Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 – Now Available


A week has passed since I said I was finishing a book, and I’m delighted finally to say the book is now finished, published, and available. I checked off the three tasks I had to complete, and while I initially published the book yesterday afternoon, I had to withdraw it to fix something in the PDF. An early morning saw to those tasks, and it is now done.

Specifically, the book:
– is a PDF, with 240 pages. The cost for a single-user license is US$19.
– provides an industry analysts view of Office 365 through the lens of eight core opportunities to re-think work.
– took the longest of any of my books to write. I’m so pleased to have this out …

The benefits you get from reading the book are:

1. An independent view on the state of the art with Office 365: what’s good, what’s not, and what needs to change. This will help your decision making with respect to Office 365 at your firm.

2. A wider perspective on what is needed beyond the tools in Office 365 to get impact and value from embracing Office 365. The tool set is one thing, but throughout the opportunity chapters you’ll find the conceptual foundations, research findings, case studies, behavioural strategies, and more. It’s a business book, on a technical subject.

3. A bunch of helpful advice intended to enable you to get the most out of Office 365, whether you are just starting or already well down the path.

I’d love you to read it. And I’d love to hear your story about Office 365.

Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365

Finishing a Book


Writing a book is an adventure: to begin with it is a toy. And an amusement. And then it becomes a mistress. And then it becomes a master. And then it becomes a tyrant. And the last phase is that just about as you are reconciled to your servitude, you – kill the monster. And fling him about to the public.” Winston Churchill

How well I know the truth of Churchill’s comments about writing a book, any book … and for some reason especially this one. It’s taken a lot longer to go from toy to monster than I had thought / scoped / planned, but now it’s on the brink of publication, let it be known that it seems more like “slaying a dragon” than “killing a monster.” I haven’t had the good fortune of (or perhaps “I have had the good fortune of not”) meeting a real-life dragon or monster, but the ever-foreboding sense of something massive hanging over your head is real; I basically get to the point of “I have to get this done or I will die.” And perhaps that’s what it was like for the knights of old.

But anyway, back to the toy. In the beginning the new book was a toy, an amusement. I was trying to get my head around how to explain the value of Office 365 to my clients, but the sheer breadth of the service was difficult to explain in a presentation, a seminar, or even a discussion. So much on offer. So many options. So much (apparent and real) overlap. So many roadmap statements from Microsoft. So much change – frequently and relentlessly – coming out of Redmond. How does one explore how to create business impact against this backdrop?

And so I began – with an initial structural idea in mind, and a to-purchase list of gadgets in hand to make the book work. There were some structural aspects from my previous book that I wanted to include in the new book, but I didn’t want it to be the same. Wrestling with how to explore an opportunity for value in Office 365 without doing step-by-step software instructions was probably the highest peak to conquer, but once I figured that out the climb, the fight, the task became one of tenacity, grind, and perseverance. Insight counts, but sheer grind has a pretty important role to play too. I know some of my friends don’t like the “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” formula, but I’ve found it fairly accurate in book writing.

There are three tasks to complete to push this book from the brink of publication to published and out:
1. Update the screenshots throughout.
2. Work through the comments from my erstwhile editor.
3. Prepare the PDF for publication, because this will be a digital-only book, not paper back as my previous ones have been.

While I’m working on those tasks, feel free to have a sneak peek at what’s coming. Enjoy your day …

Can Starting with the Technology Be Business Aligned?

In the ideal (or perhaps idealistic) view of the world, the use of new collaboration tools and approaches is solely “driven by the business.” I believe there is a lot of validity in this approach, but I equally don’t believe it is the complete story. One of the concepts I have been talking about for a while now is starting the collaboration journey with “Really Understand the Technology” (the R in the ROADMAP model I outline in my book Collaboration Roadmap). The idea is to look at the features offered in a specific collaboration tool (or a generic collaboration toolset if you are exploring which tool to choose), and think about the opportunities it could create for re-thinking work, driving value, and supporting business operations. In a recent presentation I talked about this as a “bottom-up” approach for collaboration strategy: what are the opportunities available in the tool, what outcomes would this create for our business if these were done well, and what strategies could these drive in the marketplace.

