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A compelling new multinational insurance ESN case study

It’s always good to read a successful customer reference story, particularly when the organisation’s culture and productivity has truly been revolutionised by deploying a new internal community. 

UNIQA logoThis is definitely the case with this new case study, featuring UNIQA Insurance Group. Based in Vienna, UNIQA have grown incredibly quickly over the past decade, particularly via a push into Central and Eastern Europe.  This has left them with a number of substantial challenges in terms of communications and alignment across these varied markets and native languages:

Jive Software, Inc. today announced that UNIQA Insurance Group AG (UNIQA Group), a leading European insurance group, launched a new Jive-powered Interactive Intranet to strengthen strategic alignment and employee engagement across its global workforce. With this modern corporate communications solution, the rapidly growing company is cultivating a more transparent, unified culture, while gaining a better understanding of the reach and impact of its internal messages.


UNIQA Insurance Group AG (UNIQA Group), a leading European insurance group, launched a new Jive-powered Interactive Intranet to strengthen strategic alignment and employee engagement across its global workforce

Over the past fifteen years, UNIQA Group acquired several insurance companies during its push into Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The business is now one of the leading insurance groups in its core markets of Austria and CEE, serving more than 10 million customers in 19 countries. UNIQA’s 100 percent subsidiary, UNIQA International, manages 15 markets in the CEE growth region-most of which operate with different languages, cultures and other regional distinctions. The company’s international communications team struggled to efficiently deliver announcements and messages to various countries via email, multiple disconnected static intranets and expensive in-person meetings.

“As we expand, we’re striving to be a different kind of insurer. The cornerstone of our operations is companywide personal contact and direct collaboration amongst all employees throughout our countries and local branches,” said Gabriela Rusu, head of group communication at UNIQA. “Jive will bring us a big step forward in this journey by connecting those offices, and facilitating employee engagement and change management. We made the switch to Jive’s Interactive Intranet because we need a secure, cloud-based solution-with both powerful communications and collaboration functionality that save the organization significant time and money.”  

The interactive intranet-dubbed “UNIQAspace”-launched this summer to facilitate captivating communications that reach thousands of employees across all of the company’s markets. Underpinned by Jive, the solution makes it easy for executives to interact with employees through blogs and videos. People can ask questions, comment, share and discuss-opening up transparent dialogue between executives and country teams that fosters alignment around the company’s vision. UNIQAspace also provides consumer-style mobile apps with easy ways for employees to get company news, stay connected and participate wherever they go.

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I had the pleasure of working with UNIQA on the early stages of this project, and it’s been hugely rewarding to hear how well UNIQAspace has been received by their employees, and to see the transformational shift that is taking place in their international communications, knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

UNIQA are a good example of an organisation that has grown quickly, primarily by acquisition then followed by organic growth, where the existing centrally-published intranet and communications methodology simply hadn’t kept up with the demands of a relatively young, multi-national and multi-lingual workforce. Shifting to a open, transparent and collaborative work style via a cloud-based community has empowered employees, created opportunities for cross-team engagement, and ensured that all countries are representated, heard and understood.

Document management

Document management in online communities

One of the key differentiators between the community solutions developed by Jive Software and those from IBM and Microsoft (talking Sharepoint rather than Yammer) is the relative lack of focus on the requirement for document management.

Document management

That’s not to say that Jive platforms do not allow the sharing and management of documents – far from it – but that instead, these are simply embedded within the standard content types and information architecture of the platform rather than treated as a specific pillar of the platform itself.

Jive Software logoJust as a user can create a native Jive document or discussion, so they can upload a file (e.g. a Word document) that can be previewed, downloaded, commented on, updated by others and managed from a version perspective. However, these files do not have a hierarchy beyond the place containers they reside within – there’s no concept of folders or libraries for instance. Files are primarily stored within Jive documents (or can be attached to other content types), and are managed using the same tags and categories that apply to all other content.

At the end of the day, in Jive communities, files are just one of the many ways in which users can collaborate. In many situations they are actually discouraged – group and team work can be much more effective when using native content types than when having to deal with the upload/download of sizeable files, the need for compatible editor support and so on.

