E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Collaboration

IntraTeam – Mastering the Art of Persuasion through Stories

CopenhagenIt has been a short while since I last had a chance to create a new blog post over here. If I were to summarise what’s been going on throughout the last couple of weeks, I would probably do it with a single sentence: We truly live in extraordinary times. And, frankly, with that, you would agree with me, there is nothing more extraordinary than a great story.

Writing Transitions was quite a challenge. Fast forward to March 2020 and, judging by what’s currently going on, it looks like we haven’t seen anything yet! That blog post would pale in comparison to what we are currently going through. My goodness! Where do I begin? How do I regain my focus and energy after everything that’s going on at the moment?

Ok, let’s try it. Let’s talk about IntraTeam. Last year I was invited to speak at one of my favourite European conference events around the Digital Workplace. For personal reasons, I eventually had to cancel my participation. I was gutted I couldn’t make it, but grateful and honoured Kurt reinvited me right then to this year’s event in Copenhagen. It is only now though I’m starting to realise that this year’s IntraTeam event may well be the last one I would get to attend for a good while. I am glad I had the opportunity to get the most out of it while I could!

The main theme from this year’s edition was around #DEX (Digital Employee Experience), building from previous mantras around Employee Engagement, Employee Experience, etc., etc. A couple of years ago, in this article, James Robertson defined #DEX as follows:

Digital employee experience (#DEX) is the sum total of the digital interactions within the work environment.

It was a real treat seeing him on stage, as the main keynote speaker, talking about what #DEX means for most businesses nowadays, while he was also sharing some glimpses about the insightful and data packed Digital Employee Experience (DEX) survey they have just published.

People keep asking me why I heart IntraTeam so much as one of my favourite conference events in Europe. If I were to use a single keyword to describe it I suppose it would be Community (With a capital ‘C‘). This year’s edition was no different!

It is a conference that gathers Digital Workplace practitioners and enthusiasts who have got a passion for Intranets and who are all extremely willing to share generously with you what they have been working on and make it all quite an incredible immersive learning experience that will not leave you indifferent.

IntraTeam is an event meant for massive networking opportunities amongst peers. Knowledge (Web) workers who are truly passionate about the hard work they put together day in day out to improve the overall user experience of their co-workers when they start making extensive use of their digital workplace(s).

The programme is outstanding. The line-up of speakers, a real treat to the mind and the soul, as they go the extra mile to share with you the journey they have already begun, not just during their sessions, but throughout the conference as you talk to them through the many networking opportunities, including my faovurite ones: the networking dinners.

The venue is incredibly accommodating, not only in terms of the space allocated to refreshments within the expo area, where everyone gets a good chance to mix and mingle and be part of the community, but also with the large rooms for the breakout sessions. The focus from Kurt and his wonderful team (Anette Wittenberg, Anja Thinggaard Madsen, Bolette Clausen, Pia Berg Christensen, amongst several others) is to make you feel welcomed, valued, respected, appreciated and overall engaged. Only great things can come out of that, that is for sure! And once more, they have delivered and truly exceeded everyone’s expectations!

Now, let’s talk a little bit more about the content and what would have been some of my favourite highlights from the different speaking sessions I attended throughout the entire two day conference . As usual, I picked up again the habit of doing some casual live  tweeting for the various sessions I attended, so folks could take a look and see what they were like. You may also want to check out this wonderful highlights write-up by my good friend Steve Bynghall, where he shares his favourite key takeaways from the event. Definitely, worth a read!

A few days ago I teased, through a LinkedIn post, what would be my main three highlights from IntraTeam itself and I mentioned in there how I would be expanding further in this particular blog post, so let’s get down to it:

Listening to people’s needs and wants

In the space of the Digital Workplace and Digital Employee Experience, it has taken us a long while to come around this one. In fact, I have been advocating for a good few years already, about the urgent need to pay more attention to delighting your employees with a far superiour digital user experience, not just your customers.

At IntraTeam this year, it has been incredibly exciting and inspirational listening to folks like Julia Dudenko (From DHL Deutsche Post), Katrine Schelbli (McDonald’s in Denmark), Heather Force (From Thomson Reuters) or Joris Kok (ING Netherlands), amongst several others, talking about how they have been engaging their colleagues listening to what their needs and wants have been. How they can best accommodate to them AND, eventually, deliver on them. Gosh, incredibly refreshing to see the kind of impact listening to your knowledge (Web) workers can have!

Stories, stories and more stories!

At the beginning of this blog post I wrote how there is probably nothing more extraordinary out there than a great story. A story that can inspire people and from which we can all learn something. A story that give us the opportunity to share and connect with others who may have had similar challenges or opportunities.

A story that helps you understand how in the space of the Digital Workplace and DEX it is the journey that counts the most and not necessarily the final destination. A story that, all in all, allows us all to grow together and become better as a result.

This year, at IntraTeam, we had plenty of wonderful stories being shared on stage by the same folks I have mentioned above already, but also by other equally super smart folks who came forward and shared their own story. Incredibly self-empowering stories like the one shared by Nina Sonne Nikaelsen (From COWI) confirming how doing project management work with your colleagues can be social and collaborative, as well as transformative.

