fact that in today’s world a large majority of companies have been built from mergers & acquisitions leaves them with legacy, pride of the past and “not invented here” scenarios. There isn’t one single place to go for product knowledge. There isn’t one corporate channel that would deliver all (as in: no exceptions) formally required information. And of course there isn’t one single “organisational chatter” room, in which people meet and actually show interest in what’s going on across the globe, pro-actively, because they feel that it’s important to “stay in touch”.

In order to pull off the “Digital Workplace” – and by now I feel the field has agreed that it’s more a concept or an ideology than a thing – there needs to be a certain level of standardisation. We really really need the “this is how we do” governance. It’s required to create an environment of

  • confidence (I’m sure I’ve got what I need to be successful)
  • trust (We are all on one page and help each other) and
  • motivation (We can get anything done, because together we are strong).

3 Pillars for Success: Purpose. Care. Leadership.

The transformation from “how we used to do things” to “this is how we do things now” needs to be purposefully led.

People cannot be ordered to care about others.

Trust and motivation to work as a unit cannot be commanded, which connects back to my military reference from before.

It all needs to be carefully implemented and “lived” top down. In combination with a joint purpose and a “we care for each other” attitude, organisations might become unbeatable!

 

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Social Chicken Network – The Need to Change the Foundation for a Collaborative Future

Summary: Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk on “Forget the pecking order at work” inspired me to write this post. I’ve talked and published a lot about why Enterprise Social Network by itself don’t seem to really deliver the success people expect. Listening to Margaret’s talk I was quite baffled that research on chickens was actually able to draw some parallels to business life. So this article is about the need for a new kind of leadership – in particular around motivation & reward models – when you want to lay the foundation for a more “WE” driven attitude in companies.

I’ve now worked from almost 8 years in the field of the Digital Workplace and Advanced Intranets. Over the years my job has evolved from “making people desire IT” to “establishing a successful foundation for cultural change”. One of the most striking things in my line of work is the fact that the attempt to establish Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) sustainably seems to be so challenging. I am, however, not implying that there hasn’t been a company succeeding in the attempt to establish an ESN. Unfortunately the real (like in: substantial impact & cultural change) success stories are rare and in a lot of cases limited to distinct use cases such as R&D, Sales or Marketing/Communications.

We’re conditioning future leaders the wrong way

In her TED Talk Margaret Heffernan talks about an experiment with chickens. To cut a long story short: Creating an average chickens flock delivered a happy camper group of hens that after six generations even showed an increase in (egg laying) productivity. Putting only the most productive “power hens” in one superflock delivered…oh well…only three chicken still alive after they started pecking each other to death at some point.

Then Heffernan says “(…) But for the past 50 years, we’ve run most organisations and some societies along the superchicken model. We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been just the same as in William Muir’s experiment: aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live. (Applause) (…)”. (Source: Talk Transcript on Ted.com).

This goes hand in hand with my experience from requirements engineering & needs analysis. What people are looking for is enablement and empowerment for their own work. They want to be put in a place in which they are able “to get sh** done” with reasonable effort.

A new way: focus on productive work that you cannot deliver by yourself!

We need to change two fundamental things:

  • Empower people to focus on productive work and take everything away that consumes time for unnecessary tasks and actions.
  • Lead people towards collaborative success and create an environment (incl. incentive and compensation models) in which “WE” behaviour is rewarded.

It’s important to emphasise that neither improvement works without the other if you’re really looking for a proper leap in results and productivity. It’s a little like it is with technology: digital transformation is built on organisational, managerial and leadership change…but without a proper piece of software in the background, there is no “digital” transformation.

We need to introduce ways to “synchronise coffee breaks” all day long. Then we will be able to end up in a place Heffernan reports on on the TED stage: “(…) When Alex Pentland suggested to one company that they synchronize coffee breaks so that people would have time to talk to each other, profits went up 15 million dollars, and employee satisfaction went up 10 percent. Not a bad return on social capital, which compounds even as you spend it. (…)” (Source: Talk Transcript on Ted.com).

If you empower people without a change of the reward system…

… what you get is people with a lot of time at their hand. 20% of those will spend the time on figuring out ways on how to be the next VP and gain more organisational power. The remaining 80% will…well…do their job with less effort and find ways of “burning” the time until it’s time to go home.

If you lead people towards collaboration but don’t take away the productivity road blocks…

… you might drive people insane – in particular the good ones. There is nothing more frustrating than the right perspective, the right purpose and a feeling that the right behaviours is rewarded, but you cannot behave that way. Coffee breaks, personal networks and meetings can only deliver limited impact. We need the support of modern technology to take the pieces out of our day that keep us from delivering results and enrich it with new opportunities to reach out and combine our talent with the talent of others for the “next big thing”.

