Thinking About How Real Workers Use New Collaboration Tools – the Ford Approach

In How Ford reimagined IT from the inside-out to power its turnaround from mid-2012, Jason writes about changes at Ford’s IT department. Among other changes, he comments on the new approach Ford IT took with helping users understand how to make use of the various tools available to them in their work:

Many IT departments have had to cut back on their help desk and user support in recent years and have ended up leaving users to their own devices — figuratively, and even literally in some cases. Ford recognized that part of its IT transformation had to involve getting smarter about empowering employees.

“About five years ago we started a program we call ‘Digital Worker’ that fundamentally looks at all the collaboration tools we need to drive increased capability globally,” said Smither. “It’s partitioned into four areas. There are the traditional office productivity tools like instant messaging and email and [Microsoft] Office. Data and video and audio [collaboration] is the second area of focus. There’s mobility solutions, so remote access, employee bring-your-own-devices [BYOD], tablets, and so on. The fourth major area is information and data provisioning, which is using [Microsoft] SharePoint as the structured data repository, Yammer for social media, enterprise federated search for being able to search [document] repositories globally. And we’re aggressively integrating those services to fundamentally improve the ability for teams to collaborate around the world.”

Fortunately, Ford isn’t just thinking about the tools but also how real workers will be using them and how IT can make good recommendations for when and how to use specific tools.

“The first phase of Digital Workers was bringing the tools together. The current phase we’re in is how do we maximize business capability in terms of thinking about not just the tools but the process and the integration and how people are actually enabled by the technology to be more productive in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish as opposed to just providing the tool,” said Smither. “We’re [also] doing a lot of work around something called, ‘How I Work,’ which is a scenario-based approach so that people understand which tools to use in what context to be the most efficient. So there’s a scenario around how to run an effective meeting or which tools to use in which circumstances. We’re getting a lot of take-up and driving a lot of ability for collaboration using [our] digital worker framework across the enterprise.”

I like the emphasis on scenarios, and the effort invested to drive understanding.

Managing Meetings in SharePoint 2013

In my book Collaboration Roadmap (2011) I talk about managing meetings as one of the “collaboration scenarios” that can be enhanced / improved through new tools. Within the context of SharePoint 2013, AvePoint offers a Meetings App for this scenario. In the video above, Jeremy Thake (who is now at Microsoft) overviews the capabilities of the AvePoint Meetings app.

The AvePoint description says:

AvePoint Meetings allows business users to collaborate with one another in real-time before, during, and after meetings by:
• Creating single or reoccurring meetings with “roll call” capabilities for automatic creation of attendee lists based on previous or reoccurring meeting instances
• Allowing meeting attendees to adjust and update meeting agendas as well as discussion topics
• Audit meeting attendance for greater organizational tracking and visibility
• Capturing meeting information and notes with multi-user support
• Tracking meeting minutes with full auditing, allowing for historical search capabilities
• Assigning, aggregating, and synchronizing tasks and actions

The app is available for SharePoint 2013 on-premises, as well as for use within SharePoint Online on Office 365.

State of the Modern Meeting—from Blue Jeans

Blue Jeans Network released the second edition of its Modern Meeting Report, highlighting changes in how collaboration technology is reshaping meetings around the world. The report is based on usage figures from Blue Jeans customers, plus a survey undertaken in November 2013. Key findings in the report:

No Face Time, No Deal: Nearly three quarters (71 percent) of people believe they lost a deal due to the lack of face-to-face interaction and six percent have admitted to falling asleep during an audio-only meeting.

Conferencing Is Converging: Meeting owners are tiring of having to decide in advance whether a meeting will be an audio conference, video conference, or web conference, and are instead choosing converged conferencing solutions like Blue Jeans that integrate all of the above. Thirty nine percent of video-centric meetings also have at least one audio-only participant, up from 35 percent in June. Thirty percent of video-centric meetings include screen/content sharing for presentations, documents, or video-clips, up from 26 percent in June.

