The disappearing personas

January 17, 2014

disappear from search engines

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking part in a workshop on the digital workplace in a Danish municipality. I had been invited as an external ‘expert’ to challenge the conventional thinking. It was a really positive session and I found the invited people very committed to the task and the end result was not bad at all. Of course it is limited what you can achieve in a 2-hour workshop but in the end I’m sure it provided some good input for the process going forward.

One thing that stuck with me and that I thought about in the car on the way home was a specific situation. The participants were divided into three groups of four each tasked with describing a day in the life of a pre-defined persona – great stuff. The group I was a part of got the classical admin person who are abundant in all companies – also local authorities. Well into the process of describing “A day in the life of….” one of my fellow group members paused and reflected for a second about the very first question that was asked in the workshop:

How has the digital workplace changed the way we work in 2019?

“Well,” he said, “…have you thought about that if you ask our persona this question in 2019 she is likely to answer that she really doesn’t care much for the digital workplace as it put her out of her job around 2017 if we succeed with our vision?”. A somewhat nervous laughter spread around the table after realising that the participants were involved in putting themselves out of a job….
As an external observer this was quite interesting. I’m of course fully aware about the fact that a well designed and integrated digital workplace will result in process improvement and speedier resolution of tasks but I have rarely come across cases where layoffs are a direct consequence of an improved digital tool. This is either because successful businesses always are in need of a pair of hands somewhere else or because the change in resources is handled as a part of the project. This may very well be the case in public administration as well, but increased efficiency is much more likely to mean redundancies as admin functions are automated.

As a tax payer I am happy since this is bound to result in better service at the same or lower cost, but I can’t help but to think a little about the people who essentially are busy putting themselves out of work. Here it becomes very important that any change management focus on the people aspect very early in the process and that you handle the outplacement at a very early stage. If this is not done – and because the development is so obvious that the people spot at the very first workshop 5 years before the end – you run a risk of creating a high level of uncertainty in the organisation and it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in psychology to come to the conclusion that you are likely to have a number of people working against the very promise of the digital workplace and that is certainly a situation you don’t want to find yourself in so make sure to communicate openly and honestly as early as possible – in the end this is the very foundation of all sound and good change management.

Our enterprise social networking story so far – Purpose, communication, and comfortable shoes…

July 5, 2013

Martin Risgaard:

My colleague, Thomas, and myself was interviewed for an article in Danish magazine Computerworld and the above article is what came out of it (English translation, originally shared on the Social Business Journey blog) . If you ask me, it turned out to be a quite nice article about our enterprise social networking (Yammer) efforts so far – it’t not about tools, it’s about culture.

We have achieved a lot but we also have a lot to do!

Originally posted on Social Business Journey:

A while back we were approached by the Danish tech site/newspaper “Computerworld” who would like to know a little more about our Yammer journey. Although Yammer plays an important role we were much more interested in talking about the bigger picture and how we are trying to change the culture in Grundfos through the Global Working Culture initiative. The result was a great article which was published yesterday and I think that it provides some good insights on what we have learned so far. For the international audience, I have made a (somewhat automated) translation – see below.

If you prefer the original article in Danish you can read it here:


How Grundfos will capitalize on global collaboration

Grundfos bets on using social technology, but the big challenge is to change the culture. Hear how one of Denmark’s largest companies tackle the process and get sound advice along the…

View original 1,247 more words

Read the organisation chart horizontally – not vertically

April 12, 2013

I’ve just been thrown into a project around change management for a global IT transformation project where we are changing from IBM and Lotus Notes to Microsoft and Outlook (plus a huge pile of other stuff – let’s leave it at that…) certainand a very interesting task. I could be whining about that it’s too late in the process and that too many things have been put in motion but a) whining gets you nowhere and b) the fact that communication and change management has been put on the radar is something I see as a very positive thing.

Looking through the material that has been prepared already I must admit I became quite confused. Initially I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was. The material and plans were very professional and the content was also quite good. What about the target groups for the communication? A quick count of the identified stakeholder groups in the plans and the excellent and detailed stakeholder analysis revealed that we were looking at 30+ different stakeholder groups. Oh dear…!

I started wondering how this extreme complexity had entered the equation. Some big chunks such as “end users” and “global IT” made good sense, however, I started to notice that some groups had only a few individuals in them and that they were labeled by department names and names of committees – even names on individuals. AHA! Card sorting time! After 30 minutes of simple card sorting with the 30+ groups I got that number down to 14 – the joy of simplification!