The power of purpose…

Just to wrap this up I would like to reference Simon Sinek as well. Basically it’s a must if you talk about #change and #leadership.

I strongly believe that leadership towards a more collaborative work and corporate culture will not be driven by the classic corporate goals. In an interview in the npr TED Radio Hour Heffernan talks about her witnessing a corporate meeting in which the joint objective of 60 mUSD. “Who get’s motivated by trying to achieve a 60 million Dollar profit?” she asks.

And it’s true, if you want to get people engaged and committed you need to provide more than just SMART goals in a financial sense. For that it’s worth to (again) check out Sinek’s talk on “purpose” on the TED stage.

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DWP: The Single Entry Point to the Truth

Summary: Even though the field has agreed (and I’m on board here) that there is no such thing as a “Digital Workplace”, we’re still trying to find a tangible description for it. Based on my most recent gig at Social Business Collaboration and a little new business pitch I am involved in I’d like to add an (not revolutionary but maybe helpful) angle to the subject. Let’s call it the “Single Entry Point to the Truth”, in particular acknowledging the fact, that there is no such thing as a “Single Source of Truth” either. So this article is about what the DWP could actually be…whatever it’s built on.

Learning from my work in the field

I’ve used the following illustration in my most recent presentation at the Social Business Collaboration in Berlin. And maybe it’s me or the stuff I am getting involved in…but no matter how high the ambition is around collaboration, social or innovative things…we always end up at the same thing: I just need my stuff…easy…personalised…please!!

whattheymean

I was just working on a summary of a business case development project and the outcome was exactly that. What the majority of people in business functions wish for, is one single place in which they will find all their reference and work material…no matter where it lives or who’s created/published it.

Now… Let’s accept a few basic conditions:

  • The Digital Workplace is no “thing” – it’s a metaphor to describe what we need in information and knowledge work to drive effectiveness, foster working out loud and make it easy for people to reach their goals.
  • There is no “Single Source of Truth”. Period. Depending on what the truth is, it might be web content, a document, a post, an email…name it. So that all of this can reside in ONE huuuuuge container…come on.
  • There will never be one single digital communications or information management channel. No matter how many “one intranet” or “one company” or “MyXYZ” initiatives we run, there will be other channels that pop up in parallel, after it or were there to stay in the first place.

If that’s the reality, what we need is the:

Single Entry Point to the Truth

It would be the…how did one of my clients phrase it: everybody’s good morning.

The first touch point that guides you through the day. It show’s what’s going on, where people are dependent on input or things that need immediate attention. It would be the place that is directly connected to the user’s work day and business context and allows functions like Corporate Communications to sneak (relevant) messages into that context.

entrypoint

It could be called an aggregation layer, a wrapper or a portal. The name doesn’t matter – as long as it hasn’t been burned by previous initiatives and is better never mentioned in public anymore (Boogie Man…Boogie Man…Boo…….).

What we create is something that contributes to effectiveness (happy executives) and efficiency (happy employees). It would take away the digging, searching and crossing fingers that I got everything I need to “do things right the first time”.

digitalchannels

And it would be the place that would pick up from the business logic, the co-creation, the projects, the iterative work and turn the final items into corporate reference material.

So…does anyone got any thoughts on this? 🙂

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My digest of the 2016 Social Business Collaboration (Berlin)

Summary: This year’s SBC was primarily about change. Once in a while you actually got the feeling of being at a Human Resources conference. But as fairy dust there were a couple of presentations that stood out because they provided a new angle on a couple of things. Telenor reported on their experience with Facebook@Work. Jen Regruth Crites (@jen_k_crites) talked about actually “branding” a new IT solution. Laurence Fourcade from Kelios gave a striking presentation on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace. Europa-Park shared the insight how social connects the “unconnected” bees with a new software called “BeeKeeper”. And I am only mentioning a product here, because I really like a few aspects of their approach because of my work for the industrial manufacturing industry…and without further ado, here we go:

We knew it for some time. Finally everyone is acting on it.

Let me keep this short and crisp: “social” finally got its emphasis in real life. The days of IT-driven initiatives seem to be over for good. Literally everyone on stage made it clear that without properly orchestrating the symphony of change management, SBC (or business IT in general) initiatives simply are destined to fail.

  • Leadership needs to believe in and sponsor the efforts
  • Senior and middle management has to play an active role in the process
  • People have to be guided and taken on the journey in order to allow the new ways of working to really take effect

And the journey of change isn’t one of “campaigns” and “visionary promises” anymore. It’s about tangible value and a close connection to what people need help with. It’s about empowerment and allowing talent to really contribute its value to what the organisation wants to achieve.

