Sunday, 30 November 2014

Jonathan MacDonald’s digital revolution

"When setting out a mission to innovate, grow and change, it is imperative to start with a purpose."
 
Jonathan MacDonald is the author of '28 Thoughts on Digital Revolution', a collection of ideas that he developed between 2006 and 2014 with regards to the digital transformation we are currently experiencing. He is also the founder of 'Thought Expansion Network' (TEN) and a world-renowned speaker of the potential of technology and the new realities of business influenced by relentless change. Pretty impressive for someone whose start in life was not exactly a bed of roses; he was given up at birth.

I caught up with him to discuss some of the thoughts he addresses throughout his work: social media, change, data privacy, noise and leadership in the digital world.

Social media and beyond

"The world of social media opportunities is a minor part of what is actually happening in society and business."

MacDonald talks about the increased power that people have to create, edit, publish and share content, which means "whatever an organisation delivers into the public domain can be instantly adjusted and promoted."

This removes the traditional levels of control and predictability that companies once had over how people would behave.

Yet, it is not just about communications. "This affects the entire value chain...every single aspect of doing business."

A major point to consider is that social media can be underexploited due to misinterpretations, including looking at it purely through a fixed lens of marketing communications campaigns.
"It is tempting for companies to start with a channel perspective, asking themselves 'What can we do with an app to promote our brand in this campaign?', 'What platform can we build so people engage with us?' However, this is a rather limited perspective."

To MacDonald, the new landscape is one of "earned media", which relies upon a language of passion and belief. "In simple terms - what people care about and what matters to their lives."

Hence, companies should invest considerable amount of resources in building trust. "They stand for something we can believe in, and truly mean it in everything they do, rather than just everything they say."

He cites LEGO as an example. For them, releasing new product lines is the tip of an iceberg that run through a wider strategy of direct citizen involvement and experimentation in crowdsourcing.

Change

Change is a theme very close to MacDonald's heart. After several years of working within and alongside many organisations, large and small, he has become fully aware that the current and future business environment is anything but stable and predictable.

"Over my entire career I have faced negative reactions to change. Change is the enemy of the competent as it re-defines the safe place within which they dwell. Ultimately, it makes them scared as what they think they know is being challenged. However, change is persistent and unrelenting in the face of those who resist it."

Hence, his desire to help companies deal with it and be innovative in "an agile and relevant way." He suggests businesses focusing on five tangible elements.

People: Identify those who are most comfortable with uncertainty in senior enough positions so as not to suffocate the chances that could be taken. "It's unfortunately suboptimal if only junior staff have this characteristic."

Purpose: Be extraordinarily clear on what your purpose and vision is, so that every single person inside and outside the organisation knows the mission you are undertaking. Plus, regularly check how well the purpose is understood. This requires monitoring and being involved in conversations.

Finance: Separate innovative, unproven activities in the balance sheet. This should help to evaluate "the risk of not moving forward with the costs of the funding of exploration."

Facilitation: Facilitate those who are positively proactive in trying to push things forward whilst enabling them to initiate flexible projects that do not have a defined outcome. "Remember not to link their activity to an expected outcome, however tempting."

Learning: Learn from all outcomes regardless of what you may have once perceived as 'success'. "Feed this into iterative projects for constant adjustment at the speed of change."

The privacy dilemma

"If you are thinking of innovating in the social network space my advice would be to differentiate around the issue of privacy."

MacDonald has something to say about who owns our data and the access to private information in the digital age. He is clear that we are living in a new world where trust can only come from respecting those areas.

"I believe citizens should be in control of their own private information. It is a basic human right and is central to our identity." He calls it the 'privacy dilemma', one of the main differentiators of the winning tools, platforms and channels in the future.

The challenge for him is how to change the behaviour of those "eagerly looking and paying for more and more personal information."

He is also concerned about companies who run practices that are ethically questionable. For example, "when people enter into environments where their data is held and used, that information should be upfront, enabling them to have the freedom of choice - not hidden within a cluster of terms and conditions or un-readable screens."

Noise and decision-making

For MacDonald another important aspect to consider today is the volume of noise coming from connected technology, which "is competing for our attention making decisions progressively harder.

