Coffee Time

Using random meet-ups to build relationships and strengthen company culture

I love this idea…

One initiative we’re trying at the moment is CoffeeTime. CoffeeTime is an app, created in less than a day by Daniel, one of our developers. It works by pairing people up randomly, to meet and greet each other, often with someone you may not normally interact with. It doesn’t matter what level in the org chart, or role each person plays. Anyone can be matched up for a 30-minute chat (though people can choose to opt-out, of course). It aims to encourage the cross-team communication and serendipitous learning which otherwise happens naturally when co-workers share an office.

At its heart is the idea that the most important things to learn are often those you didn’t even know you needed to. By making more connections with the people you work with, it increases the likelihood that you’ll have access to someone who can help you further down the line. Maybe that person is having a similar problem or has experienced it before and can point you in the right direction. Or maybe you just end up making a new friend!

CoffeeTime visual

Either way, once a week CoffeeTime runs and you’re matched up with someone else in the organization. Each of you receives an email telling you who that person is. You then take it from there and arrange to meet in person or over a Hangout, to eat lunch or just chat.

The folks at Fog Creek who invented the CoffeeTime app have now open-sourced it and so you can try the concept out in your organisation.

I believe that any digital  transformation project needs to embrace and enable face-to-face as well as online relationships. I therefore think that this model has real potential in breaking down barriers, developing stronger cross-departmental ties and reinforcing an open and informal culture of collaboration.

What do you think? Would you consider running a similar app at your organisation?

What matters to Collaboration Matters ?

Collaboration really does matter to us. We started our business on the principle that helping people to work together in new and smarter ways was a good thing to do.  We won’t hire anyone in our business unless they exhibit a passion for this. So Social Business is in our DNA.

We understand that many forward-looking organisations are looking for new ways to work together smarter to innovate by capturing, sharing and working on ideas to deliver a better customer experience.

And that some of these organisations will want us to help them to succeed with Social Business projects which drive positive change.

This will take leadership and a willingness to experiment with new ways of working together.

A social business recognises that people do business with people and provides new tools to enhance the ways people can interact to get work done. Our drive is to provide the platforms, processes and know-how to help you do this.

Helping you to work smarter together.  That’s what matters to us.

McKinsey Quarterly: Making internal collaboration work – An interview with Don Tapscott

One of the best resources for those interested in Social Business has to be the McKinsey Quarterly.

As many of you will know, McKinsey & Co are one of the most respected management consultancies around, and are involved in a significant volume of work with organisations around the world on Social Business and internal productivity. The McKinsey Global Institute produces a regular annual report into the use of Social Business – a must read for sure.

However, the reason for this post is to direct you to this interview with Don Tapscott where he describes why effective knowledge management within enterprises requires replacing e-mail with social media. Filmed in September 2012, Don does a great job of explaining how Social Business tools will revolutionise business in this decade, and how it should be approached differently from previous collaborative technologies.

(If you prefer to read these kinds of interviews, the transcript is also available).

I particularly like Don’s example of an organisation cancelling 80% of their meetings that were ‘informational’ by sharing the information online in place of the meeting.  

Collaboration Matters believes that this Social Business ‘revolution’ is as significant as Don and others state, and are working with organisations to make massive gains in productivity through the shift from meetings and email into a much more efficient social strategy.

Social Business: Collaboration comes of age

Deloitte Consulting:

The application of social business systems and practices is facilitating discovery and creating connections across the enterprise. It is also radically changing the way we think about core business strategies and goals. It makes real-time collaboration on tasks and documents possible, and provides a systematic view of who knows who, who knows what, and how work actually gets done. In short, social business delivers on the promises made by collaboration systems decades ago.

More >

IBM Collaboration Solutions Community Webcast

If you don’t take part in the monthly IBM Collaboration Solutions monthly community webcasts then you are really missing out.  Run by the wonderful Joyce Davis, they’re great opportunities to catch up the latest news regarding ICS/Lotus products, to hear from those active in the community and to have an opportunity to feed back on your own opinions and views.

This month’s webcast featured IBM Champion Simon Vaughan from Cardiff University, Baan Slavens from IBM and Eric Otchet presenting on Lotus Notes Traveler 8.5.3 Upgrade Pack 1:

Make sure you register for August’s meeting!  All the details are shared on the IBM Social Business blog.