All success stories that were presented this year showed, how essential the three bullets above were. Henry Haijes from ABM AMRO even added a slight twist to the culture/strategy quote from Peter Drucker:

Same goes for driving change throughout the entire organisation. Paul from the European Commission actually have a really compelling presentation on what it means to make sure that everyone is on board.

To use trainings as an opportunity for dialogue is really really smart.

Now let’s move on to the fairy dust…

  1. Facebook@Work at Telenor
  2. The P&G heritage: branding as a success driver for IT tool roll-outs
  3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace
  4. Keeping the bees involved…

1. Facebook@Work at Telenor

John Alphonse gave a pretty compelling presentation about their “roll-out” of Facebook@Work. For me the story was particularly exciting because it was literally the first company to report on their experience. Essence: it seems to work really well after some serious ramp-up efforts.

After Facebook worked very(!) closely with Telenor to get all set-up for enterprise readiness and prepare of an official data security audit, an audit Telenor & FB passed in attempt #1, which is probably one of the most impressive things I took home from Berlin. Not though, that FB passed the test impressed me here, but actually the fact that FB actively worked with Telenor and used their help and advise to gear up for the requirements of the enterprise world.

The 2nd interesting angle John reported on was, that FB@Work actually started in the world of Telenor’s Shadow IT. You know Shadow IT: it’s what the official IT department cannot keep up with on people’s laptops, tablets and smartphones (…long live the cloud). Telenor, however, has decided that they want to be inspired by their Shadow IT and that they will keep investigating new options for business solutions that have been “tried” by voluntary guinea pigs.

As part of my World Café Hans Dekker (@hansdekker) from IKEA even suggested that it makes total sense to actually actively encourage Shadow IT. He believes that allocating accountability to people and putting them in charge of finding new and better options outside the standard governance is rather an opportunity than a threat. Quite frankly: I think he’s spot on. With a certain set of reasonable rules this might actually be the solution to one of the key challenges of IT organisations: herding cats.

Thirdly John added a little detail: communication, exchange & networking (formal, informal, project) happens in FB@Work – Documents are managed in SharePoint. Literally all vendors that were mentioned had their short coming in document handling. So Telenor employees were simply encouraged to post links to SP in the FB conversations:

In Facebook@Work the main part of conversations happens in (open & closed) groups – in contrary to the private version, in which the majority of posts are in the public/main feed.

I wonder if Microsoft ever considers the fact that they seem to stay (very) dominant in the “enterprise information management” part and that they should leave the field of “social glue” to the ones that know the real deal. However, after still not 100% delivering on a Yammer vision, maybe the acquisition of LinkedIn could add some momentum here. Who knows. Time will tell…

2. The P&G heritage: branding as a success driver for IT tool roll-outs

Jen Regruth Crites (@jen_k_crites) reported on how her Procter & Gamble learnings helped to support the roll out of a new IT tool. She simply asked the question: if a brand helps commercial organisations to differentiate and emphasise value, why shouldn’t IT departments apply this to delivering their “product” to employees. Jen answered that question with a striking presentation on how a well branded IT tool roll-out can make an impact: 6 months in the following KPI pretty much speak for itself:

  • 54% of users recall the brand (starting from 3%)
  • 375k EUR savings
  • 83% Net Promotor Score
  • Active requests for MORE to the IT department

So FrieslandCampina (her gig at the time of the project) actually applied the Marketing 101 by the text book and even came up with a claim for the new UCC service:

Digital Meetings. Be there without going there.

3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace

Laurence Fourcade’s (Keolis Group) presentation touched my inner beliefs when it comes to the value drivers of the future Digital Workplace:

Driving content quality will deliver search experience.

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Keolis really approached the submission of documents to the intranet from a SEO driven angle and they tried to drive awareness for content IMPACT. For each item readers (online consumption) and downloads are displayed. Doing this actually can help editors or content owners to understand if the information provided has any reach (or relevance) within the organisation. You could even go as far as “x readers, no downloads” could stand for “na, this isn’t what I was looking for” from a searching point of view. Combined with the search query we’d enter a complete new game of content relevance and quality management.

Laurence made it clear as well that the UX for the upload interface is essential to the success of the approach. Thereby she made clear, that AGAIN the people are in the centre of all thinking, because an easy and intuitive upload mechanism that enforces SEO relevant aspects has to be user centric. Thereby the user (here the editor) is clearly the success factor that needs to be catered to.

The fact that I had at least 3 other in-depth conversations on Enterprise Search and search in general at the conference shows that it’s still one of THE subjects companies are struggling with. And I am still flabbergasted by Estée Lauder’s guts to actually run a “re-work” of their search index…from scratch. It’s one of the presentations that will stick to my mind for quite some time.