Or perhaps the superb story from John Baptiste-Kelly (From Wellcome) who pretty much managed to demolish, right there, on stage, the good old myth from the 1-9-90 rule by providing an excelling digital employee experience that thrives on engagement through the high quality content produced by a significant percentage of knowledge (Web) workers.

Or, maybe that other powerful and robust story from Line Møller Roland and Christian Skjaeran (From VELUX) where they confirmed how DEX (Digital Employee Experience) is pretty much a journey for the long term and how we need to keep listening to and learning from our colleagues to keep iterating time and time again in order to provide overall better user experiences.

What was the story I enjoyed the most, you may be wondering, right? Well, by far, it was the one from Heather Force (From Thomson Reuters), who pretty much nailed it with regards to the overall Digital Employee Experience when using the following metaphor: that one of you, each and everyone of you as individuals, going through the airport to take that next flight … Next time you do that, and I know we are currently going through challenging times in that regard!, think of what it is like for you versus what it is for others. Only when you would start thinking in those terms you would understand what a fascinating journey DEX has been all along and still going strong!

All of the speaker’s stories were just brilliant! After two decades in this space, even I got to learn a lot from each and everyone of them, but, here’s the magic, it didn’t stop there! Through the different networking breaks we all got a unique opportunity to listen and learn from everyone else’s stories on what they were working on themselves.

It was just wonderful experiencing how each and everyone of the attendees of the event were very keen in generously sharing with others what they were working on, what they had learned at the time during the conference and some of their major key takeaways they would be putting into practice when going back to their work places. All of that excitement and anticipation surely gave me hope!

The Future Of Work is networked and feminine

My good friend Harold Jarche has been writing for a good few years now about how the Future Of Work is networked and feminine. Well, I am going to take things one step further. I strongly believe the Present of Work is ALREADY networked AND feminine. Today. Because if there is anything I learned from this year’s IntraTeam edition is being blown away by the absolutely fantastic piece of work that a good number of incredibly smart and talented ladies have been doing all along around the Digital Employee Experience.

And not just the many speakers we had the privilege to listen to and learn from while on the stage, but also, again, from the overall attendees of the event. I don’t remember any other recent conference event I have attended in the last two or three years, where I had spoken with such a large number of ladies truly passionate about the splendid piece of work they have been doing so far within their own organisations to not just get work done more effectively, but something that, to me, comes close to my heart: transform, through persuasion and influence of user behaviour, how people work!

Yes, indeed, the Future Of Work is no longer a chimera, nor a myth. It’s become the #PresentOfWork we all have the real treat to experience, day in day out, through those social networks and online communities as the new operating models, that keep shaping pretty much the overall Digital Employee Experience. And the ladies (finally!) are leading the journey! Double yay!

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait for the next IntraTeam event. Will I see you there?


(In an upcoming blog post I will be sharing shortly, I will talk a bit more in detail about the presentation I did myself at IntraTeam on the key role data analytics plays in augnmenting the Digital Employee Experience. Thus stay tuned for more!)

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Hybrid Worlds

Gran Canaria - El MonjeOver the course of the last six years, since I went independent, I have had the opportunity (and still do!) of unlearning a few things in the space of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools. One of the most significant and impactful ones has been acknowledging the fact what once used to be the main good old mantra from different Enterprise Social Networking platforms, it’s now pretty much obsolete having lost its touch with today’s more complex than ever business reality. It’s, finally, a good time to say good-bye to one-size-fits-all.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have been involved with social tools for nearly 20 years, when I first got started with blogs and wikis while working at IBM. Back then, I had the unique opportunity of playing and experimenting with a new emergent set of collaborative and knowledge sharing tools that I knew were not only going to transform how I would get work done, but also how I would live my life from there onwards.

I still think today, if it weren’t for these social tools, my entire professional career would have been completely different altogether. To the point where I wouldn’t be able to tell you all what I would have done instead. I just know it would have been something that didn’t have anything to do whatsoever with technology. That’s for sure. That’s what I call having a massive impact on one’s life, don’t you think?

It should come to no surprise to anyone out there who knows me, or who has been following this blog for a good while now, how as I was getting more and more involved with blogs, wikis, social bookmarks, micro-blogging, RSS newsfeeds, podcasts, forums, profile aggregators, online community spaces, etc. I was pretty exited when IBM Connections became a product in 2007.

Deep inside I thought I would finally have a chance to bring all of that excitement of the huge potential of these social tools to the customers I was working with (Specially, in the KM and Collaboration space) and help them understand how those tools could transform entirely the way they worked AND lived, like they did for me. Oooh, the good old exciting times of early Enterprise Social Networking platforms! It still sends shivers down my spine, I tell you! And you?

During the early 2000s that mantra of one-size-fits-all was pretty much rather dominant across the business world. It was all you needed. Just one ESN within your firewall and the magic would happen just like that! If only, right? At the time, for me, that ESN was IBM Connections. You didn’t need anything else! And I loved it, till around early 2014, when I left IBM and I had a lovely wake-up call with reality.