For example, consider the remote meeting capabilities in Microsoft Lync, IBM Sametime, GoToMeeting, and other similar tools. The chain of analysis would go like this (see image above too):

  1. What’s the opportunity? To provide a way of holding meetings with people who aren’t in the same place.
  2. What could this mean for our business? Firstly, it would mean there was a reduced need to be in the office. Secondly, it could assist with faster problem resolution. There are a range of other options too.
  3. Which business strategies could this support? If people were in the office less, and they spent more time with customers and prospects, it would support a strategy of customer intimacy. If it allowed us to resolve problems faster, it could support the strategy of delivering excellence in the marketplace. Clearly there are other strategies it could support too; these are merely illustrative.

Taking such a bottom-up approach to linking capabilities with strategies provides a way of prompting thinking, stimulating analysis of possibilities and potentialities, and facilitating discussion about the value and contribution these capabilities could create. For business managers who are unschooled in collaboration tools, it starts to bridge the divide between tools and their effective use. And over time, as business managers start reaping the value of early moves, they gain increased competence in driving the collaboration agenda.

What is your approach for linking the capabilities in collaboration tools with business strategy? Do you exclusively go top-down (start with strategy), or do you complement this with a bottom-up analysis?

Thanksgiving 2013 Special – 20% Off All Books (THANKYOU is the coupon code)

Late next week the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day, an annual remembrance of the blessing of the harvest and of all that has transpired during the preceding year. While I’m not an American and won’t be in America for the celebrations, I do think it is a great idea to set aside some time for thanksgiving. Personally I am grateful for the opportunities you have given me to serve you through my books, newsletters, reports, and blog posts, and want to do something to express that gratitude.

A Thanksgiving Offer
Effective immediately, I offer you a 20% discount on my three most recent books. This is for the paperback editions, as well as for the new corporate e-book license available for each book. Here’s the three books you can now buy at a discount leading up to Thanksgiving:

  • Collaboration Roadmap (2011) provides the overview of achieving success with collaboration at work. It includes chapters on vision, governance, business engagement, and user adoption, among others. It is the strategy book. Buy Now
  • User Adoption Strategies 2nd Edition (2012) is a deep dive into the topic of user adoption. The book reviews the problem with the adoption of collaboration approaches in organizations today, provides a framework for approaching adoption in a different way, and explores many practical strategies that can be used to encourage adoption. There is both survey data and case studies throughout the book. Buy Now
  • Doing Business with IBM Connections (2013) explores how people can make use of IBM Connections 4.5 in their day-to-day work, but does it in a way that is very applicable to other collaboration tools as well. What I hope you will take from the book is the emphasis on the processes of effective collaboration across the ten collaboration scenarios. If you use a different collaboration tool – for example, Microsoft SharePoint or Jive – the approach in the book is very transferable. And in addition it will give you a good insight into what IBM Connections actually offers. Buy Now

To purchase one or more of these books, please see the respective book pages:
Collaboration Roadmap (2011)
User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012)
Doing Business with IBM Connections (2013)

You will need to enter this coupon code when placing your order – THANKYOU. The 20% discount applies to the standard bundles of one, five, and 10 copies (or multiples thereof). If you want to buy more than ten copies, please get in touch for a specific discounted price.

Buy for Yourself, or Buy for Another
You can buy a book for yourself, or buy one (or more) to give away.

If you need a second copy of one of my books, or want to fill out your library with a title you don’t already have, there’s a book waiting for you. Go for it – right now is the perfect time to avail yourself of my books at a significant discount.

If you have enough copies for yourself (good job!), how about purchasing one or more copies for your team, department, or a colleague. Or how about buying some copies as Christmas presents for colleagues or clients? If you place your order now, your books will arrive in plenty of time for distribution before the Christmas rush.

Offer Runs for One Week: Starting Now
This offer is available immediately, and runs for one week. It will end on Wednesday November 27.

As this year draws to a close, I want to reiterate my thanks for the opportunity to be of service to you in your work. It is always a privilege to help with making collaboration work.

P.S. If Team New Zealand had won the America’s Cup in September I was going to make this offer then, riding a wave of nationalistic celebration and pride! But as you know, Larry’s crew on the Oracle boat staged a come-from-behind win that will be remembered for a long time. Oh well, it is what it is.

Internal vs. External Trainers: Some Further Thoughts

A commonly used strategy to support user adoption is classroom training. Classroom training can be designed in a variety of ways, by emphasising different design factors. One of those design factors is the choice to use internal trainers or external trainers. There is a short analysis of this design factor in my book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012), which says (page 144):

For organizations with their own training group, an internal trainer will front up on training day and deliver the training material. Internal trainers may already know some of the people they are training, so their ability to engage and personalize the material is much greater. External trainers can be hired when internal trainers are not available, or when the material requires a depth and breadth of expertise that calls for someone special. Remember, however, that internal trainers have a different outcome in mind than external trainers. For internal trainers—at least the good ones—the outcome is greater understanding and competence for the employees at the organization. For external trainers, the outcome is to deliver the class and get paid well.

