7 digital workplace trends in 2018

My colleagues and I on the J. Boye team constantly get current and honest insights about what works – and what doesn’t at the many organisations in our network. Our global network of digital workplace professionals generously give us privileged access to insights and best practices.

Consequently, a common question we get asked is: What are the key emerging trends?

Prompted by a visit to our member at Deutsche Post DHL in Bonn, we took the opportunity to review recent agendas and identify what’s really moving in this evolving space.

The basics haven’t changed much; It it is not a new trend, but still:

  • senior management support is a prerequisite
  • a roadmap for the evolution of your digital workplace is very useful (and more so than an elaborate strategy…)

These elements are firmly in place among those we might call digital workplace role models.

Below you’ll find a list (not exhaustive) of 7 digital workplace trends for 2018. Feel free to leave a comment below and share your perspective

1) Focus on design thinking and service design

Both design thinking and service design have become much more mainstream in 2018. It’s actually been around for a while; there are conferences on the topics and both areas encompass well-established practices: agile approach to development, customer journey mapping, personas and a more integrated approach to user experience.

It matters what we call things and these terms have a fair share of management appeal. Clearly, it is more than just management jargon and at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, Maren Christin Hübl from SAP shared more on scaling design thinking and from their 14-years journey with design thinking.

As the numbers from Google Trends show, in particular, design thinking has been taking off for the past 5 years:


When it comes to the digital workplace, both concepts are becoming key ingredients in creating a superior employee experience. Recent discussions in our peer groups show how they are really delivering value and driving change.

2) Community management is taken [really] seriously

Community management has been talked about for years, but not prioritised; it has been talked up in many organisations, but the resources required to actually do a good job; mandate, time and training have been in sparse supply. Consequently, the real potential of online collaboration and communities has not been leveraged in most organisations; despite the often considerable investment in platform implementation, licensing costs etc. The current trend is towards the discipline being increasingly valued and understood. Just as is the currently the case with data privacy, community management has taken centre stage. When you take community management seriously, with dedicated resources and a plan, it can be a tremendous catalyst for change, knowledge sharing – and also foster a sense of belonging.

We’ve seen with social intranets how simple features like commenting and liking can act as a game changer for employee engagement. More than being about technology, community management is about people and can impact how we think about power and hierarchies in organisations.

Our partners at The Community Roundtable (TheCR) are thought-leaders on the topic. Do take a look at their research and helpful articles.

PS: You can meet Rachel Happe from TheCR at the J. Boye Conference in Denmark in November.

3) The best consider the physical workplace as well

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Philips in Hamburg several times. To me, this is an example of how a large, complex and global organisation acts as role model when it comes to implementing the modern workplace.

around the innovative Philips regional headquarter in Hamburg

Another global organisation is IBM, which has started using co-working spaces instead of their own offices. In one case study, Big Blue teamed with WeWork to fuel collaboration and innovation.

Contrary to popular belief co-working spaces is no longer reserved for the start-ups and have become popular among many of our members. In fact, WeWork has become so popular, that they are now central London’s biggest occupier according to the Financial Times.

When the physical workspace changes and with remote working on the up, it also adds new requirements to the digital workplace. Technology needs to be able to support the new requirements and there’s a journey ahead of us for all.

Fabio Zilberstein from the European Commission recently shared a very interesting article provocatively titled: “The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares“. The article is from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and well worth a read on how the work environment also connects to our health and wellbeing.

4) Artificial intelligence and robotics have entered the building

AI and robotics are not really new. But technology has matured so fast that organisations are deploying AI and bots at an amazing rate and delivering real value and cost savings.

As with most technology Amara’s law applies here:


The use cases are plenty fold:

  • Voice used to provide answers to common employee questions
  • AI used to recommend search results
  • Robotics (RPA) to automate processes, where tasks performed by humans can be performed better and cheaper by bots
  • Chatbots to help onboarding new employees

5) Reaching out across the aisle; bringing HR, communication and IT closer together

Perhaps harsh to say that all those 3 departments have been marred by silo-thinking for the many years, but a clear tendency is that all now move closer together in order to improve the digital workplace – or whatever it is called inside the enterprise.

