Intranets in a Digital Workplace and cloud era

When tasked to rethink an Intranet, it’s almost impossible nowadays to ignore the wider concept of a Digital Workplace and solutions offered by the cloud. Both dimensions force Intranet managers to think beyond their comfort zone and bring new challenges and opportunities in a career.

(c) if your organization does not allow the use of cloud solutions for security or privacy concerns, your employees are most likely already using  some cloud solutions to work in a more productive way.

They just go to ‘google’ or to their mobile device’s app store and can immediately start to discuss with partners, share files, manage tasks or collaborate. That these solutions are in the cloud is the least of their concerns.

Cloud solutions are attractive and the organizations that have been opened to them already know their benefits while keeping organizational standards for security, quality and consistency:

  • regular flow of new features and improvements,
  • improved user experience developed through constant user testing,
  • reduced costs for the maintenance of servers,
  • connected environment that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and with any devices.

But even in organizations that have adopted an open approach, cloud solutions can be disruptive and cause a few headaches to Intranet managers trying to maintain a coherent and usable set of tools for their Intranet ecosystem.

(c)‘Approved’ cloud solutions can indeed be challenged at any point by ‘non official’ solutions picked up by users without any considerations for long term information management or security concerns.

What’s more, it’s sometimes difficult to cope with the constant arrival of new tools within your ‘official’ cloud solution environment. Users don’t have the time nor the willingness to digest them all, creating large adoption problems. And you might even discover that you’ve just spent months to develop internally a solution that is suddenly available for free tip in the cloud…

Policy wise, we are evolving in gray (shall I say ‘cloudy’?) situations.

Even organizations that decided to officially use cloud solutions often lack policies on the use of other publicly available cloud solutions. Think of organizations that have Office 365 and its vast array of tools but where Facebook groups are nevertheless also used for purely internal discussions (and not Yammer)… or where purely internal webinar recordings are being posted on personal YouTube accounts (and not the Office 365 video channel)… Sometimes I wonder if people are ignorant of the risks or simply ignoring them?

Whatever the answer is, I am not sure that being restrictive is necessarily the right approach. I am starting to be very much in favor of creating internal ‘innovation labs’ where experimental cloud solutions initiated by employees are encouraged. Once submitted to the ‘lab’, the solutions would be analyzed according to their organizational fit for purpose and to see whether they meet the necessary boundaries set by the organization in terms of security and system integration requirements.

In any case, the cloud is still new and when I look at the speed with which solutions like Office 365 evolve, I wonder if all the ‘new kid on the blocks’ solutions that emerge in the market will not become standards in products like Office 365 within 2-3 years.

The other element that can’t be ignored while rethinking an Intranet in 2015 is how your Intranet will fit within the broader concept of your Digital Workplace.

I like to use the term Intranet-led Digital Workplace, as I believe that there should be a place where employees can start their working day.

However, this view is very much centered only around one of the elements of the Digital Workplace: technology as, looking at the Digital Workplace model from Jane McConnell, we clearly see that the ‘Tools’ (technology) is only one of the three elements that we need to consider.



If the Digital Workplace lies at the intersection of ‘People’, ‘Tools’ and the ‘Organization’, who should be taking care of the dimensions linked to ‘People’ and the ‘Organization’? For example, who should manage senior management sponsorship or the way an organization should rethink how its employees work?

As this role is often left vacant, should we, Intranet managers, size this opportunity to lead the development of our Digital Workplace? But do we have the right skills for doing this? 

I’ll be talking about these questions during my presentation on ‘Rethinking an Intranet in a cloud and Digital Workplace era‘ at the forthcoming JBoye conference on 5 November. Hope to see you there to exchange on the subject!

Posted in cloud, digital workplace, intranet | 2 Comments

Where augmented reality could meet the Digital Workplace

Sometimes it’s nice to look to the future.

These two videos shows examples of what our Digital Workplace of the future could look like.



