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How to form trust in the digital workplace

When people ask me what in my experience is the biggest barrier to innovation in our workplaces, it almost always falls back to workplace fears: Fears about expectations, fears of being seen, fears about making a mistake. Dig a little deeper and we can see that they are all ultimately based on a lack of trust. A lack of trust from management in our workforce and a lack of trust from our workforce in the environment that they work.

To build innovation as a culture, as a way of work, it’s fundamental that we have a workplace built on trust. Innovation flourishes with openness: experiences and insights shared, creative energy surfacing and a diversity of views. Conversely, innovation is killed by a workforce that keeps their heads down and just focuses on the task, staying within the boundaries of the cubicle.

Today, much of our work is done on digital platforms. The digital workplace is no longer just for connecting distant teams, it’s part and parcel of everyday work. In fact, we’re just as likely to have online conversations with people in our building than face-to-face ones. So if our work is more virtual than in-person, it becomes more and more important to focus on the behaviours we exhibit in the digital domain.  Without this, we significantly reduce the ability to connect and converse, solve problems and establish shared understandings, like we do when we catch someone for a real conversation.

So let’s unpack some of the human factors that build trust and see how we can apply them in the digital workplace. Building trust based on hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

Listening and mirroring emotions

Eye contact and responding with similar gestures. These reactions make us relax a little: we’ve got someone’s attention and they seem to like us. But in virtual conversations, who is even listening to us? And even during video conversations, such as Skype and WebEx, it’s nigh on impossible to see the reaction of the audience, and that’s before they’ve dropped out!

In our digital worlds, we need to respond in a way that establishes a similar reaction. A ‘like’ is a good start. It helps to build some semblance of acknowledgement. But to start to form a trusting relationship, a more proactive response is needed. When reacting to a post, add some context: why did you find it useful? How does it connect to what you do? Do you have similar experiences? This opens a positive channel of communications, a thread. Initially, this gives us more confidence to be active in digital conversations and ultimately, building new and productive relationships in the workplace. As a bonus, it also enriches the knowledge in the conversation.

Having things in common

Shared experiences, interests and odd hobbies is a well-proven means of building trust. Immediately it creates empathy with the other person. After all, they are a little bit like me! When we first hold conversations with strangers, we usually go for safe common ground such as the weather. But digging a little deeper usually helps find some common interests like sport, television shows and pets.

What this means is that the often disapproved but tolerated posting of your pet cat doing something almost amusing becomes an important workplace trust building activity. We start to build emotional connections to colleagues. The social network platform starts to become a safe place to talk. This builds us towards an environment where we’re more likely to connect with people who can help us, who need our help or with whom conversations can start to build new and exciting outcomes.

Posting things that mean something to us, or responding to somebody with a similar experience or interest. These are small but very effective ways to build trust and develop a network. Just don’t forget to build business issues and process into your social channels otherwise you’ll be stuck with those bloody cats.

We’re not perfect

The high achiever – always seems to thrive, always perfect. Don’t we just hate them! Jealousy is an innate human trait and for good or bad, it’s just there. It often clouds our judgement under a blanket of emotion. Conversely, we connect more easily with people who aren’t perfect. People who make mistakes, who are fallible. It’s not schadenfreude, it’s just good old fashioned empathy again. It’s hard to have empathy for the person we see (rightly or wrongly) as perfect. After all, that’s just not human, is it?

This one is the hardest of the lot, but thoroughly effective: admitting mistakes, out in the open of our digital ecosystem. In the workplace we’ve always been rewarded for displaying strength, not vulnerability – and so vulnerability is not something we’re comfortable displaying. But innovation is built on mistakes. Human nature is built on mistakes. It’s how we’ve evolved to the top of the food chain – by trying new things, learning from what works and what doesn’t, and adapting our behaviours to suit. So leaders, show strength and admit where you went wrong, What would you do differently next time? You’ll find your teams will trust you much more for it.

Equal favouritism

It’s great to be the head of the pack, surrounded by close colleagues. But what about those who aren’t in the club? If you feel left out, you’re less likely to trust those in the pack. And research by Google on building the perfect team shows that team performance is enhanced when meeting culture allows everyone to have a say, that someone is actually listening to you, rather than just the dominant voices in a room.

In a digital environment, the same applies. Don’t just respond to your mates, showing favouritism to those you know. Break out, and make connections with new people. If someone you don’t know has stuck their neck out to post something, to share what they’ve learned, then respond in kind. Showing that people, especially management, are open to new ideas from those who may not have a seat at the table, is fundamental in bringing the quiet voices out, and offering a vital contribution. How many good ideas have been kept in the locker because they were never shared in the first place?

A smile

Finally, let’s finish with the simplest, most effective way to build trust with someone you don’t know. A smile. It opens us up, suddenly changing the dynamic of an interaction. But how do we convey a smile in a digital world?