Different technology, same values

A Lotus Notes ad from the R5 days, circa 1999:

I am ready‘, ‘I am connected‘, ‘I am not alone‘, ‘The power to work the way you want‘, ‘Share work and ideas‘ and so on…

This was describing Collaboration, Messaging and Workflow software from 13 years ago, but could so easily be describing the impact of Social Media and Social Business tools (such as IBM Connections) today.

My goodness, Lotus Notes and Domino really was painting a vision of the future…

The Collaboration Diner – an Introduction

Anyone that follows me on Twitter will have seen that this week has been rather dominated by a single topic, The Collaboration Diner, and was brought to you by the hashtag #cbdiner 😉

So I hear you cry, what is The Collaboration Diner?

Many of you, especially those in North America, will be aware of a rather famous 1942 painting by Edward Hopper known as ‘Nighthawks‘:


Painted soon after the attack at Pearl Harbour, the painting is thought to detail the alienation felt by those in a strange city, and the interaction, consolation and prospective relationships that could be found within the diners that were scattered on street corners throughout New York and other cities.  Diner customers could ‘network’ with the few others in the physical location they inhabited.

In 2003, Wired magazine commissioned comic artist Josh Ellingson to bring the diner situation up to date in the face of the emergence of free wi-fi, ubiquitous mobile devices and laptops:

Once again, the diner or coffee shop had become the place where relaxation and re-connecting could be combined, but this time connections were as likely to be with those hundreds or thousands of miles away.  In 2003, it was likely that this would have been via a relatively small group of friends or colleagues that the individual was in regular contact with.

Now bring the situation up to the modern day. Social and Mobile dominate. Almost every individual carries at least a mobile phone, most a smartphone and many more than one device. Multiple social networks are reachable from these devices, personal, professional and organisational sites provide a constant connection to friends, family, colleagues, customers and partners. Business is as likely to be carried out in a diner in a strange city as at one’s own desk.

However, the diner is still a useful metaphor for the  meeting place, for the clash of cultures, the possibility of accidents and incidents leading to passionate discourse and idea-sparking conversations.

Thus we have seen the birth of The Collaboration Diner brought to you by Collaboration Matters, with its first outing at the UC Expo show in London this past week.

Look out for future posts detailing what was involved, why it was such an innovative concept, and what discussions took place there.  One thing’s for sure, tech trade shows have never seen anything like it!

Learning from competition

Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, writes on the correct way to deal with competition:

Reacting well to competition requires critical analysis of your own product and its shortcomings, and a complete, open-minded understanding of why people might choose your competitors.

They’re not fanboys. They’re not brainwashed by “marketing”. Your competitors’ customers aren’t passing on your product because they’re stupid or irrational.

They’re choosing your competitors for good reasons, and denying the existence of such good reasons will only ensure that your product never overcomes them.

CompetitionHe goes on to discuss why Microsoft’s recent reaction to the threat of iOS is more constructive than Google’s.

It’s a fascinating reflection, and bears great relevance to the way in which we see some Collaboration and Social Business vendors react.

Customers are not irrational, users are not stupid. If you want them to choose to buy your solution, or even more importantly, to desire to use it, you had better go focus your attention and resources on making yours significantly better than the opposition, not on dissing the opposition or those that buy or use their products!

Face it…the content-centric approach to knowledge management and collaboration is broken

Face it…the content-centric approach to knowledge management and collaboration is broken.

Fortunately, there is a different perspective that your business can take. Like the view considered by Copernicus, consider that your knowledge management doesn’t revolve around content, but rather around people. After all, people are the source of the content. Knowledge doesn’t originate from the paper, but from the person. The content that you have within your organization is a result of people documenting and sharing their knowledge and ideas. And it’s the consumers, the people who read and use this content that validates it. So let’s think about centering on the source of the light…your people.

Great blog post by Loius Richardson of IBM making an important distinction between content-centric collaboration (e.g. Sharepoint) and people-centric collaboration (e.g. Connections). Go read it.

Youtube: Lotus software can help you locate and collaborate with the right experts at the right time

How Lotus software (Connections, Quickr, Sametime and Unified Telephony) can help you get the job done, whether it’s responding to an RFI or fighting the squirrel menace!


Whilst the production values of this video are not up to those of some Lotus demos published to YouTube (e.g. those featuring Ron Sebastian or Suzanne Minassian), I really like this one as it ties together a number of the products together into an integrated solution that solves a common business problem, and best of all, actually shows them in use…   Nice one.

