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:

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.

 

How an employee app changed the way of working at T-Systems MMS

Today at German T-Systems Multimedia Solutions GmbH (MMS) more than 70% of employees use the employee app, which does more than simply acting as a channel for internal communications.

The initial rollout was almost 2 years ago and the T-Systems MMS employee app case has been presented at several J. Boye group meetings and conferences. I’ve often heard the same feedback from members saying that they initially did not think much of an employee app, but after hearing the case study, it changed their perspective.

In this brief posting, I’ll share the key parts of the story and some of the impact the app has had with thanks to internal communications manager Susann Wanitschke from T-Systems MMS.

Why an employee app at T-Systems MMS?

In a time of change, where many organisations still don’t engage with employees on their mobile phones, I give credit to the team at T-Systems MMS for being one of the first movers and rolling out back in September 2015.  

The three key pain points that led to the introduction of an employee app was:

  1. Employees could only read news on the intranet
  2. Many employees are often on the road
  3. It took too long to get relevant content on the intranet

In the big picture, the objective was also to not only be an innovative company for customers, but also for employees and to achieve more employee engagement.

Securing adoption of the employee app

The initial launch in 2015 was at a key company event and since then improvements have been rolled out alongside big company events. The events have been used to drive adoption with the event ticket and updated program available inside the app. Using the app you can also create your personal event schedule, vote and view a livestream.

mymms-event-ticket

Besides the usual internal communications content, a key aspect of the app is also to look more broadly at the employee experience, including having fun with games around football tournaments, sharing lifestyle content in a channel named ZAZU after a character from the Lion King and playing games around Christmas time.  

Achieving the right balance between data protection and usability is probably one of the key challenges, but in my view, also the key part of successful adoption. Employees need to have the trust and confidence that their data is used appropriately and at the same time, the app needs to be easy to install and use. If you want to have a look at the app, simply go to the App Store on iTunes or Google Play and that’s also how it has been rolled out at T-Systems MMS.

The current 70% adoption is even more impressive considering the fact that the app is not mandatory and much of the content is also available on the intranet.

Push notification as a game changer

One of the key benefits of having an employee app, in particular, compared to a mobile-friendly intranet, is the ability to do push notifications. As known from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and other popular apps, push notifications appear on the smartphone alerting the user to something new.

At T-Systems MMS they have rules and guidelines around the usage of push notifications and limit themselves to no more than every other day. On average the numbers show, that a push message receives 3x the views and reactions compared to usual messages that do not get pushed. According to Susann, they’ve also experimented around the best time of day for push messages, with before lunch time and end of working day as the ones with the most impact.

As an employee, you do have the option to turn off push notifications. According to Susann, less than 25% have done so at T-Systems MMS.

mymms-app

Next steps for the employee app

Recently secure chat has been introduced and it is working very well according to Susann. On the roadmap are features around onboarding for new employees and update channels for communities where every employee can publish.

—–

Behind the scenes

The T-Systems MyMMS app was developed in close collaboration with Staffbase, a start-up with offices in Germany and the US. Alternatives to Staffbase include Smarp, SocialChorus and TheAppBuilder.

5 key themes on the 2017 digital manager’s agenda

It can be hard to figure out what is really going when it comes to the emerging role of digital and those leading digital change in organisations.

This month, I’ve had the pleasure of spending two days with smart digital managers in Manchester and Aarhus where I moderated local J. Boye events.

Your organisation is likely to be different than those who attended, but below I share what emerged from the events as the 5 key themes on the digital manager’s agenda for 2017.

1. There’s more at stake than the website

Clearly your website is important – for many even business-critical. Still it is clear that the scope for digital managers has expanded far beyond the website.

Paul Bason from Manchester Metropolitan University made the point, as illustrated in the diagram below, that there are now more jobs in the creative industry in the Greater Manchester area than the total amount of jobs in automotive, financial services and aerospace. 

jobs-greater-manchester-region

While you may not connect the creative industry exclusively to digital innovation, it is a fair way to put some numbers behind the massive impact digital is having in the big picture.

It is expected of you as a digital manager to be able to bring the bigger changes together. To see digital in a broader view and be able to go from innovation to business development and onwards to real change and even competitive advantage.