There are some very hard lines drawn in that paragraph, and while it works at the level of broad strokes, there are some nuances that should be explored. In recent months I have had the opportunity to talk this issue over with numerous delegates at the User Adoption Strategies public seminar. Here’s some of the ideas we’ve been discussing.

Defining the Ideal
The ideal person (or persons) to run a classroom training session needs at least four characteristics:

  1. The skill of facilitating learning, rather than just reading out the slides.
  2. The ability to build relationship and rapport with those attending the classroom training session.
  3. The internal knowledge of the organization to make the classroom training session relevant to the work the attendees are doing.
  4. The external knowledge of other or similar organizations, and how they are effectively using new collaboration tools and approaches in their work.

In broad terms, internal trainers are likely to get a pass on #2 and #3, but struggle with #1 and #4. On the other hand, external trainers are likely to get a pass on #1 and #4, but struggle with #2 and #3. What can you do to mitigate this?

Upskilling Internal Trainers
One strategy to mitigate the lack of capabilities by internal trainers, in addition to choosing them carefully in the first place, is to take a deliberate approach to increasing their capabilities. Recently I heard of an organization that leverages the local community college to provide training to the trainers, to upskill them in the processes of teaching, learning, and assessment (which the community college offers as a standard qualification / certificate). The organization paid for their internal people to take the core content required to effectively run a classroom session internally, and for those staff that wanted to take their learning further, there was a way of doing this (I don’t recall whether the organization provided additional funding or not). It’s a win for the organization (better skilled internal trainers), it’s a win for the employee (increased competence in running a training session), and it’s a win for the attendees at a classroom training session (better quality training).

A related strategy is to encourage (and fund) internal trainers to attend relevant conferences in the areas on which they are providing training. This would help with gaining a wider perspective (#4 above). For example, if your organization is using Microsoft SharePoint, send your internal trainers to some of the more business focused SharePoint conferences where various case studies are presented about how organizations are making use of SharePoint. By listening carefully, taking notes, and asking good questions, they will be able to deepen their knowledge of the wider picture.

Upskilling External Trainers
For external trainers, the need shouldn’t be to increase their competence in how to teach, train, and facilitate learning. If they can’t do that as an external party, find someone else who can. The big need for internal trainers is context – what’s going on inside the organization, and how they can make the training relevant to that. I believe ultimately this is about briefings, discovery, and small initial explorations. The brief for the external training providers should be clear about what’s happening inside, so they can make the training fit for purpose and relevant. The selected external trainers should be given some time to engage with people to learn more about what the words in the brief actually mean – this means providing space for their own discovery and sensemaking. And finally it’s about making the most of initial explorations, where external trainers need to be carefully thinking about what is and isn’t working during initial training sessions, debriefing, and revising their material or approach based on that. Training sessions from external trainers should get iteratively better each time it is presented, as a result of greater context, examples, and connections inside the organization.

Collaboration Opportunity
I have spoken about internal vs. external trainers to this point, but clearly there is a third path available too. If you have internal trainers who are passionate about what they do, strategically engage with external trainers to provide complementary capabilities. Structure a longer term engagement where both parties can work together, and where the external trainer is also operating in a skills-transfer mode to internal people. It’s helpful to think about the either/or when working it through, but in practice it doesn’t have to be that way.

Your Approach?
How do you approach this at your organization? How have you walked or embraced the line between the two?

Three Masterclasses Coming Up in Australia

I’ll be in Australia in two weeks for a round of public masterclasses. While time is running out to register to attend, you still can. And note that there is a three-for-two offer in place for each of the masterclasses: purchase two tickets and get a third ticket at no extra charge.

I’m running three public masterclasses while I’m in Australia:

  • Doing Business with IBM Connections on August 27 in Sydney … held at the Hilton Sydney on George Street. Register Now
  • User Adoption Strategies Masterclass on August 28 in Sydney … held at the Hilton Sydney on George Street. Register Now
  • User Adoption Strategies Masterclass on August 29 in Melbourne … held The Westin Melbourne on Collins Street. Register Now

Details on the masterclasses are below.