That was a pretty mind-blowing opportunity for me to open up and discover that one-size-fits-all, if anything, was just a myth. Over the following few months, when I was starting up my own business as an independent adviser around Social Business and Digital Transformation, I realised I was ending up talking to lots of customers who were living a different reality than mine. They were using a plethora of collaborative and knowledge sharing tools to get their work done.

It was no longer about just having a single ESN to do what needed to be done. Quite the contrary, becoming vendor agnostic helps you understand that the Collaboration landscape is completely different today than what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Back then, customers, indeed, would be working with one single ESN. Today, it’s a little bit more complex than that. The wake-up call is that a single ESN would no longer do the job. And that’s a good thing!

Work has gotten a whole lot more complex than ever before. The times where we were working with a single customer, on a single project, with one team, one manager, one set of common goals to execute on is a thing of the past. Nowadays, we have a tendency to work with multiple customers, different projects, blurred reporting lines, somewhat undefined goals and, above all, a completely different set of collaborative tools. We, knowledge (Web) workers, have finally diversified!

Or not. Over the course of the last 6 years I have pretty much become vendor agnostic. I have learned, mostly through the hard way (the most effective one, for sure!), to listen and understand customers’ needs and wants. It’s no longer about me, i.e. the vendor, but more about the customer and what they would want to achieve over time. It’s a truly fascinating journey, through lots of trial and error, that I have unlearned to be vendor-centric and become, instead, more customer-centric, which is where the magic usually happens.

That means that, when listening and paying attention to customers, you understand that different groups of people work in different ways and have completely different expectations from one another. Therefore, they use various social and collaborative tools to get their work done more effectively and accommodate accordingly. And it is just fine. It’s what my good friend Thomas van der Wal frames as Social Lenses.

It’s pretty much the very same reason as to why 19 years later, since Fringe was first born, that I’m still in love with HCL Connections. Not because of what it can do to help organisations transform how they think and can work different, which it still does!, but mostly because through those very same customer conversations I have learned to understand that it doesn’t fit all needs from everyone, but can complement them quite nicely, eventually, making the killer-app combination. And, after perhaps far too many years to count, it’s, at long last, learning to adapt to the new changing conditions through one of my favourite keywords du jour: integration!

That has been one of my key learnings in the last 18 months to two years, as I have been getting more and more heavily involved into the Office 365 ecosystem working with customers who are thriving in hybrid worlds. Customers that no longer buy into that obsolete vendor-centric model, but that truly believe collaboration is a lot more complex, nuanced, and diverse than whatever they have been involved with in the past.

Office 365 is a rather powerful set of cloud-based productivity tools. We all know that. MS Teams alone sparks mind-blowing opportunities to enhance and augment how smaller groups of people work in more dynamic, intimate, fast-paced, project driven environments. But does it cater for all needs? Should it? Is it worth it putting all your eggs in one basket?

I suspect your answer is probably going to be a resounding ‘No!’ So why do people keep questioning your decision as a customer to diversify, accordingly, to meet more of your needs and wants? Why does Office 365 still operate under one-size-fits-all and get away with it? Haven’t we learned anything from the recent past few years? At a time where we all are (customers, business partners, vendors AND competitors) more hyperconnected than ever, we seem to pretty much confirm we haven’t learned much. Sadly.

I’m pretty sure you may be wondering why I’m saying all of this and why I’m putting together this blog post in the first place, right? Well, there is a simple reason, really: I listen actively to customers.

Over the last few months I have talked to numerous customers who keep getting questioned, sternly, to the point of being put on the spot and embarrassed, every time they talk to either Microsoft employees, business partners or its underlying ecosystem, about why they aren’t using Office 365 to talk, connect, or collaborate with them. If you have been using Zoom, WebEx, Slack, Jive, HCL Connections, Chatter, MangoApps, Confluence, or any other collaborative tool for that matter with them their first question coming back is typically this one: ‘Why aren’t we using MS Teams for this?

What a missed opportunity, frankly. If you still believe one-size-fits-all works, if you still think Office 365 doesn’t have any proven alternatives in today’s digital workplace out there, if you still think these cloud-based productivity tools haven’t got a paragon out there, I’m pretty sorry to write this, but you are locking yourself out and missing out big time!

Not necessarily because of these digital tools per se. Frankly, Office 365 is phenomenal about a really good number of different work related activities and work streams. We all know that. What I think is the missed opportunity is in your inability to showcase empathy towards your (potential) customers, or business partners.

Ask them. Listen. Ask again. Listen again (this time around with intent!). Try to learn from / with them about why they have made the choices they have in the recent past for them to use one or another collaborative tool than what you are used to yourself. Leave your bubble, please. Don’t judge them. Open up. You’d be surprised about how the vast majority of times you would have a much better opportunity of generating business together if you show empathy to your customers and business partners and listen to them carefully, versus questioning why they don’t use X,

Exhibiting and embracing empathy as your modus operandi would help you walk miles without even saying a single word. But go ahead, ignore me. What do I know, right? Yes, you are right. I pretty much know nothing. But, please, if I may, allow me to point you to this short video clip where Satya Nadella himself explains quite nicely the effect being more empathetic has not only with your colleagues, but also with your customers, business partners, and why not, your competitors, not just to collaborate, but also to innovate together.

