Digital Workplace Predictions for 2017 – by Paul Miller

Writing on the Digital Workplace Group blog, Paul shares his ten predictions for digital workplaces in 2017. One in particular has been a focus of mine for the past decade:

2. Focus shifts from “firing up tech” to changing behaviour and culture

This is a striking change that we in the Digital Workplace Group have seen strongly in 2016. For the first time, many large enterprises are most concerned about culture and behaviour change when deploying new digital workplace services – and are viewing turning on the technology more as a “hygiene factor”, particularly as services move relentlessly to the cloud.

For one major pharma client in Germany, their new collaboration services were straightforward technically – but after evidence from their history that simply implementing new technologies doesn’t bring the much-touted benefits to employees, this time they turned to change management and culture as the levers they needed to tackle. This pattern will extend for many organizations and the so-called “soft skills” of digital workplace improvements will take centre stage.

I hope this thinking spreads far and wide …

Read more: My 10 digital workplace predictions for 2017

Taking a Strategic Approach to the Use of Office 365 – my Session at the Digital Workplace Conference 2016

A couple of weeks back I presented the opening keynote at the Digital Workplace Conference 2016 in New Zealand, followed a couple of hours later by a session called Taking a Strategic Approach to the Use of Office 365. My slides are above.

Here’s the main points I focused on during the session:

1. (slide 3) three part session agenda –
[1] why is this important?
[2] what does a strategic approach look like?, and
[3] how do I get started?

2. (slides 4-8) adoption problems often have to be addressed by fixing earlier parts of the ROADMAP, business involvement in exploring and decision making around new tools is essential for success, and thus achieving impact from Office 365 requires a good plan (see slide 8 – “how you buy Office 365 is more important to your success than how it is sold.”)

3. (slides 9-10) my four part strategic approach to Office 365

4. (slides 11-37) for stage 1 [Understand the Business Opportunity with Office 365], use scenarios to explore what the technical capabilities of Office 365 could mean for your business. I used some of the content from the Profiling Employee Expertise chapter in my recent book to illustrate how to structure such an exploration, and on slide 36 listed some of the many scenarios to explore.

5. (slides 38-49) for stage 2 [Make the Right Decision for Your Business on Office 365], I listed some of the decision factors in deciding whether to proceed with Office 365 or not. These slides were oriented around the idea of “realities” with Office 365, noting that organisations would love the “good” ones, but that they would need a plan / response to the “bad” ones. Another way of saying that is there are various implications of moving ahead with Office 365, and organisations need to think through (and develop mitigations) for some of those implications.

6. (slides 50-64) for stage 3 [Create the Context for Achieving Value with Office 365], I looked at some of the organisational constructs that need to be put in place to support the use of Office 365. This is based on the principle that the organisational context / system / approach that surrounds the use of a given tool is much more impactful on the use of the tool than the tool itself. I touched briefly on constructs like purpose and value, organisational culture, executive support, governance, and the new profile of the IT professional. My summary assertion in slide 64 is that there is work required to shape the right organisational context.

7. (slides 65-79) for stage 4 [Drive Effective Use to Reap the Benefits of Office 365], I explored the creation of an adoption framework to drive effective use. I started by defining effective use, and then looked at some of the discrete stages and strategies that could be used in working with end users to gain impact by achieving effective use. The slides in this session were taken from my workshop – Driving Effective Use of Office 365.

8. (slides 81-85) concluding slides on how to get started:
– [1] start with the hand you’ve been dealt
– [2] do a SWOT analysis on the approach
– [3] build an internal success team
– [4] address what needs to be addressed

What’s your approach for Office 365? I’d love to hear your story, and if germane, explore ways I can help you achieve impact from Office 365.

Responding to Shadow IT

I was catching up with a client a few days ago about current status in their organisation, and he mentioned that due to business conditions, the IT budget had been slashed to a third of what it was at the beginning of the year. And since they’d already spent 80% of the budget for the year, there wasn’t much more they could do for the rest of the year. The executives made the decision to slash the budget.