"I am convinced that as things progress, there will be an increasing need to 'de-noise'. This is the activity of filtering meaning out of distractions."

He likes to refer to Sydney Finkelstein of Tuck School of Business and author of 'Think Again - Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions'. The professor looks at three factors to good decision-making:
  • Open-mindedness: decision makers should be more open to new ideas and not afraid to look outside their comfort zones.
  • Own up to mistakes: being brave enough to admit when something goes wrong.
  • Awareness and acceptance of change: in the author's words "good leaders will get multiple sources of information and get honest feedback to make sure they are not missing or ignoring something that should be obvious."
MacDonald believes the third point is the most problematic. "The reality is that it's becoming increasingly hard to perceive information effectively as there's so much information to process. However, paradoxically, we need to access more information to ensure we are aware of what is happening around us."

He is convinced that the antidote to this situation lies in companies and individuals developing filters. "Filters will be used as solutions to the most paradoxical problems, the toughest decisions and the hardest philosophical dilemmas."

It is within

MacDonald is a person with a mission and he topped off our interview with an inspiring piece of advice on how to harness internal courage:

"The popular quote 'feel the fear and do it anyway' is essentially a summary of the need to feel comfortable with the feeling of insecurity. This is not to say that feeling insecure is good. This is to say that feeling at ease with a lower level of security often opens the door to higher achievement.

"From being given up at birth to experiencing times of hardship, loss and constraint, I am living testament to the fact that anything you commit to and focus on is achievable.

"Whilst the others wait to receive what they think they deserve, you have the absolute power to go out and get what it is you believe in. It is within."

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Getting employees' Insights through Waggl

Global people development company Insights uses Waggl to crowdsource employee feedback on the corporate culture. Leaders in 30 countries gain a new level of awareness around their internal environment. 

"Rather than having our executives telling us what our culture was all about, we wanted to hear that from our people."

Doug Upchurch is the Head of Learning and Development at Insights. The global people development company operates across 30 countries with the mission of "making a positive difference in the world by supporting individuals in understanding both themselves and others."

In order to help the outside world however, the company needed to offer a system to enable better understanding of their own internal environment.

Upchurch was looking for a solution to explore, collect and document the company's culture in all its offices around the globe. "Part of my challenge was to engage our people in all these different zones. I wanted to ask them what they really thought about working at Insights.”

But, he did not want to commission a traditional survey. “It was really about creating a company-wide conversation on the topic."

That is when Waggl came into play. The real-time communication tool helped Upchurch's team to crowdsource employee feedback in a totally transparent and innovative way.

Five questions... and beyond

Waggl was used as part of an internal campaign called "Culture Jam”, which lasted for a week. The idea was to talk about the Insights’ culture collaboratively. “As in a musical jazz session where the players build on each other’s sounds, we wanted to spark meaningful conversations by building on everyone's inputs."

The digital tool was separate to Insight’s intranet, One. It is a hosted virtual system integrated into the company's SharePoint platform. Staff were invited to go there and answer five open questions:

• 'What one adjective would you use to describe our culture and why?'

• 'What symbol, image, object, or place would best represent our culture and why?

• 'How would you describe our culture to a friend of yours that is thinking about coming to work at Insights?'

• 'If our culture had a tag line of mantra, what would it be?'

• 'Share an experience you have had or heard about at Insights that you believe best exemplifies our culture.'

Upchurch received the highest number of responses compared to all the surveys he had ever done in the past. He cites a number of factors that contributed to this success. First, "the system was very simple to use. People could choose which questions to answer in a straightforward way." It was also mobile friendly and staff could join it easily from any device.

But, what was really powerful about using Waggl was that employees could see the answers of their colleagues and vote on them. Those votes would bring the most popular answers to the top.

"As people were voting on each other’s answers, we started to see what they really liked and thought about working here.”

While a traditional survey is one-way and people never see what their peers are saying, "the situation here was entirely the opposite."

That openness made all the difference. “That was the point of using Waggl.”

Staff could answer and vote as many times as they wanted to. "They would go back at the end of each day to see which new answers had been added, and to place their votes. It created the same appetite that people have when checking updates from their friends on Facebook, but in a corporate environment."

