Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Where’s your trend periscope?

It’s a priveledge to work with many different people and organisations. One reason why organizations work with us is to bring “external reference” to the table. So they want us to share with them what others are doing and what the trends are in the market.

I enjoy this role. I find it very important to stay in touch with what’s going on in my area of work (and even the broader context of my work). And sharing our insights is a way to stay in touch. There are others different ways to do this as well:

  • talk to people from other companies
  • visit conferences
  • read books
  • read trend and research reports
  • read newspapers
  • read news and updates on the web
  • work for many different organizations
  • etc.

The good thing about today is that there are many tools to help you keep your “trend periscope” up. For instance, I use Feedly for RSS feeds, Pocket for storing and reading online articles and getting recommendations for this to read from followers, Twitter - still one of the best platforms for trend watching and “ambient intelligence”, LinkedIn (groups) and Google+.

As you see you can do most of this by yourself. And most of the readers of this blog already do. However, what I see in practice is that very little people actually do this. Of course not everybody has to be an information junky - like myself… But I’m surprised that many people I know don’t have their “trend periscope” organized at all. Why is this the case? Too busy? Too much information? You tell me! I’m curious what your thoughts are on this.

But let’s flip this for a second. How can we help others set up their “trend periscope”? In my experience this isn’t easy, but it’s nice work. I usually start small: showing others how I work and helping them make one step, e.g. connecting them with someone from another organization or setting up one tool.

How do you help others open the windows?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Intriguing intranet technology trends

There’s quite a bit going on in the intranet technology landscape. Three trends I’m seeing are:
  1. Many “out of the box” intranetplatforms are popping up
  2. Organizations are using combinations of platforms to fullfill employee needs
  3. Organisations are outsourcing functional and technical maintenance, and hosting
Standard intranet solutions
I don’t where you live but where I live, in the Netherlands, many standard intranet solutions are popping up. This is understandable if you see how many intranets, that have been developed on cms’s, have failed. Many are so sick and tired of the failed intranet projects that they flee to intranet platforms that can be set up quickly and are well-designed.

As much as I understand this, I’m also intrigued by it. Over the last 5-10 years almost all companies have left their custom developed intranet (cms) behind and have moved to standard cms’s, like Drupal and SharePoint. Two of the main reasons to do so was the lack of innovation in these tailor-made intranet platforms and vendor lock-in.

But now take a look at the “out of the box” intranetplatforms. They usually pay quite some attention to UX, which is great. They usually fulfil the basic employee needs (lots and lots of “me too” in this vendor space, regrettably). My main concern with these types of platforms is that it’s back to the old times. Because when you do business with one of these vendors there’s no other developer that can maintain and extend the intranet than the vendor itself. And that’s called vendor lock-in… Finally, most of these platforms seem to be dead cheap, but when your really add up the costs they’re not that cheap at all. Oh and finally finally, the “out of the box” intranet have the huge risk that an intranet project will be about technology again, instead of people and strategy...

So, as much as I understand this I don’t like where this is going. In about 5 years organizations are going to be complaining about vendor lock-in and lack of innovation and will move their intranet to some standaard cms...

Of course there can be good reasons to use an “out of the box" intranet platform. Step2Designs has a good post about this. I see quite some organizations using these platforms to try a more interactive intranet temporarily and then develop the “long term” intranet based on standaard technology.

Combining platforms
Another technology trend I see is that organisations are combining technologies to fulfil needs. Of course this has been going on forever, but more organizations are explicitly accepting this and actively looking for combinations instead of “one platform to do all”. So, SharePoint is combined with a good content management system. Or a good content management system is combined with a great social networking platform. I think this is great news. And technology vendors are making sure they integrate well with others - at least many of them are.

Outsourcing intranet maintenance and hosting
Finally more and more organizations are outsourcing functional and technical maintenance of their intranet, usually to the developer of the intranet. And they’re outsourcing hosting. IT is mostly about delivering standaard technology to employees and lowering maintenance risks and costs. The intranet, being a specific bit of technology with demanding users, is usually not IT’s cup of tea. Outsourcing this work is usually a huge relief to IT (and employees…) and is usually done for much lower costs. This goes for hosting as well. Mobile access to the intranet is just one of the reasons to host your intranet externally.