Who “owns”; or holds the overall responsibility foe the digital workplace is a common discussion among peers; yet there is typically wide agreement that no department should go alone.

The analysts at Gartner have the following definition of the digital workplace:

The Digital Workplace enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies

This wide scope calls for cross-functional collaboration and while intranets were mostly a comms vehicle, the digital workplace is built by teams from across the organisation.

6) Beyond desk and office

While employee apps were an innovative thing in 2016, today there’s a plethora of offerings and plenty of experience with using them. Large organisations like Siemens have had multiple apps for several years.

Key values in being able to reach employees on smartphones and other non-desktop devices include engagement and being able to communicate with all employees.

This is also an area impacted by rapid technology improvements:

  • With the advent of Progressive Web Apps the entire app journey is changing and we can potentially strive for even higher adoption rates
  • Soon 5G mobile networks will be a reality and this will radically change Internet connection speeds and likely remove the need for Wifi

7) Amazing storytellers

Irrespective of technology decisions, there’s an increasing focus on corporate storytelling.

“Stories are engagement machines per excellence” said Robert Minton at a US peer group meeting a few years ago.

Uncovering and communicating the good stories from the many corners of any large organisation is a key function of a vibrant digital workplace. Stories help us identify, put things into perspective and help us decide between different options and ultimately make better decisions.

Video and sound (podcasts, for example) play a role here as sound and visuals help bring the stories to life; make them easier and more interesting to consume and bring authenticity to the stories.

As mentioned initially, this is not an exhaustive list; merely some of the prominent current trends in digital workplace evolution as we see it. What are you experiencing in your organisation? Any key trends not included here?

9 key insights as an intranet manager

A good intranet helps get the job done

oznorWith this headline, Jesper Bylund from the Region Skåne in Sweden gave a well-received keynote at an internal event at the City of Aalborg last month. I had the pleasure of facilitating the session. Jesper shared 9 key insights based on his 14 years of experience as intranet manager:

  • Intranets must support the business
  • Survey and measure
  • Four kinds of content
  • Different target groups have different needs
  • Segmenting information needs
  • The intranet team
  • In every device, at every place
  • The way to your digital workplace
  • We have inmature endusers

With the friendly permission from Jesper, you can find his slides on Slideshare and you’ll notice that many of the slides have references to further reading on each topic.


Work-life balance RIP!

roundtable-discussions-jboye17 How do you truly strike the right balance between your work and your life? A constant challenge for most it seems, with many workplaces making employees physically sick. Might we be approaching it from the wrong angle?

We’ve covered this topic extensively during the past decade in our peer groups as well as at our conferences offering a deeper understanding of the topic, identifying problems, connecting it to the changing way of work and offering solutions.

Most recently Maren Christin Hübl from SAP in Germany led a popular roundtable at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference on the topic. I followed up with her in a recent phone conversation and wanted to share some of my notes on the topic as well as the insights from the conference conversation and the further thinking from Maren.

What does work-life balance really mean and why is it important?

On a personal level, the topic has changed meaning during the past 20 years of working. While in the beginning of my career and pre-family, routines were different and the entire notion of work had a different meaning. The divide between work and life still existed, but it clearly looked different.

A real eye-opener to me was in 2013, when our member Boris Kraft, co-founder of Basel-based software vendor Magnolia shared his personal take on the topic at a peer group meeting in London. His slides were appropriately titled Work life balance? Key learnings from Boris talk, was his point on how you cannot change the fact, that there are 24 hours in a day, but you can shape how you spend the hours and consider which activities renew your energy. He also had a useful message on taking breaks, sleeping and enjoying vacations. Some of his reflections were based on a New York Times opinion piece called Relax! You’ll be more productive.

A popular feature article in Harvard Business Review the following year, titled Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life also helped shape much of my thinking on the topic. It reframed the question and said not to think of it as much as a balance, but rather as two individual facets of life which both need careful managing.

Fast forward to today and the age of always on, fear of missing out, social networks, smartphone notifications and new voice-activated assistants. It clearly takes a different kind of thinking to strike the right balance and that’s why Maren controversially said ‘Work-life balance Rest in Peace’.

Barriers and things that help

A key part of the discussion at the conference roundtable led by Maren was on barriers hindering a better work-life balance as well as on an open sharing of hacks which could help.