To be more specific, the big discussions for digital managers are no longer about an app or say selecting a new CMS, but on key business decisions where digital plays a vital role. Digital managers today need to make tough decisions on key priorities, make sure digital operations stay up and running, build and lead teams with emerging skills, handle vendor relations and much more. In other words, the role has become much more about management than digital.

2. No longer them vs. us

“The door is open”

marianne-kay-and-javed-iqbal
Marianne Kay from the University of Leeds listening to Javed Iqbal from British Council during the J. Boye masterclass

Javed Iqbal from British Council used this simple quote to illustrate the big change that has happened inside organisations.

If you’ve been a digital manager for a couple of years, you’ve likely had to do a fair bit of preaching and advocacy to build support for investing in digital.

That’s different in 2017, where many have left the digital vs. the rest of the business mindset. Instead it is now the entire organisation who wants to speak digital. That also means that expectations have gone up and the days of the enthusiastic amateurs are over.

Digital has clearly conquered the agenda in many organisations, but most organisations still have such a long way to go to truly reap the benefits.

On a related point, most digital managers still have to deal with the colleagues who have amazing creativity to find workarounds, when they feel that things are moving too slowly. Rob Hoeijmakers from Liberty Global nailed it with his question:

How to create structure without posing too many limits?

3. Measure to improve and to share your success

As already mentioned, digital managers today have to do more management than just a few years ago. A key part of this is to document your success and the value you create to your organisation.

The metrics vary from industry to industry. Marianne Kay from the University of Leeds shared relevant higher education success criteria, while Mikkel Andersen from GEA shared how they’ve turned their website into a B2B lead generation machine.

To succeed in digital requires substantial investments in resources, agencies and technology. As we have left brochure websites behind us, it is only good practice to also place more emphasis on measuring the impact.

abdul-dezkam-grundfos-journey
Abdul Dezkam from Grundfos on their customer journey and how they turn insights into actions

Abdul Dezkam shared how Grundfos is leveraging data to understand, measure and optimize the customer experience throughout the customer journey. He presented a walkthrough of a customer experience (CX) measurement framework that brings the customer in the center of the business and empowers business to effectively optimize the customer journey to drive more impact on CX in a large global company.

One final point: By frequently sharing the value created by digital, you also effectively keep digital top-of-mind among senior management.

4. Projects & new tech takes time

yvonne-hansen-kpmg
Yvonne Hansen from KPMG on stage talking about how to deal with the extreme scope of digital

Yvonne Hansen from KPMG in Norway hosted a session on how to deal with the expanding scope of digital and among the key points was that you can’t only manage.

There are so many topics you need to cover, including strategy, digital marketing, multiple websites to just name a few. Specifically her point was, that you need to invest time in ensuring project success and trying to stay on top of emerging technologies. This was validated by other participants who had gone through 30+ workshops to bring key projects forward and ensure organisational alignment. A huge investment in time. 

In terms of new technology, media expert Steffen Damborg shared several examples of how technology is still changing everything. Examples included using small data to truly understand customer intent and measuring customer emotions while browsing your site to optimize for conversions. 

In terms of projects, Louis Georgiou from Code Computerlove, a leading UK digital agency, took us from waterfall, to agile, to lean, and many different flavours of governance models in-between. According to Louis, the growth of lean start-ups and digital product businesses has created the ‘product mindset’, a better way to develop digital platforms today.

5. Privacy & security

With the clock ticking to the enforcement of the new EU privacy directive, privacy has finally become a clear priority.

Collaborating with legal used to be restricted to when engaging with new vendors, but now collaborating with legal is a part of every day life for digital managers.

One of the leading experts on privacy and the EU General Data Protection Regulation is Berlin-based Tim Walters. He has previously called GDPR “a ticking timebomb in the digital marketing plumbing” and urged everyone not to underestimate the impact of the new legislation.

So far, the approach taken by most, has been to collect as much visitor data as possible, to potentially enable them to create a better and more relevant experience. With privacy-by-design and the right to be forgotten, we need to fundamentally rethink how we address privacy in our digital projects.

In terms of security, one J. Boye member who shall remain anonymous termed their website a hackers paradise. Making management aware of this had been a huge eye opener.

Learn more and meet other digital managers

You can join one of our many J. Boye groups for digital managers. In the groups, you can learn from your peers and discover new possibilities.

