It’s like Facebook – and it’s OK…

January 30, 2013

You’ve seen them: 7 steps for a more social enterprise, 3 top-tips for increasing employee engagement, 5 strategies for…. These are all very good and useful, although rather repetitive, but one thing is always left out: The fact that Social networking is for entertainment – not for work! Or at least that’s the way many people still see social media.

I have been working actively on an internal Yammer project for the last 8 months and while we have had lots of people sign up and also quite a few engaging actively in the discussions on the platform. Notwithstanding the relatively large contingent of people who are not active, we think that it has been a quite successful journey – more about this journey in later posts.

Introducing Yammer to the masses.
Nothing beats face to face contact so My colleague and I have introduced and demoed Yammer and what it can do for a certain department at department meetings and conferences. Two statements have stood out and we hear them almost everywhere.

  1. We don’t have time for a new tool.
  2. it’s almost like Facebook.

The first preconception is relatively easy to address with the simple answer that you need to take some time to get used to a new tool – any new tool – and that this obviously starts with a cultural change and a handshake that a given group of people will give it a try. As always, with things that requite a change of habits, it is much easier said than done but that’s also a topic for another post.

We always start every introduction by asking a few questions about people’s social media habits and since Denmark is one of the countries where Facebook has the highest penetration rate everybody know Facebook – also if they don’t have a profile. Usually this is very helpful and people who compare it to Facebook will be more prone just to get started but there is another side to this statement. Why does this matter in relation to social media at work? More importantly: Why does the Yammer/Facebook comparison pose a challenge for user adoption?

Entering the ‘Corporate Facebook’
In Denmark we have, like many other places, lots of stories in the media about what social media can and cannot do and along with this also quite a few stories about people losing their jobs or getting bullied on various social media. Additionally some of the larger Danish unions early on told people to be very careful with what they share on social media – especially when it comes to work. People listened and learned. Companies were also quick to announce that social media (ie. Facebook activity) was banned or should be minimized during working hours. Again people listened and learned. Just imagine what could happen if I started using Facebook during my workday…

This is where we are today. Our colleagues have been ‘brought up’ with the fact that social media is something that belongs in the private sphere and when you are at work the use of social tools should be kept to a minimum.

Next thing you know is that your manager has invited two strange guys who are talking about how important it is that we share information in the company and how important it is to ‘break down silos’ – and then they show a tool that looks just like Facebook. WHOA! Slow down! Less than a year ago we weren’t supposed to use this stuff at work – and now you’re saying what…..?

What basically happens is that in addition to the change of habits that is connected with the introduction of a new work tool you also have to come to terms with the fact that you must abandon the thought that using social networks is something you do in your private life – certainly not during 9 to 5. It is not real work! You may argue that this is an ‘age-thing’ and to a certain extent you are right. There ARE more young people among the early adopters but you would be surprised how many 20 and 30-year-olds who roll your eyes at you in the beginning of each presentation, some even saying out loud that these social networks are a waste of time and that they have no place in a work context.

It starts with the managers
I’ve had this talk with quite a few managers who have been wondering why the adoption is relatively slow even if the group has received introductions, training and it has been given an official seal of approval. When we talk about the change of habit and that social networking in a work context largely is like eating forbidden fruit, the manager often realizes how much more there is to it than just throw a new tool into the mix.

The biggest upside is that the “Facebook is not for work” argument works – it makes intuitively sense and it helps underline the importance of the change management effort connected with these tools and I believe that it will ultimately improve adoption. It still takes the 5, 7 and 10 tips that I mentioned in the beginning in order to truly succeed but make sure that you repeat after me over and over: “Yes! It’s like Facebook… and it’s OK…. Really….”

Community management, Wikis, and a bar – Learnings and reflections from IntraTeam Event 2012

March 5, 2012

The first conference day was kicked off by Tony Byrne, who set the scene with a very down to earth presentation and some may even have found it a bit discouraging, but personally I found it quite refreshing that someone dared to remind us that few companies are succeeding with online collaboration at scale. Some might even disagree, but if you look at case studies presented at conferences etc. I do agree with Tony on this one. Only a few are doing it well, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it, and personally I remain convinced that we are standing on the edge of a major change in the way we cooperate.