User Adoption Strategies Masterclass: Sydney and Melbourne
Poor user adoption is a common issue with new collaboration and social tools; many organisations around the world struggle with it. There are various reasons for this, including bad context, inappropriate approaches, and ineffective strategies. My books on user adoption—including the second edition of User Adoption Strategies (2012)—provide a new way to approach user adoption. The book paints a picture of what a good context looks like for user adoption, lays out a whole range of possible strategies, and highlights those strategies that are more effective than others. The upcoming masterclasses in Sydney and Melbourne provide an opportunity to work through these concepts and strategies directly with me, and to share experiences with other people facing similar challenges in the adoption area. The masterclass is for people at organisations using Microsoft SharePoint, Jive, IBM Connections, NewsGator, and other similar tools.

Doing Business with IBM Connections Masterclass: Sydney
One of the adoption strategies highlighted in my book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012), is called Real-to-Life Scenarios. This is an effective strategy for user adoption, which involves showing how new capabilities in collaboration and social tools can be used in the common day-to-day activities done at your organisation. If done right, the scenarios you choose give people in your organisation an opportunity to see themselves at work—in a new way. For most of the past year I have been writing a series of ten real-to-life scenarios—such as co-authoring documents, managing meetings, and holding discussions—which show how organisations can make use of IBM Connections for doing business. Working through these ten scenarios is the focus of a masterclass in Sydney on Tuesday August 27.

If you are using IBM Connections, the masterclass will be 100% relevant. If you are not using IBM Connections, given that the scenarios focus on highlighting the human and behavioural factors in making the scenarios a success, and since the scenarios are commonly undertaken regardless of the technology chosen, the masterclass will be between 80% and 90% relevant. In other words, just because you aren’t using IBM Connections isn’t enough of a reason to stay away! It will be very relevant to your work with collaboration and social tools, regardless of the actual tools you are using.

Are you coming?

Collaboration Roadmap Masterclass (September 26 in London)

The Collaboration Roadmap Masterclass is coming to London on September 26, in conjunction with the Interaction 2013 Intranet Conference in London – at which I will be presenting the opening keynote on Collaboration and the Intranet. Tickets to the masterclass are available immediately.

Here’s the details:

What’s involved in making collaboration work? Too often the approach to success is limited to installing Interact, SharePoint, IBM Connections, Jive, or another platform. In reality, a lot more is needed.

Attend the Collaboration Roadmap Masterclass in London on September 26 to learn and explore the roadmap to success. The masterclass is based on Michael Sampson’s book, Collaboration Roadmap: You’ve Got the Technology—Now What?, and explores topics such as the role of technology, vision, governance, engagement, and user adoption.

The masterclass aims to create collaboration between attendees, and to provide a forum for comparing experiences and approaches. It is suitable for organizations using Interact, Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Connections, Jive, and other enterprise collaboration technology platforms. The masterclass is limited to 20 attendees.

The masterclass is being held the day after the Interaction 2013 Intranet Conference in London, at which Michael Sampson will be presenting the opening keynote on Collaboration and the Intranet. This masterclass is being run in conjunction with the Interaction 2013 Intranet Conference to give conference delegates an opportunity to get a more complete picture of what it takes to make collaboration work. Note that the masterclass is open to any delegate, not just those attending the Interactions 2013 Conference.

The masterclass is facilitated by Michael Sampson, a collaboration strategist based in New Zealand.

The masterclass is being held at Wallacespace Covent Garden, a very accessible location in London.

For pricing and to registor, see Collaboration Roadmap Masterclass (on Eventbrite). Early Bird pricing is currently available.

A Roadmap for Organizations Using IBM Connections Who Are Facing User Adoption Problems: Two Pathways

I was talking to a colleague last week about how customers who are using IBM Connections were going from an adoption perspective. Since I have written books on this, and run workshops with organizations to help with approaching the user adoption challenge, I have an interest in spreading great practices to solve this problem. He replied:

The biggest problem is having people acknowledge they need help (and isn’t that a constant in life!) Just about every Connections account I am aware of is having user adoption problems – or have they adopted the product as far as they want to go? There is such richness within the product it is frustrating not to see it used. But then again if they are happy to use 50% of the features and love the product for that should you be upset/pushing them? A complex question. I gave my Mother a fancy food processor last Mother’s day and she uses 2 of its 16 features & loves it. Should I be annoyed? – it is her processor after all!

