Notes from the Keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2018

On the Silverside blog, I share five key takeaways from the SharePoint Conference keynote earlier this week:

The SharePoint Conference North America 2018 in Las Vegas is the place to be this week if SharePoint is critical to the collaboration strategy at your organisation. For those not able to attend in person, a complimentary webcast of the two-hour keynote was streamed live, but of course, you miss the hundreds of sessions on offer during the three days of the conference.

During the keynote, Jeff Teper and his team recounted recent updates to SharePoint Online, previewed coming changes, and made a splash with some new ideas.

Here’s the key five points I took away from the content-packed keynote:

Read more: Notes from the Keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2018

From Intranets to DEX in 2018

The team at Step Two have re-branded their annual Intranets conference to the Digital Employee Experience conference, or DEX. I have attended Intranets three times. DEX 2018 will be held in Sydney on June 6-8, 2018.

Digital employee experience considers every touchpoint between staff and their employer. Intranets continue to play a critical role as the enterprise front door (and more), increasingly sitting within a broader digital workplace. To accelerate progress, this conference brings together intranet teams, digital teams, internal comms, IT and HR.

It’s a hard thing hitting the right level with the name of a conference. As was said of eCommerce, the presence of the “e” becomes irrelevant after a while. It should be just “commerce,” not something managed differently from the rest of what the organisation does. Same with DEX. “Digital” employee experiences are a sub-part of the wider “employee experiences” approach, which would also include the physical aspects of work (building design, interior layout (work spaces, collaboration spaces, meeting spaces, etc.), and office furniture) plus the organisational and cultural aspects of work (career development, mentoring, and leadership). But trying to get all that in a two-day event is too hard – the focus would be diffuse and the topics shallow. Hence, I think the new name is a good step up.

I wish the Step Two team all the best with the planning for the new conference – pulling along all the good things of the previous seven conferences, and incorporating new ideas into the new superstructure.

Enterprise Collaboration TechFest – Melbourne (June 2017)

The Eventful Group is hosting the second Enterprise Collaboration TechFest in Australia in June. It has recently published the research document that summarises the key themes from its research roundtable discussions:

2017 Themes
Starting with the Why – Delivering Business Value
Charting a Technology Strategy that Aligns with Changing Business and Organisational Realities
Enterprise Social (Not Just Cat Pictures)
Cultivating Systemic Business Change
Creating a Business Culture Embracing Collaboration
Creating a Governance Approach
Sustaining the Momentum of Collaboration

These topics form the basis for designing the conference schedule/agenda. Which ones stand out to you?

Intranets 2017

My friends at Step Two in Sydney are producing the seventh annual intranet conference in Australia:

Intranets2017 is in its seventh year, and it continues to power on as the biggest intranet conference in the southern hemisphere, running in Sydney on 31 May-2 June 2017. Today we officially open for registrations, sharing details on the first of our international speakers.

At Step Two, we know intranets and digital workplaces, and what teams need to know. An international call for speakers uncovered wonderful speakers from around the globe. We held four rounds of selection, organised interviews with potential speakers and finally selected 24 of the best speakers in the world.

I have attended at least three of the (first six) conferences. If you are counted among the “intranet folk,” get yourself along.

Learn more (and register)

Microsoft Ignite 2016 – New Zealand


Photo Credit: Smoke Photography Ltd

Last week I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2016 in New Zealand. And although the photo above makes it look like I tried my vocal chords at singing, I was really only speaking!

A couple of comments on the event:

  • Ignite was by far the largest event I have attended in New Zealand. There was something like 1700 people there; the largest conference I have previously attended in New Zealand would have been in the 600-700 people range.
  • Microsoft and the conference organiser team did a great job of making the logistics work – getting people between rooms and sessions. There were some crunch points – the long registration line on Tuesday morning, and that first lunch on the Tuesday – but the other things seemed to flow well. People were encouraged to come early to register on Tuesday morning, but the several hundred people in the line when I arrived off my flight from Christchurch close to the start time of the opening keynote apparently didn’t get that memo. There must be another way of doing registration to avoid the crunch.
  • The three venues being used for the conference were closely situated, and everything was within easy walking distance.
  • The food service was excellent. Good choices for lunch and at other times during the day, and the wandering people giving out various food items added a bit of spice to the experience.
  • As a speaker, Microsoft appointed a speech track owner to corral speakers and slide decks in advance of the event. I worked with Emma Woods, who did a great job of providing timely feedback and input before the event, and coordination on the day of my talk.

I was supposed to attend all four days of the conference, but had to pull out for various reasons at the start of day 3. It was definitely a privilege to attend, and I commend the Microsoft New Zealand team for their hard work in preparing a great event.