This naturally raises the question on how we then succeed which ties very nicely into a trend I saw at this conference: The rise of Internal Community Management.

It may not be big news but it was certainly new to me to see the very strong manifestation of the need for community managers in the organization. Not only was the term “distributed community management” introduced, but I sat through presentations from Alcatel-Lucent, SEB, and Aviva where the presenters all touched on the topic. SEB had even recently hired Anna to become the internal community manager. I found it very interesting and believe that this is these are the examples of how the role we today call “intranet editor” will change into the facilitator for collaboration and networking throughout the organization and there is no doubt that if we want the visions for the digital workplace to happen we need a lot of Annas.

To stay in the pragmatic track, I will have to say that this is hardly a surprise to see community management become more important. If you look at the commercial web services, community management has been the talk of the town for at least the last two years and focus is only increasing. I see this as a(nother) prime example of how the trends from the commercial web seep into the organization and create a demand for similar capabilities and that companies need to hire people with new competencies.

The Shell Wiki
The case that impressed me the most was from Shell and how they implemented a wiki in the organization. Griet Johannson presented some very convincing facts and figures and I was very surprised about the very honest and straight forward approach they had taken. It can be summed up to: “If you are looking for something in the wiki which isn’t there, it’s YOUR responsibility to create it!” Basically it all starts with a search query with the obvious purpose of finding information, and you don’t find it you are probably going to search elsewhere and you are then obliged to contribute to the common good by sharing your findings which then can be corrected and expanded. Simple. Easy. Pragmatic…..and it FINALLY made me see why I have had a hard time getting to terms with how a wiki should work. It’s about search. Not structure.

The Aviva Service Bar
Through a conference like this you hear about many great ideas and concepts. If you ask me the most interesting was when Luke Mepham presented “The Service Bar” initiative from Aviva. The IT department had simply created a posh bar-like setting where people could stop by with their computers – both work and private – and get a service check or support with a specific issue. The basic idea was to help people get the necessary tools to work remotely and then provide a little extra service. I think this is a truly great idea. We can do almost everything from our chairs through webcams, IM, etc. so we need to come up with places where people are “allowed” to meet on company time. Helpdesks and similar functions are all great, but we still need the physical meeting. It be less of a trend and more of a personal crusade for me, but we need to challenge the arm’s length principle that is in virtually all kinds of support and create room for more F2F contact – also for simple things.

A big thank you to delegates for two great days (and evenings) in Copenhagen, and also a congratulations to Kurt and his IntraTeam for another inspiring conference. I’m ready for another dose in 2013 :-)

If you would like to read more from the conference, you can take a closer look at the links below.

Very nice recaps of all three days from Sam Marshall: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

Ernst Decsey – Is digital workplace becoming an accepted term
Mark Morrell – What is a digital workplace

Presentations on SlideShare
Kristian Norling – Search analytics in practice
Jerome Colombe – A step to the digital workplace

Sam Marshall – Loving the intranet

Oscar Berg – Why traditional intranets fail today’s knowledge workers

3 reasons to get passionate about your intranet

January 10, 2012

Almost 5 years ago to the date, I decided that it was time to try something new. I applied for a position as webmaster for fairly large Danish company where one of the tasks were to implement a new intranet. My prior knowledge about intranets – although I had extensive knowledge about online stuff after 4 years as responsible for an international website – was rather limited and I did not quite know what I was getting myself into. That was probably a good thing but I am also very happy that I made this move.

Fast forward 5 years….. Two weeks ago I started at my third intranet job (many exciting perspectives, but more about that later…). Friends and colleagues have asked why I bother: ”Our intranet is rubbish! You can’t find anything and I only use it when I absolutely have to!”. A very understandable reaction and something that everybody passionate about intranets encounter from time to time – some more often than others! :-)

So what is it that is so fascinating about intranets? You probably have your own reasons, but here’s my top 3:

1) It helps create a strong internal network.
The intranet is for everyone in the company! If you dare to stick your head out and proclaim that you are the go-to guy for intranet questions, you will be approached by all areas of the business. Not only does this provide you with great insights into what is going on in the company, but it also gives you a unique opportunity to build an extensive internal network. When I talk to fellow intranet people from around Europe, one of the things all have in common is a very good understanding of what’s going on in the company – much more than the position reveals when looking at it in the average organisation chart.