4. Keeping the bees involved…

I’ve always enjoyed working for industrial manufacturing clients. To guide organisations that usually perceive digital transformation as the next SAP roll-out into the world and value of information and knowledge work is very rewarding… However, there is one key challenge that still hasn’t been addressed properly: how do we keep the blue collar work force involved? They don’t have a PC or a user account. They often don’ even have an e-mail address. Two things the majority of current solution require (as an either or) to actually get someone on-boarded to the party.

Anselm Müller from the Europa Park theme parks presented their approach to keeping the bees connected with a new software called “Beekeeper“. Authentication does not go through AD or similar services. It’s rather a “sign up” service, which gives full control over content and access to the maintaining organisation. In it’s core it’s a social network with streams, groups and all.

The adoption of employees at Europa Park confirms the expectations and now the organisation even considers to gradually say “goodbye” to its conventional intranet. I cannot wait for that success story to hit a stage…

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So far for my little digest. The summary of my World Café session on driving people and corporate value with the Digital Workplace” will follow soon. So, stay tuned…

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The DWP Audience
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My thoughts on boxes, construction sets & custom solutions.

Summary: As part of my work in the field of the Digital Workplace I get asked one question a lot (even though I am not really a technology expert): “It’s 2016. Can’t we just buy this as a box somewhere?”. My answer to that is always: “Depending on how flexible you are as an organisation and what you mean by ‘box’.” So, this article is my personal(!) angle on the three main options to deliver modern digital services (probably as blurry as communication & collaboration in its scope). Personal angle, because I am not an analyst and because I don’t have the ambition to come across as one. My point of view is primarily driven by my experience in projects when I represent the business side of things.

I sincerely believe that we are moving out of the age of proprietary and specification driven development. Two factors seem to influence this with tremendous momentum:

  1. The substantial change of quality SaaS (that’s what we used to call the cloud in the old days) provides on almost all levels: scope, easy-of-use, governance, performance, availability, evolution/roadmap, mobility etc.
  2. The lack of effectiveness in allocating OPEX and CAPEX to infrastructure and systems that aren’t remotely core to the source of business

A third seems to emerge as well: compliance. In various projects (and it feels like a trend already) business owners have made sure that data touched by the project is business critical but not regulated! This means that there is very little legal leverage to argue “cloud security” by principle. For non-regulated content it’s almost a guarantee that cloud vendors have a better angle on data security than the heavy metal t-shirted guys in your basement.

The most significant change in this new playground: requirements engineering.

To play with boxes or modular systems requires new rules. The best way to determine, if you play by these new rules, is to never need a specification. In the new world, requirements and processes have to adapt to the capabilities of the target infrastructure and solutions (or the combination of modules/solutions therein). There simply isn’t the option to ask for the button on the upper right instead of a text link on the lower left anymore. The designers of the box want it up there, and if you don’t like it: get another box!

Organisations have to even learn a different way of determining requirements. They have to leave wiggle room to ready-to-use services in order to address the requirements properly. That requires intellectual flexibility on all sides: business stakeholders as well as (internal) solution experts. Therefore new methods of requirements engineering and documentation are needed.

Let’s talk about the scenarios

The following part of this article will only refer to three scenarios but not solutions or platforms that might fall into those. Primarily because I don’t want this article to be perceived as “analyst material” but more importantly because the “modular” scenario can be built from more than one solution/platform/service.

IMG_0435

In order to provide the core content of this article in a somehow re-usable format I will use a structure: my take on each option divided by

  • non-DWP analogy
  • benefit
  • consequences
  • key questions in the business context

Firstly this structure will help to align my point of view with yours, the reader (most likely not always 100% matching). Secondly I want to provide inspiration for readers that are confronted with the decision between the scenarios and seek for additional input for the decision process.

Option1: Boxed

Analogy
You buy a space ship in a toy store. It’s called “space ship” and it comes in one piece – as a space ship.

Benefit
You know what you get. You know what to expect and so does everyone who’s going to play with you. If your play requires space travel, interstellar transport and artificial gravity, you’re all set.

Consequences
The play is limited to the context in which a space ship makes sense. To play “summer camp 2014” will require a lot of creativity in

  • framing (change management)
  • execution (user experience & add value)
  • adaption (requirements re-engineering)

Questions in a business context

  • Are your business requirements clear enough so that you can determine a (reasonable) match with a technology? Do you need a space ship?
  • Can everyone use the new box? (e.g.: do you infinite bandwidth everywhere?)
  • Have you made sure that “out of the box” doesn’t mean “out of the boxISH” in the vendor’s sale pitch? In German you say “Auslegungssache” ;o)
  • Do you know all the other boxes in your company? Do you know the boxes that will be brought in in the near future? Do you understand how things will play together or create redundancy?
  • Are your functional requirements flexible enough so that they can adapt to how things are done within the new box?
  • Is your organisational willing to change the current standards (processes, ways of working, guidelines etc.) so that YOU will be compliant with the new box (not the other way around)?