Mini-Workshop at the Office 365 and SharePoint User Group Meeting


Last week I was the second of two presenters at the Office 365 and SharePoint User Group meeting in Christchurch. My topic was to look at how Office 365 could be used to re-imagine productive work, with the caveat from Lee (the organiser) that the session was to be “highly interactive.” In thinking about how to run the session, I decided to give a very brief introduction to Office 365, argue that it was vital to success to look at how Office 365 can improve various day-to-day working scenarios, and then have the participants do a 5 minute activity in six small groups – and then report back. All in 25 minutes.

I prepared two sets of question sheets – Opportunity Analysis (current state/problem/greatness), Capabilities in Office 365 (what’s on offer), and Behaviours and Culture (essential human behaviours) – and chose two scenarios (holding discussions and managing meetings). In two groups, with three subgroups in each group, I gave one of the six resulting sheets … and asked them to spend 5 minutes answering the questions. Each of the six groups then had 90 seconds each to report back on their analysis / findings.

Here’s what was said:

Holding Discussions

  • Opportunity Analysis … The same discussion happens repeatedly, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page at one time, and discussions are in different places / too many channels, e.g., Yammer, email, physical. There is also no organisation-wide process. It would be great if there was a defined tool and process for all discussions.
  • Capabilities in Office 365 … Yammer, Skype Groups, and SharePoint discussions, with Yammer being the best overall tool in the opinion of the group. Benefits of the different tools included visibility, inclusion (of others), real-time interaction, location independent, and interactive abilities.
  • Behaviours and Culture … Being open minded, willing to learn/adapt, flexibility, anytime/anywhere interaction, willing to be public and share. These were noted as being important because humans are social, we need to evolve, it requires understanding, and we can learn from each other.

Managing Meetings

  • Opportunity Analysis … Meetings happen without an agenda, and no minutes are captured. This means there is no structure to the meeting, people go off on tangents, time is wasted, people come late, and there are no takeaways / actions. It would be great if there was an agenda for every meeting with the invite (and it was early too), and actionable takeaways / decisions were captured.
  • Capabilities in Office 365 … Office 365 offers a whole raft of tools for meetings, including Skype for Business, Planner, Office 365 Groups, OneNote, co-authoring capabilities, SharePoint (for sites, lists, and tasks), Sway (for presenting / communicating differently), Yammer, and Office 365 Video. These tools bring benefits including access to historical information, support for remote meetings, working out loud, collaboration, and transparent action items. The group felt that Skype for Business was the most important tool for meetings.
  • Behaviours and Culture … Key meeting behaviours included focus, the right amount of time, and inclusiveness. The group almost called out the need for agendas for meetings.

Workshop activities like these are good to run in a larger group setting, where the whole group (8-20 people) get the same question in turn. This allows the capturing of more ideas, the ranking of ideas from a larger set, and joint understanding of how to combine new tools with effective behaviours to approach an opportunity. We didn’t do that in this workshop, and instead, given time constraints, I broke the group into small groups. However, it was remarkable how closely aligned the three sub-groups in each scenario were.

My slides are here:

Thanks to everyone who embraced the workshop activity despite the time constraints.

Becoming an Adoption Superhero – My Session at Ignite 2016


At the time of writing, Microsoft Ignite New Zealand starts in 21 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes, and 55 seconds. This will be the first time I have participated in this conference in New Zealand, and I’ll be there for the opening – and early I hope too.

The session I will be presenting now has a date and time – Wednesday October 26 at 9.00am. Here’s what I’ll be presenting:

Transitioning to Office 365: Becoming the Adoption Superhero for Your Firm
As your firm transitions IT capabilities to Office 365, the new critical skillset is how to translate the opportunities for value presented by Office 365 into new ingrained ways of working for executives, managers, and employees that deliver on that value. Getting to value requires creating the conditions for adoption and driving effective use of new Office 365 capabilities, a skillset and mindset that many IT professionals have not yet focused on developing. But the time for doing so is now upon us: your firm needs an adoption superhero to navigate new territory and safely land the capabilities of Office 365. This session provides aspiring super heroes with a new vocabulary for adoption, a set of strategies for driving effective use, and the mindset required to become the adoption superhero at their firm.

If you’re coming to my session, please add it to your schedule, so as to help the conference organisers allocate the rooms for the anticipated turnout.

That countdown timer is still going. Are you coming?

Christchurch Office 365 and SharePoint User Group Meeting – Thursday October 6

On Thursday I will be speaking at the next meeting of the Christchurch Office 365 and SharePoint User Group. Here’s what’s happening:

Session 1: Ngāi Tahu (Donald Harman, SharePoint Administrator)
A sneak peak of Ngāi Tahu’s new intranet and the journey they took to get there.