According to Maren, the more social interactions and social networks you have, the more complex it gets. Expectations can be implicit towards your role and how you engage and the challenge is to make the expectations explicit. How might you better design the right context for you and those in your near circles?

Similar to the point made by Boris Kraft, the discussion also touched on how to spend your energy. What’s the sufficient amount of energy to solve a task and what gives you energy?

Other keywords included behavioral change, new roles and thinking differently. The point was made, that as a modern leader, you need to step back a let the people find out what’s the most important and how to solve it. By re-thinking leadership as something that is done not only by one person, leaders get to enjoy the work life even more. They can share some of the responsibilities – which sometimes feel more like a burden when expectations are growing in our complex, dynamic world. This is also what the Management 3.0-movement shows us, and servant leaders like David Marquet prove

Learn more about work-life balance and the future of work

The term employee experience is increasingly coming up in our peer group meetings. Netflix is famous for their work on their guide to company culture and other companies, including old, complex and global organisations are redesigning their workplaces. Might this not only be driven by efficiency goals, but also by a sense for the need to stay relevant and invest in the well-being of their employees?

We’ll certainly continue learning and the conversation and I invite you to be a part of it!

Stop managing your website

At the end of the day, these technologies will hopefully push companies toward better, more user-focused content

When US-based content strategist Hilary Marsh made this comment during her visit to Aarhus in November for the annual J. Boye conference, it resonated really well with me. Both in terms of new technologies like artificial intelligence and chatbots, but also in the context of the decade-old role of web content management systems.

Still, to be honest, most companies have cared less about their content, and much more about their website in recent years. They’ve deployed systems designed to manage content, and tried to tweak them into website management systems, at times even coupled with an attempt to magically manage the entire customer experience. Clearly, this is not working out.

Stuck in a mindset of managing websites?

How did we get here? 2018 marks my 20th year working with digital and what continues to amaze me is the ever increasing scope that we try to cover.

First, it was about managing chaos which basically meant moving traditional old Microsoft Word files online. Web sites were little more than digital brochures and consisted of pages.

Later we moved onwards to managing websites with increasing elements of interactivity, like filling out a form or displaying a dynamic page with recent news. Wauv.

Onwards and the focus shifted for some to managing experiences, multiple devices, mobile-first and digital transformation and here we are. Today with 2018 knocking on the door and with AI-devices like Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home arriving in households around the world, the game is changing one more time.

In my job, I see too many who remain stuck in the mindset of managing websites. Some also overinvest in technology to try to manage (digital) experiences, only to find out that at the end of the day, what Hilary Marsh said is exactly spot on: We need better content and the content needs to be managed. Without good content, our efforts fail us and ultimately our customers go somewhere else.

Adaptable and intelligent content

The good people at the Content Marketing Institute have shared two excellent articles which illustrate the importance of content, how to work with it and how to create the right mindset:

Both are several years old and cover important progress in how to think about content and work with it.

First, adaptive content is content that can, at each instance of use, change (adapt) – not just in appearance but in substance – based on a number of factors. In other words and to cut a long story short: Imagine content that makes customers love your brand.

Second, the term intelligent content is not just another buzzword. The term’s widely accepted definition was developed by Ann Rockley years ago:

Intelligent content is content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.

To bring this back to managing websites vs. content, I’ll quote Karol Jarkovsky, VP Product at Kentico Software:

Unless you switch your mindset to managing content rather than websites, you will have a very hard time adapting to the new and emerging channels that have arrived this year.

The content landscape is increasingly crowded and customers are naturally gravitating towards more interactive channels like chatbots and various voice-enabled home assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa

Here’s to a 2018, where you focus more on managing your content!

Coredna – a digital platform vendor built for speed and scale

janus-boye-sam-saltisHave you ever put a new CMS, marketing or e-commerce tool in place to address a specific problem, only to find an ever-increasing workload and new problems emerge?

During the recent years, cloud and the software-as-a-service approach have been differentiators in a crowded and fast-moving marketplace, yet these have rarely really addressed the customer need for a dramatically reduced time-to-market.