Option 2: Modular

Analogy
You buy a construction set to build a space ship. The set it build from some common standards and some space ship specific pieces. *

Benefit
You are way more flexible in your play. You can adapt the space ship depending on space ship play relevant factors. You don’t even have to use all pieces and still build a space ship. Some standards in the set will help you to address needs that aren’t specific to space ship plays.

Consequences
If you don’t follow the exact (child proof) plan on how to build the space ship you need the experience (not just the vision) on how to build a space ship. Not everything you can build from a space ship construction set will be a space ship, which might be confusing to others.

You need a solid understanding for the priorities in your space ship play, so that you can cater to them. If you leave pieces out you need a reason-why. If you leave out all the space ship specific pieces, there was no need to buy the set in the first place.

Questions in business context

  • Do you have a plan? (literally)
  • Do you have internal competence to work with and maintain construction sets? It is a different ball game compared to standard solution operations…
  • Have you matched your plan to the construction set?
  • If you leaves pieces out, do you have a reason-why for the ones that “always wanted something like that”?
  • If you start small, do you have a roadmap for adding the other pieces?
  • Does your construction set play well with other sets and boxes in your organisation? Does it have to?

Option 3: Custom

The following statements will make you feel that I am not necessarily a “custom” fan anymore. However, there can be good reasons to go fully customised. It’s all a matter of requirements engineering and cost/benefit analysis.

Analogy
You get some raw material and you build a space ship.

Benefit
It’s the space ship that fits a specification, which was built on known requirements. It’s yours. You are in charge, if you don’t sell and lease it back…

Consequences

  • Your requirements have to be spot on (correct and complete)
  • Your specification has to be spot on (correct and complete…and ideally tested)
  • Prioritised requirements automatically lead to a roadmap and release management. It’s good to have the future 1.5 releases in mind to avoid “cul-de-sacs”.
  • You better test your space ship before you fly off because it’s a brand new space ship

(Pragmatic) questions in business context

  • There is really no box out there that would fit your requirements? Really, really?
  • Is “custom” connected to the people in charge? (that’s always how we’ve done it)
  • Could you adjust your requirements to fit a box or a construction set?
  • Could you change (like in: processes, ways of working, etc.) to become more box or construction set compatible?
  • Could you win your CFO over to your team by creating a business case that sets out
    • benefits of generally changing “ways of working” (aka organisational evolution)
    • freed up CAPEX and OPEX for more core business focussed actions

 


“Modular” can stand for “built from multiple specialised/best of breed solutions” as well. The available eco system of services simply becomes the construction set.

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IntraNET Reloaded 2016 – My key take away & the summary of my World Cafe session

Summary: I guess it’s fair to say “we did it again”. The European Digital Workplace and Intranet community had their annual “class reunion” in Berlin’s Kosmos Cinema to exchange honest experience, practice insight and progress at the 2016 IntraNET Reloaded. Reflecting on the conversations I had and the presentation I was able to attend there wasn’t a “next big thing” or obvious trend into a certain direction this year. However, things are getting more serious. The digital maturity in organisation has increased a lot and practitioners have left the age of try-out & guess work. It’s now about putting the past year’s experience to work and make the next evolution of the inside facing digital channels really count. Change is present everywhere. Change Management is not just a “need” anymore but has become a key element for the successful initiatives with a meaningful footprint. The conversation at my world cafe session on “Creating user and corporate value with the Digital Workplace”  was very insightful. It sparked a lot of exchange and inspiration amongst the participants on how to motivate the various stakeholder levels to join the alliance on the way forward.

For detailed “Twitter Minutes” of the sessions (yes, the tweets are more or less up to that standard) check out #intrelEU as the conference’s hashtag. The following is my little summary of the event. I’ve split the post in two sections

  1. My key take away from the two days of sharing and exchange
  2. The summary of my World Café Session on the DWP Value Proposition(s)

My presentation on Effectiveness can be found on SlideShare:

My Key Take Away from Two Days of Sharing and Exchange

After this year’s conference the separation of (internal) communication and collaboration seems more artificial than ever. To enrich top down, bottom up or cross border information flow with communication, interaction and social engagement has become almost a standard. When it comes to governance it’s amazing to see how “control” has changed to “sustainability” for internal assets. What has been the need to control every bit of information provided to the organisation is now the ambition to make sure that the right people get the right information at the right time (aka relevance) and that we keep building a strong foundation for enterprise search.

If I remember right there was almost no mention of “social” being the driver of relevance this year. The aspects of meta data management and taxonomy seemed more present than ever. “Rubbish in, rubbish out” has moved from a statement to an accepted reality to drive search quality and experience. Also the need to provide dashboards with tiny little boxes that users can drag around seems to have vanished. No more portals. No more internal MyYahoo!’s anymore.