A new language

The whole exercise unveiled novel ways to describe the Insights' culture: "In employees' words. No corporate speak."

In fact, a whole new language was forming to describe the company. For example, on the question, 'What symbol, image, object, or place would best represent our culture and why?' the answer that came up at the top of the list was a 'campfire'. The metaphor used by an employee said that Insights was like ‘everyone being on a camping ground playing his or her part. Some people would cook, others would gather wood or light the fire, etc.’ Other images included a tree, the ocean and a colourful school of fish.

On the question, 'If our culture had a tag line of mantra, what would it be?' the most popular answers included ‘Be yourself, be connected, and enjoy the journey,’ ‘Helping to bring out the best in each other’ and ‘The hugging company!’

“These were the words that our people used, liked and understood. Far away from any business jargon.”


Acting on Insights 

After over 2,000 votes the process started to bring in new insights. "We began to see how employees were really perceiving our culture as opposed to what we thought it were. It was both surprising and revealing."

For Upchurch, one of the most important aspects of adopting Waggl was the chance to listen to employees' feelings and emotions and take action in real-time. "There is no benefit at all in inviting people to share their views if nothing is going to change as a result. We are talking about two-way communications and interactions.”

Inevitably, he got several pieces of negative feedback from some staff. "For example, someone said that our culture was over-critical. That feedback was striking, yet very important. We considered ourselves to be a fun place to work for. We realised that it was not all flowers and candy.”

Upchurch did not get defensive; quite the opposite. "We had always said that we valued differences and transparency. Now, we had the opportunity to prove that. We had to be able to hear those words if we wanted to be true to ourselves."

What Upchurch did with all that content was to create a 'Culture Book' to send back to the whole organisation. It is a written document describing the culture based on all employees' responses, both positive and negative. “It reports exactly their words. The Culture Book is now the official document for Insights' staff and job candidates to get a sense of who we are and what it looks like to work here.”

Additionally, he produced a short video to orient new hires on the culture of Insights.
 
Most importantly, all the data generated through Waggl was integrated into new leadership development programmes. It sparked further conversations among executives. "This is what our people are saying about our culture. What does it really mean to us?”

"One thing is to get the data; another is to act upon it."

Crowdsourcing the future With Waggl, Upchurch has found an interactive way to get employees' feedback on an ongoing basis and from virtually everywhere.

He is already thinking about using it for future internal campaigns. “It is just the way it works. It is so easy to use and candidly more communicative than any normal survey.”

The main benefit is the ‘collaborative improvement’ where “my ideas become better because of everyone else’s inputs. I am inspired by my peers’ thoughts. And all of that happens in a virtual space, which breaks down geographical boundaries and time zones.”

There are other crowd-sourcing tools available, but the power of Waggle is how it brings culture alive from the bottom up at insight. 

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Dialogue - the key to engagement

In his new book, 'Strategic Internal Communication', author David Cowan captures why creating dialogue pays dividends in the networked era. 

"Dialogue does not need to be constrained to a single issue or strategy; it can feed into the bigger picture," - so argues David Cowan in his new book.

What I liked of 'Strategic Internal Communication', is the emphasis Cowan puts on connections, interactions and relationships to build new knowledge and understanding inside the organisation. The process is not easy and "we have to be prepared for difficult conversations." However, when constructive dialogue is created, the result is a more engaged and productive workforce.

A few hallmarks of our age

We live in an extremely crowded communication age with the volume of digital information increasing 10-fold every five-year period. We are all interconnected and interdependent and our workplaces are increasingly diverse. "The rate of change and flexibility of attitudes and trends means there is greater transcience in our society with people moving places and positions more frequently."

Everything is considerably faster while our attention spans have become considerably shorter. Getting our messages out is cheaper, while hiding information is more difficult, which means "we have to communicate transparently." At the same time, there is also an increasing demand on privacy and a sense of discomfort that transparency has become intrusion.

Yet, most organisations are still using 20th-century approaches to communicate to a 21st-century workforce.

While in the past internal communications was primarily focused on the 'what we do', today it should emphasise the 'why of what we are doing'. Cowan's book is an invitation to engage, to extend our reach to connect one another while creating positive participation and change.