Let's talk
I’m curious if you recognize these trends. Do you? Or are there other trends that caught your attention? Looking forward to discussing in the comments.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy 7th birthday, dear blog, I still love you!

Just yesterday my dear blog turned 7! I thought I'd write a short post to celebrate this and to also share with you that I'll be blogging more this year. Wow, 7 years I ago I started blogging. And I can still feel the lump in my throat after hitting the 'publish' button. I was nervous what everybody was going to the think about me blogging. My bosses, my colleagues and all the people out there. Even after 7 years, it still is a thing to send out my musings via the interwebs. But I must say I've always enjoyed doing it. And I love getting positive and negative comments on the posts.
The last years have been busy and blogging has been slow. But I have been blogging, for instance on the Dutch blog Frankwatching. And I hope to start blogging soon on MarketingFacts, another great Dutch blogging platform as well. More blogposts will show up on my own blog as well.

So, happy birthday, my dear blog! I still love you and will show you more love this year.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New book: Collaborating in the social era by @oscarberg - a review

There are quite a few books about ‘collaboration’. Recently one was added to the list: ‘Collaborating in the social era’. I had the pleasure to read Oscar Berg’s new book twice. Once in ePub format and then in paper. And I must say I enjoyed reading the book and highly recommend you read it too.

Reason to read the book

The first reason I enjoyed it is because I’ve been following Oscar’s writing (blogging) for years now. It’s great to see his writing has been collected, structured and extended into this book. Intranatverk did a great job publishing it.

The second reason is the fact that many books you read about collaboration are theoretical. They give us general and more strategic things to think about. And these kinds of books have their own right. I enjoy them as well. On the other hand, after finishing those books, I can feel lost. What steps can or should I take? Oscar’s book is not about that. For one, it’s clear that Oscar is not only a consultant, but has done the stuff he’s preaching while working in (and for) organizations. There’s no simplistic 1-2-3 plan in the book. He gives the reader deeper, more philosophical insights in collaboration and work, but maintains a practical, basic focus to help the reader move forward.

What’s the book about?

Let me give you a short summary of the contents of the book:
  1. The first chapter of the book is about proximity. This very important topic is often overlooked when we think about collaboration and communication.
  2. The next chapter should have been the first chapter, I think. Chapter 2 focuses on how business has changed. It describes business in the industrial era and why that doesn’t work too well in these times. I’m curious to hear why it was put in second place.
  3. If business changes work changes too. Chapter 3 and 4 are focused on knowledge or non-routine work, and the problem of the disengaged worker.
  4. I really enjoyed the chapter about information. This topic is not addressed a lot either (I think because it can get quite philosophical). But what is information and how does business and information relate. I’m not sure about using the metaphor of “water” when it comes to information. I think “blood” is more appropriate. The same goes for the statement that “information does not exist”. But still, this is an important chapter to read, think about and work with in daily practice.
  5. Thinking about information is great, but if you can find what you’re looking for, what’s the use? So, the next chapter is about finding and search. Just look at the research on intranet search and you know why this chapter is important…
  6. Chapter 7 is about email. How is email used, how should we use it and how does email related to other (social) tools? I like the fact that Oscar points to the user needs when it comes to work and business. Too much focus is and has been on organizational needs.
  7. Oscar’s Knowledge Work Capability Framework is discussed in chapter 8. To me chapter 8 and 9, which explains the Collaboration Pyramid, are the core of Oscar’s work. In these chapters he clearly brought together loose insights from others, added his own insights and integrated them into a whole. I like the way Oscar shows the complexity of these topics in a simple (but not simplistic) way. By the way all the visualizations and models from the book are shared here.
  8. The end of chapter 9 and all of chapter 10 are great for those that want to move forward with collaborative communication and/or want to help others with this. I like the short “guidelines” Oscar gives.
  9. Chapter 11 is very interesting. It’s about hierarchies vs networks or is it hierarchies and networks? Read this chapter to find out what Oscar's view is.
  10. The next chapter addresses where social technology fits in our daily work. And how the tools are more about a way working/thinking, than a set of features.
  11. Chapter 13 shows (together with chapter 14) that collaboration and new ways of collaborating can be supported in practice. Use cases for social collaboration help you look at work and support them in more collaborative and productive ways.
  12. The last chapter is about change. I was surprised this chapter was so short. In the other chapters ‘change’ is addressed (e.g. on page 116 explicitly, and elsewhere more implicitly). I think readers could have been helped more with some concrete pointers to trigger change. Maybe a good topic for Oscar’s next book? ;-)