2) You gain knowledge of both business and processes.
This means that you have to cater for a great deal of needs and that all departments and business areas ideally contribute to the intranet and usually they need YOUR help! This also means that you need to understand their needs and their point of departure – and you have to understand this quickly. I have found myself in situation where you have to get a grasp of fairly complex processes through 3 minutes of Q&A and this is not always easy. Parts you can learn and parts come with experience.

The combined knowledge you get through this gives you a holistic view of the company, and just like the internal network, I see this as a great advantage for navigating in complex organisations.

3) The perspectives…
Digital Workplace, Intranet, call it what you like! Regardless of the name I’m sure that we are standing on the edge of a major shift in the way knowledge workers define work. Attending various recent events, listening to presentations from some of the most innovative companies have only reinforced these beliefs.

The sheer perspectives in what the internet means in this respect is a very important aspect of why I enjoy working with intranets. Some call me naïve when I we talk about this, but it doesn’t matter to me. The www had it’s major break through just 17 years ago, and look where this has taken us. I think the next 17 years holds very exciting perspectives indeed.

What about the negatives?
Of course you have downsides. Organisational inertia, office politics, time and budget constraints, etc. but this is not just intranets that face these, and all of these are waters that you can learn to navigate. With my top 2 advantages I even think you are better equipped than most to make progress. After all, an intranet well done is also a great mirror of the organisation. Understand that, and you understand business.

How about you? Where did your fascination start? Why do you find the work fascinating? …and if you don’t – why not?

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More intranet passion?
If you would like to read more stories about why people are passionate about their intranets, I suggest that you head over to IBF (Intranet Benchmark Forum) where you can see more statements and stories.

More insights from the basement – ISM Forum part 2

November 7, 2011

After a great day with lots of input – some of which I blogged about here – I was back in the basement for more insights. A little more preoccupied with the fact that I had to do my own presentation (which went well if you ask me) but the day also provided more great insights.

One of the first presentations was from BT. I have seen this presented several times, but I have to say that they are doing a great job and there’s always good ideas to find here. The interesting thing this time around was that BT has encouraged ’non-business’ social stuff in order to get the social side going – a really good approach, but also one which requires very good support from management.

If I compare to my own company I am sure that there will be a substantial divide between those who think it’s a good idea and those who don’t. Who is the bigger group is hard to say, but regardless I think everybody should keep Richards wise words in mind: ”People don’t come in thin slices – they come in 3D”. What he meant was that companies focus on a very small portion of a person. That portion consist of the expertise needed to fill the job role. Everything else is best left at home. Personally, I would like to see more ’3D people’ in the workplace. Wouldn’t you?

The ROMEC case featured a very entertaining music video which was a very welcome break, but the main takeaway for me was their use fo offline initiatives to drive traffic to the intranet. Nigel told how they used postcards sent directly to the employee’s homes to encourage use of the intranet. Simple and reasonably easy. In my opinion this is something that many, including ourselves, should do a lot more of. As a company you still want to engage with them, but in order to achieve this, you must look in the bag of old marketing tricks. Comms and marketing may be a bit like cats and dogs, but here’s an area where we can benefit from working together.

The final presentation of the day was the one I was particularly interested in. Attending a course in strategic management, I have recently turned in a paper on internal networking and in the process of writing this I have been thinking a lot about the future workplace and how loose ties become more and more important in diverse organisations. Luis shared very interesting insights in how IBM has become a very ’disconnected’ company and yet the social technologies help them stay connected allowing the IBMers to work when ever and wherever. He mentioned that people did not share their own work under their own name on the 16,000 blogs as much as they contribute to the internal IBM wiki which has more than 1 million page views per day. Very interesting that the internal sharing is driven by more altruistic motives, and not fuelled by the ‘Ego factors’ mentioned on Day 1…

Luis’ closing remark: ”Work happens wherever you are. You are work. Work is you.” was a very appropriate end to another day with lots of good input. After all, it was Friday afternoon close to 6 pm, and in a way this sould be classified as work, but a most inspiring kind.