In a perfectly flat and socially connected utopian world you would not have this problem. You’d simply communicate 100% transparent in a Yammer group or something equivalent but since we are not quite there yet in our company we will still have to work in a more traditional way. As I see it, the main challenge here is to pull people’s head out of the organizational chart. I hope that we will dare to look at the organizational chart in a different way and instead of seeing a hierarchy of responsibilities, command and control we see groups of people with different needs.

The open and transparent organization is coming – but only if we manage to see the people and the needs within rather than seeing chains of command, functional departments, and committees with dubious mandates and strange names…

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….”

Business and IT – Why can’t you guys just get along?

January 14, 2013

About 6 months ago I wrote the article below but didn’t publish it at that time. I remember that I thought it was too off topic and that I was ranting a little to much…. Today I read an interesting discussion on the collaboration between IT and Comms on the G+ Intranet and Digital Workplace forum and remembered this one and now is the time.

I’m still making gross generalisations in the post but since I am one of the people who have crossed the chasm from business to IT, I also feel that it is worth sharing these observations which are rooted in my own experience as seen from both sides of the divide and I feel quite confident that this will not be my last post around this topic :-)


Some months ago I was attending an internal course in IT Service Management. I can honestly say that I didn’t find it particularly interesting. Half way through day two and in the middle of a very exciting *ahem* presentation of the process for implementing changes I started to think about how the entire system was designed to limit human interaction! Everything was neatly divided into boxes and workflows made sure that everything was moved along to the next step as soon as you had made your contribution. Very smooth.

Elaborate standards are put in place to ensure this: Standardised solutions, a predictable future, smooth transitions and continuity. Why do we then still talk about the chasm between IT and Line of Business. The processes are very linear and leave little room for learning in the process and it’s when that happens that things start to go pear shaped. The system and workflows grind to a halt and all of a sudden you NEED human interaction to get things moving – the very thing that the processes and systems have eliminated.

I am aware that the above is a rather crude generalization, but I’m taking it a step further by stating two hypotheses:

1) IT put their trust in having proper systems and procedures.
2) ‘The business’ put their trust in having proper colleagues.

In IT it’s about ensuring business continuity and that’s about rigid systems and procedures – people are by no means robots but they are there to make sure things are running as smoothly as possible so that technology helps rather than obstructs work. In the business it’s about profit, business development, and innovation – things that require research and often a lot of trial and error. Certainly not something that fits nicely within rigid systems but some times a rigid system can also help you be more efficient. The challenge is that it is not nearly as interesting to fill out an online form than it is to walk over and have a chat with the cute receptionist.

No wonder that we all too often find ourselves caught up in the ‘them and us’ discussion. As long as you have these two organizational silos we will not get rid of this. The radical solution is to get rid of the IT department and integrate the people in the organisation. You may argue that this will require more coordination but I’m not so sure about that. It will be a different kind of coordination and that is of course a daunting obstacle. Either way, you certainly need to cultivate the competence of mutual understanding or – at the very least – find someone who can translate and challenge. I’ll end this post with a few well-meant words of advice to both sides of the divide:

Hey ‘IT guys’…
1) If you insist on referring to your business counterparts as “Customers” – treat them as such or the WILL take their business elsewhere. A place to start: Ask if you would do business with yourself if you received the same treatment.
2) There is ALWAYS a business reason! It may not be evident and it may not be good, but it is not something you can determine on your own. You need to explore it together.

Hey ‘Business guys’…
1) You are very vocal about don’t understanding any “computer stuff” but have no problem telling when something is too expensive, complicated, etc. – and then you go off and buy a system or tool that you heard about at a random conference. Where’s the credibility in that? Why would I, as the IT guy, take you seriously?
2) You have many great ideas that “just” or “simply” need to be made. There’s no such thing as “just simply”. I usually say “just” takes 4 hours and “simply” takes 8. Do the math.

…and Hey! Both of you!
Pick up the phone. Grab a cup of coffee. Open up. Ask questions. Try to understand. Ask more questions. Yes! It takes time and effort and you may even find it frustrating but in the end you will find that it has been worthwhile building the bridge and there is no question that your colleagues will benefit from much better solutions than they have been used to.

COPE with BYOD – Motivators and the impact of Cloud

October 31, 2012

Spurred on by an article about devices as Corporately Owned Personally Enabled – or COPE for short – as an alternative to Bring Your Own Device, I had a – by Twitter standards – lengthy dialogue with Chris Tubb about the motivators for BYOD. This post is a follow-up to one of my recent posts and also a summary of my own thoughts during my dialogue with Chris.

The basic idea of COPE is that the company that has provided you with a device (e.g. a laptop) to get your work done. Instead of enforcing harsh restrictions on what you can install and what you can use the device for, you are allowed to install software and use it for the purposes that you deem fit – within reason. The big question is whether this is a real alternative to a potentially very costly BYOD strategy.