We are all networked as people

The position the author takes in relation to the notion of being interconnected challenges some sacred cows of internal communication. He points out the changing role of the function inside the enterprise. "Who in your organisation can you get a message to so that you reach a greater number? They need not be 'communications people' or important managers; they are simply your natural communicators."

In our age we are discovering that we are all networked as people. "Everyone is a communicator and networker, and communications has to be both a leadership function and a job for everyone."

Communication is not technocratic as it was in last century but rather people-centric. This indicates that technology must be at the service of people and not the other way around.

Introducing the 'dialogue box'

We commonly think of the new world of communication as open and free, in which vast distances shrink.

But Cowan reminds us that we have also created significant new barriers by overwhelming people with information through a wide range of tools. "It is significantly difficult for people to see the wood for the trees."

To address this major problem, Cowan suggests dialogue is key. "To get attention in this crowded, fast and transient space does not mean continuously embracing new technologies and hurling more information faster at colleagues."

Cowan instead invites organisations to figure out targeted and experienced-based ways of communicating by focusing on "dialogue rather than just creating more chatter."

In doing so, the author introduces what he calls the 'dialogue box', a simple but effective framework to overcome the communications challenges described here. It consists of five zones, namely 'intelligence', 'emotion', interpretation', 'narrative' and 'dialogue'.


Intelligence

"Things will often turn out the way we expect, but often, and in the biggest cases, they will not."

The first component of the dialogue box is intelligence, described by Cowan as "our capacity to be rational and pursue a path of reasoning to reach a decision or conclusion about something."

While we all have intelligence and "as human beings we have this amazing thing called the brain," there are many barriers to reaching intelligent conclusions including unknows, biases, assumptions and attention spans. "Our minds are limited".

The author suggests exercising the brain in the workplace to improve employee engagement. "If we can get employees to give their attention to certain things, then we will be supporting them to corral their ideas, their knowledge and their emotions to match with the needs of the organisation." This implies focusing our attention on others and connect with them by using role models and stories.

However, we need to look at the role of emotion to fully grasp this process. In fact, the problem with purely intelligent communications is that it behaves as if the organisation is normatively logical and calm, and receptive to the message. This is not always the case. Often, employees are emotionally disengaged and distant from the hopes and enthusiasm of their leadership. "This is the complex emotional organisation you are in dialogue with, which is multi-faceted and ever-changing."

Emotion

"It is important to understand emotion if we are to understand communication."

Emotional management is a dimension of internal communications that is often overlooked. But managing people is about managing emotions as well.

The point made by Cowan is that emotions can communicate a lot of information. Organisations should be aware of that and keep an open mind.

For example, taking emotion seriously in the workplace can allow managers to resolve dissonance. Dissonance occurs when employees are torn between their own goals and those of the organisation, or between their needs and the needs of those around them. This can lead to a feeling of uncertainty about their role, skills and suitability, which may be reflected by a range of moods - from anxiety to joy, participation and withdrawal. "If you observe these signs you can take a shortcut to helping them solve their problem."

In times of emotional disturbance, managers are invited to communicate feelings rather than reasons, by showing understanding and empathy. "To be wise in a situation means to listen. See things from the other person's point of view."

The issue for the emotional manager is whether they have the courage to present in person the difficult decision. "Managing emotionally means allowing others to share their, and your, personal space without fear of exposure or ridicule. There is a journey of trust to be taken if this personal space is to be opened and remain opened, rather than being a site of power."

Interpretation

"How can you make communication more meaningful in your organisation? In areas such as values, ethics and sustainability, do you think the right words are being used critically?"

Cowan's dialogue box proposes that interpretation is pivotal, since it derives from the intelligence and emotions of individuals synthesised into understanding. People interpret events both subjectively - from their own viewpoint and prejudices - and objectively, by trying to understand the truth of the matter and giving a fair viewpoint to all the agents involved in the situation.

In the effort of making sense of things, we often fill in the gaps in our data and knowledge. This can be either effective or disastrous. For example, through assumptions we try to define what seems to be a natural trajectory, thereby creating a self-fulfilling trajectory of our thoughts. As a result the author urges us to focus attention on meaning:

"Meaning plays a role in this, because words and terms can be used to fill in the gaps. Such meanings can work across the organisation to describe an individual or unit. Hence, a successful interpretation or popularly accepted meaning becomes currency in the marketplace of organisational morale, as negative or positive interpretations can lead to an undermining or uplifting of spirits in the organisation."