You can also make the trip to Rovinj in late August for the digital manager masterclass or in Aarhus in November for the biggest J. Boye event of the year – the annual international J. Boye conference.

Good luck with your projects and your career as a digital manager

Welcome home. Oops, we meant, “Welcome to work.”

welcome-home-spacesThis was the sign that greeted me, when I entered the excellent co-working location called Spaces in late March.

Spaces was the venue for the very first J. Boye event on “Workplace of the Future” held in Amsterdam in late March and a fitting location to think about how to make true progress.

Clearly most organisations are not designed for a digital age. The line between home and office is blurring, and together with the participants we identified key problems, co-created potential solutions and discussed lessons learned.

The Human Resources department was identified as the missing stakeholder in most organisations. Below, I share some of the notable discussions for each session.

Your company culture is already changing

During the past years, organisational culture and issues around it, has been a common topic in many J. Boye group meetings around the world. A popular HBR article from 2016 titled Culture is not the Culprit, helped shape my view on the topic by saying that culture is not something you fix. Rather it is something that evolves over time.

At the event in Amsterdam, social business expert Monique van Maare from IBM, shared their story of igniting cultural transformation for the future of work. IBM was founded in 1911 and has managed to reinvent itself more than a few times. Monique showed this brief video on the new IBM:

Monique shared some quite impressive examples of experimental learning and cross-company collaboration. Some of the key questions we tried to answer were:

  • How do you sustain new ways of working?
  • What’s the role of e-mail? In particular with the advent of many new tools

Improving the employee experience using apps

impossible-signAt the German-based T-Systems MMS, more than 70% of employees use the employee app. Susann Wanitschke is their Internal Communication Manager and travelled from Dresden to share a glimpse behind the scenes.

Learning from success stories is always helpful and clearly they’ve done something right when it comes to ensuring adoption. Having an element of fun seemed a crucial element in moving the employee experience into the pocket, onto the smartphones and far beyond the usual legacy intranet.

An often overlooked point, when it comes to the app vs. no app discussion, is that push notifications is one of the real game changers for internal communications.

Finally: The T-Systems app is available in the Android Marketplace and iTunes Appstore and developed by Staffbase.

The Philips journey into a digital workplace world

Similar to IBM, Philips is one of those giant companies, which have managed to radical change in recent years. When they can do it, why can’t your smaller organisation?

Dennis Agusi is Communication Channels Lead with Philips. He shared key parts of their journey in moving away from their legacy intranet. Read more in the documented case study on how Philips moved their intranet from 123,000 to 5,000 pages.

As a part of the discussions, we arrived at this slightly adapted and simple definition of the digital workplace:

“Provide best access to people, data and tools”

A new approach to knowledge management

workshopSimilar to e-mail which was discussed throughout the day, knowledge management also carries a fair amount of baggage in most organisations. We realize knowledge is valuable, yet we tend to treat it carelessly.

Herman Limburg of CGI took us through an eye-opening workshop where he made us think different about knowledge management. In particular, he helped us see the many non-technical means that are essential to knowledge management.

Do you want to become a learning organisation? The simple advice was to start writing up lessons learned.

We also discussed missing governance around finding subject matter experts and how to ensure that content becomes validated and remains valid and trustworthy.

Making it a productive workplace

The final session was by Casper van Amelsvoort from Rabobank, who shared how they work to increase productivity, collaboration and agility.

Shadow IT might be great for productivity, but what about governance, training and security? Casper offered this advice on how to deal with it:

dealing-with-shadow-it

Discussions in this session focused on trying to achieve 2 major objectives:

  • How to realize big cost savings
  • Speeding up innovation while staying in control

The conversation continues

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped make it a most interesting day. Feel free to share a comment below with your reflections and insights on the workplace of the future.

How to think about business development

Ongoing business development is a prerequisite for survival in an ever changing World. So how do you go about working with new business models, introducing new offerings and winning new customers?

All too often, immature technology coupled with concerns about organisational culture have dominated the discussions in meetings within the J. Boye community. Customer behaviour is changing and it’s hard to keep up. How do you accelerate beyond the tortoise-like pace?

Inspired by Swiss entrepreneur Alain Veuve who famously said that speed is the new big, I’ve invited leading thinkers on the topic to recent group meetings to learn from their views and try to understand how you might be able to move ahead better and faster.