This differs from IBM Connections in a pretty significant way…

IBM ConnectionsFile sharing was added to the IBM Connections product back in the 2.5 release (back when it was still badged as Lotus Connections), alongside Wikis.

Initially, IBM seemed to envisage this support as being intended for lightweight social file sharing – the file management features were limited, meta data was very simplistic and all files were shared at a single level, relying on tags to provide any structure required. Right from the first implementations of Connections 2.5 it was pretty clear that this was not going to be enough for most IBM customers. Whether because users were typically migrating from Lotus Quickr or Domino Team Rooms, or because Connections customers tended to be large enterprises that had become conditioned to heavy use of document and content management platforms, users were adamant that they needed hierarchical storage architectures, heavy-duty file meta-data, complex library permissions and so on.

IBM responded to these demands by steadily adding more features to the Files feature in subsequent Connections releases. From the Windows Explorer connector to allow direct browsing of files from the desktop, through folder support (firstly for standalone files and then within communities), then the addition of industrial-grade Connections Content Manager (CCM) file libraries (built on IBM FileNet), to document editing and preview in IBM Docs and so on.  Looking at the Connections portfolio from the outside last year, it seemed as if almost every new Connections feature and enhancement was somehow related to the management of files in the platform! (I’m sure that wasn’t the reality, but that was how it read from the press releases and announcement letters.)

Personally, I find this difficult to comprehend (and I’ve had long and passionate discussions with both IBM product managers and IBM partners about this topic). I find files (particularly Microsoft Office documents) to be fine for point-in-time exports of collaborative content, workflows or decisions, but they are not supportive of productive team or community thinking, discussion or working in a general sense.

File formatsThere are, of course, situations where files are necessary – for example a creative team working on an image or video that needs to be shared outside the organisation, or a finance team working on a complex report. However, in the vast majority of situations, my personal belief is that the content should be stored in a native form in the best application to support the act of working together around that information, decision or process.  For most general knowledge work, that should likely be a native document, question or discussion in the collaborative platform, rather than a proprietary file that then needs to be managed as a separate entity. In addition, I continue to propose that folksonomy almost always beats taxonomy when it comes to collaborative use cases, and therefore that tags and categories are more appropriate ways to manage information than hierarchical folders.

HierarchySadly, but probably inevitably, I seem to be in the minority on this discussion. So many people (particularly those in their 30s and 40s) remain so unconsciously wedded to the concept of their knowledge being stored in a collection of files in a hierarchy of folders, all still named with long-unnecessary legacy three-character file extensions. It’s these folks that are demanding that IBM support this out-dated means of working within Connections, and thus it’s perfectly understandable that IBM is responding by supporting this left-over 1980s paradigm within Connections.

Why the difference between IBM and Jive customer demands?

Interestingly, in my time as a Jive Software strategist, I was rarely asked for similar file management features within Jive-n communities, whereas when working with Connections the requirement came up in virtually every workshop. There seemed to be a general understanding that a change in work culture was required in their organisations, and thus the deployment of a new community was more than simply a new platform, it required users to adopt new practices and work styles.

A second factor that often came into play is that most Jive customers also had another document management solution in place, whether for specific use cases, or for general access across the organisation – usually this was Microsoft Sharepoint. Typically this was universally detested by the users – described as unintuitive, hard to manage and impossible to search – but provided enough functionality that it could be left to handle the specific use cases where large-scale file storage was required.  This is less common in the IBM world where Domino is more common as the legacy team collaboration platform, and where Sharepoint can sometimes be seen as the enemy.  That’s not to say that I would propose anyone deploy Sharepoint specifically for document management (there are better tools out there if that is what is required), but simply that ‘good enough‘ is sometimes all that is needed for specific use cases that cannot be supported yet in the common collaboration platform.

But what if I want document management in my Jive community?

All that said (and I really do hope and believe that file management will no longer be an issue in 5-10 years time), it is good to have options and alternatives – no matter what your community platform of choice.  Therefore I am pleased that there is a new option for Jive customers… fme Document Manager for Jive.

