A podcast on the power and potential of peer learning

teamw-humantechA few days ago, I listened to a podcast in which my business partner of a decade and the founder of our business, Janus Boye was interviewed by behavioral scientist and psychology Ph.D., Susan Weinschenk, CEO at The Team W; a Wisconsin based advisory firm helping organisations with insights on brain and behavioral science.

The focus of the conversation was on the “J. Boye approach to peer learning and networking”; a model, which in our eyes is simple and yet has lots to offer. The questions and reactions in the podcast, however, reminded me that it is still a fairly alien phenomenon in many countries and cultures; even those we often compare ourselves with.

Janus explained that the basic key ingredients include a safe and confidential, yet relaxed environment, a high level of trust among the participants, a willingness to share not just successes, but also pain points and accepting that there is no guaranteed “perfect solution or answer” at the end; that it is a journey of discovery without any right or wrong answers or given solutions necessarily provided. Susan and her colleague repeatedly mentioned that – despite having partaken in many networks and professional meet-ups, they had not come across this “recipe” elsewhere.

Much has been written about Denmark and the Danish welfare and workplace models, our extremely low levels of corruption and our high levels of trust among citizens and between citizens and bodies of authority; employers, the state etc. I do think those societal circumstances have a part to play in why we have arrived at our approach; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that J. Boye originates in Denmark. On the other hand, we have not invented anything new; we have simply evolved and applied a framework and a template to an approach to learning that we see as nothing more than common sense.

Despite the simplicity of the concept, it cannot be scaled quickly. Building a group and a network on trust, deep knowledge of the others within, their changing needs etc. takes time. And many conversations – ideally face to face. But the outcome – when you see it working – is deeply satisfying. It is certainly why I still feel privileged to have my job – and love it even after a decade.

Give Susan and Janus’ conversation a listen – and join one of our peer groups to experience our approach to peer learning first hand!

What’s the future of CMS?

janus-boye-frankfurt-cms-marketplace-yesterdayWhile I’ve worked with content management systems in various roles since 1999, I was still humbled when the friendly organisers of the 2017 Umbraco Festival in Germany, asked me to present on the future of CMS.

Upon rehearsing I found that the vast majority of my Future of CMS slides covered the past and the current marketplace. To my defense, it is difficult predicting the future and the marketplace is still quite confusing, even to me.

One of my initial points is that the role of the CMS has fundamentally shifted. CMS used to be considered required to build a website and as such CMS vendors saw themselves as the center of the digital universe – providers of a web operating system. This has changed and to put things in perspective, try to find CMS in the crowded MarTech landscape by Scott Brinker.

With agile, cloud, experience journeys and marketing automation already beginning to feel old, below are my 5 key points for what lies ahead:

1) Privacy & security, incl GDPR

In Europe, we can thank the EU politicians for getting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed and finally and firmly establishing privacy on the agenda for any one responsible for websites.  Alongside security which has been absent from both vendor roadmaps , privacy represents a huge challenge for customers and a similar huge opportunity for vendors.

Customers expect their digital platform to be able to help them ensure both privacy and security are taken good care of and I’m already seeing innovative vendors making moves in this direction.

As a customer, I need validation and reporting that shows me what data I’m collecting, that enables me to forget customers, and that makes sure my website is not a hackers paradise.

For more on this topic read this article by Tim Walters, Principal Strategist and Privacy Lead at The Content AdvisorySeven Things Marketers Need To Know About The New Data Protection Rules.

2) Artificial intelligence

Almost exactly a year ago, Google made the public announcement to say AI-first as a follow up to their much misunderstood “mobile-first mantra about 5 years ago. This means that artificial intelligence is built in from the get go in Google solutions. 

Similarly IBM Watson, the supercomputer which combines AI with sophisticated analytical software, has played a huge role redefining IBM as a company. 

In the CMS space, customers expect much smarter content platforms. Today what they get, is basically the dumb and old form-based systems from the late 90’s with an updated design and some nifty usability hacks.

As a customer, I would like recommendations on what content I’m missing on my site, built-in analytics and why not offer my website visitors (aka the customers) AI functionality on the site?

3) Next level SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) has been big business for a while and while CMS vendors have been busy doing other things, they’ve left an increasing piece of the cake for digital marketing agencies.