Today most of our members working in large, complex and global organisations remain plagued by custom solutions and digital efforts that don’t scale, both in terms of cost and resources required.

Coredna is a Boston-based start-up with Australian roots that attempts to address these problems. Coredna is also an active member of the J. Boye community, including the US Software Product Manager Group. I met up with their CEO and Founder Sam Saltis on a recent trip to the US, to further understand their disruptive approach.

Don’t customise if you don’t have to

With a 15+ year digital agency background from Australia, Sam has experienced the ins and outs of digital projects and have seen customers overinvest in software for their digital communication projects or marketing stack, only to find painful long implementation cycles, costly integration demands and increasing costs.

One of the key parts of the Coredna approach is to offer a pre-built stack, which means that out-of-the-box Coredna comes with ecommerce, content marketing, CMS and intranet features. Unlike other vendors, say like Kentico or Sitecore, Coredna offers more than a toolbox that needs to be customised for each and every implementation, Instead it comes with the features ready to deploy and use and then you can customise only if you have a very specific requirement.

This translates to both reduced implementation times (weeks rather than months), but also removes the continuous pain felt by others which have to worry about upgrading their custom code when a new version arrives. This has certainly been a regular conversation in many groups with members using Adobe Experience Manager or similar solutions loved by the analyst community.

The ecommerce platform Shopify takes a similar approach to transactional websites and has been skyrocketing in popularity.

Innovating faster

Compared to the more well-known vendors, Coredna has a substantially smaller engineering team, yet are still able to innovate fast, release new features and fix bugs at an enviable pace.

When I spoke to Sam about this, his answer started with this question:

What is cloud really?

According to Sam, their impressive rate of innovation is not only because Coredna only has 1 product line to maintain, but also because they are a true software-as-a-service vendor (SaaS).

Unfortunately like many other terms in this industry, SaaS has been surrounded by hype and confusion and to many vendors, what it really means is: We host it for you. Really what they deliver are platforms – digital infrastructure – which you then need to customise and implement for each and every project. This makes it so much harder to release new features as testing is much more complex given the different customisations out there with customers.

Scaling your digital efforts for growth

While scalability is the holy grail to entrepreneurs and start-ups around the world, it is also very relevant to older, larger and complex organisations making the digital transformation. We all need to use digital to scale our businesses.

When it comes to pricing, Coredna starts at USD $500/month and goes upwards towards $20k/month based on consumption criteria.

With most organisations looking into 2018 with an ever more complex stack of various tools ranging from CRM via marketing automation to CMS and digital workplace platforms, we need a fundamentally different approach if we want lift-off to ever happen.

With demanding customers like Nintendo who hosts about 200 domains on the platform, Coredna has the potential to both change the game among several software categories and also help customers escape the usual gravitational forces.

We’ll be watching closely!


Scaling design thinking

The promise of combining new ways of collaboration with design thinking to come up with important innovation sounds almost too good to be true.

This was at the heart of a popular session at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference where Maren Christin Huebl from German software giant SAP gave a talk on fostering a culture of innovation with design thinking.

photo credit: Steffen Elberg, Jyske Bank (tweet)


What’s the mindset of design-minded intrapreneurs?

Maren is one of the community leaders from the Design at Business community which also includes organisations like Daimler, Fidelity and Nestle. They’ve done a great job at bringing people together to collect lessons learned and share experiences towards scaling design thinking, in particular in large, complex and global organisations.


Photo by Ib Sørensen


Company culture was brought up several times in the presentation and Maren kindly shared a booklet on why mindsets matter. The booklet made the point that generic mindsets described in the context of design thinking fall short of what makes successful design-minded intrapreneurs in large businesses. And it came with the missing mindsets that have driven design culture at scale. These include:

  • Shamelessly human-centered
  • Confidently iterative
  • Courageously committed
  • Respectful instigator
  • Business savvy

Read more in the highly recommended mindsets booklet (free, no registration, PDF download)

Learning from SAP’s 14 years journey in Design Thinking

During Maren’s presentation, she also shared from SAP’s vast experience in design thinking. She honestly covered ups and downs including initial frustration that design thinking could not be practiced and later how design thinking by checkbox was not working.