Labelled as the ‘next generation of computing’ and following the path set up by the now defunct google glasses, this Microsoft mask technology, labelled as Hololens, might influence the work of the future in ways we haven’t anticipated yet.

There might be very obvious use cases in the manufacturing industry, but all sectors of the economy could potentially be impacted. Think about how some business trips could suddenly become useless if your counterparts could easily appear and interact virtually next to you?

As the video says “This technology binds the digital life with physical life”.

Other companies are already jumping on the bandwagon, including Magic Leap (supported by Google).

Are we close to the day where science fiction will become a reality?

Posted in digital workplace, future of work, innovation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Inspirations from KMWorld 2014

I recently co-presented at a workshop during the KMWorld conference on ‘New ways of working: Culture change‘. Our message was that new ways of working might be calling for different approaches to improve adoption and facilitate culture change. We presented five playful, touchable, relatable or practical approaches that we used to promote new ways of working.


For example, we explained how using Lego © blocks might not be a bad idea to engage with your audience as well as how we used ‘seed bombs’ to leave concrete reminders on our colleagues’ desks with a call to action for them to also plant seeds of change.

I then attended the conference as a regular participant. Although the conference was not purely focused on the Digital Workplace / Intranet, I enjoyed my first KMWorld and found the conference very well organized with many networking opportunities.

Here are some of my take away.

‘Culture’ and ‘leadership’ still in the way

‘Culture’ and ‘leadership’ emerged in most sessions as the main barriers to user adoption to new ways of working.

One way to overcome these barriers is to find informal leaders you can engage with to change things. And contrary to common thinking, potential ‘leaders of change’ can be found everywhere, not only at the senior management level.

In this context, Stan Garfeld gave three very simple tips to promote adoption. I find them interesting because they imply a culture element as they touch upon changing the way performance management is handled:

  1. Give three simple goals that everyone can perform in your enterprise social network and consistently communicate about these goals (for example: “ask find share”)
  2. At individual level ask managers to monitor these three goals during the performance appraisal review.
  3. Openly recognize, praise, reward and promote those who demonstrate the desired behavior.

But overall, changing (or influencing) a culture is not an easy thing and takes time. Not everyone is social or a digital citizen. As mentioned a few times in our workshop, changing a culture often means changing ‘one human at a time’ and all credits go to Change Agents Worldwide.

Working out loud

It was great to hear Jon Husband talking about the future of organizations and how wirearchy will not replace hierarchy but influence it. So if you work in an organization that is still very hierarchical, there is hope to see changes coming your way🙂

And you might start by being the change you want to see. Nothing prevents you to walk the talk right away. A few of my colleagues were also at KMWorld. We decided to preach what we believe and to work out loud during the conference by simultaneously capturing our findings in our enterprise social network for the benefit of all colleagues who could not join the conference. A very interesting experience, a seed of change.

As Jon Husband rightly quoted on twitter

Strategy days are over, let’s be pragmatic

It may sound a bit provocative (or unrealistic? tell me) but I feel that a consensus starts to emerge to be more pragmatic in our approaches to Knowledge Management (KM) or ways to implement a Digital Workplace, most probably influenced by the agile development methodology.

For KM, the conference highlighted the importance of not referring to KM as such, to avoid big KM strategies and to rather focus on solving small, achievable organizational challenges with KM solutions, showing their direct organizational impact and business benefits. My colleague Ian Thorpe wrote a good blog post about this on turning KM strategy on its head.

Intranet innovation coming from… 14 to 17 years old students!

It was both impressing and very refreshing to discover that the Platinum award winner of Step Two’s Intranet Innovation Award went to an Intranet developed by 14 to 17 years old students!

They won because they delivered a solution that was answering their needs (e.g. apps to manage their everyday life at the campus – what an Intranet is meant for) and because it was full of design thinking.

Now imagine the expectations of these young people when they’ll start working… how will they react if our solutions are not mobile or user experience driven? So let’s get back to our basics and observe employees in their daily work to understand their needs while keeping an eye on what’s coming next.