One recurring thought I had when reading the book was: Shouldn’t a book about collaboration be a collaborative effort? By sharing his thoughts via Oscar’s blog and discussing the content in the comments, Oscar’s book clearly is a collaborative effort. But I was wondering: could we take things further? For instance, Oscar writes lots of good stuff about the industrial versus the network era, why networks are important and what the downsides of hierarchies are. But there are downsides of networks too. And, as Oscar remarks on page 174, hierarchies and networks don’t exclude each other. The same goes for industrial thinking as well, I find. The only way we get cheap(er) MacBooks and iPhones, is because the industrial thinking is applied and refined. So, what is really going on here? I agree there is no simple answer, as Oscar says on page 185. But I do think we can detail the subtleties more - without making book twice as thick… ;-)

One other example is where Oscar writes about different modes of work. Clearly the focus of the book is on supporting non-routine work in a better way. If this book helps organizations and people do this in a better, more productive way, we’ve achieved a lot. However… I think many people and organizations struggle with the fact that their work is routine and non-routine and they have to switch back and forth between these types of work. To me that’s one of the reasons email is so popular. It’s like the ERP system for non-routine work. But what does this reality mean for organizations and workers? And for the tool/technology landscape?


Anyway, let me wrap up this post by congratulating Oscar with his book. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for writing it, Oscar!

And to you, dear reader, as you may suspect I recommend you to buy the book. I’m curious to hear what you think of it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notes day 3 IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2015 #iec15

As I did yesterday, I'm sharing my (rough) notes with you all. Please find them below. Others are live-blogging the conference. Please follow them as well. I pointed to their blogs yesterday.

Dave Snowden, The organization as a loosely coupled network

About systems, cognition and the patterns of those.

Three functional types of systems:
  • Ordered: Order is cool, but after success we get seduced by it.
  • Chaotic: no boundaries or structure
  • Complex adaptive system (co-evolution): We’re moving away from content to linkages that are defined by people.
These systems work in very different ways. Illustrates this with the ‘7/8 year old children party’.

Refers to the Cynefin framework, a sense-making framework. Some remarks Dave made related to the framework:
  • If you’ve done two interviews you already have a hypothesis that is hard to give up.
  • Complexity requires more management than in the ordered domain, but the management is different. It’s about creating safe-to-fail experiments. It leads to a dramatic reduction in costs and managerial stress.
  • Failure is better for learning than success. If you copy best-practices you will never innovate.
The future is distributed. Dave says there will be no intranets in the future. We will work with something like a bundle of apps. This fits better with how organizations work.

Snowden wraps up his talk with insights about human language (‘meaning is not found in text’), patterns (from ambigious, positive questions) and the importance of stories (collect them regularly, in real-time).

Arthur Turkstra, Bring out the best with Iris

Didn't take a lot of notes on this talk. I just listened. But, in short, Arthur shared his experience with design and his design principles for intranets.

One interesting statement I did write down is: Design for all humans. Human behavior is predictable.

David Gurteen, Conversational Leadership

The purpose of the Knowledge Café is to bring a group of people together to have a conversation on a topic of mutual interest.