Business development is about storytelling

“stories are engagement machines per excellence”

This was one of the key points by Robert Minton, a US expert on business growth and change management when he visited one of our Washington DC groups. In his talk on business development, he placed content over technology.

He shared two useful reminders:

  1. telling good stories is a key way to connect
  2. business customers are still human and make buying decisions for emotional as well as rational reasons despite what they might say – stories help them decide.

More specifically – according to Robert, many start down the road of business development with one goal: Building a lead pipeline. The inherent challenge here is that many don’t do the harder, dirty, background work of understanding their true target market and opportunity. Many want to be everything to everyone.

Instead, Robert recommended a structured, targeted growth strategy. One that picks a target, segment, or industry and maxes out their potential in that segment before moving forward to the next.

He shared numerous examples of classic story structures for business storytelling and finished off by asking: What’s your story?

Key skills and different types of business development

By combining the power of asking good questions with his impressive track-record, Danish digital mastermind Hannu Vangsgaard left the members in a recent group meeting very impressed.

Digital business development was the session header and Hannu reminded us to start at the strategic level trying to answer: Why? In his view most organisations spend too much time at the tactical level tinkering with the answer to “What?”.

Most have heard of shadow IT and Hannu framed the still emerging Chief Digital Officer role as a shadow CEO, but  unfortunately too often without the mandate. Business development will not work in this context according to Hannu.

Another key discussion point was on the key competences and roles required to make business development work in a world gone digital. He shared different examples of reliance on agencies and we tried to zoom in on the key skills. According to Hannu, one of the crucial and often overlooked roles on the customer team, is the role as an architect, both from a business and technical perspective.

With credit to fellow Danish designer and innovator Troels Nørlem, another highlight in the session was this useful model which Hannu took us through:

troels-innovation-mode.jpg

The model looks at different types of offerings (new and existing), users (new and existing) and business models (new and existing).

Hannu certainly left me thinking that business development should start with existing users and existing offerings. This is the part circled by Troels as “incremental”.

Where would you place your business development initiatives on this model? And what’s the story?

Kentico now has 2 CMS products

It is not unusual for software vendors of all sizes to release new products, but it is a bit unusual when a vendor releases something overlapping and potentially competing.

That’s effectively what Czech-based CMS vendor Kentico did back in November with the release of Kentico Cloud, a completely new and separate product that runs as a parallel product line.

To learn more about both the vision and reality behind Kentico Cloud, I talked to Kentico CEO Petr Palas and Director of Product Karol Jarkovsky. In addition, I sought guidance from MMT Digital, a Kentico Gold Partner based in the UK.

Introducing Kentico Cloud

According to Petr and Karol from Kentico, there were 3 main drivers behind the introduction of their new product:

  1. Cloud: Most companies still running their CMS in inefficient way
  2. Omni-channel: Web is no longer the primary channel which finally moves us away from the page-oriented world.
  3. Digital transformation: Which requires organisations to be more agile, including on digital content

To address these big changes, Kentico has had internal resources work in internal start-up mode for a while on smaller stand-alone products that used to be called:

  1. Kentico Draft for producing content in an omnichannel world
  2. Kentico Deliver for content delivery via an API
  3. Kentico Engage for marketing and experience optimization.

These were the three main components that came together and became Kentico Cloud. As Petr wrote in the release announcement for Kentico Cloud it is a new Cloud CMS, not just CMS in the cloud. In an honest quote from the blog post Petr continued:

“If you know Kentico CMS, our traditional CMS product, you’re probably asking yourself: “Is this Kentico CMS hosted in the cloud?” Not really. That’s what we did previously with Kentico+, which was Kentico CMS hosted in Microsoft Azure and managed by Kentico… and it didn’t work”

According to Kentico, not a single line of code has been reused from Kentico CMS.

Kentico also has a bit of edutainment on their website with the below summary of the advantages:

 

traditional-cms-kentico-cms
A light-hearted illustration from the Kentico Cloud website where the headless knight comes out victorious

 

A partner’s perspective on the new direction for Kentico

MMT Digital is one of the Kentico Gold Partners and has worked with Kentico for more than 5 years implementing Kentico CMS with customers around Europe and North America.