Yesterday, today and in the foreseeable future SEO is all about being found on Google. Whether we like it or not, that’s where the customer journey starts and if we are not found on the first page of Google, your competitor gets the business.

WordPress has been among the leaders when it comes to SEO improvements inside the system, but to reach the next level, including for complex e-business sites, much more work is required.

For more on this prediction, read:

4) Be where users are

One of the key changes in consumer behavior is that your website is no longer the center of the universe. It really never was and today customers are interacting with you and your organisation on numerous channels. To name a few: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, custom apps and the list continues. And the list will grow longer in the foreseeable future. 

Content management systems were built for websites. And that’s the problem.  

Today smart customers sees the website as one of several planets in the digital solar system and they have understood the need to be where their users are. Customers  expect that a modern digital platform can assist them in working across platforms, re-using and re-purposing relevant content, combining metrics and delivering a great user experience on the platform of choice for the user.

5) Think business development

Clearly the days of brochure websites are behind us. Well, to be fair, they are not really as many new brochure websites are being created every single day using content management systems built for the age of the digital brochures.

GEA is a German-based large, complex and global engineering firm and I’m impressed at how Head of Online Mikkel Andersen and his team have taken their website from essentially a brochure to a B2B lead generation engine.

If you are working in B2C, thinking digital business development is probably not a new thing, but you don’t get much help from your usual CMS vendor.

There is plenty of room for improvement to make it easier out-of-the-box to capture leads, increase conversions and to do business.

Business development has been a big theme at recent J. Boye group meetings, where I’ve written this post on the topic: How to think about business development

What do you see in the future of CMS?

Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Feel free to leave a comment below, also if I missed something.

Tomorrow’s workplace will have many apps

Going mobile have been the big initiative for the past couple of years with apps for work arriving on many smartphones, including Google Suite, Microsoft Office, LinkedIn, Slack, WhatsApp and much more.

In addition, we’ve seen the rise of software vendors like Staffbase,  who offers an employee app for internal communication and more.

As multiple apps become the new normal, what are the lessons learned from those leading the way? In this posting, I’ll share some of my takeaways on this topic from recent J. Boye group meetings.

How many apps are you using to get work done today?

The idea of just one single app for work might seem tempting, but think about the many different tasks this app would have to cater for. This would be an uberapp, that would be so bloated with features that it would impractical to both use and maintain.

I’ll admit to a love – hate relationship with apps. They tend to drain battery and come with privacy concerns, so I try to restrict the number of apps on my smartphone to a bare minimum.

As we’ve familiarised ourselves with smartphones, a few different apps for a few different tasks might not seem that bad, but how many apps do we really need to get work done?

janus-boye-smartphone-january17A quick look at my smartphone reveals that the ones I’m using in a normal working day:

  1. Dropbox for access to files
  2. Facebook Messenger as a communication platform
  3. Google Calendar to handle my meetings and tasks   
  4. Google Docs to work on documents
  5. Google Mail for my e-mail                 
  6. Google Sheets to work on spreadsheets
  7. Google Slides to work on presentations                               
  8. LinkedIn to prepare for meetings and as a communication platform
  9. Slack for internal messaging
  10. Twitter on social media

There’s also a few work apps that I’ll use weekly or at least frequent enough that I’ve kept them:

  1. Google AdWords to give me insights on campaigns and keywords
  2. Hotels.com to book hotels for business trips
  3. Rejseplanen to get around Denmark
  4. SAS to check-in online for my flights with Scandinavian airlines
  5. Uber to get from A to B when it is convenient

Tomorrow’s workplace will have more apps

Whether you like it or not, the direction of travel at the moment is toward more apps. Here are a few examples:

  • Wictor Wilen from Avanade was a guest in one of our recent group meetings in Copenhagen, where he shared that Microsoft for Office 365 so far has 9 apps with more in the making
  • A large Swiss member in the J. Boye network had 30 mobile apps for internal usage in the beginning of 2016 with 60 more in the planning.

Depending on your role and responsibilities, you might need additional and specific apps, e.g. with access to important guidelines or latest sales numbers.

In addition to the company internal apps, there’s also the numerous external apps for various use cases such as loyalty, marketing and self-service. Perhaps it makes for your organisation to build different apps for your customers or partners?