Mobility…

…is definitely a requirement for many and even creates business cases for award winning new applications like Orchard. There is an increased awareness for the case and value add behind mobile communication and collaboration and which service to which extend has to be fully optimised for mobile usage. Looking at this from my experience I couldn’t agree more. “Everything mobile” (aka mobile first) in the enterprise context simply is an investment that probably won’t pay off quickly.

It will be interesting to see how the mobile DWP will develop balancing “responsive design” of web based elements with dedicated Apps for specific services and interaction. In particular when components/modules in the PC based DWP are already delivered through an App based model.

The Cloud…

…has left it’s “something for when we don’t have to worry about legal and compliance any more” stage for good. The adaption or even migration to the cloud is present in many cases. What comes with this change of “infrastructure” is a recognisable move away from customisation. Whoever is dealing with e.g. Office 365/SharePoint has learned from the past. On premise services still show the ambition to “hide” as much of the native software as possible. The cloud solutions however don’t try to hide but rather take advantage of the new richness in functionality, mobility and OOB apps.

Change & Change Management…

…is a key topic for the ones that are in for real impact. Some outstanding cases on change management:

Merck moved the ambassador and change manager role to a “job enrichment” level and claimed the folks taking care of guiding others to be “rock stars”.

They used the reference of living in a “smart city” when it comes to using a Digital Workplace (which kind of reminded my of my 2015 analogy to “City Planning” (at the end of the post)).

Holcim Lafarge pointed out how a merger could drive the need behind a new Digital Workplace.

KBC’s Geert Vandezande from Belgium gave an impressive presentation on how to establish awareness for change, implement the right alliances and use the power of the crowd to implement it.

Work Out Loud

@CallewaertFilip ran an extensive session on the subject. Across the entire conference “working out loud” was a theme in one way or another. Digital Workplaces or modern intranets have a clear job to do: connect people, make knowledge accessible, get experience and best practice back into the daily business. Just the “daily routine” cannot be the “loud” in working. We have to surface our assets from below the line and make it accessible to the right audience.

But: is there a too loud? I personally don’t believe there is… There is only a lack of relevance steering and information management, if people cannot tune in and out of their favourite or most critical channels and/or subjects with ease.

IMG_1675 

My Summary of the World Café on “Value Propositions”

worldcafeintro

My little intro to the session stands for the three general layers that value propositions have to be created for. On each layer value can be created for the individual(s) as well as for the area of responsibility of that individual. E.g. you can make the CFO’s life easier in two ways. Firstly, by supporting the CFO’s individual daily work and responsibilities with services that make it easer for his/her to reach personal objectives, secondly, by making sure that existing knowledge is re-used and put into force as often as possible in order to avoid redundant efforts (aka effectiveness).

Two aspects were particularly important:

  • Middle Managers need support for their own work day as well. The DWP’s value proposition cannot just lie in the enablement of the organisation they are responsible for. A lot of them have a tough job with more work than the day has hours. Let’s help them out…
  • The difference between a value proposition (e.g. feedback & best practice culture) and a resonating value proposition (e.g. the ability for retail front line staff to report on the effectiveness of new in-store marketing campaigns) lies in how well they land with the audience. The better we listen to our target groups and stakeholders the more likely we will deliver something meaningful and relevant to their actual work.

The following image is the (enriched) transcript of our session board. The top row contains four inspirational statements, the bottom part contains the collected essence from our conversation. I’ve tried to create four clusters in order to provide a little structure to the content. A PDF version of the mind map can be downloaded here.

My favourite statements were the following:

  • Be honest. Never promise “perfect”, “100%” or “everything”. We have to learn to openly talk about continuous improvement, iterative development and the “learning organisation” (incl. the DWP)
  • The Digital Workplace can act like a suspension between people and business process whenever work reality deviates from the set standard
  • Make sure that you decide on the right messenger for the right value proposition to specific people or groups…not everyone can talk to everyone. And this is not meant in terms of hierarchy.
  • People need to feel change, it has to be tangible. And they need to feel that they’ve been really listened to in the first place. Maybe try some “active listening” techniques in the requirements engineering phase…

And at the end of the day: think about your customers. The more effective, productive and content people are at work the more time they will have to deal with the really important thing: customer satisfaction.

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Google Web Search is not Enterprise Search…

Summary: If you are in charge of Digital Workplace or intranet projects I bet a lot(!) on the fact that you continuously get the “requirement” to simply launch something like Google. Then the internal search experience will be so much better. This is a short but maybe a helpful one…

If it’s getting serious…the big “G” goes Taxonomy and Refinement, too

Yes, managing taxonomies is an effort. Yes, assigning taxonomy to enterprise information makes is less easy to just “dump” stuff onto a server. No, the application of meta data to information objects cannot be fully automated (yet).

