Developers, Slack

No Slackin’ when it comes to integration

May 26, 2016
Meet Obie

One of the most notable aspects of the rise of Slack as a the business communications tool of the moment has been the success they’ve had encouraging third parties of all sizes to develop innovative apps and custom integrations for the platform.

Just as an example, this is a new one that came to my attention today, combining machine learning with social communications, Obie:

Obie Flows


Spoonfeed, don’t firehose. Deliver knowledge and information when your team needs it — not all at once.

Obie delivers content to the platforms you spend your day on. Information conveyed in an existing workspace is relatable, engaging and more effective.

Obie offers a familiar, conversational user-experience you’ll actually enjoy. He can answer questions and send bite-sized knowledge to the team.

Obie is a quick-study — the more you use him, the more he delivers relevant and accurate content.

Certainly looks interesting, doesn’t it. Innovative too. There are new apps live Obie being released daily, and they’re very easy for even non-technical users to deploy and activate.

Slack App DirectoryWhatever one feels about Slack’s features/UX and the impact it has on personal productivity (and there’s certainly a hefty degree of Slacklash being felt right now across both traditional and social media) it is clear that Slack has powered past more established brands and products in terms of developer adoption.

I would love to see the more established vendors in the space take a similarly open approach – start with the APIs and build the product, rather than considering the APIs as an afterthought.  Also, treating developers as an open, welcoming and transparent community, versus requiring registration, paid licenses/subscriptions and the like.

Events, Social Connections

Just 11 days to go! Social Connections 10 lands in Toronto

May 26, 2016
Social Connections 10

Back in January I stepped away from the Social Connections team due to my commitments with Jive, after 9 events and 4.5 years of helping to grow what is an incredible IBM Social Business user group community.

Social Connections 10Whilst I’ve been away, Wannes and the team have organised a fantastic 10th event, which takes place in just 11 days time.

Once again, Social Connections has headed back across the Atlantic to North America, and this time the event takes place in yet another new country (10 in 10 so far!), Canada!

Toronto is the carefully selected destination, with an exciting high-rise venue overlooking the city.

As usual, this independent community event mixes four key themes:

  • The latest on the IBM Social Business portfolio, delivered by IBM’s product management team
  • The business impact of launching and managing IBM solutions (particularly IBM Connections, Connections Cloud and Verse) – including program strategy, adoption, tactical approaches, community management, rewards and recognition, measurement and so on
  • Technical considerations for successful deployment – including sessions on installation, upgrades, integration, customisation and more
  • The Future of Work – insights from analysts and thought leaders on the direction that our organisation structures, team productivity and individual workstyles will take over the next decade.

The very full two-day agenda for this event is looking to be probably the best the team has ever put together, with the keynotes looking particularly exciting:

twitter11 twitter6 twitter1 twitter5 twitter4 twitter3 twitter2

As usual, there is a strong thread of social events running through the agenda, culminating in the gala reception to be held at  the Hockey Hall of Fame.  There are also plenty of returning favourites, such as Speedsponsoring, Pardon The Interruption, Ask IBM and the Design track.  There’s even an optional Masterclass with Luis Suarez.

Social Connections 10 costs just CA$349 to attend, and there are a few spaces left if you’d like to join the party.

There really is no better way to get up to speed with IBM Social Business solutions, understand the product roadmaps, get the lowdown on deployment and strategy, or to build valuable relationships with the community. Don’t miss it!

More info and registration >


A new book from Michael Sampson: Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365

May 25, 2016
Office 365 front cover

Michael SampsonI’m a great fan of Michael Sampson‘s work:

So when Michael mentioned that he had a new book about to be published, I knew that it was worth my attention – particularly as it covered a platform that has regularly caused myself and my clients both confusion and some consternation – Microsoft Office 365.