Watch the video, please, and next time you interact with someone outside of your own vendor bubble, whoever you may well be as a vendor, don’t question your potential customers and business partners about why they are using X, X or Z tool. Just ask them, instead,  ‘how can I help you today?’

Doing that you will have already walked half the way where you wanted to in the first place. Believe me, hybrid worlds is where the magic happens. It’s where you start to open up to the world around you. It’s where you start focusing on your customers’ (and practitiners’) needs and wants versus just your own as a vendor.

Then, just watch how the magic unfolds and be ready …

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Unlearning

Gran Canaria - Ayacata
Back on January 20th, I celebrated (quietly) my 23rd anniversary in the IT industry. Quite an achievement, indeed, if you would ask me, for someone who graduated as an English teacher back in the day and who didn’t have much of an interest in technology in the first place. Sometimes, I still don’t!

It feels like a long time has passed by since I started working in this space in early 1997, but the thing is that it hasn’t. Mostly, because of three types of activities that have shaped pretty much that lengthy working experience over the years, and still going strong today: learning, unlearning and relearning. 

And that has only accelerated itself in the last 6 years, even more so, since I went independent. Indeed, little did I know that upon leaving IBM in 2014 I’d be embarking on one of the most fascinating, thought-provoking and re-energising work adventures I could have ever imagined.

There hasn’t been a single day where that process of learning, unlearning and relearning would kick in to help me re-adjust, adapt and iterate again while moving on to the next thing, whatever that would be. The transition from (extended) big corporate life, to being on your own as a freelancer in that ill-informed gig economy landscape, to then start working again for another organisation in a completely different new territory for yours truly than the last two decades has been quite something, I can assure you of that! Talking about massive change(s), eh?

The thing is though, if I were to single out only one of those learning activities, as the winner of them all, it would be unlearning and by a rather long stretch! The first three years of that life as an independent were rather interesting while witnessing first-hand the transition from one extreme to the other: from big corporate life to going solo.

The last two years have been a completely different league altogether more than anything else because it’s taught me that the magic, perhaps, in terms of scale, is right in the middle, where I didn’t expect it to be in the first place!

The unlearning and relearning curves have been rather dramatic and overall in a very positive sense, because I have been given the unique opportunity to constantly be learning a new set of skills and expertise about a topic I thought was long hidden (or gone) inside my brain and that sooner rather than later emerged quite strongly, once again: making sense of data analytics for collaboration and knowledge sharing tools.

In upcoming blog posts I shall certainly be looking forward to detailing plenty more what this process of learning, unlearning and relearning has been for me so far, while adjusting to these new working conditions and adapting to a completely different way of thinking about the current nature of work, specially, when thinking about social tools. I will be detailing, over time, what that learning process has been like and where I stand at the moment. Here’s a teaser though: right at the very beginning of it all!

However, for now, I would want to focus on this blog post about one key major activity I have had to unlearn, and pretty quickly!, over the last couple of years. It’s actually been a rather painful, horrifying and disappointing experience altogether as I never thought I’d be seeing it first hand in my working lifetime. And here it is … Remember Markets are Conversations? Good! Time to unlearn it and forget about it completely, because everyone else has already done it!

Over 21 years ago, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger co-wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto, a superb series of theses and essays on the topic of the huge impact the Internet would have on marketing (and sales, for that matter). That book then became one of the fundamental pillars behind the so-called Web 2.0 movement around 2004.

It gave it a purpose. It gave it an opportunity to understand that successful business could be done effectively in a completely different way through the extensive use of social tools by engaging on something that would fundamentally transform not only the way we work, but also the way we live and who we are for that matter. One conversation at a time.

Fast forward to 2020, and that’s all gone! Forgotten and left behind, as if it never happened in the first place. You know, it looks as if having bloody good, engaging, purposeful, giving (or learning driven) conversations is just lots of truly hard work with very little return, apparently. So, why bother, right?

Here’s the thing though as part of the unlearning process I’m currently going through. As a starting point, the social tools are everything, but social nowadays. I, for instance, stopped calling these tools social media a few years back and instead decided to stick around with just media tools.

Because that’s what we’ve decided to convert them to over time. A series of manipulative online tools that allow us to toot our own horn about how good and well crafted our own selling and marketing messages are. We have decided to stop listening altogether. Instead, we’ve now become the product we’d want to sell to others, and, as a result, decided to stop conversing with those who we once called our own social networks or community spaces where conversations were the new currency.

That’s most probably one of the main reasons as to why I’ve decided to resume my blogging mojo earlier on this year and why I feel that urge to regain those conversations by going back to basics: blogging.

However, there’s something else that worries me a whole lot more at the moment than us just having become broadcasting machines. It’s something that over the course of the last couple of years has added a rather poignant follow-up reflection to that unlearning process around social toolsPeople have stopped caring

Apparently, we only seem to be interested in getting Likes, Retweets and Reshares; praising commentary that’ll just boost our own egos to no end, forgetting altogether what it was like having a really good conversation with one’s social networks on a topic we all are really passionate about. Have you ever tried to start a conversation either through media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to then not even get a single response back, because, you know, people are just too busy? 