It’s actually easy: have a warm smile in your company profile picture. According to research from New York University, people with a positive profile picture on professional networking sites are more likely to appear as trustworthy. And are we really more likely to start a provocative conversation thread with someone with a terrifying face? So put the pout face away and give a good cheesy grin.

 

Trust is one of the most valuable commodities in today’s digital workplaces. As we’re rolling out new tools and changing the rules of how we interact, it’s vital that we change how we help our workforce. Focus on them as people. Bringing in to play some of the measures above will gain their trust. It will increase adoption. It will increase productivity as our digital conversations become more mature and, ultimately, justify the high business value we place on them.

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.
 

maren-in-action
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.

maren-speaking-power-of-design

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:

sap-redesigning-leadership

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.

EmpathyMap

(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.

workshop-participants-laugh-at-alexa
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.

What’s the Point of Your Digital Investment?

Congratulations on your investment in the digital workplace. It’s how we do business. Big hitters like Office 365 and Workplace by Facebook, numerous cloud-based collaboration and networking tools. These are now largely the norm for medium and large businesses. But before we get too excited about all this new technology, let’s first ask ourselves a fundamental question: what are we deploying these tools for?

Robot IQ Cartoon

Are we really procuring something as powerful as Office 365 just to create and store documents? Common reasons for deploying digital tools include ‘to be able to work anywhere’, ‘to connect with my colleagues’ and ‘to find the resources I need to do my job’. And is that really the point? To do our jobs? After all, we’ve always needed tools to perform jobs, from crude wooden implements through industrial machinery to the latest in artificial intelligence. These are all tools, yet they all need a purpose. What is the job we need to do with them?

Shovels and pick axes weren’t procured solely to dig holes for the sake of it. They were used to extract minerals, to build railway lines, to plant orchards. And email wasn’t introduced to replace conversations, it was actually intended to leave messages for colleagues to retrieve when they arrived at work.

So why do we see lavish roll-out of digital tools rolled out without a clear purpose beyond a task? When we say we need to find colleagues, we need to ask why do we need to find colleagues? what’s the necessity that makes us want to talk to people outside of our office?

Digital workplace confusion

It’s actually very simple to see why we struggle to find a clear purpose for our digital tools, as the graphic below shows. We try and band everything together as the digital workplace yet our expectations of it change pretty much annually. It’s actually rather unhelpful to try and group all of these disparate things together.

Expectations of digital working

An example of confused purpose is enterprise social platforms commonly being used as communications tools, to disseminate top-down messages. Sure, they are more than capable of doing it but is that the reason they exist? Is that why we should be on there every day? To see our CEO proudly talking about some shareholders we have no connection with?

Communications, networking, finding content, working on documents collaboratively. These are all ‘what’s’. These are what we do to do a job. And with so many ‘what’s’ in play, it’s increasingly difficult to focus on the needs of our workforce and our customers. So let’s dig a little deeper and see what digital tools can really do by thinking beyond the ‘what’. By thinking about the true capability – the ‘why’. Why do we really need these potentially powerful tools? Here are some suggestions that provide a higher purpose.

Empowering the workforce

‘We need these tools to give our workforce a voice.’ Not an occasional opportunity via surveys, but a voice across everything that we do to improve everything that we do. Typically new projects look backwards, following convention, experience and ‘best practice’. Fine. But if we want to change, to raise the bar, we need fresh input, new ideas, candid learnings. Consider digital tools as empowering tools: throw away the shackles of the cubicle and have these discussions out in the open, ‘working out loud’.

Tools alone, of course, won’t fully deliver this. Left alone, people will continue with their existing habits. But using these same tools we can unearth the blockers to collaboration and challenge them. Out in the open, in candid discussions. With these two simple, empowering motivators we can realise the maximum potential of these tools.

And that’s why it’s critical to determine the ‘why’. The high level driver. Once we see and understand that, we can determine the tactics to deliver it. Digital tools will be an important part of this mix, but we may also need other tactics: training, engagement, leading by example. The digital workplace tools become the place where we can safely and honestly put it all out there. To offer a view or to feed in a problem – not a passive workforce, but a workforce with a voice, influencing decision making and delivery.

Network-driven innovation

The quest for innovation often bypasses the collaborative power of digital workplaces in a focus solely for new ideas. Innovation thrives in environments where seemingly unconnected elements combine into new thinking. The organic, spontaneous realisation that we’ve stumbled across something. Digital networks are excellent innovation engines, connecting people with people, allowing half-formed ideas to intersect with other half-formed ideas, opening the door to insights, trends and problems.

Deploying digital collaboration tools to support an innovative workforce is a truly powerful purpose. And again, like any broader business purpose, we use the tools as part of the mix. An innovation strategy needs engagement, training, catalysts and communities powering the way. But then how amazing that we have such great tools to deliver all of these things: enterprise social networks for innovation communities and engagement, team spaces, spaces for disruption, content and collaboration spaces for training.