We may want to keep things rational or managerial in our understanding of the organisation, but in internal communications we are also dealing with what is meaningful in individuals' lives.

Once again, the author likes to remind us of the importance of connections. "Language does more than simply describe or communicate: it affects the way we look at the world and the way we respond to other people." This means our boundaries are not so clear either. While the organisation defines boundaries for work, the relationships and connections people make often will break these boundaries. For example, beyond being 'positions', 'bosses' or 'functions' people can connect through something in common outside the workplace, including watching last night's TV programme, family moments, weather and so on. "The issues of meaning and interpretation are the most complex elements in the life of the organisation. Meaning is subject to emotional, psychological, political, spiritual and philosophical norms, and what we define meaningful is not the same as our work colleague."

Narrative

"Narrative informs our relationships, and causes us to change our dealings with other people, allowing us to know another person or to understand our relationship to them."

Within an organisation people are constantly communicating. A variety of stories are shared, which can reinforce good things happening in the business, or lower the morale of staff.

It may be helpful understanding narrative on two levels. On one level there are the stories that individuals tell, which "can illuminate, contradict, challenge, inform, or so on." They may be stories about people, customers or the organisation.

The second level, is "the major narrative that emerges out of the stories circulating in the organisation." The dominant stories inside the company thus create "a new and guiding grand narrative," the strongness of which will depend on how internal communications have managed to tell the corporate story.

I particularly appreciate the attention Cowan gives to circulating stories. He returns to his established point that there are many communicators inside our organisations. "The fact is we are all story-tellers, some of us better than others. The important task is to find out who these 'natural communicators' in your organisation are, and how to work with them to help promote engagement."

The author offers tips worth repeating such as respecting the audience and being authentic. "Have a rhythm that reflects the ups and downs, threats and achievements. If we structure our narrative so that we only allow for the positive or motivational stories then we end up devaluing the narrative elements. Contrasts draw us in, but they also reflect real life."

He also emphasises using stories to engage with people, not talking at them. "Get people thinking not just about the story but how it applies to them and how it affects their perception of themselves and others. Narrative that talks at people creates only silence."

What internal communications should strive for is open dialogue: "the give and take of engagement."

Ensuring effective dialogues

"Dialogue will help pave the way to innovate the future of organisational structure, and the more innovative you are in your dialogue the more innovative your solutions will be."

Cowan argues that the four elements above help to create space for the right kind of dialogue to have in any given situation. He puts this at the heart of employee engagement, asserting that "dialogue is not simply talk" but "an opportunity for encounter." In dialogue, people are in a position of influencing and helping to shape business outcomes. They strengthen existing relationships, or forge new ones. They can correct misperceptions or previously taken positions. "Not only are we describing the world, but we are also changing the world."

Within the process, "a little humility" may not harm. "We may be confident in our dialogue position and the intelligence we possess, but there can be a fine line between obstinacy and certainty." When things change people can change their minds too. Hence, the importance to be open to the impact of changing facts and to continually seek understanding.

Are you willing to be in dialogue?
 
In 'Strategic Internal Communication', the question of dialogue becomes a fundamental one to ask ourselves: are we willing to connect to others and to meet in a process of mutual discovery?

Cowan has no doubt that in our diverse and globalised world this is becoming increasingly more important. People have valuable contributions to make to the ideas and plans on an organisation. Connecting and listening to them is both respectful and a creative way forward.

His framework may serve as an helpful tool for internal communicators who want to work more productively in this direction. As a framework it of course tends to the general and may miss the nuances of working in a real complex organisation. However, the book also provides a practical workshop-type set of exercises to help make use of the dialogue box, either in an individual setting or as a group session. So there is plenty of scope for the reader to use Strategic Internal Communication as the basis for building employee engagement and - indeed - performance.

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Brian Solis on Digital Transformation

He is an award-winning author, prominent blogger, and keynote speaker on digital transformation. He defines himself as “a digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist” who studies the effects of emerging technology on business and culture.