What you need to know about apps in the workplace

Here’s five points where I’ve noticed that J. Boye members have been busy writing in their notebooks at group meetings:

Think about adoption from the beginning

How will you ensure that employees will actually use the app? Training sessions for a new app seem counterintuitive when most are perfectly capable of downloading and using apps for private usage with no training required, yet offering training might be the right thing to do at work.

Some of J. Boye members like T-Systems MMS have launched their apps at corporate events to ensure widespread usage, while others have coupled sizable communication and internal marketing campaigns around their new app.

Apps require constant maintenance

A key learning from experts who have recently visited group meetings, including both software vendors like Staffbase and also app developers at House of Code, is to not underestimate the maintenance required for each app.

It’s comparatively simple to build an app and some even have in-house IT resources to pull it off, but with the frequent updates from Apple and Google, you need to constantly maintain your app to make sure it stays working.

Privacy is a real concern

I briefly mentioned my own privacy concerns earlier on, but this is naturally a big thing for most employees.

Today most countries have regulation on how to deal with employee data and with the arrival of GDPR in Europe, you have to cater for requirements like the right to be forgotten.

Whether you embark on custom apps or standard apps from vendors, you need to make privacy a part of your design.

One example of this is the usage of location as a feature, which might seem the good reason to build an app instead of a mobile website. A scenario could be finding the nearest canteen or printer, but few employees and workers councils in Germany and elsewhere will approve the location tracking of employees the comes with this.

Voluntary of mandatory?

Are you planning to make using the apps mandatory or leave it up to employees to download and use the apps if they so please?

Either way requires adequate agreements with the employees and fair amounts of planning and governance.

What happens if the smartphone is forgotten somewhere?

This is one of the typical questions and not everyone has a good answer to it. Smartphones are forgotten everywhere every day. Cafes, trains and airport lounges to just name a few places.

Let’s say the company apps are on your smartphone and you forget the smartphone somewhere.

Depending on how authentication happens in your apps, this could be a real security risk. Does a stranger now have direct access to financial reporting or confidential news? Some organisations have rolled out device management solutions so that smartphones can be wiped remotely in situations like this, while others require constant login for certain apps.

Learn more about apps as a part of the workplace of the future

You can learn from the best at our upcoming masterclass on Workplace of the Future in Amsterdam on 30 March. One of the speakers on the program is Susann Wanitschke from T-Systems MMS who will share their success story with the roll-out of their employee app.

T-Systems MMS also has a relevant and recently published whitepaper. See Enterprise messaging – an integrated part of work.

Finally, please do share your learnings below and help others navigate towards tomorrow’s workplace.

Taking J. Boye to the next level

We are kicking off 2017 with some exciting news, which I want to share with you.

Almost 200 new members joined J. Boye in 2016. Great news as every new member makes the J. Boye community a more valuable resource for everyone involved.

Besides continuing to grow, our ambition is to continually improve the experience of being a member; to make the J. Boye community a useful and trusted resource in the working lives of our members. To make a difference to you as a member, by providing you with unparalleled access to insights in a rapidly changing world.

What I founded back in 2003 has now become a truly international community of highly talented professionals. Together with Lau Andreasen who joined back in 2008, and the rest of the team, we’ve tirelessly travelled around Europe and North America, meeting, connecting and challenging digital leaders while turning it into an exciting business.

During 2016 we realised that to take J. Boye to the next level and to continue to deliver we both needed to be able to dedicate more time and energy to where it all started: Meeting with you as members, moderating group meetings and events, being a part of industry conversations, writing and sharing continuously.

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Claus Olsen joined J. Boye as new Managing Director in December 2016

To make this happen, we turned a new page in December and welcomed Claus Olsen as our new Managing Director. Claus joins us in Copenhagen and brings with him vast management experience to take our organisation to the next level. We first met while contracting at Danish shipping conglomerate Maersk back in 2003 and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. He will focus on making J. Boye an even better place to work and also on streamlining operations.

It is a big decision to bring onboard new leadership in any people business, and I’m excited to have Claus join the team.

I believe that we have never been better positioned to realise our original vision of an inclusive knowledge network for those taking charge of transforming tomorrow’s businesses’.

Finally, I want to thank YOU for your continued support and contributions to the community. Stay involved. Sharing is caring!

All the best for 2017

Janus Boye