There is no doubting the practical utility that the Office 365 solution provides, nor the comprehensive nature of the platform and the opportunity that it provides to Microsoft’s customers, and yet in so many cases I hear that somehow Office 365 as a collaboration solution offers less than the sum of its parts.  As always, the immediate question that comes to mind is whether this is a factor of the technological solution itself or the strategic approach to implementation and adoption that has been used. Is it that Office is a square peg in a round hole (using a productivity tool to aid collaboration?), or that with the correct analysis, approach and planning, it can offer real value in aiding digital transformation?

Fortunately, Michael is stepping in to deal with exactly that issue.

Office 365 front cover

The book’s weighty title gives you a good feel for what is coming: Re-Imagining Productive Work with Microsoft Office 365 – Core Opportunities for Improving Performance, Enhancing Collaboration, and Creating Space for Innovation. This isn’t a technical book, nor simply a description of the possible tactical benefits that the platform can offer. Instead it gets right to the nub of the question – how can your organisation truly grasp the opportunity that Office 365 can delivered to help you and your organisation improve performance?  Michael frames the scope of the book as follows:

I have written this book to perform a particular task, and it fits within the first of a four stage framework for the effective use of Office 365:

  • Understand the Business Opportunity. Explore the capabilities in Office 365 and what those capabilities could mean for organisations looking to embrace the philosophy and tools on offer. This book looks at eight of these opportunities.
  • Make the Right Decision for Your Business on Office 365. Examine the pros and cons of moving to Office 365 in general, and look specifically at the decision context for your organisation. In light of where your organisation is heading, does a shift to Office 365 make business sense?
  • Create the Context for Achieving Value with Office 365. Achieving value with Office 365 requires clear thinking on how to create the best organisational context for its introduction and effective use. Get clear on the purpose of embracing Office 365, and develop competence in building the supporting organisational constructs to drive success.
  • Drive Effective Use to Reap the Benefits of Office 365. Decide how to introduce Office 365 to your people, and how to lead them to competence in the use of the tools aligned with productive behaviours.


This book fits in the first box, and is thus a pre-decision or pre-acquisition resource to help with clarifying what’s actually possible.

In that aim, Michael (as usual) truly delivers against the requirement described.  Here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1. Introducing Microsoft Office 365
Chapter 2. The Opportunities Approach
Chapter 3. Embracing Hands-Off IT
Chapter 4. Storing and Sharing Files
Chapter 5. Profiling Employee Expertise
Chapter 6. Co-Authoring Documents
Chapter 7. Managing Meetings
Chapter 8. Holding Discussions
Chapter 9. Running Team Projects
Chapter 10. Thinking Productively
Chapter 11. Final Comments and Next Steps

I got a lot of value from the book, particularly in terms of understanding how the newer aspects of the Office solution, Delve and Graph, fit in to the picture.  As ever, Michael is fiercely independent in his approach, and is willing to discuss the issues and hurdles, as well as the benefits of the Office 365 solution, plus a number of “wouldn’t it be cool if” suggestions for future development.  I also really appreciated the focus on the behavioural aspects of each use case, as well as the performance improvements that might result from correct deployment and adoption.

Summing up, I believe that this is a guide that is much needed for those considering deploying Office 365 across their organisation.  As Michael himself states, Re-Imagining Productive Work with Office 365 only deals with the first stage in terms of planning for adoption of Office 365, but for this specific scope, it is is a truly excellent resource. Recommended.

Purchase or license the eBook >

Future of Work

A new 6-week course to help you Work Out Loud – June/July 2016

May 24, 2016
WOL Courses

I am a great fan of Working Out Loud – John Stepper’s published approach to working in the open, transparently and with authenticity.  As he describes it:

Instead of networking to get something, you lead with generosity, investing in relationships that give you access to other people, knowledge, and possibilities. Part of the process is learning ways to make your work visible and frame it as a contribution.

The core community framework that sustains Working Out Loud is the Circle:

Circles help you develop a mindset and habit you can apply to any goal. These small peer support groups are now in 16 countries and in organizations ranging from multi-national firms to universities to humanitarian groups. The thing they all have in common is wanting their people to feel intrinsically motivated to be more collaborative and effective.