This partner extension for Jive, gives a brand new way to explore your files stored in the community, allowing documents to be found more quickly, files to be uploaded in bulk, inline metadata editing and direct support for almost all office applications (rather than just Microsoft Office). This 10-minute demo video covers it well:

As I made clear above, I would love us to look to transition away from formal file and document management as our primary technique for collaboration. However, if this is still required for your use cases, then do take a look a fme’s product datasheet and contact either myself or fme direct if you need more info or to discuss the options available.

Thinking of launching your own online ESN or external community?

First of all, consider each and every requirement as an individual use case, that requires its own definition, configuration and community management. As part of the definition process, one of the key discussion points is to look at how the business processes and workflows can be best supported in the community – what content types, functionality and user interactions are required.  Only once these aspects are understood then look at what content types and/or files are required…

If formal document management is a necessity, then that ‘s the point at which to start considering whether something integrated like CCM or the fme solution is required, or whether those specific use cases would be better supported on a more formal and structured platform.

How do you approach this topic? Are you an advocate for document management, or do you believe that more open and unstructured collaboration is the correct approach? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

Slumped

The real reason for the forty-hour work week

The eight-hour workday developed during the industrial revolution in Britain in the 19th century, as a respite for factory workers who were being exploited with 14- or 16-hour workdays.

As technologies and methods advanced, workers in all industries became able to produce much more value in a shorter amount of time. You’d think this would lead to shorter workdays.

But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

Interesting perspective.

I’m seeing this in my own life. Repeatedly working a strict 8-hour day (plus travel) leaves me tired, time-poor and far too quick to choose to purchase (food, electronics etc.) as a way to make things more ‘easy’ and ‘enjoyable’. Working a more flexible schedule with correctly-set priorities (focusing on my own health, family and community) leads to a much more satisfactory financial and lifestyle balance.

More > (well worth reading in full… h/t to Jon Husband for the link)

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GoPro introduce new backpack and cycle mounts

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how often we’ve used the GoPro Hero cameras that we’ve owned for the past three years, and whilst we’re not that active a family, there’s barely a week that goes by without some opportunity for capturing footage – cycling, hiking, skiing, sailing and the like. There are plans afoot to buy an additional camera or two some time soon in order to offer more options when on the go or during group activities.

As many other GoPro owners have found, there’s an element of addiction involved – the range of GoPro and third-party mounts and attachments available lead the user to think there’s always a better way to capture more compelling shots and viewpoints. Also, as the cameras are often most actively used when already wearing or carrying bulky equipment, new options that make it easier to carry, attach or detach the devices are of interest.

GoPro’s own options tend to be pretty expensive to acquire, but are typically of high quality, and give that reassurance that they’re not going to break whilst in use. There’s no doubt that there is a ‘GoPro tax’ at work (as there is with Apple), but my opinion is that in most cases it is a cost worth paying to acquire equipment offering the most utility and style, with the least risk.

So with that perspective in mind, I’m interested in the announcements that GoPro have made in the past week:

  • The Seeker backpack – a new 16L weather-resistant sportpack, with space for your personal gear plus compartments for up to five GoPro cameras and a pocket that accommodates your own hydration system. Features built-in chest and shoulder mounts which make it easy to attach the GoPro to the pack itself, plus a system of pockets and clips to hold a 3-Way for over-the-shoulder shots.GoPro Seeker backpack
  • The Pro Seat Rail Mount – a new discrete and streamlined mount for rearward-facing cycle shots, with simple one-screen mount for attachment to twin-rail saddles. Great for capturing race footage or for safety purposes on commutes.GoPro Pro Seat Rail mount
  • The new Pro Handlebar / Seatpost / Pole Mount – a super compact (and expensive) aluminum mount designed for serious cyclists and bikers, which rotates 360° and fits 22.2mm to 35mm diameter tubes.GoPro Pro Handlebar/seatpost/pole Mount
  • There is also a new side and rear helmet mount, but I’m personally less-than-keen on any options that compromise helmet safety.