I caught up with Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group Brian Solis, to learn what organisations are doing to adapt to the 21st Century. In this exclusive interview we also discuss about their recently announced partnership with Capgemini Consulting.

Joining our conversation is Altimeter Group’s Chief Operating Officer Shannon Latta.

Gloria Lombardi: Digital Transformation. What does it involve? And, which companies are doing well?

Brian Solis: In our report “Why and How Companies are Investing in New Business Models to Lead Digital Customer Experiences” we analysed some of the best companies doing well in this space. These include Starbucks, Intuit, Sephora, Lego, General Motors, and Ford.

Each of them is going through digital transformation in their own way. But, the stories we heard were phenomenal across the board. I will save the concrete examples for the report since it is free to download. However, here I’ll share some highlights.

Everyone begins at the same place. It starts with asking a simple question, “How is my digital customer and employee different from those who are traditional?”

From there, you learn about journeys, expectations, behaviours, and preferences. You start to see that the investments you make today are indeed showing signs of decay or irrelevance.

However, seeking these answers, is how we begin to learn the “why” and “how” of digital transformation.

For example, Starbucks' CDO Adam Brotman started with digital customers and mobile platforms. “I started with mobile; that was the heart of it where we really acted as a team,” he told me. “That worked well and catalysed, moving into web where we were charged with figuring out what our mobile web strategy looked like and how it connected to our loyalty and payment groups. From there, it snowballed pretty quickly.”

Digital transformation is also about building relationships and alliances inside the company to expedite and scale change. Digital leaders must open the door for passionate employees throughout the company who have the energy, passion, and experience to champion change. As LEGO’s Lars Silberbauer, Global Director of Social Media and Search, shared with me, “It's about finding those people in different departments who are willing to risk things to be a lead within the company. There are a lot of people who want to take a company forward.”

Once you have support, digital transformation will lead to new vision and operating philosophies as well as models and processes.

Another example is Motorola Solutions. The partnership between IT and marketing was elevated to an entirely new level. Dubbed the “MIT Group,” Marketing and IT formed an official alliance to focus on an integrated approach to digital customer experience and change.

GL: Based on these studies, what are the challenges to digital transformation? 

BS: Too many companies are approaching their digital transformation from a technology perspective.

But at the heart, digital transformation is the story of how people are changing.

Whether we realise it or not, the way customers and employees make decisions, the technology they use, and how preferences and expectations evolve or detour, are stories for us to discover. These are the insights that guide the transformation. Technology adoption is not the solution: it is merely an enabler for transformation.

It takes vision to make the change. I will share with you an example from our second report on digital transformation.

The State of Digital Transformation” revealed the organisations supposedly undergoing digital transformation. (After studying the best companies out there, we wanted to compare them with everyone else).

88% of these enterprises stated they were going through digital transformation efforts. However, within the last year, only 25% of them completely mapped out the customer journey to get a clear understanding of new digital touch-points.

GL: With these findings at hand, what's your view for the future of digital transformation? 

BS: Digital transformation means different things to different people. That’s OK. The future is going to either happen to businesses or because of the changes they undertake today.

Change has to start somewhere. Strategists will realise that their digital customers and employees are not only different from their traditional counterparts, but also different from the executives who think they know them.

The future is really about empathy. Without empathy, there can be no real change. Without it, businesses will succumb to something that I call 'Digital Darwinism', when technology and society evolve beyond the ability to adapt and thrive

GL: The consulting industry is facing its own digital transformation. Recently you partnered with Capgemini.

Shannon Latta: We share a common vision on digital transformation as evidenced by our respective research on the topic.

We started talking several months ago about this and quickly identified a powerful new offer for the market by joining forces on research and client engagements.

Altimeter Group has participated in Capgemini Consulting’s training events and internal meetings. We have been able to assess cultural and strategic fit of the partnership. In all these events we felt completely aligned in terms of business values, style, and areas of focus.

A partnership like this one will help us increase the value we give organisations through greater thought leadership and new offerings.

GL: A shared vision around digital transformation. Could you tell us more? 

BS: Altimeter and Capgemini's work is not only complementary; clients and prospects already substantiate it.