The four pillars of collaboration

There’s an interesting post comparing the IBM/Lotus and Microsoft collaboration strategies and product line-ups over at the AIIM blog:

IBM and Microsoft both offer quite good collaboration functionality. Which do you go with? That depends on your organization’s approach to messaging and IT infrastructure.

If you have decided that your collaboration strategy will focus on a suite approach as opposed to best-of-breed technologies, then you will most likely take a hard look at IBM and Microsoft to meet your needs. Both IBM and Microsoft have produced a suite of integrated technologies that deliver a collaboration functionality that addresses all four of the collaboration pillars. Microsoft delivers collaboration functionality in a combination of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007/ Exchange and IBM delivers the functionality in a combination of Quickr, Connections, and Lotus Notes/Domino.

I particularly liked the piece as it collates each vendor’s propositions into what it terms ‘the four pillars of collaboration‘:

• The Messaging Pillar enables teams and individuals to communicate and manage their interactions in a formal, auditable manner. This includes email, calendaring, scheduling, and contact management.

• The Real-Time Collaboration Pillar is more focused on ad-hoc communications providing the team with the capability to easily initiate a real-time conversation between one or more individuals. This includes Instant Messaging, Web Conferencing, and Unified Communications capabilities

• The Team Collaboration Pillar provides the content management services that collect, store, and manage the documents that are pertinent to the team’s activity. This can include document management, ad-hoc workflow, and basic project management.

• The final Pillar, Social Networking, represents the newest pillar in the collaboration house. This pillar provides a way for teams and individuals to share knowledge not only within the team, but to be able to reach out to an extended group for their input and feedback. Technologies in the pillar can include Blogs, Wikis, RSS, and Tagging.

It’s always a challenge to articulate how the individual products relate to each other, particularly Lotus Quickr and Connections, in a way that means something to non-technical folks.  While these terms are by no means new, its good to find ways to segment and describe the different forms of collaboration that have proved successful for others…

Collaboration University logo

Guest Speaking at Collaboration University 2009

Rob Novak brings us the latest news from the Collaboration University crew:

Collaboration University logoCollaboration University welcomes guest speakers

Collaboration University is pleased to welcome back the Usual Suspects – Chris Miller,  Carl Tyler,  Warren Elsmore,  Gab & Tim Davis, and the SNAPPS gang, but this year we have also invited some guest speakers to cover a few Lotus Connections topics…

Mitch Cohen from Colgate reprises his role as the guest alumni and customer speaker, where he will dazzle us with IBM Lotus Connections 2.5 deployment tips and best practices.

Stuart McIntyre of Collaboration Matters and author of just a few blogs will join us for a session on Connections 2.5 customization – including profiles, TDI and custom themes.
This is in direct response to a CU 2008 alumni request I received a few weeks ago (the request was for the topics…sorry, Stuart!)

Kathleen McGivney, of we-go-way-back fame (Kat and I were co-authors on a QuickPlace Redbook 8 years ago!) and now a  solo consultant will be designing some of our new format Quickr and Sametime labs, and joining us in Chicago to help run them.

Welcome to the gang, Mitch, Stuart and Kat!

More announcements and news about CU 2009 registration, topics and a brand new concept all coming in days…for more up-to-date information be sure to follow  @CollabU on Twitter…

I am truly delighted and honoured to have been invited to speak at such a great event and with the team of Lotus luminaries that puts on the Collaboration University each year.  I’m also really excited to be covering the new Connections 2.5 product in my session, delving into the myriad of options available for customisation and delivering tips and tricks on how make Connections really sing and dance in your environment.

As a reminder, Collaboration University is scheduled in Chicago from September 14-16, 2009 and in London from September 21-23, 2009.  All the details are over on the Collaboration University site.  I hope to see you there!

Michael Sampson – How to Manage Your Business in a Recession #1 (Use your Collaboration tools!)

Interesting post from the always insightful Michael Sampson, discussing an organisation’s collaboration infrastructure and strategy can help it manage during the recession:

The January 19, 2009 print edition of Fortune magazine features an article entitled How to Manage Your Business in a Recession, authored by Geoff Colvin (pp.66-71). Inside, Geoff lays out 10 ways to weather the current economic storm. He starts:

    “Exciting as it is to be living through historic economic drama, you can’t just stand by and watch. You have to act–yet you have no script. So much of today’s turmoil is unprecedented that we can’t find much guidance by looking to the past. For managers across the global economy, as well as for Team Obama on its way to Washington, today’s great question is, What do we do now?”