There is a substantial difference between “finding something that somewhat meets my need” (aka Web Search) or “find something specific that is required to enable me to achieve a certain (unmovable) objective” (aka Enterprise Search). That’s why 2’300’000 results and a few “media type” categories won’t hep. You need refiners/filters, which are populated from a taxonomy. So if you’re trying to find a specific “thing” Google changes your search/refine experience as well.

Here’s a little example for the search query “laptop” in Google Web and Shopping search.

SIX15-02 Google Web vs Shopping

You can’t just “make up” stuff in terms of meta data that you apply to products that you want to register with Google Shopping. Similar to the categorisation and description that you have to apply to offers on eBay…if you’ve ever done that you know what I am talking about.

Web Search vs. Enterprise Search: it’s about controlling the “experience of finding stuff”

I’m simply sharing a slide that I’ve created as part of my work at Infocentric. Less for advertising but more of pragmatism reasons.

The Google Misinterpretation

Since it’s little hard to read here’s a link to a JPG.

If you need a few more reasons why taxonomies are essential to successful and user friendly (not publisher super low effort) experience:

  • freedom to combine/aggregate information objects dynamically
  • disconnect information from organisational/corporate structure
  • ability to deliver information to the relevant user profiles (matching information object and profile meta data)
  • option to associate “future” information objects (not in the system yet) to existing content via metadata
  • ability to “follow” subjects instead of people (like you partly deal with Twitter, when you follow/aggregate a #tag)

Is there proof that it works?

Yes. Simply get in touch with Estée Lauder, New York. The have extracted all their assets from the search index, applied a newly designed taxonomy, moved them back into the system and now: all purple roses! Check out the Twitter minutes for #intrelEU or Social Business Collaboration 2015 where they presented that insanely awesome project!

 

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Social Business Collaboration 2015 (Berlin): the summary of my World Café Session on “Stakeholder Management”.

Summary: Berlin, October 1st and 2nd 2015. The European practitioners for modern intranets, social business collaboration and the Digital Workplace gathered in Berlin to exchange on their experience and share insight & learning. As part of the conference I had the opportunity to host a “World Café” session on stakeholder management. This article captures the essence of our discussion.

The framing of the session

I used a little drawing to introduce my personal learning from the past years in the field. From my experience the key layout of stakeholders exists on three levels:

Stakeholder Map

It’s 2015 and the top management (c-level, board room) have bought into the fact that companies have to break up silos. Globalisation is reality and collaboration/communication has to bridge geographical and functional distance. Digital Business Agility (read about this in one of my previous posts) is essential in highly competitive markets.

The people in business operations drive from bottom up. They have a solid understanding on how connectedness and collaboration can improve business success. They are desperate for a more integrated world, improved information management and the ability to work independent from time, place or device – no matter if Generation Y or Silver Surfer.

Squeezed in-between is the middle management. They either get left out in the process from “let’s get connected” to “this is the new connected world” or they are not measured based on the new paradigms. Middle management happens in Excel and PowerPoint, in an abstraction of the real world and represents the “channel” TO the top management. In addition to that it’s a rough world. It’s competitive and not everyone (aka only a very very few) are willing to take risk and accountability for change. They are the ones that we have to really care for. They get caught in politics, games and objective struggles. “What’s in for me” gets more and more important on this particular level in the stakeholder map.

This will become particularly important if our ambition is to further increase the work and business criticality of intranet, Digital Workplace. Then accountability and governance have to be with the middle management. They will be in charge of making it work for the organisation. Therefore we need have to have middle management on board as of day one and make it theirs.

The conversation’s essence

Everyone agreed that more time has to be invested in understanding the real stakeholder map and how they stand with regards to the subject (supporter, promoter, opponent, neutral and/or allies)
Finding the right “value proposition” for the various stakeholder functions is key to get them on board and keep them on along the entire journey.

Executives and top management have to adjust success measurement and KPI to make “connectedness” and “networking of knowledge and people” part of the actual middle management scope of work. The fact that effectiveness will provide competitive edge has to start trumping the “just get it done” attitude.

We have to accept the fact that “business ownership” doesn’t come through a title when it comes to stakeholders for the Digital Workplace. A director is not in the middle of things. Field managers are. They are the ones that primarily seek enablement and support from digital services. We need to have them on board to ensure that “user centricity” is built into the project.

If you have opponents or “disbelievers” in the stakeholder center, get them close to you. Give them a key role, a key stake and the opportunity to shine with the project. Thereby you turn them through pure opportunism…and it’s WIN/WIN.

Pursuing something that has an impact through work criticality will lead to politics. And politics. And politics. Be prepared and don’t expect “yes” to mean “yes” or “I am in” to stand for “I will throw all necessary resource at you”. The future Digital Workplace is cultural and corporate change…and it’s political.