The aims include:
  • learning from each other
  • sharing ideas and insights
  • gaining a deeper understanding of the topic and the issues involved
  • and exploring possibilities
It also helps:
  • connect people
  • improve inter-personal relationships
  • breaks down organizational silo’s
The process of the Cafe:
  • speaker makes a short presentation
  • poses a question (what makes a good question?)
  • small group conversations at tables
  • 3 rounds of conversation
  • whole group conversation in a circle
  • approximately 2 hours in total
Conversations are the lifeblood of the organization. Some even say conversation is the organization.

There are many tools to facilitate conversation: dialogue, knowledge cafes, peer assist, De Bono’s six thinking hats, brainstorms, etc.

David thinks we should move towards conversational leadership. Conversational leaders can be described in the following way:
  • modify their behavior to take a conversational approach to the way that we work and interact with each other
  • help build a strong social fabric and a sense of community by connecting people and helping them build relationships with each other
  • practice conversational methods daily such as peer assists, after action reviews and knowledge cafe's
Look for Conversational Architects in your organizations. David thinks managers should start with this.

Luke Mepham, Considering SharePoint in the Cloud?

Product or service, cloud vs. non-cloud, software vs service? Understanding these differences is essential when want to choose between SharePoint on premise and Office 365.

Customization was not possible for Office365 in the past. It's now possible. But MS doesn't allow anything that breaks the service. And Aviva learned to see this as a good thing. However customization is only allowed on a different server and that costs money. And don't except all requests for customization. Sometimes an extra service is better than a customization.
Upgrades, they were happy that they would always be the latest version. However... the upgrade is done whether or not it has any benefits for the organization. You cannot choose.
Security-wise Office365 is amazingly secure. It complies to ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II and EU Safe Harbor. Aviva also uses two-factor authentication to make sure the employee-side of security is covered.

Luke is also sure 'SharePoint' will move to the cloud. Some of the services (like Yammer) are cloud-based and will always be.

Final talk is by Anders Quitzau about 'Demystifying cognitive computing and putting Watson at work'. I didn't take any notes during this talk. Just listened and tweeted. You can find all the tweets by searching for 'IEC15'.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Notes from day 2 IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2015 #iec15

I'm attending the 2015-edition of the IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen. It the 10th time it has been organized and it's my first time at the event. I'm writing along with the talks that I attended and will share my rough notes with you below. These are the notes from day 2 (- Day 1 was the workshop day. As I had to give a workshop I don't have any notes on Day 1. The slides for my/our workshop can be found here).

James Robertson, How design thinking is transforming

Intranets could do more with design. There are several tools to design intranets like:
  • Cardsorting
  • Tree testing (for instance by using Treejack)
  • Wireframing
  • Usability testing
James stresses that we should designing intranets that engage. Intranet should not only be useful (as he thought in the past), but also be beautiful. Employees look at it every day. It should delight employees. He shows several examples of intranets that do this:
  • Accolade
  • Calgary Board of Education (based on Sharepoint)
  • vxconnect, Virgin America's intranet
Also design should change the way of working. Coles – mycoles and Lakewood High School are shown as examples.

Theresa Regli, Evaluating mobile platforms for the enterprise
The main question Theresa will be addressing in her talk is: Should you go big or small when it comes to mobile technology? Big is go with Google, Microsoft, etc. But there are quite some best-of-breed smaller vendors.

What does enterprise mobile technology do?
  • it helps you with mobile app and mobile web experience development
  • services required by these mobile applications
Key players in the market are:
  • Infrastructure: e.g. IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, Adobe, SAP
  • Mobility specialists: e.g. Verivo, Appmobi, Xamarin
  • Niche offerings: e.g. Corana labs, July systems, Spring
The smaller vendors/specialist are much more focused on details and distributing to all types of mobile devices. The big guys focus on android and ios and that’s it.

What exactly are you trying to do?
  • simpler b2c (consumer apps)
  • b2e applications
  • location based
  • online and offline
  • mobile websites (make websites responsive, one-on-one conversion)
  • etc.
Theresa doesn’t think there’s a case for a complete native app for the intranet.
Hybrid apps: downloadable applications but the core uses standard web technologies.
Make sure you have a strategy and choose between a native app or responsive intranet and something in-between.