To be more innovative is a clear high-level purpose. It gives us permission to disrupt, it links bottom-up thinking via the various tools that comprise the digital workplace. This is an environment in which innovation thrives.

Find it yourself

Digital workplace tools open the door to many possibilities. But whichever way we go, we’ve got to get that clear purpose out there. Once we know that, we can plan. Providing hands-on and bottom-up engagement to make us thrive. Getting us to think of how best to make the digital workplace a safe place to work out loud, to be open and honest, to disrupt. As long as we’ve thought about why and how we will work, the digital workplace is an exciting place. Without this, digital tools become a mess of overlapping, under-used and sometimes counter-productive tools.

Don’t leave the tools to it. A spade won’t dig a hole by itself, likewise SharePoint won’t deliver collaboration by itself. What are we collaborating for? Uploading documents is one tiny piece of a digital future. With a bold vision, we can unleash the power of our workforce to achieve so, so much more.

 

5 things about the web that we need to future-prove

The World Wide Web has been around for just some 25 years. And we are still struggling to find answers to basic yet fundamental questions regarding digital records management, says Steven Pemberton, a WWW pioneer, chair of several W3C working groups and researcher at The Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science in Amsterdam.

steven-pemberton-i14
Steven Pemberton speaking at Interaction14 on The Computer as Extended Phenotype

 

Will we for example still be able to read and access websites made today in 100 years time? Or will all our content be lost to future ages? What is needed to make the web age-tolerant? What do we want from the web in both the short and long term?

Reflections of a World Wide Web pioneer

Steven has spent his career researching issues related to the Web and to prepare for his keynote at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, he tasked himself with reflecting and finding answers to these questions.

In his opinion, we need to look at the following five issues if we want to future-prove the web for generations to come:

1) Content

Despite the use of style-sheets, the current web is almost completely visually-oriented. This locks the content into one particular representation, and makes it hard to re-purpose. What we need is a web that is primarily content-oriented, with a final phase of presentation; only in that way can content be repurposed in the same way that data can be. Design for the web should be like design for a house style. It has a general style that the content can flow into.

2) Multi-device

We don’t want to have to produce copies of our websites for each new type of platform or device. There needs to be a generic method of re-purposing content to the form factor of the device accessing it.

3) Accessibility

Even when we are 80, we will still want and need to use the web. How can we make our 30-year-old selves sensitive to the problem of our less-abled

4) Authorability

With the arrival of HTML5, the web has stopped being about documents, and started being about programs. Now only programmers can produce modern web pages. What can be done to alleviate the problem?

5) Availability

HTTP, the protocol used for serving Web pages, has served us well for the last 25 years, but is beginning to show its age: it has become a single-point-of-failure for content. It enables DDoS attacks, makes it easy for governments and other agencies to censor sites and content, and just when a website becomes super-popular it can fail causing the website to crash and be unreachable.

How do we best approach the future of the web?

Beware of content related risks

King Content has firmly held the throne ever since he was crowned. However, many tend to forget that he is the sovereign when it comes to producing actual content. Jake DiMare, Head of Digital Strategy at LA-based Luminos Labs, has been building websites for the past almost 20 years, and he wishes that more people were aware of the simple fact that content matters.

All too often, project stakeholders are so wrapped up worrying about technical risks or marveling over new designs, new branding, influencer marketing or whatever the latest hype is, that content can nearly be forgotten or worse – treated as an unimportant ‘detail’ to be figured out later.

If you are a project manager, sponsor, or executive stakeholder, this is a far bigger risk than you may realize.

Rise of the content strategist

However, all is not lost. In recent years the profession of content strategy has grown in size and skill at a geometric rate and content strategists have guided their project managers through the troubled waters of content related risks.

According to Jake DiMare you should at least look for these 7 potential dangers on the content strategy map:

1) Failure to appreciate the depth and breadth of a project
2) Failure to recognize the critical importance of content
3) Failure to plan for creating and/or revising content
4) Failure to understand the challenges of designing with dummy content
5) Failure to properly plan for content migration
6) Failure to plan for the disruptive effects of owning a new CMS
7) Failure to understand the gravity of business requirements

Now, one thing is navigating, but you also need to know how to mitigate the seven risks so you too can get through the troubled waters.

Design the author experience

In 2017 customer experience seems firmly planted on the radar screen of management, and most recognize the crucial link between employee experience and customer experience. Clearly happy, empowered and motivated employees will ensure a better customer experience, than grumpy or disillusioned employees.

When it comes to content creation, this means you need to take a firm look at the author experience. Don’t just accept the CMS or whatever else system you are using out-of-the-box. If you want to create killer content, you need to provide an author experience that does not suck