Meeting the Holiday Hangover: While there is a 60 percent reduction in meetings the day before a holiday, the meeting bill comes due with a 118 percent increase in meetings the day after a holiday. Q1 2014 is poised to be the busiest meeting season of the year with the post-holiday spike and 25 percent more meetings taking place in February than any other time of the year.

Women CAN Have It All…All the Meetings: Women lead the meeting charge, attending 14 percent more meetings than men (up from 11 percent) and are 12 percent more likely than men to attend meetings on weekends.

Running Late? Not in the Midwest: While most of us (55 percent) join meetings late, meetings in the Midwest are more likely to start on time than meetings on the East or West Coasts. CEOs, CTOs and Founders are most often late to meetings.

Other findings in the report note the reduced use of Skype, the importance of mobile device support, and the timing of the meeting. Blue Jeans Network also published an infographic on modern meetings (from which the extract above is taken).

Blue Jeans Network offers hosted meeting services.

A couple of comments:

1. This is a great resource for informing yourself on current happenings with meetings around the world, and also for benchmarking yourself and your organization in terms of approaches to meetings. There could be some ideas in the report and infographic that you can adopt into your meeting practices.

2. It is good to see the increased interest in converged conferencing solutions, whereby your initial meeting design decision doesn’t become a constraint. If you start off with an audio-only meeting with an audio-only service, adding screen sharing or video is impossible. You have to re-meet. With a converged solution, you can easily add or remove different capabilities as the meeting progresses.

3. There is no especial mention of the essential disciplines of highly effective meetings, such as a strong agenda and the right people attending (among others). Collaboration technology definitely makes it easier to meet when people cannot be in the same place at the same time, but it does not necessarily follow that all such meetings are necessary or optimized. This is not to discount what Blue Jeans has published, but just to remind us all that effective meeting disciplines are essential to holding effective meetings.

Digital Workplace Trends 2013 – and Participation Opportunity for 2014

In the busyness of my research, travels, and consulting in recent years, I have struggled to find enough time to read and review the great work my colleagues are doing around the world in areas adjacent to my own. I have quite a backlog of articles, reports, and books to read / review / comment on, and one such item is the Digital Workplace Trends survey and report by Jane McConnell. Simply put, if you have anything to do with the strategy, design, or intent of intranets / collaboration tools / social business approaches / governance at your organization, you should be involved in Jane’s work. Jane has done an outstanding job over the past seven years to document the development of intranets, prod people towards good practice, and stimulate effective approaches in these spaces.

I have a copy of the 2013 report – in PDF format. It’s thought-provoking. It’s big (169 pages). It’s well laid out. It’s created with the intent of stimulating conversation and discussion about what you are doing in particular areas. The report has eight major sections: transformation, mobile, social collaboration, process, experience, investment, change, and finding your direction. Each section is between 15 and 20 pages in length, and Jane calls out the major ideas / changes / trends in each of these areas. Jane also puts a lot of emphasis on calling out the differences between early adopters of particular ideas, and those who are less quick to embrace each area. This is a helpful checkpoint for assessing what your organization is doing, and to force contemplation as to whether you should be doing more. A feature I liked in the 2013 report was the inclusion of one page case studies from practitioners; for example on page 24, Thomas Maeder, the Head of Communication and Collaboration Experience at Swisscom AG, writes about their digital workplace journey. These case studies ground the big ideas from the report in a specific organizational context.

The Social Collaboration section, one of the most interesting sections for me given my work, starts on page 42. In the pages that follow, Jane highlights the following key points:
– There are a wide range of social collaboration capabilities deployed, with the difference between the majority and early adopters highlighted in a ladder diagram.
– There is relatively low overall satisfaction with adoption.
– That adoption is lagging especially for “disruptive” social capabilities. The spider diagram highlights the largest gaps between deployment and adoption rates (see slide 5 in the deck below for the diagram).
– There is a boom in enterprise social networks, but they are not yet thriving.