John’s book covers this well, but really there is nothing better than experiencing the power of WOL Circles in person.  Obviously you could just go ahead and set up a circle in your workplace (I’d love to assist you if so), but a better plan is to be part of a training circle in order to understand the potential, and the pitfalls, of Working Out Loud.  The good news is that there is such an opportunity coming up in just a few weeks:


You will both experience a Working Out Loud Circle, where you will decide on a goal to work on over the 6 weeks, and will be supported to use a step-by-step process to move towards this through expanding your networks, deepening your relationships and increasing your influence.

As well as being part of a Working Out Loud Circle, this course will give you the tips and tools you need to be a WOL Circle facilitator in your workplace or community.


The course runs over 6 weeks, each Thursday from 4 – 5.30pm. We’ll stay in touch throughout using Slack, a free App that you can use on your smart phone or computer. The Slack group will be open for 8 weeks – a week before the course to meet people, and for a week after the course ends.

All you need is a computer with internet and video connection, and a headset/headphones to take part. You need to participate in all 6 sessions.



  1. By experiencing a WOL Circle for yourself – with 4 or 5 other people (as part of the 90 minute sessions)
  2. By practicing facilitating a WOL Circle meeting
  3. By hearing directly from John – his top tips and insights on how to lead WOL Circles
  4. Through the weekly question and answer sessions, both online and through Slack
  5. Through reading and using the new updated WOL Circle guides
  6. Through reading Working Out Loud by John Stepper. This will be sent to you as soon as you sign up and pay.
  7. And by joining a growing international WOL community who are sharing their experiences and learning as they go

The course is being run by John Stepper and Helen Sanderson Associates, and the dates for the sessions are as follows:

Thursday 9 June – 4pm-5.30pm (BST)
Thursday 16 June – 4pm-5.30pm (BST)
Thursday 23 June – 4pm-5.30pm (BST)
Thursday 30 June – 4pm-5.30pm (BST)
Thursday 7 July – 4pm-5.30pm (BST)
Thursday 14 July – 4pm-5.30pm (BST)

The course cost is £350 including VAT, and you can register via EventBrite.

I will be attending myself, and would love to work with you in the WOL Circle that will result! See you there?


Fostering Community

May 24, 2016
New Start

Those that know me well will recognise that I have three true passions and priorities in my life:-

  1. My family – my wife and four beautiful children
  2. My work – helping individuals, teams and organisations become more productive through the use of online communities
  3. Providing a home to foster children – for the past three years we’ve provided short-term placements to individual children and sibling groups

So when it came time to revisit number 2 on that list, it made sense to bring in a little of 1 and 3…

Leaving Jive

After a whirlwind and very enjoyable 15 months working for Jive Software, my full-time employment concludes in the next couple of weeks.

I have loved working with so many fantastic colleagues in Jive EMEA and further afield, and never before have I had the opportunity to consult for so many fantastic customers in such a short period of time.  With over 25 major projects in just over a year, it has been a phenomenal opportunity to influence the program strategy at well-known organisations that rely on their internal and external communities to support and transform their businesses.

It is my hope and expectation that I will continue to work with Jive going forward – directly, via partners or with customers. Despite the change in circumstances, I will be delighted to keep a positive working relationship with such a great team, plus my admiration for the products has only grown in the time that I’ve had more time to focus on the features they offer.

However, I never envisaged working as an FTE for too long – I’ve been in the independent consulting game for too long and enjoyed it too much to leave it behind long-term. So whilst I’m sad to leave Jive’s employment, I am thrilled to start the next chapter…

So what next?

So, it’s time to start a new consulting business. I’ve been here before with Collaboration Matters (2008) and Social 365 (2011), so what has changed since then?

Internal Communities

I still see massive opportunity for revolutionising work within organisations through the use of interactive intranets and enterprise social networks, plus the application of wider changes currently being considered under the banner of ‘the future of work’.

My involvement with colleagues in the incredible Change Agents Worldwide network only re-emphasise that whilst we’ve come a long way in terms of reinventing and transforming organisations towards openness and transparency (becoming ‘teal’ organisations if you like…), there is still a way to go in so many of the businesses that I interact with.