Closing thoughts
Select big infrastructure if:
  • already invested in them
  • need capabilities to mobilize other products with the suite
  • enterprise concerns more important than breadth of functionality
  • mostly suitable for b2e scenarios
  • usability focused on hybrid approach
In other situations go for a niche vendor.

Dana Leeson, Complicated business management systems made easy

Works for BSI, British Standards Institution (global company)

How do we support our employees?

Shows an (ugly) screenshot of BSi’s assurance business management system just before 2014. They knew they had to do something.

Four separate systems had to be integrated into one (experience), that would manage 3000+ documents:
  1. assurance
  2. product certification
  3. medical devices
  4. standards & publishing
They structured the documents into 4 content types and x document types and x document categories. And assigned an owner. They developed a form with 20 fields to upload and share a document.

BSi wanted to make the system purely focused on work, not on things like news that don’t have to do with news for auditors.

The entry point to the new systems gave a simple overview of updates and comments and links to useful pages.

The users like the system because it’s easy, gives a good overview of work and the documents can be found.

This system is used by auditors and is audited by auditors.

They thought this project would be done in 6 months, it took them 2 years. Know your internal limitations. External examples of speed don’t always work in your organization.

Perttu Tolvanen, Intranet systems beyond SharePoint – overview of the best alternative

You need to understand the philosophy behind systems you can use as an intranet platform.

Make sure you draw out how the (intranet) system relates to other systems. It can help you select the right intranet platform.

Perttu sees 2 trends:
  1. Social layer for the enterprise. Many of the older intranet system providers haven’t found the answer to the social layer.
  2. Microsoft and the cloud. SharePoint 2013 is a dying platform. All investment is in Office365.
And he distinguished between different types of intranets for which different platforms are right:
  1. Social publishing, e.g. Episerver, Confluence, Umbraco, Jive
  2. Complex social publishing (SharePoint doesn’t support this), e.g. Episerver, Drupal, Umbraco. These platforms also support mobile strategies as well.
  3. Management portal concept (hard to move to the cloud), e.g. Liferay, exo, ibm, SharePoint, Oracle
  4. Social publishing and teamwork, e.g. SharePoing, Confluence, Jive, Dropbox
  5. Social publishing and teamwork and document management, e.g. Dropbox, Alfresco, Liferay, IBM
Tomorrow we'll continue with notes from day 2 of the event.

Others are live-blogging the event, please refer to Sam Marshall and Wedge Black's blog.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tools from #SocialNow 2014

Now that plans are being made for the next edition of SocialNow, it’s a good time to post some of my notes from the previous edition. I’m really looking forward to the next conference and hope to meet you there!

Special conference
As you my know SocialNow is special conference. The structure is very different from other conference. The whole idea is to help you (the audience) listen to and select the right internal social platform for your needs. This is done by asking vendors to present to a fictitious company with real-life needs and convince them that your platform is fit for their needs. The company is supported by ‘consultants’ with expertise in IT, design and business. And of course the audience may ask questions as well. Here we go:

Talks and tools
The vendor presentations are mixed with several keynotes by Tim Walters, Louise McGregor, Luis Suarez and Euan Semple. I’m not going to summarize those talks. I do want to share my notes about the vendor presentations and round up with some closing thoughts.

Hoozin: Does auto-translation of content, runs on top of Sharepoint, wants people to work with Hoozin in the context of their day-to-day business, employees are invited to join communities instead of forcing them to work in one.

Exo: Microblogging, integrated call feature, users can also assign tasks to content, document sharing and collaboration (extensive DMS features). It looked like they also summarizes interactions, but they don’t. It’s open source software and has a multi-lingual interface. They have a plugin for real-time translation of updates. The mood widget gives insight in the sentiment of the feed, page or platform as a whole (to HR). Exo also has an app.

Jive: Very extensive social platform. They provide rich social profiles (with skills, endorsements), inscreen document viewer, recommends people and documents to users, etc. A share widget that can be installed in your browser helps share external stuff you find in Jive. Jive also has an app.