The conversation cards & transcript

We’ve collected a lot of angles on stakeholder management. Below the little moderation wall you can find a (more or less) transcript from the cards collected during the sessions (5 groups attended, approx. 50 participants in total).

World Cafe Wall

A little transcript of the World Cafe Wall

World Cafe Transcript

1

From “relevance” to the KPIs that measure communication quality & impact

Summary: In the long run the concept of “relevance” will undoubtedly replace the attempt to provide intranets that users can customise or personalise. Relevance targeting is driven by purposeful communications and clear objectives on the sender’s side. Evaluating the actual effect of distinct communication will allow communicators to continuously improve their skills and organisation to improve their channel mix and effectiveness.

Attending one of my client’s internal communications conference I felt inspired to document a workshop session with a little drawing:

Sending and Receiving in DWP

It summarises important aspects of the sender/recipient relationship. It furthermore hints to where the long sought for KPIs for internal communications and the Digital Workplace can be found.

The beginning: a purpose.

I truly believe communications without purpose should simply be banned from internal digital channels. Actually, thinking about it again, it should be banned from all channels, no matter if analogue, digital, internal or outside facing. The purpose of communications is usually driven by an over spanning objective. Purpose and objective create the foundation for “relevance”, the “reason-why” for the creation of a message and delivery to a particular audience. The tonality has to resonate on both and make sure that the core of the message is clear and easy to understand.

Practical example

Objective: reduce the risk of legal liability caused by wrongful handling of presents from suppliers.

Purpose: create awareness of a changed compliance guideline to the purchasing employees in Eastern Europe, Middle East & Asia.

Tonality: clear, straight forward, call to action (= go to the policy, read it, implement it) as the core element; background & change tracking should be stored in the context of the policy, not the communication, so it can be found even if people simply search for the policy itself and not the connected communication around it.

KPI for success measuring (Examples)

Deliver on communication purpose
  1. Unique visitors = effective reach of the message
  2. Distinct & scaled rating of the message = feedback for the senders on quality, clarity & relevance
  3. Click through rate = “conversion” from communication recipient to policy recipient
  4. Time on (destination/reference) site = recipient involvement with the reference material
  5. Receipt confirmation (if possible) = communication read & understood
Deliver on communication objective
  1. Quantitative evaluation of the implementation through line managers (read, understood, implemented)
  2. Cases of non-compliance in purchasing after the communications

Measuring success beyond media KPI

For a few years I have been chasing best practice and lighthouse solutions for success measurement in the context of intranet/DWP. So far the subject hasn’t really gotten the right attention and the majority of KPI we see in the field are “volume” KPI such as

  • members of a community or group
  • number of conversations
  • number of likes & shares
  • number of comments

To continuously improve the quality of Enterprise Information Management we have to deliver more insight to authors and publishers. The ones in charge for the mechanics and design of internal digital channels have to enable the ones in charge of the content to deliver on the requirements of all stakeholders. To date way too much guess work is involved.

How to get there?

Let’s simply stop asking for “analytics”. Let’s ask for Communications Insight & Intelligence. If I were in charge I would refuse to implement any KPI without a concept on

  • why measure? (reason-why)
  • how to report on the insight? (reporting format/frequency)
  • who will be reported to? (audience)
  • who is in charge of executing on insight? (accountability)
  • how shall KPI be interpreted? (figures > insight)

The last is probably the most important because at the end pure numbers mean nothing. The interpretation (and therefore the commentary for the report) is key for the actual execution on the insight. For that we have to pre-determine what particular figures mean and what has to happen with the learning, for example:

  • Low click-through
    > recipients only now that the policy is there but they don’t know the detail
    > implementation might fail
    > actively research through line management
  • Low time-on-site at the reference material
    > recipients only go to the site but don’t get involved
    > implementation might fail
    > actively research through line management

Why to pay more attention Communications Insight & Intelligence?

I believe that by implementing a more serious quality and impact measurement for internal digital channels we will achieve three things:

  1. Provide support to the governing organisation and enable them to iteratively improve the channel effectiveness
  2. Increase awareness for the fact that people have to pay attention to the alternative to e-mail communications
  3. Establish intranet/DWP as a work critical and essential part of the people’s work: the Good Morning for every day that you don’t want to live without

Who to talk to in the field?

Probably Philip’s Dennis Agusi is one of the guys in the field that has one of the best ongoing cases in DWP analytics. You can find him on Twitter: @DennisAgusi

Check out the tweets about is presentation at the Intranet Reloaded 2015 at #intrelEU (add his twitter handle to your search query to filter out the distinct tweets). But be aware: they hired a data scientist to pull off their attempt…

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