The report then does a deep dive on content creation and interaction, working in real time, and networking (e.g., finding expertise). Five case studies – Elsevier, Carl Ziess AG, Colacem, Sodexo, and Wells Fargo – are then profiled. The Colacem case study talks about how the company has learned to work together better through the use of wikis, and highlights the key change / adoption facilitators. (In the language of User Adoption Strategies, I’d talk about adoption “strategies”).

Jane is getting ready to kick off the 2014 survey, but since I’ve been late in getting this written, it may be too late for your organization to participate now, if you haven’t already registered with Jane. You could always try registering and see if you can get in. If it is too late, create a forward reminder for yourself to check back with Jane’s site in September 2014, and sign up for the 2015 one. And in the meantime, buy a copy of the report for 2014 to get you into the right frame of reference.

Jane sent me some of the details you will need to know:
– The survey is now in its 8th year.
– Jane will include a customized scorecard for each organization participating in the survey. They will also receive a copy of the final report.
– The survey takes about an hour to complete.
– Themes covered this year include the impact on the physical workplace, social collaboration, leadership involvement, and preparing for the future workplace.
– Jane has published a downloadable Quick Reference Guide for the 2014 survey.

So … go for it. Get involved. Learn and improve. Do great work. (And many thanks Jane for taking on the challenge of coordinating and analyzing this segment year-by-year.)

Loomio – Group Decision Making

New Zealand’s news website, Stuff, is reporting today on Loomio, a new group decision making software offering.

The cloud-based software lets users put forward “proposals” that can then be discussed, modified, voted on and – if allowed by the organisation – vetoed, through an iterative process on an online forum.


Loomio has been translated into seven languages and was being used by sports clubs, community groups, businesses and social movements in 20 countries.

Up until last Friday’s launch, use of the software had been by invitation only.

Ross Phillips, business improvement manager at Pathways, New Zealand’s largest provider of community-based mental health services, said it had used Loomio to consult with an advisory board of youth on the purpose and branding of its youth-focused service, Real, and to assist with decision-making by its geographically dispersed leadership team.

“It is more useful than a long-flowing email train which can take off in different directions. It proved pretty useful in containing and focusing discussions.”

Pathways was now considering using Loomio more commonly among its 60 to 70 leaders and frontline managers, and could later make it available to all its 700 staff, he said.

While there are existing tools on the market in this space, it is good to see this problem being tackled in New Zealand.

Office 365 Getting More Collaborative

The Microsoft Office 365 team recently announced some upcoming changes in the Office Web Apps in Office 365. The announcements were intended to set the scene on what is being worked on over the next 12-18 months.

Here’s the list:
– Incorporating more Office features in Office Web Apps.
– Making the online experience better. Eg., faster, adding find and replace in the Word Web App.
– Office Web Apps currently run on Windows 8 tablets and iPads. The team is going to add support for Android tablets by supporting the Chrome browser.
– Real-time co-authoring in Office Web Apps, so all authors can see presence and edits in real time without having to refresh. The short movie above shows what will be – using the PowerPoint Web App as the example.

Michael’s Comments
It is great to see the direction the Office 365 team is working to, and I look forward to seeing these directional items come to fruition. Office has a huge footprint in the world, and while some firms are giving it up in preference for newer online applications, there will be ongoing strong demand for Office both on-premise and in the cloud. Microsoft struggled for many years to add new capabilities to its Office franchise that gave users / enterprises enough reasons to upgrade to the latest editions, but I think they are cracking the nut with improvements such as the ones above – especially for the new way of working on documents together with real-time co-authoring. Clearly that’s not a situation that will resonate all the time for all people, but having those capabilities seamlessly integrated is much better than being forced to use something else or something suboptimal. Some of my clients are really keen on the concept of real-time co-authoring, because the dynamics involved in multiple people working on different versions of a document shared around by email is just broken. You can’t get any better by improving the current process; you have to re-think / re-imagine it.