Many organisations still do not have access to platforms that properly support connecting, communicating and collaborating amongst individuals, teams and communities, and too many of those that do are still only partially-committed to shifting away from traditional M&E (meetings&email) practices towards fully open workstyles.

Given the current marketplace, I anticipate continuing to spend the majority of my time focused on enabling and facilitating corporate clients to accelerate their transformation in this area.

However, over the past few years there are a couple of areas where I’ve felt a deeper and more powerful surge of change occurring, and therefore see a greater opportunity for my input…

External Communities

Whether for customer support, peer-to-peer assistance, product marketing or partner management (or typically some combination of all of these use cases and more), it feels as though an increasing volume of organisations are seeing the need for building vibrant, passionate, collaborative communities outside of their own structures and corporate boundaries.

These types of communities are not new of course, we’ve been discussing ‘extranets’ and the like for at least a decade or more. And yet, the technology available is less mature than on the inside (though products like Jive-x, Lithium’s online community platform and IBM’s Connections Cloud and Digital Experience are improving fast) 1, but more significantly, the best practices and strategic approach are some way behind. Complexities such as multi-lingual landing pages, content segregation/curation where supply or specifications are controlled by region, efficient SEO, and spam-eradication are challenges that are rarely an issue on internal platforms, yet can make or break an external community.

My analysis is that fewer than 1% of organisations have effective external communities today, and thus the opportunities for both new launches and improvement of existing communities are significant.

Social Communities (outside of traditional corporate structures)

I mentioned both family and fostering at the top of this post, and here’s the reason…

Foster Carers

Whilst I have utmost respect for local government institutions and fostering/adoption agencies – they do incredible work under tough conditions and tight financial restrictions – they are hardly paragons of technological excellence!

What we’ve seen through a number of years of working with both official agencies and those that work or volunteer on their behalf is that there is a massive and unanswered need for secure yet accessible online communities. Security and privacy are incredibly important – these are very confidential matters that are being discussed – and yet the needs for connection, communication and collaboration are probably more important than in any other form of organisation.  After all, these are folks that are effectively working 24/7 in stressful and emotionally-demanding roles dealing with crises on a daily basis in many cases. Whilst much of the discussion amongst these groups takes place on Facebook and Twitter today, the communication resides on ‘secure’ email, and the collaboration typically takes place face-to-face, if at all. Given the confidentiality concerns, there is no way this can all be moved to a public social platform.

For these reasons, I see huge need for revolution in terms of how these kinds of public service communities operate, and yet neither enterprise vendors nor public networks are really providing an adequate solution today.  I plan to take this on as a significant goal for the new business.2

Launching the new company

Fostering Community screenshotHence the name we’ve chosen… Fostering Community.

Whether internal, external or public service, I want to see communities launched, develop, mature and deliver value to their members, and I’m throwing all my efforts into making that happen for my clients and my peers.

If you’d like my assistance with a project you have planned, or just a spark of an idea for a community that you’d like to bring into reality, please do get in touch.


Doing a TED Talk: The Full Story

March 3, 2016

Imagine being asked to speak at TED. Not the independent TEDx conferences, but as Tim Urban explains

The thing I was asked to speak at was the big Vancouver one. I say this not only to brag, but also to explain why this whole thing had me freaking out so much. The same thing that made it extra extra scary also made it extra extra not turn-downable.

So I accepted.

What follows is the very scary yet utterly compelling story of how Tim prepared and delivered his session.  Really great reading, and some super advice on what you should do, and probably will fail to do, next time you present at an event…

More >


Recruiting for a new Jive consultant – interested?

February 16, 2016
Jive Software logo

Jive Software is seeking a Business Consultant to join the Professional Services team for the EMEA Region, based in Paris, France. This role will work with Jive’s largest and most complex clients in formulating and implementing their strategy around usage of the Jive solutions.The Business Consultant works directly with our customers to help them get their Jive community set up and ready for launch.