Capgemini takes a holistic view of digital transformation across the entire enterprise - from manufacturing to marketing, service, support and everything in between.

Initially, Altimeter Group focused on the digital customer experience and employee engagement. Our view was inspired by the work we were already doing around social media, content strategy and mobile. We learned that significant budget and resource investments are led by sales and marketing to update ageing infrastructures and to pursue the digital customer more effectively.

Our initial research was designed to help marketers and IT professionals think beyond technology. We wanted to encourage them to invest in strategy, system and process roadmaps, which are relevant for discerning, sophisticated, (and impatient) customers and employees.

GL: How will Altimeter Group and Capgemini work together?

SL: In addition to publishing joint research, we will help large enterprises with digital transformation initiatives. The combination of Altimeter's leading research and industry recognition with Capgemini Consulting’s transformation and implementation skills will provide a full spectrum offer for companies seeking to transform around digital.

Both firms are client-first organisations: everything is done to create value and satisfaction for them.

We share several common clients and we are actively exploring how to leverage that synergy.

Initially, we will focus our work on high tech, financial services and retail sectors. We have already worked on one joint client engagement and are in discussions with other prospects.

GL: Which type of networks will be involved to leverage that synergy?

SL: Altimeter and Capgemini Consulting each have vast networks of people who are the digital change agents inside their organisations.

To inform our research, together we are tapping Capgemini Consulting's portfolio of brands at different stages of digital transformation. The same applies to Altimeter Group's network of influencers and strategists that we have cultivated through both our research and client work.

GL: In terms of research, what will the partnership focus on?

SL: We have planned studies across the two companies’ complementary focused areas: digital transformation, big data and innovation. We expect to deliver joint research to the market before the end of the year starting with the idea of a framework for innovation.

GL: Innovation. Is there anything we can anticipate Brian? 

BS: Innovation doesn't always correlate to technology. Most of the time, it starts with perspective: seeing things differently. It is something that touches processes, models, and corporate vision.

This is a key area of focus. We look forward to sharing more in the coming months. 

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Making of a Global Intranet at Linklaters

The leading law firm empowers 4,600 staff to collaborate and share knowledge on ‘InSite’ - a new SharePoint 2013 global intranet across 20 countries. 

Linklaters, is a multinational law firm that specialises in practice areas such as corporate, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), capital markets, banking and finance. "One of our biggest challenges is managing the vast amount of content required to be successful in such a knowledge-driven industry. We need to ensure that our employees have all the information they need to perform their tasks effectively," says Global Intranet Manager Angela Rossiter.

To face this challenge the firm launched InSite six months ago.

Rolled out with the support of Brightstarr, the SharePoint 2013 global platform sets out to empower 4,600 staff across 20 countries with easy access to "trusted knowledge that they need to do their job."

The business case

The previous intranet, based on a SharePoint 2007 solution, was reaching its technological limits. "Employees could not quickly find what they needed. Searching for information had become slow and laborious with searches rarely returning relevant results."

Rossiter was given feedback such as: “the intranet doesn’t help me in my work. I don’t use it as I can’t find anything. Too many clicks. I give up when I still can’t find what I need.”

It became apparent that they had to re-invest in the platform, to enable knowledge management and effective enterprise collaboration.

Start with a defined scope

Having clear objectives helped them going through the change. It was particularly important to set a vision, which was to “empower our people with trusted knowledge, enabling excellence and efficiency through collaboration and sharing globally.”

This was summarised in three words: "Find" – people can find the useful resources they need to do their jobs; "Connect" – people can connect with others who can help them do their jobs; and "Collaborate" – people can use online tools and resources to collaborate globally.


An engaging start 

The homepage was completely redesigned with a mixture of internal and external news. "The internal news feeds has become a hub for delivering information from across the business. Firm-wide messages get out fast empowering staff to remain connected to the wider organisation, values and culture."

Rich media and the use of imagery also help to engage employees the moment they access the site. "For example, there are clear and incisive areas on InSite that intuitively guide staff to the location of the knowledge they need."

In addition, the external news feed brings in the latest information on key markets where Linklaters operates. "This is very useful since it provides a real time summary of developing legal and business updates worldwide."