So Microsoft … keep going. You might yet tempt me to buy a Windows Surface Pro and try this out in all its Microsoft glory.

Avoiding Accidental Expertise Discovery

There are some really sad stories of how people have accidentally stumbled across expertise that was sorely needed. While the stories make for funny reading, they are sad in the sense that these types of accidents just shouldn’t happen. Organizations should have better ways of sensing who is an expert in a particular topic. Here’s the stories:

  • The Chemist. A research manager at a pharmaceuticals company was talking with the HR director in an elevator. He was bemoaning his inability to find anyone inside the firm with a specialization in a particular chemical compound. As a result, he told the HR director, he needed to instigate a search for a new external candidate to fill the gap. A women in the elevator—a current employee of the firm who worked in the same building—overheard the conversation, turned to both of them and said, “I have a PhD in that chemical compound. How can I help?”
  • The Project Manager. A new design project was kicking off at a manufacturing firm. The intent was to significantly update the current in-market product—the one that generated a significant amount of revenue for the firm—increasing its attractiveness to current customers and new prospects alike. The problem was finding the design documentation, project plans, and the discussion documents from the previous design project. The project manager was talking about this one day with a colleague, and an engineer in the next cubicle stood up to speak to them. “I was on that project,” he said, “and I know where to find those files on the file server.”

The good news is that the required expertise was found in each of the examples above, but it was entirely accidental. The bad news is that there are many times when the required expertise is not found, and either new people have to be hired, or the organization has to learn again how to undertake a particular process, activity, or project. New ways of finding expertise should reduce the likelihood of trusting to luck.

Got Another Story Like This?
I’m looking for another copy of stories like this? Do you have one from your organization you could share with me?

Escaping the Pull of Groupthink in Decision Making

Teams and groups that work together for an extended time run the risk of getting pulled into “groupthink” in the decisions they make. Given their shared history of discussions, debates, negotiations, and past successes, team members will internalize the attributes of decisions that will and won’t work in the team, and members will unintentionally or otherwise avoid starting down the path of arguing a specific point because they know it will get rejected by the team. The team has a defined profile of information that is seen as valid or not, and will overemphasize information that confirms its current approach. Although the team’s decision making processes will be highly efficient, when operating amidst changing environmental conditions, its effectiveness will falter.

The broad solution to groupthink is the introduction of new people, ideas, and frameworks, combined with a sufficient level of force to break the current decision making patterns. For example:

  • Provide coaching on group dynamics and decision making processes. If you have a good group of people on a team and are loath to change the mix, provide coaching and mentoring on group dynamics and effective group decision making processes. With the right input and an opportunity to stand back from the moment-by-moment pressures felt by the group, they may be able to identify and fix what’s become broken in their approach.
  • Require an external review of the team’s recommendations. Put together a secondary group to review one or more of the team’s recommendations, and to issue a written analysis of its effectiveness. Require that the team consider the analysis and judge the validity of each recommendation.
  • Replace people on the team. Remove people on the current team, and add new people in their places. You need to change a sufficient number of people so that the newcomers aren’t shoehorned into the team’s current ways of working, but not too many so the team dies altogether. Depending on the severity of the problem, change between 30% and 70% of the team in order to bring in new perspectives and force the team to renegotiate how it makes decisions.
  • Disband the team and start afresh. If all else fails, disband the current team and convene an entirely new team. This is should be the last resort though.

Effective decision making in teams requires both efficiency and effectiveness. Groupthink threatens the latter, and needs to be dealt with head on.

Screenhero—Multi-Person Collaborative Screen Sharing

Screenhero is a newly released tool for collaborative screen sharing between two (and more later) people. Each person can move around the shared screen independently of the other people, and make changes and edits as required.