Cloud and future

How could the future Digital Workplace look like? A video on a day made of glass was shown during one of the plenary sessions to illustrate how the physical workplace we see today might be very different in the future (credit to the post from Martin White two years ago).

But probably the most forward looking session was conducted by David Lavenda on the Consolidated Digital Enterprise. Starting from the observation that we are increasingly moving towards a ‘disconnected’ Digital Workplace – many devices, many people, many cloud solutions – and wondering how long this could last, David listed the converging trends that might come to the rescue (e.g. interoperability standards, cloud ecosystem, meta search…). Delve, Microsoft’s recent addition to its Office 365 cloud solution, is probably going in this direction although it is still at a very early stage.

Are you also looking forward to the day when the universal inbox will arrive (i.e. all systems talking to each other)?

Overall, a very inspiring conference, you can see some other findings through my storify on KMWorld.

Posted in adoption, conference, Culture change, digital workplace, gen Y, innovation, intranet, user experience, ways of working, working out loud | Tagged | Leave a comment

Take aways from #RIRSE13 Intranet conference in Paris

Last November, I participated for the second time to the ‘Rencontre Internationale des Responsables Intranet‘, an Intranet conference held in the very nice 8th district of Paris, just a few blocks away from the Arc de Triomphe.

Like in 2009, the conference included presentations from some of the biggest French companies as well as a few international speakers.

An inspiring side discussion with NetJmc and DigitalJonathan before the conference’s start lead me to write that we all have a Digital Workplace. This was confirmed during the conference with an increasing number of organizations trying to explain to their staff which tools to use, when for what purposes (e.g. with infographics)… to help their employees find their way in what appears to be Digital Workplaces.

My main take away from the conference are:

There are a few golden rules

A few golden rules were reminded throughout the conference:

  • Content is king, getting quality stories is key, but this doesn’t often translate in reality. Bob Libbey asked the audience whether the content published on their Intranet was getting attention from their audience on a daily basis. Out of 150+ participants, only 4 people raised their hands.
  • News are always prominent on the Intranet homepage, but they are often not read. Hence we can legitimately ask ourselves why do news get such a large real estate on the homepage whereas we know that people don’t read or watch news, but rather want to do things or get connected together?
  • Having the right mindset is essential to move forward on every fronts of your journey and this is especially true for anything ‘social’. The most successful Digital Workplaces are often those where the CEO is leading by example and setting the right mindset.
  • The same applies to offer a unified user experience regardless of the tools and components of your Digital Workplace through a digital consistency programme.
  • As demonstrated in the 2014 Nielsen Norman best Intranet awards “a redesign project is only as good as its maintenance, upkeep, and consistent reevaluation” – or in other words: Intranets are not projects, they are journeys.

Enterprise social networks

About half of this year’s conference was dedicated to enterprise social networks, to the point where the Twitter hash tag used for the conference #RIRSE13 included the french abbreviation for enterprise social networks (Réseau Social d’Entreprise). In most instances, enterprise social networks are used as innovation channels. Some interesting questions were raised during the conference but were not necessarily answered:

  • Should there be dedicated community managers (or rather ‘community leaders’) or should these responsibilities be part of a manager’s every day tasks?
  • Is it better to embed an enterprise social network in an Intranet or should you rather position it as a separate ‘open space’ with clear ‘democratic’ rules?
  • Why do we always need to justify ROIs for enterprise social networks whereas those were not needed for phones?


Far from being yet available in every organizations, mobile is getting its way and will increasingly do so.  NetJmc confirmed this trend when presenting the findings of her 2013 Digital Workplace Trend report (due early February). What I found also interesting is to see how mobile solutions are starting to impact the traditional desktop/laptop environment:

  • People start to think mobile first when they develop their Digital Workplace solutions. Coca Enterprise gave a really interesting example of how the mobile version of their employee self-service (based on SAP) will influence the forthcoming redevelopment of their desktop solution: From desktop to mobile and now from mobile to desktop. (by the way they won an Intranet Innovations Award for this piece).
  • I saw also a lot of instances where Apps Icons were available through mega menu to link to business applications, like the iPhone or Android’s Apps Icons, a trend that is only beginning.