Of the new models, it’s the backpack that tempts me most. Reviews suggest it’s super high-quality, accommodates a 13″ MacBook or iPad Pro, and the mount and hydration options look perfect for the majority of my use cases:

It is $170/£150 so you will be paying a premium for the brand, but the three mount options included are really attractive (plus potentially there is a fourth by attaching a helmet mount to the rear of the pack). Get it from GoPro or from Amazon.

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18 tips for success

  1. Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it.
  2. Be visible – get out there and sell yourself.
  3. Choose your name wisely.
  4. You can’t run a business without taking risks.
  5. The first impression is everything. So is the second.
  6. Perfection is unattainable.
  7. The customer is always right, most of the time.
  8. Define your brand.
  9. Explore uncharted territory – lots of things haven’t yet been discovered.
  10. Beware the “us vs. them” environment.
  11. Build a corporate comfort zone – so people can openly express themselves without rigid confines.
  12. Not everyone is suited to be a CEO.
  13. Seek a second opinion. Seek a third.
  14. Cut ties without burning bridges.
  15. Pick up the phone – don’t text or email when you should be calling.
  16. Change shouldn’t be feared, but it should be managed.
  17. When it comes to making mistakes, bounce back, don’t fall down.
  18. Be a leader, not a boss.

– Richard Branson

I was reminded of this list by a friend just this morning, so noting it here. It’s remarkable how consistently accurate and relevant the advice has proven to be over the years. 

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The ‘first-hour rule’

We all have tough projects we’d like to tackle, but we just can’t. It seems so big, we don’t know where to start. We’re full of fear even when we think about starting.
Making things is one big battle with the Pressfieldian Resistance. However, with a little Motivational Judo, you can lay The Resistance flat on its back. I call this move the First-Hour Rule.

With the First-Hour Rule, you commit to working on that tough project for the first hour of each day. When that hour is up, you stop if you want to. If you really want to keep going, you do.

Simple concept, but I find it works well… Tackle that challenge head on, and do battle in the most productive hour of the day.

More >

Slack banner

Calls come to Slack

Typing is great. We love typing. And while there are many fine ways to communicate via typing — messaging in channels, direct messages, and group DMs — today we’re officially adding calls to the mix for everyone.
Slack call feature
After months of beta testing, all Slack users everywhere can now use our calls feature. Huzzah!

Little explanation required. 1:1 calls now included at no cost for all Slack users, with group calls included in paid plans. Just like that, Slack reduces the need for both Skype and phone conference services for many teams.

(On a personal note – if Slack would just properly enable local recording of calls within the app then this would be a great solution for podcasters too)

More >

Conference Speaking

Ummo: your personal speech coach

Planning a conference session or work presentation anytime soon? This app might come in handy…

Ummo logoUmmo is your personal speech coach. Whether you are practicing for a presentation or looking to improve your day-to-day communication, use Ummo to track your filler words (“Umms” and “Uhhs”, “like”, “you know”), pace, word power, clarity, and more.

This iPhone app is definitely a version 1.x, and has its flaws, but looks extremely promising in terms of providing machine analysis of presentation and speaking styles.

Install the app, allow access to the microphone, click the mic button, wait for the countdown to complete and then start talking.  The app will capture each work as it is said, looking for pre-defined filler words, any lack of clarity of tone, and any overly-long pauses. Once the recording is complete, it provides quite detailed reports and analysis of the effectiveness of the recorded session:

ummo1 ummo2 ummo3 ummo4

As I mentioned, there are some (um, err) issues – this needs a fast iPhone (it works considerably better on my iPhone 6s+ than it did on the iPhone 5 I tested, and even then, it does sometimes mis-capture the words. However, speech is by its nature imperfect, and I can forgive the app some teething pains.

For my use at least, it gave some good data, and helped me to spot some weaknesses in my speaking style that I hadn’t isolated previously.  The reviews on the UK store are not great at present (1.5 stars! They are much better on the US store…), but this review from MacStories is, I believe, fairer to the developer.  Anyway, it costs just $1.99 (£1.49), so it could be worth your time and hard-earned cash to give it a punt!