Gosh, I can count those in the hundreds, if not the thousands! What happened to the good old mantras of the Cluetrain Manifesto and, specially, Web 2.0? Have we forgotten why we all got pretty excited just 15 years ago when all of a sudden we realise we had a unique opportunity to engage the entire world in a completely different new way? What have we become? Silly, convincing, coercing, arrogant marketing machines no-one is listening to anymore because it’s not us, humans, anymore?

I guess you know now one of the reasons as to why I haven’t been much online in these media tools over the last few months. I refuse to feed the beast I no longer recognise. I refuse to be manipulated for the sake of a like or a retweet / reshare. Somehow, along the way, I seem to have lost the energy to start conversations right at the same time when people have stopped caring. It’s a painful unlearning process, believe me, like I said, one that I never thought I’d be witnessing in my entire work life.

Remember how all of these social tools were going to change the world? Change the nature of today’s work? Change who we are to then venture into what we might become through our social networks and  communities? Eventually, change us forever? Hummm … we seem to have lost all of that!

Does that mean I’m giving up altogether when social media has turned into just media tools? When people have stopped caring about having conversations through social tools just because it’s too much hard work and we are all far too busy with ourselves? Am I giving up on what made Web 2.0 magical in the first place? The conversations? No way! You see? Once you see the light and enjoy it for a good few years there is no way back into the darkness. And if you do, at your own peril.

That’s why, as part of that unlearning process, I’m back to blogging long form. To remind myself of why I first got involved with social tools back in 2000 when I had my first experiences with blogs and wikis. Remind me why in 2002 I decided to have my own internal corporate blog and why in 2005 I made the jump into the Internet Blogosphere and still going rather strong today. That’s just 20 years of conversations through social tools I’m not willing to give up on just yet. And you? Will you give up? Have you given up?

I don’t know about you, but, to me, it feels as if we are only now just getting started

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Transitions

Gran Canaria - Pico de las Nieves

If I were to describe with a single word the last three years since I wrote a blog post over here, that word would definitely be Transitions. You know what they say, change is hard; change is a constant, and, therefore, the only thing you can do is delay the inevitable. Change will, eventually, happen. Regardless.

That’s why after three years of silence it’s now time to resume my blogging mojo and continue to write over here, right back at my own home, as an opportunity to resume the conversations as if it were just yesterday. Yes, I know, that ‘yesterday‘ is three years ago and a lot has happened ever since, but up until now I wasn’t ready just yet to get down to work and resume my long-from writing.

About 20 years ago, when I was first getting involved with blogs and wikis, a really good friend of mine, and trusted mentor throughout the years, wisely said to me a few words that stuck in my mind ever since, as I was getting more and more heavily involved with those social software tools. He said, ‘Never write anything online when you are angry, hungry, or thirsty. It will keep haunting you forever’. Well, I guess you know now why I have been silent over here for so long.

As you may have seen, or read, on different media tools over the course of the last few monthsI have been rather angry and upset about a good number of things happening in my own personal life. Things mostly out of my control to effect some change for the better, so, over time, I had to learn how to navigate through such toxic, poignant and rather damaging environment and re-focus again on what I wanted to do next. That’s why there have been long periods of time where I have just disappeared trying to clear things in my mind while different (unfortunate) events were taking place. Not an easy task, that one of re-focusing, that is, but a much needed one to get it done with. Till today.

Transitions, indeed. That’s the word I’ve been using far too many times already to describe what I have gone through over the course of the last three years both at work and in my own personal life. You know, if you ever bump into people who tell you that they are reluctant to change, that they resist to change their own ways, behaviours or mindset for whatever reason, do me a favour, don’t believe them.

They are lying to you, and to themselves. Why? Well, we are constantly changing. The conditions under which we operate are constantly changing. The nature and complexity of both our work and personal lives are so fundamentally different today, in 2020, than just last year or a couple of years ago, that we are no longer the same person. And rightly so! It’s part not only of what we do, but also of who we are. That’s what makes change such a fascinating and thrilling endeavour altogether.

Either way, like I was saying above, it’s great to be back! Back to my own home, to my extended brain on the Open Social Web. To that special place that it’s one’s own and no-one else’s. That place where your imagination goes wild with your thoughts and experiences, your trials and tribulations, your crazy ideas, your lessons learned from over the years, your excitement about what’s next and so forth. Blogs are still a thing, right?

I guess it’s now a good time to try to describe a little bit more in detail what I mean with transitions, in an attempt to resume my blogging mojo over here, describing what I have been up to lately. Like I said, a lot has happened since I last wrote an article over here, back in January 2017, and it’s about time to get down to work and share with you folks some of what’s been going on. At least, for those of you who may still be out there reading these few words…

Don’t worry, I am not planning on sharing much detail about lot of the things that have made me rather angry / upset over the last few months, specially, for 2019, a year that’s going to be rather tough for me to forget, so I don’t need a blog post to remind me about it every so often. Time to move on and re-focus on what we’d want to do and be next, right?