Generation Y

The conference second day included a very funny role play between two presenters about the digital divide that might appear with the so called ‘Generation Y’. The person representing the ‘older’ generations argued that Gen Y:

  • Lost the notion of respect and doesn’t care enough about online reputations.
  • Doesn’t see any frontier between the private and professional life, with personal objectives even getting priority over professional ones.
  • Doesn’t need tools like Yammer etc… they’re already fully connected with everyone, they do not even need a Digital Workplace as they use their own tools, on their own devices, whenever and where ever they want.

Whether this digital divide exists or not, this happy debate concluded the second day of the conference and I am already looking forward to next year’s edition!

Posted in conference, content, digital workplace, enterprise social network, gen Y, intranet, mobile | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

We all have a Digital Workplace!

Even if we do not realize it and even if our Digital Workplace is fragmented, we all have a Digital Workplace, yes we do!

A week in the Digital Workplace by StepTwoDesigns describes the perfect Digital Workplace we probably all aim for.

But if you do one of the following activities online to do your job, then you can consider that you have a Digital Workplace:

  • Communicate with your colleagues using instant messages
  • Collaborate on a document with someone located outside of your building
  • Send a proposal to your business partner by email
  • Read an interesting (yes it exists) story on your Intranet homepage
  • Request a day off to your manager using your online HR system
  • Share a video with colleagues (that you might even have never met)
  • Submit a request for your next business trip
  • Have a video conference with your project team around the world
  • Follow a self-paced internal online course
  • Publish a document or media asset of interest to colleagues
  • Participate and contribute to a workshop whereas you are at home
  • Share an idea to make your business more profitable
  • Secure an answer from your business partner instantaneously while on the go
  • Share a large file with other teams
  • Conduct your performance appraisal
  • Look for the contact details of an expert needed for your project
  • Comment on the last corporate news
  • Check your payslip online
  • And the list can be longer…

The essential question is to know how complex or easy was your experience using your Digital Workplace to do the above activities? There are rare cases where most of these activities (note I did not say ‘all’) can be done in a unified way (with a single login, a common navigation and a seamless user experience).

But in general, most of us have to face a myriad of platforms or tools to perform our work and have to remember several passwords! Not to speak about the myriad of commercial external platforms that are gradually being used in a very pragmatic way by colleagues to perform their job (“I use it at home, and it works, why not use it at work?”).

As Digital Workplace practitioners, our role is to ensure that the tools offered and used by our workforce to get their work done, offer a unified and great user experience.

Do you have a Digital Workplace? How unified is your Digital Workplace?

PS: This blog was partly inspired by a great discussion with NetJmc and DigitalJonathan.
Posted in digital workplace, intranet, user experience | 1 Comment

Digital Workplace Trends 2014 now open

Open now

For the 8th consecutive year, NetJMC’s Digital Workplace Trends survey is open.

Participating to the 2014 edition will give you a chance to see where you stand compared to other similar organizations.

The themes covered this year are:

  • What makes up the digital workplace
  • Impact on the physical workplace
  • Social collaboration
  • Enterprise social networking
  • Video and e-learning
  • Information management and discovery
  • Mobile
  • Business impact of the digital workplace
  • Leadership involvement
  • Strategy, governance and decision-making
  • Change and challenges
  • Preparation for the future workplace

Why should you participate?

While downloading the final report is essential, participating is even better.

As a participant you will receive:

  • A free copy of the “Digital Workplace Trends 2014” report (worth US$ 530)
  • A customized Digital Workplace Scorecard allowing you to see where your organization is at compared to other similar organizations

On top of these benefits, you’ll be able to read and reflect on all the questions. Some of them will surely be revealing and give you hints right away to start improving your own digital workplace.