I asked if I could respond to this publicly on my blog, and with the approval to do so, here’s my answer.

Thanks for your response to my question about user adoption among customers using IBM Connections. User adoption is a common problem for new collaboration and social tools, and is not just limited to Connections. As you know from reading my book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012), user adoption is a challenge faced by organizations using IBM Connections, Microsoft SharePoint, Socialtext, and many other offerings. There are a set of principles and practices I outline in the book to increase the success rate of adoption efforts, but context plays a big role. Your question posits two groups among Connections customers, and I’ll answer both separately.

For those organizations that are having user adoption problems, I’d recommend that the next step is to step back from the immediate adoption problems, and re-define / re-establish why IBM Connections was introduced into the organization in the first place, and how. In the language of Collaboration Roadmap (2011), what was the vision? Improved organizational efficiency? Better organizational or process effectiveness? Improved communication? Something else? With the vision firmly re-established, by what means what IBM Connections introduced to the organization? Was it a “build it and throw it out there” approach by the IT department (which rarely ends well), or was there deep business involvement / engagement in the selection process? If there wasn’t deep engagement from the business, you need to re-start there. What’s going on in the various business groups / teams / departments now, and where could IBM Connections make a difference? If there was deep engagement by the business, what has mis-fired between the “yes” and the reality? In other words, you need to start by re-contextualizing the what / why / where / how of IBM Connections for the organization.

For the second group, my recommendation is different. These organizations have, to use your words, “adopted the product as far as they want to go,” despite IBM Connections having many additional capabilities that could confer many additional benefits. I take the view that the product and its features are subservient to the needs of the organization, and if the organization only needs three of the overall capabilities offered by IBM Connections (or whatever tool is being used), then that’s fine. In the approach I lay out in Collaboration Roadmap (2011), this means the organization has been through the complete ROADMAP process up to the second A. They still have the last stage available to them – the P being “Pursue Increasing Value.” I’d recommend that the organization in such a situation go back and review why they installed IBM Connections, analyze the benefits they have gained in reality, and have a celebration if that’s called for. Good job. But having done that and recognized the benefits gained, before calling quits on further use of IBM Connections, someone needs to take another good look at the organization and see if there are other areas that would benefit from IBM Connections. For some ideas on possibilities, see Doing Business with IBM Connections (2013). There may not be (and that’s fine), or there may be (and that’s fine too). But at least the organization then knows which way to go – to keep on which current things that are working, or to build on the current foundation and reach to the next level.

In terms of your mother and her food processor, tell her that I only use two functions on my food processor too. I’m glad to be in such grand company.

What’s the right path for you?

(By the way, I’m going to be presenting three workshops in Australia at the end of August on user adoption (Sydney and Melbourne; both are tool agnostic), and one on doing business with IBM Connections (Sydney). See Upcoming Events for details.)

User Adoption Strategies Masterclass in Melbourne (August 29, 2013)

The User Adoption Strategies Masterclass is coming to Melbourne on August 29. Tickets are available immediately.

Here’s the details:

The User Adoption Strategies masterclass provides a forum for learning and engagement about encouraging user adoption for new collaboration tools. Over the course of one day, you learn the theory and context of user adoption, a framework for user adoption, and a set of strategies for encouraging user adoption. The masterclass is designed to provide many opportunities to discuss, debate and localize what you are hearing with the other delegates.

The masterclass is based on Michael Sampson’s book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012). All attendees will receive a copy of this book.

The masterclass is being held at The Westin Melbourne, a very accessible location in central Melbourne.

For pricing and to register, see User Adoption Strategies Masterclass (on Eventbrite).

User Adoption Strategies Masterclass in Sydney (August 28, 2013)

The User Adoption Strategies Masterclass is coming to Sydney on August 28. Tickets are available immediately.

Here’s the details:

The User Adoption Strategies masterclass provides a forum for learning and engagement about encouraging user adoption for new collaboration tools. Over the course of one day, you learn the theory and context of user adoption, a framework for user adoption, and a set of strategies for encouraging user adoption. The masterclass is designed to provide many opportunities to discuss, debate and localize what you are hearing with the other delegates.

The masterclass is based on Michael Sampson’s book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012). All attendees will receive a copy of this book.

The masterclass is being held at The Westin Sydney, a very accessible location in central Sydney.

For pricing and to register, see User Adoption Strategies Masterclass (on Eventbrite).