In recent years SAP Design has made great progress including enhancing their understanding of innovation culture and specifically redesigned leadership as shown in this slide:


The point of putting experts front and center resonated well with me. Readers of the Edelman Trust Barometer will also remember that experts are among those considered most trustworthy inside an organisation, only surpassed by peers. According to Maren, there seem to be two sides of the same coin of “putting experts front & center”:

  • fostering trust at the customer side (“trusted advisor”)
  • a higher involvement at the employee side, because they (finally) see the impact of their work, and can directly influence it

Scrum and agile methods has also played a key role in developing design thinking further at SAP. Maren highlighted how scrum has helped distribute power in her project team, create a better overview and how it has created a sense of team empowerment.

Putting ideas into action: Focus on empathy

As a final part of her session, Maren did an empathy exercise. She focused on the ideal work environment and had participants work with an empathy map.


(click for large version)

This reminded me of the famous Harvard Business Review article titled Connect, Then Lead from 2013, which made the point that warmth trumps strength.

Maren took a slightly different, yet related path, with this key question to kick off the discussion:

How does the ideal work environment look and feel like?

The Design at Business community has a created the Work hard – Play hard: The creative space book (free, no registration, PDF download). The book covers creative spaces inside corporate environments and comes with some great examples, including J. Boye members Philips, Siemens and Swisscom.

To cite from the conclusion of the book – as it relates to how creative workspaces help scale design thinking:

…the creativity that is unleashed not only allows people to build better products
and make customers happier but also to build a better company, leading to a sustainable
cycle of innovation, learning, and growth of incredible potential

Let’s continue the conversation

You can find Maren’s complete slides here:

There are many good resources on design thinking. Whether you are just embarking on the journey inside your organisation or have been a practitioner for several years, feel free to share your story below.

Artificial intelligence: How to capitalise on the huge potential

If you’ve been working with digital for the past years, you have probably heard of mobile-first. When mobile-first was introduced by Google in 2010, it had a tremendous impact on how solutions were developed. Programmers and others started to think about smartphones and tablets before thinking about desktops and this required a huge change in thinking and also led to a fair share of confusion.

Fast-forward to 2017 and Google introduced AI-first. AI-first means to think about artificial intelligence at the beginning of each new initiative. How might AI help improve a solution? How might AI make for a better customer experience?

AI has tremendous potential, but how to capitalise on it? This was the theme of a workshop which was designed by UK-based MMT Digital and I had the pleasure of chairing as a part of the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference.

Below I’ve shared some of my key learnings from the 3 hour session, but first thanks to Samuel Pouyt from the European Respiratory Society for kindly sharing his AI perspective and deep insight.

Learning #1: AI has been around for a while and we’re already using it

As Tracy Green shared in the beginning of the workshop, the term artificial intelligence was coined in 1955 by John McCarthy, a math professor at Dartmouth.

She also talked about general purpose technologies like the steam engine, electricity and quoted a recent Harvard Business review article titled The Business of Artificial Intelligence:

The most important general-purpose technology of our era is artificial intelligence

The article is a worthwhile read and also make a compelling case for how AI is poised to have a transformational impact on business.

I had brought my Amazon Echo Dot to the workshop which is one example of how AI has been made available to the consumers. While Amazon initially released the Amazon Alexa personal assistant in 2014, the Echo Dot became widely available in 2016. Today it sells for less than $50 on amazon.com. Since then Google has released their Home device which is also quickly finding its way into households.

Amazon Alexa made people laugh during demo time, but the widespread and quick adoption in households, somewhat similar to the introduction of the iPad, means that expectations go up and AI also becomes expected in work projects.

How are you using AI today?

Learning #2: Voice is quicker and better than typing

For me personally, 2017 became the year, where I started using voice, instead of typing. Saying “Alexa” or “OK Google” has become a normal part of the day, yet this blog post was still typed the good old-fashioned way.

Tracy also brought a recent Stanford research project to the workshop which found that speech is 3x faster than typing for English and Mandarin text entry on mobile devices.

This brief video from the Stanford experiment shows speech recognition writes text messages more quickly than thumbs:

The HBR article on The Business of Artificial Intelligence also makes the point that the error rate is now lower for algorithms than humans.