The survey closes on 28 October, sign up and participate now.

Please get in touch with Jane McConnell if you have any questions or comments.

Posted in digital workplace | Leave a comment

Recipe for a good YamJam

Yam Jam

If you type ‘YamJam’ in google, you will eventually see a jar of jam made of yam, a tuberous root vegetable, that is purple and is being used in a variety of desserts mostly in the Philippines.

You might wonder what all this has to do with the digital workplace? Well, if you look further down in your google search results, you’ll eventually also find a logo of Yammer, the enterprise social network recently bought by Microsoft.

YammerYamJam is the name used by many Yammer networks to define a focused online discussion, where a group of people get together at the same time to share ideas, questions and views usually on a single topic. YamJams can broadly be considered like online press conferences with everyone having a voice.

We’ve just conducted our first-ever YamJam and I wanted to share some findings for those who would like to conduct similar online events (in Yammer or any other enterprise social network).

Getting ready!

“To be prepared is half the victory.”
(Miguel De Cervantes)

  1. Start by choosing a topic and a speaker.
  2. Define your audience (public or private) and create a group dedicated to YamJams.
  3. Pick up a date and send a 60 minutes appointment to all participants.
  4. Choose a topic to tag all posts (usually a #tag).
  5. Create a page where participants can add questions before the YamJam.
  6. Announce the event well in advance using regular internal communication channels (emails, posters, intranet) as well as your enterprise social network. Clearly indicate when the YamJam will happen, what it will be about and provide some guidance:
    1. Say what to expect
    2. Provide a link to the page where participants can add questions
    3. Give tips to use your enterprise social network (login, refreshing the screen…)
    4. Remind participants that the YamJam will be accessible even after the event allowing them to come back at any point to continue the discussion
  7. Establish a YamJam team that will support the speaker during the event and will
    1. Prepare links to materials that might need to be shared during event
    2. Prepare short welcome and closing messages
    3. Test, test, test in a dedicated group
  8. Contact champions and stakeholders who might be involved in the conversations and ask them to be online during the YamJam.


“The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live.”

  1. Start by getting the YamJam team together in a room:
    1. The speaker will answer questions and participate in the conversation
    2. The YamJam manager will manage the conversation, point the speaker to new questions or comments and ask the questions that have been posted by participants who are not be able to attend the live event
    3. The YamJam ‘DJ’ will monitor the conversation, ‘like’ messages, add the #tag to all posts and will also provide tips for participants
  2. 10 minutes before the YamJam starts, send a reminder email to say that YamJam is starting soon!
  3. On time, let the speaker kick of the event by welcoming everyone and setting the scene (this is when to share the short introduction message prepared in advance).
  4. If nobody asks a question, start the conversation by using one of the questions that participants added to the page in advance.
  5. Manage the questions as they come in
    1. Have one single question per thread to keep the conversation organized
    2. Look carefully at notifications to avoid missing any questions or comments
    3. Try to keep the pace of the conversation slow enough for participants to follow
    4. Ensure that stakeholders are @mentioned by the speaker
  6. When the end of the hour approaches, let participants know that the YamJam is about to end and allow one last question before thanking the speaker and everyone involved.

Keep the momentum…

  1. At the end of the YamJam, post a poll about the event (Did you enjoy it, would you like to see more…?)
  2. Compute a few key success factors and share statistics about the event (we did it using an infographics that showed the number of: people online during the YamJam; active contributors; questions asked; posts; and ‘likes’).
  3. Gather feedback in regular internal communication channels and already start planning for future YamJams.

I hope that following this recipe will lead you to illuminating YamJams with great conversations and creative thinking!🙂

Yam Cake

PS: Our YamJam was made possible following great advises on how to get your Executives to participate on Yammer.

Posted in adoption, enterprise social network, yamjam | 4 Comments