Let’s get down to it then, shall we?

When thinking about transitions about what has been going on lately with yours truly, I can think of three major areas, to begin with, I’d want to cover, at least, on this blog post. I would then try to develop further along additional articles, over the course of time, to perhaps give a bit more context and share some more about the additional learning experiences I have gone through so far. So, let’s have a look into each of them briefly and see where we will end up!

Transition at Work

The last blog post I wrote over here back in 2017 was a bit of an announcement about what I would be doing next. Back then. A bit over three years later, I am still working for panagenda, although my job role and responsibilities have shifted completely. Till early on last year, and for the last 22 years, as most of you folks may still remember, I have been working as a consultant / adviser around Social Business, Collaboration, Digital Transformation, KM, Learning, Online Communities and Data Analytics, either at a large corporate environment (My former IBM life), or as an independent, or while at panagenda. Early on last year though that all changed. Now, I am a business developer. You are … what?

A bit of a (drastic?) change, don’t you think? Most definitely. I’m still trying to get the hang out of it figuring out whether business development can be flagged as either consulting, marketing or just pure selling. Or a bit of everything in the mix! The thing is that I’m having a blast altogether. I’m learning something new every single day that goes by, which is always a good thing after being in the Collaboration space for over 23 years.

That’s where I will leave things, for now. Part of my urge to start writing again here in this blog is to share with you folks what I have learned throughout that time as a business developer and also reflect on the current state of the Digital Workplace after I moved on from big corporate life, nearly 6 years ago, and started playing in other leagues. A bit of a teaser ahead of upcoming blog posts: we are in (big) trouble! 

Transition with My Personal Life

Like I mentioned earlier on, I won’t be bothering you detailing much about what has been going on with my personal life over the course of the last three years, as in some cases it’s been pretty dire, specially, last year. However, I would say a couple of things to try to relay what’s been happening for you all to get a rough idea.

At a time when we all know the business world is totally messed up, work has been my personal saviour. While everyone has been declaring how broken the workplace is or how horrifying and depressing work has become, work has been the single item that has helped me keep my sanity intact. What does it say about everything else, right? Well, let me summarise it with one of my favourite sayings: onwards & upwards!

The other thing that’s rather remarkable in terms of this transitional period for yours truly, is that last year I seemed to have peaked at unhappiness. I kid you not. Apparently, there is a fascinating piece of research that confirms that at 47 years old unhappiness peaks.  Well, that was me last year, not necessarily because of the study itself (I wish!), but because I realised how plenty of family members and really good friends have either become (seriously) ill or, unfortunately, passed away. Never mind those others who decided to fight amongst themselves for really silly things, as if there was no tomorrow! Yikes!!

One could say that last year truly s*cked! I guess it was one of the early, first ah-ha moments, confirming death is closer than what one could have thought in previous years, decades, while growing up. And that, eventually, it will hit you the hardest when you least expect it. Your loved ones. 

That’s why during the course of 2019 there have been plenty of moments where I needed to figure out a way to move on, to persevere and be resilient enough while adapting to the new conditions of having lost dearest family members and friends, and carry on with one’s life. It’s the least one could do to treasure and appreciate their living memory and the many special moments lived together. Alas, now you know why I just couldn’t blog. No energy, no focus, helpless, waiting for things to, finally, stop. Thank goodness for 2020 where things are looking up, if they ever do, at all, and life just keeps on pushing its own way. Like I said, onwards & upwards! 

Transition with the World

And, finally, the last transition. At least, the one where I am going to leave things on this blog post for now. This particular transition with the world has also been one that had me rather upset and angry throughout the last couple of years, unleashing to its full disgust during 2019. I tell you, last year is one of those years that’s going to be rather tough to forget! Why should we, right?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into too much detail describing why I feel we are transitioning into a world that has now changed forever. I am pretty certain you know exactly what I am referring to, if you have been keeping up to date with different local and global events over such short period of time. Suffice to say though that, to me, we are on the brink of deciding whether we would want to be a Civilisation Type 1 or, on the contrary, Type 2.

It’s a choice we need to make. And the sooner we do, the better. For all of us and for our home. Hopefully, for Civilisation Type 1. I’m pretty sure you may all be thinking that this is a bit of a blog post with a negative connotation overall, but, quite the contrary. It’s an open reflection towards what has perhaps been my major key learning from last couple of years: work hard and focus on what you *can* really change. The things, the people, the conditions, the contexts, near and closest to you, and keep spreading the love around!

Like I said at the very beginning of this blog post, change is hard; change is a constant. There is no point in delaying it. Change, eventually, will happen. It’s just a matter for each and everyone of us to decide how, when and why we would want to effect change with those around us: our closest networks and communities. The ones with which we can get work done effectively!

Bring it on!


At this point in time, I guess you may be wondering whether this will be my first and last blog post for this year before I disappear again, right? Well, rest assured, folks, I’m now back!, and I do not have any intention of going silent again.