If you are not sure, how widespread the adoption really is, according to eMarketer, forty-five million voice-assisted devices are now in use in the U.S. For more read: Alexa, Say What?! Voice-Enabled Speaker Usage to Grow Nearly 130% This Year

Voice search is one big topic to be further explored and Christian Köhler from byte5 in Frankfurt, shared valuable implementation insights, also from the perspective of search engine optimisation.

Learning #3: Chatbots are here to stay

I owe much of what I know about chatbots to Ditte Wolff-Jacobsen and have previously held a brief talk on chatbots, largely based on her insights.

Chatbots are conversational and Sara Walsh from Capital One has already shared extensively on designing the conversation. Take a look at this open source approach to turn your traditional web forms into conversational forms.

The use cases from chatbots are far ranging from the employee experience towards better customer experience. To mention just one example, the Dutch carrier KLM have come a long way this year to make chatbots a useful part of the travelling experience. Take a look at BB – their Blue Bot.

At the workshop Jake DiMare from Luminos Labs in Los Angeles, also brought 2 examples from the US:

  1. Gwen – Your personal gift concierge which is powered by IBM Watson
  2. Leading Hotels of the World who has been using AI to improve the hotel research and booking processes

Might chatbot be the wrong word for these use cases? IBM seems to call the same thing virtual assistants, which certainly sets a different level of expectation.

Tracy Green brought a local council example from the UK to the discussion. Read more in this article: Could AI chatbots be the new face of local gov? Enfield Council thinks so. The Council is half-way through a project to introduce IPSoft’s Amelia chatbot to act as a front end to digitised front line services.

Finally, Sharon O’Dea from the UK made the point that if you want to start with a chatbot, it might be smarter to explore internal use cases to build experience, instead of launching external ones first, where they might negatively impact the customer experience.

Learning #4: Metadata auto-tagging is one valuable use case

Metadata is vital to store and manage information about your content and with organisations drowning in content, be it text, video or images, there is a huge pain related to search & retrieval as well as sharing information. Manually tagging content with descriptions, copyright details and so on is incredibly time consuming.

Theresa Regli took the lead on this one during the workshop. She is a thought-leader on digital asset management and works as Chief Strategy Officer at KlarisIP. Theresa generously shared insights on the technologies for automatically generating metadata, including visual recognition, context comparison and machine learning.

She also shared key findings from a recent research, which included insights on the maturity of the currently available global API models, the error margin and on the significant time and effort which is required to train the tools.

Learning #5: The future of business is content-driven

Back in 2015, NY Times featured the now legendary quiz: Did a Human or a Computer Write This?

Do try it and you’ll likely be surprised at how well a computer can write.

Last year, content marketing guru Robert Rose held a popular keynote on strategic content at the J. Boye Philadelphia 16 conference, where he opened our eyes towards how far AI has come in terms of writing better content.

From the workshop last week, US-based content strategist Hilary Marsh said something which I agree with:

AI will push companies toward better, more user-focused content

Tobi Stadelmeier who is VP Engineering at German-based CoreMedia brought examples of what’s out there in terms of Natural Language Processing, Text sentiment analysis, video indexer and much more. He also shared the progress CoreMedia has made in terms of using AI to improve both the editorial experience inside the CMS and well as the customer experience.

Learn more about AI for your 2018 projects

There’s so much happening at the moment when it comes to AI. Jake DiMare has already shared some of his take aways in It’s AI-first at J. Boye 17.

In advance of the workshop, Ina Rosen from Copenhagen-based agency Operate not only reviewed my slides, but also shared some of these pointers:

The end of the beginning of a totally new financial system

Volumes have been written about bitcoin, blockchain and cybercurrencies, in particular recently given the hype and immense fluctuations in the value of bitcoin.

Last week, Bebo White held a popular keynote with observations on cybercurrency and blockchain. Bebo is Departmental Associate (Emeritus) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in San Francisco and was on the team who installed the very first Web server in the US.

He certainly managed to capture my attention when he  opened with these questions:

  • How many of us have actually been around at the beginning of a totally new financial system?
  • How many of us were dubious about the World Wide Web?

In his talk, Bebo compellingly argued how Bitcoin and other cyber currencies can pave the way for truly global and digital financial system.