Session 2: Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365: An Exploratory Approach (Michael Sampson)
In this session, Michael presents an approach for exploring the capabilities of Office 365 within the context of day-to-day work, based on his new book Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365. This session is designed to inform decision makers, IT managers, and other people evaluating the future role of Office 365 in their organisations.

Session 3 – Q&A with the speakers

It looks like the session is already at capacity, but you could try the waitlist 😉

The Art of the Possible in London – with Automated Intelligence, Microsoft UK, and Others

Two weeks ago I was in London, Utrecht and Brussels for various events. On the Tuesday in London I attended and participated in The Art of the Possible, a one-day conference hosted by Automated Intelligence and Microsoft UK, at the new Microsoft premises at Paddington. Now I’m back in New Zealand and almost over jet lag, some notes from the day:

Mark Godfrey, CEO of Automated Intelligence, opened the day with some comments about how to get started in moving to Office 365, the great capability-drain that happened to UK firms with outsourced IT 25 years ago, and the strategy-lacking piecemeal-approach many firms take to IT now. Mark outlined the idea that in order to get benefit from Office 365 you have to fully transition from current state systems, such as file shares, to Office 365. He talked about the Automated Intelligence approach to helping clients achieve this.

Simon Cole, CTO of Automated Intelligence, went next. Simon talked about the live demo they were going to run over the course of the conference – analysing 50 million files using AI.DATAPOINT (an Automated Intelligence offering) to identify, catalog, and analyse what files existed on the demo file share, and prepare for a migration to Office 365. Simon talked about some big numbers – like the financial services firm that has 45 TB of data / 115 billion documents that need to be analysed and categorised in advance of migrating to Office 365. You can’t rely on human processing to get there.

Jeff Johnson, UK Azure Sales Director at Microsoft, talked about “Why Cloud Needs to Be in Your Digital Agenda.” His key points were: digital transformation is the next industrial revolution, Microsoft is investing significantly in Azure, and customers are leveraging Azure’s capabilities to quickly deploy and create new services. Among others, Jeff called out Aviva’s use of Azure to create a way of customising vehicle insurance for drivers based on their actual driving behaviours.

Steve Sharpe from LAN2LAN talked about how they are helping organisations with the transformation to Office 365. His key point was that it’s not a technology question anymore – it’s a new way of thinking (about value, about working style, about embracing trends in the market).

Fiona Durham from Automated Intelligence talked about meeting corporate obligations in a cloud-first world, with an especial focus on financial services organisations and the need for data integrity, governance, and security. One of her key points was that lots of unstructured data creates a problem for firms – and thus the need for the data analysis and classification tools offered by Automated Intelligence to reduce risk.

During the afternoon, Steve Durbin from the London Borough of Enfield Council talked about the council’s transformation journey, and some of the challenges experienced along the way. Michael Wignall from Microsoft UK addressed transformation in the public sector, and how Office 365 is a key enabler of this transformation. I gave a session on re-imagining transformation and productivity with Office 365, talking about how the capabilities in Office 365 can be used to change work practices and processes, which can have flow-through effects on organisational structure, culture, and business model. The afternoon was finished by Paul Donnelley from NHS Education for Scotland talking about their journey to Office 365, and how Automated Intelligence had made a large contribution to the journey.

One of the cool things about being at Microsoft UK was the 84″ Surface Hub in the conference room, which was used well by speakers throughout the day to both display data and act as a digital whiteboard. I hadn’t worked with an 84″ Surface Hub before – it was a nice piece of kit!

There were a lot of good ideas to hear during the day. It was great to be part of it.

Driving Effective Use of Office365 – my Workshop at the Digital Workplace Conference 2016

On the day after the Digital Workplace Conference in Auckland a couple of weeks back, as has happened at conferences before, Paul Culmsee and I delivered the post-conference workshops. Paul’s workshop was on becoming the ultimate SharePoint business analyst; mine was on driving the effective use of Office 365.

I had the day with people from five organisations (with all but one not based in Auckland), who wanted to learn a vocabulary for effective use, a framework for approaching the challenge, and various strategies to use (along with examples of when and where those strategies had been used by other organisations). In addition to the framework and strategies I presented, the delegates talked about their approaches, experiences, and learnings to date (which I wrote up during the day and distributed afterwards), and used the materials from the day to consider how to move forward.

It was a good day; I wish the delegates every success moving forward, and will be doing what I can to support their progress.

For more on the workshop, see:
Arrange a Workshop for Your Firm (2 days)
Host a Public Workshop for Clients and Prospects (1 day)
Get the Workbook for the Workshop (286 slides)