Knowledge Plaza: They have rich profiles, apply facetted search everywhere, wiki functionality, syncs with Dropbox, Skydrive and the like, versioning on all content, light-weight workflow, also responsive design.

TeamGum: Launched at SocialNow. They want to integrate all external platforms so stuff can be shared internally. Searching in Google gives results from TeamGum. They are focused on information and knowledge sharing and discovery. They too provide a widget to share stuff to your network from the browser.

Jamespot: Focused on social action. They provide: approval of updates (workflow), structured collaboration, keeps an overview of your business goals and reports to you on them, can push information to newsletter and narrow casting platform (to connect to people without screens).

Xwiki: They’ve been to all SocialNow conferences. They had a good presentation on use cases like finding experts, peer assist for new employees and sharing news online instead of via email. I love the comment and track changes features on content, they have. Xwiki is responsive, workflow can relate to roles/rights and change based on the phase of the workflow.

BlueKiwi (owned by Atos): Atos is the no email company. They wondered how they could unclog the personal feed. They apply the GTD-methodology to social solutions by using labels. Bluekiwi events is connected to Outlook Calendar. You can also forward an email to Bluekiwi. Updates from other systems can be posted to the application using the api. They are also thinking about moving email to this platform.

HIGHQ: The core is a microblogging stream. You can add/track milestones and Todo’s. There’s support for meetings and projects. A neat feature is that they offers encryption on files so that an employee can’t share files outside of the project space. They can create newsletters automatically (summary of interactions). You can easily invite externals to rooms. HighQ has an app.

SAP Jam: In the presentation they focused on the process of social onboarding, New employees are supported to follow the right people and join the right groups. Their vision is not have social for the sake of social. Core of Jam is the microblogging stream. They also have polls, ranking, broadcasting via video functionality. Jam has an app. Profiles are filled with endorsements. Externals can be added to groups if needed. Unique is the fact they integrate with ERP, CRM and the masterdata of the organization.

Twoodo: The whole application is built around tags. Even priorities of tasks are (managed with) tags. They provide a Zen mode to focus solely on work and tasks. When you marks an update with the tag #question the application categorizes the update as a question and asks people to answer it. You can also send emails from Twoodo,. Every change/edit is logged.

IBM Connections: IBM is working on the integration of email with their internal social and collaboration platform Connections. Connections has an extensive features set. Core is the rich profile and microblogging functionality. Profiles are greyed out if someone doesn’t work for IBM anymore. In this way you still know he contributed and where that person can be found now. Connections integrates with unified communications and SharePoint. The files are managed by Sharepoint but are shown in Connections.

There are some things that really strike me when listening to and thinking about these vendor presentations. First of all, not very many vendors are good at presenting based on a concrete company case. Most of the presentations start with a short summary of what the company needs and then goes right into talking about all the features the vendor has. The one’s that do really relate to the needs of the company are loved by the audience, the one’s that don’t relate to the company are almost thrown out of the room… I think there’s a huge opportunity for vendors here.

Enterprise solutions vs startups
Secondly, there’s a big difference between presentations from enterprise solutions and start-ups. The start-ups have more visionary presentations and come up with new features, the enterprise vendors have what all the other enterprise vendors have. Most enterprises will go with the latter anyway. For that reason I’m surprised they don’t relate more to the issues (large) companies have, like security, outside-in collaboration, etc. Related to this: enterprise vendors are very vague about pricing, even though that question is asked to them every time. Why not provide a clear pricing outline? At least this leads to the fact that the audience will trust you a bit more.

Innovation on the edges
Finally, it is clear that innovation happens on the edges. All new ideas, concepts and features are presented by the new vendors. The enterprise vendors is all about completeness of the feature set and ‘me too’. With all the development power large vendors have, you would think it would be the other way around…

Asking the right questions
And final finally, SocialNow clearly helps the people who are looking for a new internal social platform or are looking for ways to solve real problems in their company to ask the right questions to vendors. It helps you drill through the marketing talk and really understand what they are about.