That was also one of the main lessons I learned the hard way, specially, in the last year. Most of the times you will be much more effective and impactful amplifying and augmenting your networks and online communities, through conversations, than thinking you could do it all by yourself without the need of everyone else getting involved. Alas, our networks and communities just don’t operate that way.

It is our human(e) edge.

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The Beginning of a New Work Adventure – Joining panagenda!

Joining panagenda!

 

On January 20th, it will mark the 20th year anniversary since I started working in the IT industry. A lot has happened over the course of the last two decades both on a personal and work levels, as you can imagine, and, yet, it feels as if it was just yesterday. That is, probably, why, over the course of the last couple of months, a growing urge to find a new work adventure has taken over yours truly. Till now. That search is now over. 2017 will, definitely, be a year of change and milestones, I’m pretty certain, but it’ll also be a year of excitement, of new dazzling opportunities for learning and growth, of discovering wonderfully inspiring initiatives to experience, experiment with and learn from. In short, it will be a year of new beginnings. And, for yours truly, that time has, finally, come. As of January 16th, I have now joined panagenda. Let the new adventure begin!

Now you know why I haven’t blogged much over the course of the last four weeks. It’s been a bit hectic with the Christmas holidays, the time off with family and friends, the search for a new work adventure, the rather nasty flu I’ve just recovered from, the time to unlearn and relearn while deciding what I wanted to do next pondering whether it was a good time to go back to basics or not, etc. etc. all in all confirming a lot has been going on so far, but when the right opportunity shows up you know you just have to go and grab it, before it vanishes into thin air. And that is exactly what I did! I grabbed it, or, probably, better said, it raptured me big time. It all started with a short conversation in an online collaborative space that is not even widely available to everyone out there just yet. It all begun by tapping into one’s own social networks, where, usually, the magic happens: you know, you get to talk and converse with people who know you rather well (probably even better than you do yourself!) and who are willing to help open up new paths for you, because they feel the timing is just perfect. That’s why I’m pretty excited and rather enthused, beyond words!, about having already started writing a new page in my 20 year long career in the IT industry by joining panagenda this past Monday. 

Those of you who are already very familiar with panagenda will know what a real treat, honour, and true privilege it is to say I’m now a panagendean as well. Those of you who may not know much about them and what they do (just yet!) I can tell you they are an amazing team of rather talented, gifted, very helpful and knowledgeable folks doing some pretty mind-blowing things while helping organisations transform the way they work as they join the 21st century. They do walk the talk. Every time. And you will know what I mean very soon.

So, ‘what is panagenda, again?’, you may be wondering, right? Well, they are an international company with offices in Austria (The HQ is in Vienna), Germany, The Netherlands and the United States. They primarily focus on helping organisations understand and make sense of the different IT and Collaboration solutions they may have been using over the course of time in order to help accelerate and improve their various business transformation processes and tooling. Their motto is ‘Make Your Data Work For You’, so they work with a good number of customers helping them understand how to work smarter, not necessarily harder (Which is, as you well know, my favourite mantra) with the data they produce within their own collaboration landscape. They provide a good number of different analytics solutions, extensive expertise (advisory work) and consulting services around both traditional communication and collaboration tools, as well as emergent enterprise social networking software, bridging both worlds rather nicely and intuitively to help address whatever the different business problems customers may face, as well as help them identify new business opportunities.

Don’t worry, over the course of time I plan to put together over here a number of different blog entries explaining more in detail what panagenda has got to offer as well as the kind of work my colleagues and myself do for our clients, which I guess has just triggered an additional thought from all of you out there in terms of what I will be focusing on myself from here onwards, right? As a starting point, I’ll continue to do lots of advisory work and consulting services around Social Business and Digital Transformation, along with a specific focus around Analytics, covering areas such as Corporate Communications, Collaboration, Learning, Knowledge Management, Digital Workplace, Adoption / Adaptation of Emergent Social Technologies and, in general, Business Transformation. My goodness, quite a challenge trying to summarise 20 years of working experience, don’t you think? Phew!

Either way, did I already say how excited and thrilled I am about having such a fantastic opportunity of working together with quite a sensational team of very smart folks always willing to help their customers, business partners and fellow colleagues become better at what they already do? Well, if I didn’t say it before, I will now: I’m beyond words, literally, to have been given such honour of working on this new work adventure I just started a couple of days ago and that it’s beginning to feel like the 20 year long wait doing other things was just totally worth it! Every single minute of it! 

Thus with all of that said, it’s now time for me to go back and get on with the overall on boarding process, and in case you are wondering about whether the themes and topics I cover in this blog will substantially change from here onwards, fear not, you are just about to get exposed to some rather thought-provoking write-ups on what purposeful digital transformation programmes are all about.

Are you ready? I surely am!

Go panagenda!

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Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails

 Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves

We, human beings, seem to always be very keen on blaming the tools (and technology, in general, for that matter) whenever things just don’t work out all right, specially, in the collaboration space. Apparently, it is way easier to blame them (or others!), when our very own things go wrong, than to look into one self and question whether either our mindset or behaviours, for instance, have got some blame to be accountable for as well. By and large, we just can’t shake off our technology fetish, but, you know, when different problems come around, typically, associated with some kind of fatigue or overload (insert your favourite moniker here), or, just simply, plain collaboration failure, we seem to have developed that gift of shaking it off ourselves rather promptly and, instead, blame the tools. Seriously, why do we keep doing that?