This position requires strong customer interaction skills and a demonstrated background working with business teams to deliver complex, web-based projects. The successful candidate will be a natural and proactive leader, while maintaining the highest quality of delivery and attention to detail. This position represents an exciting opportunity to work with a wide array of the latest web technologies, while helping some of the best known global companies realize measurable business value with the Jive platform.

The aim is for the Business Consultant to be viewed as a trusted advisor to Jive customers and work in a way that maximizes opportunities for both parties. Performance will be measured against targets for client satisfaction, utilization of software purchased and expansion of software footprint.

The Business Consultant (BC) takes on the technical elements of the strategy role here at Jive, helping our customers configure their platform and places to support their specified use cases.  It’s a mix of onsite and remote work, and the successful candidate would be working with customers across EMEA, though with a particular focus on the French market.

Jive’s office in Paris is located on the Champs Elysees.  Ideally the candidate would be able to spend time there, although as always we tend to be flexible as far as location goes.  You would need to be a fluent French speaker, capable of hosting workshops in that language.

If you’re interested please get in touch directly, or else visit this page for more details.



Women Not Objects

January 27, 2016

As the married father of two daughters, this issue is being brought home to me right now… The rise of YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat as advertising media has not helped in any way – the problem just seems to get worse year-on-year.

It has to stop. #WomenNotObjects

Social Connections

Time to let go…

January 4, 2016

The Lotus IBM Collaboration Solutions space is an incredible demonstration of what online communities can become through the truly altruistic efforts of its members.  I’ve always known that, but stepping away somewhat over the past year has allowed me to observe the relationships, events and online activities through a new and less obscured lens.  A little distance and independence has done nothing but confirm the wonderfully inclusive family-like nature of this community.

A little background

lotus softwareLooking all the way back to the nascent days of groupware created by the Lotus company itself, through the glory years of Notes and Domino, and onto the current focus around Connections, so many of the technologists that took to these products were also the ones that truly understood the nature of online community.  Perhaps that should not have been a surprise to anyone (as the products were nothing without connected and committed individuals to utilise them) but it has always been remarkable that the ever-changing and dynamic group of individuals that met at Lotusphere each January,  then stayed in touch via personal websites/blogs, forums and IM chats, bonded in a way that never seemed to happen with the same compelling force around other products.

As I’ve taken my own steps into the wider digital transformation space over the past 8 years or so, and thus connected with hundreds of thought leaders and change agents around the world, it has become evident to me that a significant majority of movers and shakers in this industry have Lotus products in their backgrounds. Given how widely Notes and Domino were used in large enterprises back in the late 90s and early 2000s, perhaps this is inevitable, but I personally believe that there is a deeper and more powerful reason – that the potential of collaboration unleashed by these products lit the spark within so many of us.

What makes this even more remarkable is that the support for the community from the vendor whose products we advocate has been somewhat inconsistent over the years.  This isn’t meant to be a dig at IBM, it is a commercial organisation for whom quarterly sales results and ‘shareholder value’ are at the core of all that it does.  For some, the effort of sustaining the community-facing support has been too much, whereas for others, the occasional raging fire that needed to be extinguished was simply too controversial and difficult to defend.  That said, many of those IBMers that have been at the coalface over the years have absolutely understood the nature of the community, and the value it offers to IBM itself, to partners and most of all, to customers – amongst many others, I’m looking at Mary-Beth, Alan, Ed, Louis, Niklas, Suzie, Luis, Debora, Joyce, Colleen, Susan, Wes, Oli, Amanda and Mat.

What those remarkable individuals have understood is that the community has a tone, culture and internal organisation all of its own.

Whilst ’the Yellowverse’ has been (mostly) loyal to IBM and its technology over all these years, it is fiercely independent, cares deeply about its members and wants to do its absolute best for the wider community of customer organisations and those that build and use the products. That passion and commitment has most vividly shone through the independent user groups that have sprung up over the past decade or more. A few years ago, these were typically named using a acronym that included ‘LUG’ (Lotus User Group), and now tend toward verbs such as Inform and Engage!  However, whatever the name, the user groups were typically inspired by one or more deeply committed individuals, most commonly self-employed or working for independent business partners.  From small monthly afternoon gatherings in a defined geography, through to vast multi-national multi-day events that boast internationally renown speakers, these user groups have in my opinion been the engine that has enabled the IBM collaboration community to remain a force over so many years, even as the success of the products has ebbed and flowed.