Interestingly, he then mentioned the growth in shadow IT – people bringing in their own systems instead of the IT provided ones – and that the executives were key movers in doing this. I asked what he had done to point out the disconnect, and then suggested that he write a paper for the board addressing this head on (which isn’t one of the five strategies in the above video, by the way).

Specifically, that the paper should point out that:
– (1) the firm has a strategy for IT provided applications,
– (2) the executives have cut the budget for 2016 thereby preventing IT from providing said applications, and
– (3) the same executives are now spending their own divisional money on non-IT provided applications.

And then to ask the question: What should we do at our firm in light of these dynamics? Do we embrace shadow IT as a formal IT strategy going forward, or do we do something different?

How have you dealt with shadow IT from a governance perspective at your firm?

Here’s a couple of perspectives from other people:
– Liam Kerney, Responding to Shadow IT in the Digital Workplace (May 2016)
– Marcus Jewell, How Should CIOs Respond to the Rise of Shadow IT? (September 2015)

Thoughts About The Future of SharePoint

Some 12 hours ago (4.30am New Zealand time) I joined Microsoft’s live broadcast of its Future of SharePoint event. A few select people were actually in San Francisco for the event, and apparently 16,999 people joined me in watching the live online feed of the event. There are a bunch of blog posts from Microsoft on Office Blogs; they are worth checking out. Here’s the lead one specifically: The Future of SharePoint.

Here’s my reflections on what was announced, discussed, and presented:

1. SharePoint has become an important platform for many of my advisory clients, and has been the conduit for making many friends around the world. It was good to see Microsoft’s incremental innovations in the offering.

2. Microsoft announced some nice user interface / user experience touches. The extension of the OneDrive for Business look-and-feel to SharePoint document libraries was good. I also liked the way team members in a site are displayed as small circular photos at the top right of a SharePoint team site. That’s a nice touch; I’ve seen it in other products, but it’s a good way of doing it in SharePoint nonetheless.

3. Microsoft said it will re-label the “Sites” tile in Office 365 as “SharePoint.” Talk about taking the bull by the horns. In terms of re-asserting the value of SharePoint as an offering, that makes a lot of sense to me, but very much flies in the face of how some people recommend de-branding SharePoint for internal use. e.g., “call it anything but SharePoint” and “don’t make it look like SharePoint.” I’ve never had a big problem with the historical UI constructs, but clearly others have. Go Microsoft! Go SharePoint!

4. I worry that the use of a single tile called “SharePoint” to cover all of its capability underplays what it can do. In terms of UI real estate on the app launcher in Office 365, the “SharePoint” tile will have the same visual real-estate as “Tasks,” but the volume of capability for the former is significantly greater than the latter.

5. I worry about the proliferation of product-aligned sub-navigation home page experiences in Office 365, as it will drive confusion and overwhelm for people using Office 365. Microsoft recently announced a new home page experience for Office 365 itself. The new SharePoint home page displaying sites as content cards is beautiful, as are the triple highlights for the activity stream for each content card. But there’s a separate home page experience for Office 365 Planner (displaying an individual’s plans). There’s also a separate home page experience for Yammer. What I would prefer from a user-experience perspective in Office 365 is the elevation of customer projects and initiatives above that of Microsoft’s products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Sway, Planner, etc).

5(a). I’d like to a see a much higher emphasis on innovations that take the differential product names and capabilities out of the equation, to be replaced by deep / deep / deep integration across all of Office 365. The new SharePoint mobile app has a tab to show people you work with frequently. Delve displays content from people you work with frequently. Yammer allows you to follow people and see their recent updates. Where is the single place to go to check out the people I should engage with (and those I should stop engaging with), across of all that which is Office 365, and powered by the Office Graph? That. I want that experience for my advisory clients, not a siloed set of product-aligned ones.