I spoke to Rich Madigan, who is a Senior Project Manager at MMT. To quote Rich:

“Kentico Cloud does bring a new approach to development and the use of Kentico Draft is a big deal for clients. They’re now able to get started on content creation and curation much earlier which helps streamline project delivery”

In our conversation, Rich also highlighted that while Kentico Cloud is still in its infancy, the product is a pleasure to work with, particularly from a development perspective as it provides greater freedom and the ability to embrace more modern front end technologies.

Rich also mentioned that the shift to the cloud has had a customer impact when it comes to ownership. Particularly for IT teams that have to get used to both a subscription model and a new and modern infrastructure.

The J. Boye take

To be fair, innovation is a good thing and Kentico deserves credit for executing on their vision.

Needless to say, customer requirements and the underlying technology platform has radically changed in recent years. To just name a few buzzwords: Cloud, headless, marketing automation, personalisation, omnichannel. The CMS space in 2017 is far from the same as in 2012.

Kentico Cloud does not come with the bells-and-whistles compared to the legacy Kentico CMS. Based on requirements, agencies and customers will have to choose the best fit for them.

As usual: Use your requirements to choose the best fit for your projects.

Learn more about recent CMS innovation

Full disclosure: Kentico is a long-time J. Boye member with seats in our CMS Expert and Software Product Management groups while MMT Digital is a member of our UK Kentico Partner Group.

Introducing Concept Software

rasmus-skjoldan-software-pmHow can we as software product managers set up radically experimental projects to gauge the viability of new ideas—without risking ongoing business and without confining ourselves to the restrictions of the current business environment?

Rasmus Skjoldan is Lead Product Manager at Swiss-based software vendor Magnolia and posted this question at a recent J. Boye Software Product Manager Group meeting in London.

He shared his inspiration as a product developer by the way the automotive industry uses prototyping – also known as concept cars – and coined the term concept software as a potential answer.

Besides the memorable quote on creating unsellable things as shown in the photo from the group meeting, Rasmus outlined concept software as a way to:

  • explore beyond category
  • consciously design for dreams and emotions

This article is based on a conversation with Rasmus and shares some of the thinking behind what he calls ‘concept software’.

Software product design must learn from the 1930s auto industry

concept-car-circa1930s

To quote Rasmus:

“With both courage and resources on your side there is vast potential value in allowing yourself and your organisation to push experimental product-free prototypes to the customer”

Rasmus first presented these ideas at the Web Summit in Lisbon in November 2016, where his presentation focused on how to design great products through freedom from the narrow-minded focus of bringing a finished product to market as fast as possible.

rapid-prototyping-concept-cars

One of the key points in Rasmus presentation was how conventional software innovation follows a distinctly different pattern than what the auto industry uses to conceptualize new product ideas. Traditional software prototyping and what is known as concept cars are categorically different approaches to prototyping – with different outcomes:

  1. In traditional software prototyping, you build several rapid prototypes which lead to a decreasing amount of candidates and eventually one sellable product. The cornerstones of the process are failing fast, getting to market quickly and focusing on a single solid offering as the end result. The value in terms of external revenue comes from the working, sellable product, whilst the early prototypes and product candidates, that did not get used, are thrown away.
  2. The concept of concept cars aims to explore multiple ideas in one unrealistic explorative and often futuristic, prototype – which lead to multiple, sellable products. This approach means less throw-away and in turn succeeds slowly, has a slow market entry but which can influence multiple products or product lines. Rasmus asks: “Might we use the same thinking to create a new thing called concept software?”

Concept software changes the game

renault-laguna

As a designer turned technologist turned product manager, Rasmus sees concept software as a way to explore and design differently. There are many examples of concept cars that illustrate this.

From the customer point of view, concept software has the potential to evolve brand perception, while increasing employee pride internally as the staff gets to work on cool stuff that is showcased to the world.

When asked to look for examples of concept software, Rasmus cited the work at Magnolia with beacons and apps for fast track to IoT technology, while others mentioned the much-hyped Google Wave and other Google products that failed.

When a group member at the J. Boye group meeting asked how to sell the idea and investment to management, another member quickly replied: “Consider it a clever marketing investment”.

Learn more about software product management

Thanks to Crownpeak for hosting the group meeting in London in late January.
The next meeting in our European Software Product Management Group is hosted by Magnolia in May, while eZ Software hosts the kick-off meeting in our US Software Product Management group later this month.