The personal touch 

Rossiter has a strong guiding principle to the personalisation of content, "to make InSite the one place staff go to get work done, by making it both essential and personal." She wants to enable employees to easily access the tools relevant to them, along with the resources that they use most frequently.

'My Apps' and 'My Links' enable precisely this. The features allow staff to customise the apps and links that they use regularly to appear on the homepage.

This personalisation was hugely successful. In the first 48 hours after the site launched, there were over 850 unique links created, 3,000 searches conducted and more than 160,000 page views recorded. "This marked an important staff transition from passive to engaged users as they began putting InSite to work immediately."


A better search experience

A focus on knowledge management was central to the success of InSite. The firm was primarily storing information in the form of pages, such as news articles, blog posts or wiki pages. But, to make this information usable, it had to become findable, which was not always the case.

Linklaters' project team decided to categorise all the content through a new taxonomy, which unified all the global terms used across the intranet.

"Search results can now be filtered by the taxonomy driven terms. With this in place, employees' search experience has greatly improved."

Today, Rossiter receives feedback such us “the new and faster search functionality is the change which has made the biggest impact to my daily working life. I love it!” or "comparing this to the old intranet is like comparing a fountain pen to cuneiform seals. The look, feel and ease of use - not to mention the ability to customise - is fantastic!" or "the layout is very user-friendly and thus allows me to save time. I have all the apps and links that I need right on the first page. I can access them with one click and I can personalise them according to my needs."

Trusted content

Some of the information stored in the old intranet was of little or no value. An extensive exercise around content migration to ensure that InSite only had the most important and relevant information was conducted. "In such a knowledge-driven organisation, you only build trust if people find truly valuable information."

"We were able to identify 430 global content curators. They reviewed and supported any “clean-up” needed across over 100,000 pieces of content, making sure that what was migrated had real business value." This was supported greatly by a network of Intranet Champions established as part of their new governance framework.

Additionally, she developed a series of migration principles including ensuring clear ownership and accountability.

"I wanted to ensure that people could find content which clearly stated who its owner was. Having a clear and visible point of contact, knowing who is responsible for keeping a piece of information up to date, helps to maintain trust. Plus, with clear indication of creation and last modified dates, you get an immediate sense of how current something is."


We are all communicators

"Our homepage provides a place where global and personalised local office news and information is shared enabling people to communicate and collaborate in ways that years ago were not possible."

Linklaters approaches internal social media in different ways. Blogs are used for creating office news as well as global news. Newsletters are generated directly from the intranet and shared on a weekly or as needed basis.

In addition, over 100 blog sites support a whole range of legal and business activities. For example, blogs are used for legal practice knowledge sharing both locally and globally. "They help people to keep up to date on what is happening in the market place and latest developments, and enable people to have conversations around a topic should they wish."

Others are used to support teams such as "the Knowledge Management team, who use them regularly to collaborate across countries".

There are also blogs to support internal networks including such as 'Women @ Linklaters', which is used as a community of interest to engage females on a range of topics.

Linklaters is now looking at building upon this using social technologies "to further enhance collaboration and the sharing of knowledge across the firm."

Training people

Attention was paid to employee communication and education. "We saw the project as being primarily about people and behaviour. We never underestimated the impact of change on individuals."

Over 50 awareness sessions on 'how to do', for example about changing My Apps and My Links. Plus, they ran an extensive programme around how to use wiki pages, blogs, lists and surveys in the new intranet.

A short video was available and shown to people during team meetings. This was particularly useful in giving people, "particularly our busy lawyers who don't have time to attend an awareness session, " a brief overview of what the new intranet would provide and how they could tailor to meet their needs. This was supplemented with brief user guides.

"We didn't just need a new intranet to overcome the inefficiencies of the previous one. We wanted to build a global collaboration solution that could grow with the firm. It is through managing expectations and the delivery of an on-going training programme, that we will continue to support our people to achieve our business goals."

It is about taking people with you

Rossiter makes a few final important considerations: "Don't let the technology drive you. Think about what problem you are trying to fix, your content, the migration process and all the changes involved in the process. You are introducing a new way of working. Don't underestimate its impact. Give plenty of support. Ultimately, it is about taking people with you on that journey."

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate