From collaboration tools confusion to a vision for a future digital workplace

“..I am just so confused about all the overlapping collaboration tools that I have to really think hard every time I want to access one of them…its crazy, there must be a simpler and easier way to do this and somehow knit them all together ?..“

I was conducting user requirements phone interviews with users from across our network and this one was no different from many of the others I had sat through in the past 2 weeks. What I was hearing was the reality of a user’s daily experience in an organisation that had adopted a patchwork of technologies over a period of time – some of which had stuck and some which had just not been adopted to the extent that had originally been intended.  In some cases the tools had themselves introduced further challenges, including causing confusion and overlapping with similar but different initiatives – as well as creating dead end silos where information ended up going to die. I hate to even think about the wasted $$ amounts in terms of the lost productivity. Don’t get me started on that…


Creating a bold vision for the future
I’m sure, like me, there are lots of folks facing this exact same scenario in other organisations right now. The more you talk to your users, the more obviously this problem stands out but how do we begin to address it?  Well for me it starts with defining a clear PoV / vision for what our future state workplace should look like through the eyes and day to day experience of the end user. This must be truly holistic rather than being another roadmap to trot out standard upgrades to existing tools.  Coupled with this we must emulate learnings from the rapid growth in consumer world technology which our users make use of in their everyday lives. Boundaries between the corporate systems and consumer tech are blurring and we need to capitalise on this in order to allow our people to be more engaged, more productive and more willing to use the future systems. An example is the simplicity of a well designed mobile app in a world where everyone has a smartphone v the sour taste of an unwieldy legacy system desktop experience.

For me this is about firstly acknowledging from top down (leadership) as well as bottom up (end users) that the status quo presents a huge problem and that we must commit to address it.  Users want to be able to seamlessly connect and collaborate with one another as a natural part of a business process – not as a separate step that requires them to remember how to get to tool x, to launch it, make a posts etc… and then have to return to their initial starting point once done.

Secondly it is about defining what a single user centric digital workspace with collaboration capabilities baked into it, and that is seamlessly integrated across the digital landscape, will look and feel like. It must be founded on priority end user needs, as well as be contextual to where and how users get work done. If we paint this vision, coupled with strong leadership buy in and in close partnership with sister functions such as Comms, ITS, HR, we can start to work on telling the story and engaging users around it. Then we can start to work in a common direction that we can all work towards rather than finding ourselves going through the next cycle of serving up more of the same and just upgrading what we have.


User centricity is key to the digital workplace

It’s both challenging and exciting to be part of a transformation program working towards delivering a digital workplace. However it also constantly amazes me that in conversations with some of my colleagues that some see the digital workplace as being simply about the next set of tools and technologies. For me it’s a whole mind set shift for starters.

It’s clear to me that central to the digital workplace is taking a people centric approach and it has to focus on open communication, enabling global people connectivity and engendering transparency across an organisation. At the bottom line it’s about ensuring we are focusing on improving the use case end of things – i.e. the “what users do” as part of their everyday work activities. This should translate into persistent and continuous embedding of enabling capabilities across the digital experience for the user that add up to make the user’s online experience more integrated, continuous and seamless.

With people at the centre, a digital workplace must focus on enabling the breaking down of silos, enabling dynamic interaction as well as allows user to be far more engaged. In a big organisation, like the one I work for, being able to draw on our global pool of talent together to problem solve, innovate on an international basis is what can successfully set us apart from our competitors. Organisations that can achieve this first will come out above others who are slower to realise this …but to do this effectively is all about taking the people centric approach.


Yesterday a college reflected on an external event she had attended and referred to a quote that the mind set required for effective collaboration is being about “..bringing your whole self to a conversation and being ready for change…”. For me that sums up the underlying change to thinking that we must apply to how we approach the future digital workplace including collaboration. It’s about our people, their mind sets and behaviours, not tools – they are merely the underlying enablers!

For me I believe we’ll know when we have delivered a digital workplace experience for our users. In terms of the online experience, this will be about delivering a single centralised capability where employees are able to come together to easily find, connect, share information, exchange insights, remain connected with colleagues and activities across the organisation in a seamless way. This in turn will be a catalyst for how our people find, connect and engage with each other to the values they live and breathe through their actions. This is all about our culture, not simply tools!

Here comes Workplace!

So we learnt that Facebook’s official product entry into the enterprise social software market will from today be called “Workplace” (formerly known as Facebook at Work) + it has unveiled a number of new features / enhancements today.

It will be fascinating to see which organisations now move ahead with it beyond the 1,000 who have been piloting it, how the analysts rate it and where it is a year from now in term of new customers, product development and roadmap…. this marks a very interesting time with a consumer world giant moving in the enterprise collaboration arena…watch this space!

Building an army of ESN champions

I was reminded this week that it was just over 2 years ago that we launched the Hub, our global enterprise social network here at KPMG. Thinking back those early days I remember both the excitement and trepidation that I felt as I tried to imagine what the organisation would look like with everyone using our new social platform.

One topic I kept coming back (and still do) to time and again was that we would need to recruit an army of Champions to help us sell the story of the Hub and to build momentum across our global network.  Yes we had a model for rolling out and driving adoption by country but the total headcount of those resources was tiny in comparison to the size of the organisation.  They could not do it alone. I should also explain that like many other professional service organisations, the one I work for is effectively a network of franchised countries who all use the same branding, name etc. but who are all autonomous in their own right. Each has its own unique culture too (that’s a whole other post..). We have to work through standard deployment steps with each one but importantly once beyond that we need arms and legs on the ground to help to foster, sell and ultimately to drive adoption.


As each country’s Hub journey begins, there is a country lead who takes care of all the deployment steps (Risk, Security etc. etc.) and who works identify the first local use cases who will form the early adopting communities. Local community managers are then identified at the individual Group level (or Subjects as we call them) – these folks get some basic training in their roles and responsible as Subject Managers of those groups and are encouraged to join our Subject Managers network to share experience and knowledge and collaborate around their role etc. And so it goes on in each country and for global /cross border groups where the same Subject Manager model applies too…

Despite all this however what we do lack is a solid network of key individuals who really champion the Hub beyond those Country leads and the global or local Subject Managers.  These are the people who are passionate about social, who get it and who question at every step why others are not using it.  We tend to find that they do exist and are the real social advocates but they are very few and far between. Finding more of them is hard. In short we need to recruit real Champions who can be the extended arms, ears and advocates of the Hub. Who can sell it to others and infect their enthusiasm on others.

At the other end of the scale we are building out Global Community Manager resource capabilities from a central global team perspective but these folks serve a different purpose…

To provide a sense of scale, today we have over 90+ countries live (out of 150), around 1,700 communities and 29,000 active users on the Hub but despite all the process and structure we still struggle to identify a decent number of true champions who we can rely in to sell the story of the Hub to others.  29,000 may sound like a decent number of active user but when you consider we are a massive global network (of which around 95,000 have access to the Hub today) and when you look at the total global headcount of nearly 158,000 you realise we have some way yet to go on our journey.  The Champion role is therefore a key piece therefore that we need to focus on and accelerate rapidly.

So for me one thing I want I want to get out of #ESNanon is come away with practical steps and examples from others around how they have gone about building their army of Champions beyond their central CM resources.

So looking forwards to connecting on this topic on the 21st March at ESNanon



#ESNanon: the Power of Therapy ..sharing our pains and learning from each other.

I am a real believer in the old saying that a problem shared is a problem halved.  In the world of ESNs and Social collaboration I have come to realise that it could not be a truer saying.

How many of us on our journeys to stand up, rollout, foster uptake and drive adoption of our respective ESN platforms have found ourselves wondering “there must be others out there who are dealing with or who have dealt with this exact same issue …… I wish I could connect with them and talk through how they approached things..”?   For me as the lead for ESN in a very large professional services firm this has been a continually reoccurring though along my journey.

Let’s wind the clock back and give an example. In  my case it was soon after we had got our pilot platform technically stood up in 2012. We were engaging with the very first pilot users. We were trying to plan ahead and anticipate how we would approach our major pilot groups and launching. They were globally all dispersed and we thought let’s just switch it on. Our minds were racing with anticipation: What would be a normal rate of adoption, what had we overlooked and might cause us to fail and was our approach right?  Had we got our Governance model right??     After all we were effectively handing a chunk of the organisation a megaphone with our social platform and this presented some big concerns !!!

At the time I thought we could do not do any more preparation. But then through meeting someone who did a very similar role to mine at another large organisation during a coffee break at a social business conference my eyes were opened.  Importantly he had run an pilot ESN, just like we were about to do and who was further ahead with the adoption journey. At that point I realised that the power of conversations with those who were treading the same path in other organisations was what would prepare me the best. For me those 40 mins spent talking with my new acquaintance, listening to his advice was probably the most insightful and valuable time I spent in the whole journey of discovery up to going live.  I took what I had heard to heart and some of those really valuable insights helped us to reshape our approach to phasing pilot adoption rather than just going live with a bang and gave us arguably a stronger start.  It proved clearly to me how successfully implementing social is really all about people learning from others, sharing knowledge including learning from their mistakes, what they would have done differently and what they would def. recommend you avoid.

Fast forwards to today and when I look back at what we have I done I ask myself what has really worked     Well over the past few years I have made time when I could to catch up with my counterparts running ESN in other large organisations plus made time to seek out and meet new ones and to build my network (both those who are further ahead and those in the early stages of planning).   For me all the regular social conferences are good for meeting like people but there is never enough time for user-led networking. I believe we all go to such events not to hear the next vendor led ‘everything was amazing’ case study but more because we ultimately want to interact and hear each other’s stories of both triumph and disaster.  However we all still find ourselves going along as usually this is our priority route to meeting up.

So on to the #ESNanon Event. Well as my fellow organisers @tallpaul75 and @miss_england_19 note, this event is about creating a space where we can come together with far less structure, no vendor agendas and to get deep into conversation around the real major topics and challenges that we face.

So, if that sounds good…and come on, its only £10 !…sign up at our Eventbrite page now and we’ll see you for a really good chat on 21 March!

powerful conversation

And as for me I’m interested in 2 things right now  – firstly to get into what really makes for successful ESN Community Management that sticks and how others have built successful networks of Ambassadors for their ESN platforms.

21 March can’t come soon enough !

Alex Chapel

Getting comfortable first

I led a very interesting call today of our country social deployment and adoption leads. On today’s we discussed “What has worked well” from an adoption perspective across each of our key countries. During the conversation we touched on a theme around the need for users of the system to first and foremost feel comfortable as they each begin using the platform.

We heard from a couple of leads how often there is a fear (or concern) from users of making a post (often a first post) to the platform when users are not sure who will be reading what they post, how many people they could be posting to, who might read their post (leadership ?) etc. etc.  Interestingly in some cases users are more likely to make a post in a group if they know it is either a Closed group or By Approval meaning –i.e. in either case they will be posting to a closed and not an open group.

For me this comes back to inherent cultural traits, probably stemming in part from ingrained email related behaviours, where people need to know who will read and consume what they post v the uncertainty around the transparency that social introduces where the user may not even know who may read and respond.  With the closed scenario they forgo the great potential benefits that serendipitous discovery by others can lead to with posting to a social platform but it’s a start, and that’s the important point.

Really interestingly we also have a few cases where groups themselves have started life as private closed groups and as the user base has become accustomed to the platform, comfortable with how it works, realised the benefits … so the community leaders have opened them up for others to join in leading to wider benefits realisation.

So my learning here is to do whatever it takes for groups and the users who make them up to get comfortable first.

A simple but effective use case for a social platform: Beating those problems with scheduling meetings

Having problems scheduling meetings? Can’t get time in diaries?

Sometimes you just can’t all get together for a meeting. And that can slow a project or initiative down. Well, it doesn’t need to be that way. There ARE other ways to get the same job done – and even more efficiently.

This video shows how a social tool – e.g. . the Hub – can be effectively used instead of a face to face meeting.