A brief epilogue: Thank you to all delegates for two days of excellent networking and last, but not least, a thank you to the ForwardNetworking team, Jozefa, Martin, and Luuk, for two excellent days.

Flight E-2.0 taking off – Destination: Unknown

August 12, 2011

Back in December I was recommended to read Enterprise 2.0 by Andrew McAfee and so I did. A very inspiring book which really provided some food for thought and put some of my own thoughts into a new context. This is not a review of the book – I have included links to a couple of reviews at the end of this post.

Working in a highly dispersed and specialised – but also fairly old – organisation it has become very obvious to me that we have a number of very strong informal networks within the company and I believe that’s one of the main reasons that the concept of weak ties really struck a chord with me, and also made me wonder if this could be a relevant angle for introducing the concept of an internal social network.

In one of my previous posts I wrote about our annual intranet survey, and back then I decided to include some questions around social media in the organisation. Now the results are in and as you can see below, almost 30% “don’t know” if an internal social network will improve collaboration internally.

From 2011 intranet satisfaction survey

This obviously helps make the case, and with a plethora of “free to try” tools available, I feel that now is the time to see if a corporate network can bring value to the company. The big questions: Can modern technology ie. a corporate social network…

…Bring “us” closer together?
…Help break down organisational and geographical barriers?
…Speed up the process of finding information and knowledge?

Now the next step is to get backing to run an actual pilot. We already have the obligatory rogue networks on eg. Yammer internally which, all things considered, will make it easier to recruit people to help spread the word, but there is no guarantee that this initiative will succeed.

Other companies succeed – we can too. It requires an effort, it requires support, but first and foremost it requires that the right people BELIEVE that this can make a difference. It almost sounds religious and maybe it is, but now that I think of it, many of the most significant changes in the world has not happened because of careful planning (and business cases) but as a result of a strong belief and commitment.

We’re ready on the tarmac – all we need is a ‘Go!’ from the control tower! Stay tuned for updates – over… :-)


If you are looking for more about the book I can recommend the comprehensive reviews by Samuel Driessen (who recommended the book to me – much appreciated) and Gil Yehuda.

Using the energy of Facebook

September 21, 2010

Today, I participated in a quite interesting discussion about how to leverage the power of social media. The subject is not really new, but the approach was a little different. This time it was not so much focused on the tools and that ‘we need one of those Facebook-things’. Facebook is number 1 in Denmark so it is quite natural that this is the yardstick, but what I found interesting was that it was all about, quote, ‘using the energy that people put into Facebook’ in the sense that you should create the same sense of excitement internally.

I like the idea but it’s still a tricky one. The minute that you apply the corporate setting on to a social network, you also apply the corporate values, culture, and most importantly that many people act very differently in a corporate setting than they do privately – they apply what I would call a corporate filter which comes in many shapes and forms, but all these filters are a result of company culture and values.

The strength of personal social networks is that they are – well – personal. You are only accountable to yourself – not to your boss – not to team-members – only you. This means that the filtering is a whole lot easier, you don’t share something that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.

Creating a culture where you openly share things are not as easy as it sounds and all too often I hear that everything needs to happen at once, and this is actually the first stepping stone to make people REALLY uncomfortable. Depending on your corporate culture, the change management task kan be huge!

In stead you should start small. Don’t announce the “Acme Facebook” – in stead make it possible to ‘like’ (and maybe dislike?) your news. That’s a start. What about management? Do they see Facebook as a waste of time? Maybe you should look at what LinkedIn offers, chances are that the guys in the corner offices use (and recognise) LinkedIn as a valuable tool. You and I may agree that quite a few features overlap between Facebook and LinkedIn, but who cares – as long as it gets you moving :-)

We did not come to a conclusion at the meeting, but we had quite a few discussions around the topic. Actually I don’t believe that you have one single truth here. Do you?


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