Why this post?

soccnx_logo_900x250I have been honoured to be one of those that felt called to start a user group.

Back in 2011, it was clear that social software (and specifically Connections) was one of the significant bright spots in the Lotus product set, and yet the majority of the user groups were still very Notes/Domino-focused.  Two good friends (Sharon and Simon) and I chatted about this and how the lack of regular in-person Connections-focused events was hindering the growth of the community, and thus how prospective customers might be scared by the lack of case studies from customers that had delivered successful projects and initiates on the platform.  From this spark, we founded Social Connections, and to cut a very long story just a little shorter, we’ve just hosted our 9th major international event, each held in a different nation and on both sides of the Atlantic. Well over 1000 individuals have attended (many have been at multiple events), and our awesome speakers have delivered more than 300 sessions. Amazing stats!

As with most of the other user groups, the growth of Social Connections was built on my own initial investment in the idea, and then bankrolled through a combination of support from IBM, amazing ISV and business partner sponsors, and then more lately, via tickets sold to attendees.  There have been times when we’ve turned a small profit, and others when we’ve made a big loss. I now know far far more than I ever wanted to learn about international tax, insurance and data protection laws!  All of this was managed through my own small company, and we’ve been blessed to have made it so far.

One of the most significant reasons why Social Connections has been a success has been the incredible willingness of community members to step up and to join the volunteer organisation team.  Members have come and gone as their own circumstances have changed, but we’ve never wanted for individuals that have been willing to give their time and resources to plan and deliver the events.  This shouldn’t be taken lightly, as I’d estimate that each team member gives up at least 100 hours free-of-charge to make an event happen.  That’s a massive commitment alongside their own careers and family lives.  I owe a great debt to Simon, Sharon, Lisa, Femke, Janneke, Brian, Sandra, Luis, Martin, Jan, Wannes, Maria, Lars, Doug and Christoph (and of course to their companies and their families).

As members of the team have given up their own time and resources, so the event has also taken a toll on my own situation.  Finances, risk, admin and accounting, the events themselves.  All of this has eaten into my own time, or more accurately my time with my beautiful family.  In effect, I’ve used my own holiday allocation every year plus many evenings and weekends to run these events.  At the same time, what little direct benefit to my own career as been reduced as I’ve moved away from direct involvement with IBM Connections.

Running Social Connections has been tremendously rewarding from a personal perspective – hosting and speaking at the events, plus the social side has been hugely enjoyable. That said, it has slowly dawned on me that this does not justify the cost involved.

Something had to give, and I’m determined that it shouldn’t be my family.

What now?

Following many discussions amongst the team during 2015, we’ve taken a series of steps to ensure the future of Social Connections without my direct involvement.  The details have been shared over on the Social Connections site, but be reassured that the organisation is now in a stronger position than ever to deliver bigger and better events in 2016 and beyond.

With this in mind, as of 31st December 2015, I have resigned from the Social Connections team, and handed over my responsibilities to Wannes, Simon and the rest of the team.  There are a few loose ends to tie up, but I am delighted that planning for the next event is already well underway, and that the team are doing this independently of my own input.

Social Connections VI in Prague

Social Connections VI in Prague

I will of course stay in touch, and will always be proud of what we achieved, but at the same time I am so sure that the time is right to hand over the reins.

Thank you to everyone that has helped with Social Connections over the past 5 years – whether you have organised, spoken, sponsored, attended or supported the event in any way.  It has truly been a ball, some of the absolute highlights of my professional life, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way…

I know that Social Connections will continue to thrive, and in fact, will likely be larger and more successful without my own time constraints.

Go well, team!


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