Of course, we all know the tools can’t talk back to us, so they can’t defend themselves. We also know that, over the last few decades, we have been taught, rather well!, how we can shake off ourselves, and very efficiently, whatever sense of accountability or responsibility we may have got left. We will just go ahead and keep blaming the tools. Over and over again. Deep inside, we all know we just can’t face any other reality that may point directly at us, so, instead, we point elsewhere to deviate the attention. And it works. Every single time. It just works. #lesigh

You know, it’s so tiring sometimes. Even more so when there seems to be this cycle that keeps repeating itself, every few years, where collaborative tools may well be different, but we still blame them, just in case, when we start noticing how our productivity levels are not getting any higher anymore. Well, perhaps we may need to start realising it may well not be the tools, nor collaborative technologies, in general, but ourselves, the ones who, at long last, may need to come forward and acknowledge our very own culpability. Collaborative technologies by themselves are not the problem. They never have been. It’s been, essentially, our very mindset and behaviours of how we adapt to them, or fail to, what’s at play here. If anything, that’s who we need to start blaming, instead: ourselves. 

Why am I saying all of this? Well, mainly, because of an article Sean Winter wrote at CMSWire yesterday under the rather suggestive title of ‘Do Collaboration Apps Make Employees Less Productive?’ which seems to be repeating the same good old story as ever: we just can’t collaborate effectively because technology is getting in the way. Again. Hummm, not really. It’s us the ones who keep getting in the way, and, somehow, we don’t seem to want to change that much. Instead we justify it. Yikes! We need to smarten up, collectively. We need to start elevating the discourse and begin asking the really tough questions. If collaboration is failing, if productivity has been tanking since the 1980s (and still going strong!), maybe, just maybe, we need to think really hard whether it’s us the main problem. Something tells me we are, so how do we change it? How do we shift gears and stop barking up at the wrong tree?

Well, how about making use of some fresh, new thinking? How about applying some new lenses? How about if instead of aiming for a single collaboration solution to all of our business problems, which seems to be what most Enterprise Social Networking vendors keep advocating for, wrongly, we start acknowledging that it’s a bit more complex than that? How about if we, at long last, understand, comprehend, and fully embrace, the notion that fragmentation is good? It’s healthy. It’s something that should be very much encouraged as our mere means of survival for us all knowledge Web workers. And, finally, how about if we shift gears and realise that different people have got different needs and wants based on the context and interactions at play for the different outcomes they may want to execute on, whether individually or in groups?

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. It’s all about understanding that different groups (and individuals) have got different needs to cater for; that is, diverse sets of habits, mindset, behaviours, corporate culture, contexts, constraints, conditions, understanding of the business world surrounding them, etc. etc. Have you noticed how, perhaps, a decade ago we were having the good old discussion about having a single one tool that could do everything and therefore there wouldn’t be a need for anything else, because, you know, we all thought we knew better and how nowadays it’s become rarer and rarer to see a single business or organisation making use of a single tool to do everything related to collaborating more effectively?

It’s all about choice, indeed, or, better said, it’s all about fragmentation, about having various lenses that could cater for distinct audiences to achieve a specific set of business related goals using the several (social) collaborative tools at their disposalThat’s why collaboration keeps failing us all, because we keep thinking about how we all view traditional collaboration, through 20th century models, (i.e. *cough* email *cough*) and we expect today’s emergent social collaborative technologies to behave pretty much the same way. When they don’t. They never have. Things are a whole lot more complex than that and that’s what we may need to think about and change altogether: our very own notions and perceptions of what constitutes effective collaboration. And start applying some brand-new, refreshing, 21st century thinking. 

At the moment, my current favourite trend of thought to counteract our obsession with either collaboration overload or failure, while we keep blaming the proliferation of either tools or input sources, is to think in terms of Social Lenses. A concept my good friend, Thomas van der Wal, coined back in 2008 and that he presented at this year’s KM World conference in Washington DC with a superb slide deck I plan to keep reusing over and over again every single time I hear, or read, how collaboration has failed us. No, it hasn’t. We have failed it. We have failed it, because we haven’t acknowledged how we need to think bigger, different, more diverse, context driven, accommodating not only the different types of interactions one can expect at the workplace, but also based on the different groups we may be part of, whether individuals, teams, networks, communities, or whatever else. Each of those groupings will have distinctive needs and wants to cater for, which is why we need to start coming to terms with the fact that not a single tool in any organisation would feed everyone’s needs anymore, regardless of whatever the collective.

The moment we understand that and fully embrace it, that’s probably the moment as well when we will all stop talking about how multiple (social) collaborative tools have failed us all along till today and, instead, while shifting gears accordingly, we’ll really start focusing on getting work done more effectively, which, after all, has always been the main premise of Productivity with a capital P.

Work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Don’t you think?

 

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