Once you take that simple step, that’s it: you then have another mouse/cursor appearing on whatever it is that you have selected to share. That person can then effectively use that window at the same time, and in the same way, as you do.

So, for example, if you shared an open Word document, the other person could start typing, erasing scrolling and printing that document, as if that document existed on the remote computer. And, like a little mouse, you can chase after the second person undoing all the changes. Similarly, sharing a full screen lets a person access your whole desktop in the same way, but across the whole range of apps that you may have open at the time.

Screenhero’s approach, which uses Google’s VP8 video compression standard and WebRTC for network transmission, is in contrast to other existing solutions like Skype, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts, which variously require you to pass control to another user, or somehow both be able to use a single mouse at the same time.

Available immediately for Apple Macs. A Windows version is in the works. The company is considering its options for post-PC devices.

Notes on ID502 What's New in IBM Docs

In one of the first sessions on the morning of day 3 at IBM Connect, Sean Brown, John Medicke, and Zi Ying Li, is talking about what’s new in IBM Docs. Some notes:

1. IBM Docs is available today via SmartCloud, and also for on-premises deployment with IBM Connections.

2. What’s a social business? A social business embraces networks of people to create business value and transform how they interact. However, the status quo document model falls short. Eg., people lose time searching through email for documents, and time collecting/consolidating everyone’s feedback. Added up it’s about 20% productivity loss per year.
– … this causes a bottleneck for the information worker.

3. A “social document” in a social business:
– … teams work in one primary document.
– … supports different work models – real time or asychronous.
– … no desktop software to manage. Rely on the web browser. Users can share and interact with their documents just from the browser.
– … collaborate securely in the cloud
– … documents managed and secured according to your company policies.

4. IBM Social Documents strategy – when and where you need documents in context.
– … Open Document format.
– … Interoperability with OOXML and MS Office binary file formats.

5. What is IBM Docs? Web-based collaborative editors for creating, sharing, and collaboratively authoring word processor documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Provides real-time co-editing, author presence awareness, commenting and discussions inside the document, etc.
– Available via IBM SmartCloud Engaged Advanced, or as an add-on with SmartCloud Engage and SmartCloud Connections.
– IBM Connections
– IBM Greenhouse

6. Demos:
– Open IBM Connections. Open the Files application.
– Open a file page.
– Can create a new document, spreadsheet, or presentation directly in IBM Connections.
– Can edit directly in IBM Docs, via a single click.
– @style commenting within IBM Docs, to give assignments / to do items.
– Can filter within the document on what you have been assigned, or things you have given to others in the @style.
– Can save templates into a folder, and when opening it, you can seamlessly create a new / plain version of the document. It is saved directly into your files area.

7. Development themes in 2013 (note that these are planned future items):
– Revision management – new and improved ways of handling draft editions of a document / presentation / spreadsheet. Compare and contrast two documents, with copy and paste between them.
– Drawing tools
– Charts
– Observer role. There is a limit of 5 concurrent co-authoring editors. A new observer role will allow other people to observe what’s happening. Can easily switch between editing and observing.
– Integration of Sametime chat.
– ECM FileNet integration. Will add more integrations – eg., to Analytics – in the future.
– Upgrades to the Assignments area. Eg., assignment of sections to a specific person. Visual tracking of progress on content creation and review. Sections can be assigned to “write” or “review.”
– … will also integrate assignment alerts into the Activity Stream in IBM Connections.
– Improved access on mobile devices – such as File Sync for offline access, and then synchronization back to the online edition.
– Integration with Connections Mail.
– OOXML export.

8. Beyond 2013 – will focus on better integration between Web meetings and co-editing sessions.

9. IBM Docs on mobile devices (demo’ing a soon-to-be-released update):
– … can select a file for offline access.
– … create a comment.
– … touch-enabled updates to a document / spreadsheet / presentation, and creating sticky notes as comments.