6. Microsoft announced today some of the collaboration concepts I’ve dreamed about for a long time – which is great to see. A mobile app for access to SharePoint (2005). The way the Office Graph will bring documents and connections to you, based on your activity and interests (2005). The ability to easily move or copy a document out of a controlled content creation location to a location that’s more generally accessible by other people (2008). I’m pretty sure I’ve written about classifying site contents above the level of individual documents too, but I can’t remember exactly where / when.

7. Microsoft announced the pending integration of Office 365 Groups and SharePoint team sites, clearing up a point of confusion I’ve been wrestling with as I’ve been writing my latest book. That’s a good change, and perhaps the use of Outlook for conversations / discussions instead of the discussion list in SharePoint will address some of the shortcomings of the latter. It will depend on what it looks like.

8. Microsoft said that it has delivered “rock solid sync” in OneDrive for Business. I’m not hearing that from my advisory clients. Even with the new OneDrive client, it’s a hit-and-miss affair. It’s a directionally correct statement, but not yet a code-ready reality.

9. Security with cloud services should be a due diligence issue for all clients evaluating Office 365, and the regulatory compliance capabilities are important for many customers too. The Customer Lockbox is a fantastic innovation, and I love what it stands for. The fact Microsoft is adding new data centres in Europe will help a lot with organisations facing regulatory mandates and data sovereignty issues. I love the idea of using machine learning in ediscovery to identify the content organisations should be keeping, and that which it can safely dispose of.

10. I liked what I heard today, but overall I’d say the event would have been better called “the catchup of SharePoint” rather than “the future of SharePoint” (clearly I’d never get a job in marketing). It’s nice to know SharePoint has a future, and it was good to see what’s coming, but a lot of what was profiled addressed long-standing issues with SharePoint, rather than announcing revolutionary innovations to drive the offering forward as one component of the much greater picture that is Office 365.

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?

Business Engagement and Adoption Problems in SAP Land

Over on Inc., Les writes about how not to roll out a new system or process:

Last week it was reported that Avon … had abandoned a $125 million SAP system. The reason? Their salespeople (mostly independent reps) where leaving in droves because the new system was so burdensome.

This is far from the only case of major systems and process investments coming a cropper, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Lumber Liquidators had a similar problem in 2010, as did Ingram Micro in 2011.

So does this mean that installing large-scale systems and processes, whether from SAP, IBM, Oracle or any other provider, is a bad thing, a waste of everyone’s time?

Of course not. While we’ve all seen examples of ill-considered systems and processes foisted on an organization that really didn’t need it, in most cases, it’s not the system itself that’s the issue–it’s how the system is designed and implemented ….

In the most recent case, neither Avon nor SAP expressed any concern that the software was deficient. In fact, the Avon CEO specifically made the point that the software was working as designed–the Avon reps simply voted with their feet. The system was working fine, but they didn’t like it–so they left.

And although Avon was particularly vulnerable to the reaction of the system’s end users–many of their salespeople being independent reps and therefore more likely to switch horses to a competing organization–both Lumber Liquidators and Ingram Micro (and thousands of smaller businesses just like them) found that even when the system’s end users are full-time employees (and therefore less likely to jump ship if they’re unhappy with a new system), productivity, and therefore profits, can take a massive hit.

Surprisingly, the answer to ‘the new system blues’ is quite simple: involve the eventual end users throughout the whole process.

A couple of comments:

1. Later in the article, Les makes some good observations about the difference between “processors” and “operators.” It’s a useful distinction.

2. I disagree that the answer is simple, and I disagree with Les’s prescription. “Involving the eventual end users throughout the whole process” is not a simple answer in practice, nor is it sufficient. In my work, I call what Les is talking about the “business engagement” stage, and yes, there should be some business users – a “representative” group – involved in the envisioning, design, governance, and roll-out of the system. But it isn’t simple.