Digitizing our monetary systems

There is one example of data exchange that is essential to a successful society that has so far evaded digitization – exchange of value in mutually accepted monetary systems. This does not mean convenient digital representations of money or value such as are found in online credit card transactions or stock market trades which serve only as digital proxies for genuine currency or securities.

Instead, it refers to a new financial system designed specifically for the digital age wherein value resides only in digital form especially suited for digital transactions.

The design of a robust digital currency system has long been a major software engineering challenge. Perhaps the greatest incentive for its development comes from the meteoric rise in E-commerce. Global buyers and sellers longed for a payment system that closely resembled the anonymity of cash, did not depend upon existing payment infrastructures such as credit cards or wire transfers, and was not based upon a specific national currency requiring exchange processes and fees.

In short, a new financial system designed specifically for digital storage and transactions and for the network era was the dream.

Bitcoin: realizing the dream of a digitally based financial system

The latest attempt to realize this dream comes in the form of cybercurrencies such as Bitcoin. The very mention of Bitcoin conjures up in people’s minds criminal enterprises such as Silk Road, corruption and theft in the Mt. Gox scandal, criminal money-laundering, or anarchistic attempts to circumvent national currency systems.

While such “bad press” for Bitcoin is true, they also illustrate that it represents a system that can and should be taken seriously. When the famous American bank robber Willie Sutton was asked “why do you rob banks?” his response was “because that’s where the money is.”

Perhaps examples of Bitcoin abuse are indicative of its potential to store and process real value. Bitcoin is outlawed in some countries because it represents a break in the financial control that some governments hold over their citizens. Bitcoin is empowering to a population that for various reasons may not have access to a formal financial institution – all they now need is a mobile telephone. The number of Bitcoin that will ever be in circulation is fixed thereby providing a permanent hedge against inflation – something that no national currency can honestly claim.

The technology underlying Bitcoin and other cyber currencies is robust being based upon the same asymmetric encryption schemes that protect millions of secure transactions and communications every day. The Bitcoin ledger, called the Blockchain, insures the validity of transactions and is an innovative application of crowdsourcing. None of the negative incidents attributed to Bitcoin can be traced to its algorithmic methods.

It is impossible to say whether Bitcoin will become widely accepted and will survive in the future. However, Bitcoin has been successful in starting a discussion about the viability of digital money and the role that it can play in our increasingly digital world. Like music on vinyl records and pictures on photographic film, banknotes and coins may find a deprecated or niche use in the future behind their more powerful and flexible digital form.

The enormous potential implications on society

A significant part of the keynote took a step away from the history and technical details and rather focused on the social implications.

It’s more than just payments as Bebo said.

He shared examples of how blockchain comes with empowerment and transparency which has made organizations such as the UN use it for their refugee work. A recent example is documented by SingularityHub: 5 Reasons the UN Is Jumping on the Blockchain Bandwagon

In another example, he brought up this CNBC article: Cash is useless in Venezuela thanks to hyperinflation — so people are turning to bitcoin

He did not ignore the recent press and controversy around the enormous power consumption required to mine bitcoins.

One of my personal main take aways from the talk, was how blockchain might be the true lasting disruptive legacy of the cybercurrency discussion. Bebo brought this quote on Blockchain to the discussion:

a technology that allows people who don’t know each other to trust a shared record of events
– Bank of England

Shaping the digital future step by step

Bebo has been a frequent and very highly rated speaker at J. Boye conferences in both Denmark and the US.  He first became involved with the emerging WWW technology while at CERN in 1989.

You can find Bebo’s complete keynote slides here:

Deloitte has written a good paper on Six Control Principles for Financial Services Blockchain (PDF, published Oct 17)

In the global J. Boye network, you have the opportunity of experience macro-thinkers and leading industry experts like Bebo or everyday practitioners in fields spanning leadership and strategy, communication, digital workplace, collaboration and many more.

For more details, see Bebo’s slides from the J. Boye Aarhus 14 conference titled: Are You Ready for Bitcoin? (Is the World Ready for Bitcoin?)

Design with empathy and insight

Have you ever fallen in love with design? Seen a graphical mock-up that really represented your brand spot on in a way you would not know how to describe with words?