In my experience people’s needs for using their own devices for work purposes comes in three different disguises. All three are valid motivators but what I find interesting is the underlying reasons and with the idea of COPE, you also have an alternative.

1) Power and Capability
Your work device is less capable when it comes to speed and availability of software than what you are used to at home. This means that you feel less productive at work which increases your frustration. A personally enabled (COPE) device is not likely to solve this as it will STILL be the corporately sanctioned equipment.

Bringing your own device will help as this is the root cause of your frustration – you just know that you can do better. If I were to play devil’s advocate here, I would say that it is your employer’s responsibility to make sure that it is not technology that makes you less productive and if they provide inferior equipment, they must also accept inferior productivity.

2) Mobility and The Digital Workplace
Your job allows you to work from anywhere at any time. The problem is that you find the corporate devices limiting as they don’t fully support this and you will have to bring more than one device in order to take care of your personal stuff. In other words, if you are working with the digital workplace and aim to create a more coherent solution for your company, this ought to be interesting for you.

COPE fits perfectly in this scenario. I have a corporate device – I have access to tech support when I need it AND I can even use the device for what I need when I need it. Bring my own device? Why should I…?

3) Vanity and Status
Hardly a primary motivator for bringing own devices, but some undoubtedly find it very motivating to be able to flash the latest Android phone or the new iPad. COPE will not solve this as companies (almost) never will be able to provide the cutting edge stuff. BYOD is a potential solution, but also potentially VERY expensive for companies.

Either way, I see these motivators as largely extrinsic – comparable to a pay raise. It will provide a short term motivation boost but the most important long term aspect will be the intrinsic motivators i.e. your job. No amount of gadgets can make up for poor job design.

So both BYOD and COPE may work? Yes, but is this the real issue? In my job I work with creating a digital workplace that is available when and where you need it. I can’t help but think that in 10 years’ time when most things have moved to the cloud, we will look back at the BYOD discussion and wonder what the fuss was all about. Moving to the cloud simply took care of all these things by making everything accessible through a browser. Dare I mention that this has been possible for years by using a Citrix solution?

In the end this has nothing to do with devices it is all about creating a consistent and SECURE access to company assets that will allow you to use them from anywhere and from any device which makes it very important that companies carefully evaluate the motivators for BYOD/COPE in the organization and decide on a (potentially costly) path forward. Right now we are just in a situation where the road ahead is not obvious but waiting at the intersection for the light to change is just not an option.

3 different takes + 1 opinion about BYOD

August 29, 2012

Lots of people – also internally in my organization – talk about bringing own devices to work (BYOD). On one side in some ways it is easier for companies – and me – to let me to bring my own cool gizmos that I know inside out instead of having to stay on the cutting edge. On the other side companies ought to provide the tools that enable you to get your work done and it must work sufficiently fast, reliable, and most important sufficiently supported. This will not be the latest candy-themed Android OS or the newest iPhone, but it still gets the job done.

Personally I’m not quite sure where I stand on the topic but three BYOD themed articles/blogsposts have caught my attention today – each offering a different view on the BYOD debate. I will share them here along with a few of my thoughts.

The user perspective
What’s my motivation? A mental model for BYOD” is a great post about how people have different motivations for wanting to bring their own devices to work. A very good starting point for a discussion as I have experienced that the BYOD talks quickly evolves into an arms race about features and specs – not about the underlying problem itself and this is in my opinion where you need to start.

The management perspective
The header “When BYOD Is a Productivity Killer” almost says it all and it did make me a little apprehensive. It turned out to be about how using your own device will make work seem more pervasive thus making it easier to switch off. The concluding sentence “Essentially, BYOD eliminates the free work that employees with corporate phones were doing.” makes me question if the author has understood the basic BYOD concept at all.

The bigger perspectives
Gartner offers a bigger picture and I have to say that I agree completely with their statement that “BYOD is not for every company, or every employee…..For the vast majority of companies it is not possible to force all users into a bring your own (BYO) program without substantial financial investments — and considerable support from senior management. It’s hardly revolutionary but there are some valid points and I believe that this is how we will see this trend play out.

Where does that leave me? Have I gotten any closer to form an opinion on BYOD? I’m not sure that this is about devices at all. It’s more about how work becomes more independent of time and place. Productivity and purpose will determine how and if BYOD will apply to your situation. One thing that’s 100% safe to say is that if BYOD is about “free work” – heck, if your company is even considering such a thing as “Free work”, no amount of gadgets will solve that. It’s about trust and respect and this truly IS the most important foundation stone of any BYOD initiative.


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