3. There is something else that is missing from the “simple” answer, and that’s an intentional focus on user adoption. Business engagement – which Les talks about – is a precursor to the system being made available, but once it has gone live, project teams need to take an intentional approach to adoption. I outline a variety of strategies in my book, User Adoption Strategies 2nd Ed. (2012), albeit with a focus on collaboration systems, but many would be equally applicable to SAP and other ERP systems.

4. Not all SAP implementations end in failure. I was speaking just last week with a colleague here in New Zealand whose organization had recently rolled out SAP enterprise-wide. The outcome: “it brought our organization together.” That’s a pretty great testimonial.

5. Has your organization taken a great approach to business engagement and/or adoption with SAP or another ERP system? I’d love to hear your story (below via a comment, or through a private briefing). Please get in contact if you have a story to tell.

Getting Ready for Exploratory Interviews: Balancing Preparedness with Open Ears

In a recent client project for a university that was getting ready to introduce SharePoint 2013, I interviewed 20 academics to build an understanding of their work, so that I could draw some initial inferences about where and how SharePoint 2013 could be used to enhance and improve the work they were doing. It is always a privilege to interview people to learn about their work, but I am constantly reminded when doing such interviews of the need to balance prior knowledge with open ears. Perfection, in my view, is the ability to turn up with a sufficient knowledge of their work so you know what they do (prior knowledge), offset against a willingness to completely tune out what you already know and be totally tuned into what they are saying (open ears). It is a balancing act to be prepared, while not over-relying on that preparation so you can’t actually hear what the interviewee is actually saying.

In preparation for meeting with these academics over three days—and yes, it was a brutal and exhausting interview schedule—I made some notes for myself. These included a series of prompts, a briefing pack on what academics do in general, and a simple diagram to keep me on track. The prompts included:

“I am seeking to understand what this person does currently, and what work looks like for him or her.”
“I am turning up to learn, but also turning up well prepared.”
“The questions I ask will demonstrate that I know something of their work, but I will never give the appearance of knowing better than them what their work looks like.”

The briefing pack was a list of common activities carried out frequently by academics. I developed this over half a day or so, searching the Internet for articles on what academics did each day. I read these, integrated the ideas, and developed a master list of activities. The master list was 11 items in length:

– Undertaking research
– Writing a journal article, book chapter, monograph
– Refereeing a journal article
– Developing new courses
– Preparing for teaching
– Teaching in the classroom
– Supervising graduate students
– Assessing students
– Working on a committee
– Keeping up with email
– Reflecting on what is / isn’t working well

For each of the activities, as time and intent allowed during the interview, I probed for how frequently the given interviewee engaged with this activity, whether they had an overall positive or negative experience with the activity, and their their current approach or approaches when working within each activity. I also asked about current tools being used when working on the activity, and their assessment of effectiveness and efficiency. I took lots of notes during the interviews, and once all of the interviews were completed, integrated my findings and discoveries into that list of inferences.

And the diagram … that was a reminder for me about staying in the middle zone to balance preparation with open ears. It looked like this:

How do you get ready for exploratory interviews with people?

Business Engagement: Co-Discovery, Not Requirements

In Chapter 6 of Collaboration Roadmap (2011) I write about engaging the business, and say that the idea of “capturing requirements” is wrong. Instead, I encourage a mindset and approach of “co-discovering opportunities.” With that in mind, I was very pleased to read this on Andrew’s blog a week or so ago:

When I’m brought in to work on a significant development project as the lead, the first step is to sit down with the client and understand not just the requirements, but the goals behind the requirements and how the work they’re asking for will impact the people using system. My job, at this stage is to use my experience to anticipate the unseen requirements, the potential problems, and the unintended consequences of the changes they’re requesting. I do this through asking questions and getting them to walk me through both the current process and the updated process. If we have the right people in the room — not just the project managers but also representatives of people who use the systems daily — then during this phase they realize how the real world use differs from the project plan paperwork. We’re able to adapt the plan and build what they need. Spending the right money up front on this kind of analysis prevents the kinds of disasters Cringley is pointing out.

Love that approach. Keep it up Andrew.

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.)