The problem with design in digital projects is that people tend to fall in love with different things. When feelings guide project decisions, life as a digital or project manager doesn’t get any easier. There must be a better way.

A design that you really want or a design that you really need?

Contextual research gives us a systematic way of developing a deeper understanding of our users. Using these insights and uncovering what users might be expressing when you read between the lines is one of the cornerstones of empathic design.

What users don’t say is often key. Contextual research gives us a way of developing a deeper understanding of our users. This enables us to not only design with empathy but to identify latent needs that provide opportunities to create breakthrough products and services.

In different projects in the past years, Paul-Jervis Heath has used diary studies, shadowing, contextual interviews plus some informal contextual research techniques. He’s mapped numerous customer journeys, including of buying and using a new kitchen appliance, inventing a machine that means you never order the wrong size shoes online and navigating the future of Open Access publishing

Paul applies human-centred design to help businesses invent their future and is principal at design studio and innovation consultancy Modern Human

Designing intelligent environments for everyday life

The ‘internet of things’ moves technology out of our hands and into the environments we inhabit. Rather than devices that constantly demand our attention, technology can be embedded everywhere; invisible until called upon. This creates a new relationship between us, the environments we inhabit, and the technology in those environments.

In a session on the UX conference track at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, Paul-Jervis Heath will start by exploring our changing relationship with technology based on ethnographic research with early adopters of smarthome devices. He will then present two case studies of designing smart environments: the product design of a suite of kitchen appliances that work together to create ambient intelligence; and a concept for the retail store of the future.

Finally, he will share a framework for designing intelligent environments.

Designing a fundamentally better organisation

If organisations took more time to do design right – understanding those who will use the deliverables – and do it early in the project, it would fundamentally lead to better digital solutions, which is better for the organisation.

With limited budget and compressed timelines, you probably need to fight hard to get space to do it right from the beginning.

5 questions to ask before selecting a Web CMS

As content management systems largely remain the de-facto digital platform for most large and complex organisations, selecting the right one for your organisation is a critical decision. The new system should ideally last for several years to come, but how do you find the best one?

Analysts crown vendors as winners and losers in the Web CMS market, but it is still a crowded and confusing marketplace for buyers. Typically you are not just selecting a new tool, you also have to factor in important aspects such as references, community, roadmap and support.

5 key CMS selection questions

To help you find the perfect CMS for your organisation, I’ve shared extensively throughout the years on the art and science of selecting the right CMS as well as the future of CMS.

An important part of the process is to ask the right questions to make progress on CMS selection:

  • Budget; how much should the project cost? If your last CMS selection lies a few years back and you are using a CMS crowned by analysts as a leader, you are probably spending too much. Make sure to leave your tender open so that you can get competitive proposals with an attractive price
  • Decision; do you want to make the decision itself or leave it with the digital agency? Unless you have in-house IT resources to commit to the project, we usually recommend that you look for both system integrator as well as new CMS vendor in one joint process. If for example you ask a boutique Kentico partner they are likely to also propose Kentico, but many agencies and system integrators work with multiple systems.
  • Open source; are you ready to consider open source? It continues to surprise me how many organisations are ignoring open source when looking for Web CMS. Most analysts ignore it; what are your good reasons?
  • Implementation; who will do the implementation? Don’t select a tool before deciding who will actually implement it. Are you looking for someone local? Do you want agency or system integrator? Not thinking about implementation up-front is a good way to set yourself up for failure.
  • System; why don’t we just use Drupal? This inevitable question comes up from time to time as one developer on your team might claim to know a given CMS inside out. Tempting as it might seem, is it indeed a sensible decision?

Look beyond the system for CMS success

As you might have noticed, these key questions are not directly tied to how eZ support multi-language or how Magnolia does mobile sites or anything else specific to the features of a given CMS. Those are all valid questions as well, but if you don’t want your CMS selection to drag on in an ever-changing marketplace, you should start with some other key questions.

Today most organisations are into their second or third content management system and some are even running multiple systems within their organisation. Good answers to the key questions will act as decision-support along the way and ensure that you don’t get blinded by hype and marketing, but rather gets you on the right track to a successful CMS selection followed by the smooth implementation we all dream of.