Let’s take Geoff’s 10 principles, and analyze the implications for your collaboration strategy.

Amongst many other suggestions, Michael recommends starting (or expanding) the use of online meetings to reduce travel costs:

Expense Management for Meetings
Examine travel patterns for inhouse meetings, and estimate the time and cost involved for the next 6-12 months. Can you put in place new ways of “meeting” … new ways of getting to coordinated action without putting people on planes? For larger firms with clear travel patterns between major offices, perhaps a couple of telepresence suites make a lot of financial sense. Remember, it’s the cost of telepresence in comparison to the alternative that signals whether it’s a prudent financial investment, not the out-of-pocket cost per se. For smaller firms, the TANDBERG line of personal video conferencing equipment could be the way to go ($6-$9K each), or even an Apple iMac 20″ ($2k each) for video conferencing between two or more people. There’s another upside to having remote meeting capabalities too — the possibility of meeting more frequently … say every day for 10 minutes. That always does wonders for keeping people focused on the important priorities, and keeping everyone marching to the same tune. So yes, there’s a cost optimization benefit in recession times to having such equipment available and well embedded as part of employee repetoire, but there are ongoing strategic benefits that play out beyond recession times too.

Meetings that are more about co-creation of content than discussion and decision making can be supported through online meeting tools like Citrix GoToMeeting, LotusLive Meetings, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, and many more (my personal favorite is Citrix GoToMeeting — it just always works!). Co-writing of documents, looking over an upcoming presentation, brainstorming about market opportunities, and more … all can be supported just as well through online meeting tools, for about $40 per month.

Michael also suggests a number of means of increasing the efficiency of doing business, including one of my pet subjects:

Get Out of Managing Projects in Email
With the volatility in the market, great employees can be head-hunted out of your firm by others, and you equally have the option of optimizing your employee ranks through layoffs and new hirings. If you are running projects in email, what’s going on is locked up in individual email inboxes. That makes it so much more difficult to induct new people into projects as they join your firm, or to pick up projects that exiting people drop on the way out.

You need … a collaboration tool that supports team projects, with all project artifacts in one place (documents, timeline, team profiles, tasks, calendar meetings and events, etc.), and the ability to add new people and remove departing people easily and quickly. There are a plethora of options … inhouse variants (Lotus Notes, Lotus Quickr, Microsoft SharePoint, Jive Clearspace, etc.) and hosted variants (Central Desktop, 37signals,, etc.). If you aren’t already, shifting the doing of projects to project collaboration tools such as these should be a top priority. You will face costs in getting these tools deployed at a technical level, as well as costs in training your people how to use the tools and make the best use of them.

Great to see Michael recognising Notes as so much more than just a mail client.

These difficult times are definitely an opportunity to take a close look at the way your people work together, both from a point of view of reducing costs and also of improving efficiencies by investing small amounts in new collaboration tools or by getting more benefit from the tools you already have – Notes being a classic example!

Collaboration software – a free alternative

Another great find via Twitter, this time from @idonotes – thanks Chris 😉

Welcome to kablink, the new home of

Make Teams Work
Online communities.
Social networking.
Team Collaboration.

When it comes to team collaboration, everyone wants the latest Web 2.0 technology—wikis, blogs, file sharing, secure threaded discussions, and the list goes on. And every software vendor swears they have ‘The Best’ of each tool. Here’s the point: You need all this groupware in one integrated environment—along with real-time presence—to achieve true enterprise collaboration and transform collaborative social networking into a competitive advantage. That’s what we call Open Collaboration.

Communicate. Create. Discuss. Manage. Meet anytime, anywhere.

Welcome to kablink. A single Integrated Collaboration Environment that establishes a collaborative group workspace of people, teams, functions, tasks and content all working together to drive effective teamwork to the next level.  And best of all, it comes from a proven software provider with a decade of experience delivering successful team collaboration and real-time communication solutions to leading organizations. Now, take advantage of this expertise in open source collaboration.

I’m going to download a copy to contrast with the Lotus offerings, so I don’t know too much about the product’s abilities, but I can certainly see a lot of the more techie SMBs I work with taking a good long hard look at the solution.  Check out the project brief here (PDF)…