Grab Ummo from the App Store.

Beyond Xpages

Beyond Domino development?

Peter Presnell of Red Pill on the future of Domino development ‘Beyond XPages‘:

That made me wonder…. why would IBM suddenly only provide a commitment to fix-packs instead of taking the opportunity to remain committed to a new release, something customers and the community continue to push for? I may be wrong, but I suspect that having already gone three years without a release, should IBM decide to have a 9.0.2 release of Notes/Domino, this could potentially reset the clock for how long IBM would be obligated to support Notes/Domino moving forward. I am sure they will ultimately determine an appropriate length of support once it is clear to customers there are no new releases coming, but they probably want to leave as much wiggle room (legally) as they can. After all, they do employ one or two lawyers!

Back in March I suggested that new ICS GM Inhi Cho Suo was likely to make significant changes to the direction of ICS. The Road Map presented at Engage also was missing any reference to Notes/Domino Next. Perhaps a faster end for Notes, Domino, and XPages is part of that change.

Really insightful thoughts on where XPages and Domino stand as technologies, how far they’ve dropped beyond the latest releases of their supported frameworks, and where enterprise customers should invest their development budget for the future.  No guarantees that Peter’s assumptions are 100% correct, but I do think he’s barking up the right tree…

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Two very interesting new partnerships in the IBM Connections space

Firstly, two extremely well-respected IBM ISVs are forming a strategic alliance:

Infoware-logo-plain-trans-BlackSpecialists from all over the world are preparing themselves for Social Connections 10 – the core event for the IBM Connections community. So did Infoware and panagenda, both sponsors at the event, and formed a strategic alliance to jointly market both parties solutions.

panagenda-Logo_2000x676The solutions Infoware DomainPatrol Social for content and user management and panagenda ConnectionsExpert for monitoring, adoption and analytics complement each other perfectly.

I’ve been a strong advocate for Infoware‘s Domain Patrol Social product for a number of years,infoware1feeling that it fills a much-needed hole in a Connections community manager’s toolkit – managing communities, profiles and files in a way that the product itself does not allow.

ConnectionsExpert-LogoI have also heard great things about panagenda‘s upcoming ConnectionsExpert product, which is about to be launched at Social Connections 10. This will offer metrics, analytics, realtime monitoring and adoption measurement all in one package. Given Panagenda’s network of partners and their own strong consultancy team (including Femke and Christoph), this is sure to do well.

As the press releases state, these products should prove to be highly complementary, and knowing the two organisations as I do, I think they’ll work tremendously well together.

Secondly, a social collaboration company that I’ve followed for a very long time, nooQ, is now partnering with IBM on adding visualisation features to IBM solutions, including IBM Connections:

nooqlogoWe are excited to announce we have entered into a partnership with IBM.

Since we won product awards at Socialnow we have been speaking to IBM on working together. The next logical step for that was to apply for IBM partnership status, which has been approved.

nooQ will work with IBM their customers using IBM Connections to apply our intelligent, machine learning algorithms and visualisation to sit on top of existing IBM Connections data.

There are a lot of features in the IBM product that are not in nooQ such as blogs and wiki’s but now IBM customers will have the added benefit of an alternative interface to surface personalised content. They will be able to use our volume controls to filter and display visually what is important to them.

We will be focussing on IBM’s next generation Social Business products such as IBM Connections and also excited to see what powerful combinations we can complement and improve including their other next generation social business products with machine learning such as IBM Verse, IBM Watson, and Toscana.

I watched nooQ’s presentation at Social Now and it was fascinating to see the response from the audience in terms of being wowed by the potential of their solution, and could almost hear the cogs whirring in terms of the potential for the visualisation techniques and insight to be layered on top of other collaboration platforms – including Connections and Jive.  It’s impressive to see that IBM and nooQ have moved so quickly, and I look forward to hearing more about the partnership and roadmap.

soccnx_logo_900x250Both alliances will be in action next week at Social Connections 10 in Toronto, so if you have the opportunity to attend, you really should! There are still tickets available so register ASAP!