Focus on Your Customer's Customer

I enjoyed reading this HBR post Focus on Your Customer's Customer by Kerry Bodine. But I wondered, isn't social media also pushing this and making this easier (and more important) than ever? In the past B2B companies hardly knew what the actual users/customers of their products thought of them. The Sales reps of B2B talked with DMU's (decision making units), not customers. Now via social media B2B sales can look past the DMU's and listen to the actual users/customers and use the data for product innovation, better customer service, different sales, etc.

Kerry replied to my comment and I'm happy to say she agrees! Do you agree? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The Importance of Downtime

When you´re reading this I´ll be in a plane to the USA enjoying the first day of my vacation! Talk about downtime...

Watch this great TED Talk about where work gets done.

Good stuff eh?! It relates to my experience. How often are we interrupted at work? It's the managers job to interrupt people, says Fried. And should Facebook really be closed down because it's making us unproductive at work? And with all the meetings, how much time to have to get things done? So, M&M's are the problem: managers and meetings.

I ran into this related FastCompany post 'Why doing nothing is often better than doing something' (by Richard Watson). Interesting personal experience. I was wondering, is there any scientific proof that downtime is good? And how can be make downtime a good thing instead of 'an act of laziness'?

Well, while you're at work, I'm at work too. Enjoying my downtime to be even more productive when I get back. ;-)

On being wrong: I err therefore I'm human

TED Talks are just great. I recently advised someone who didn't know the talks to watch one or two videos every time she was uninspired. They're a great source of inspiration to me.

Just watch this video On being wrong by Kathryn Schulz. This is such a hard and important topic. It's one of the things we learn not to do much as soon as we go to school. After finishing college and university we know for sure: failure is not an option.

But it is an option. We know so deeply as well. And if we're in the right context at school, at work and in our families we embrace failure. Trying and not succeeding is essential for learning, for building experience and knowledge. About life in general and about our passions especially.

Because we don't and can't know everything. That's one of reasons I like social media so much. Social media done right helps us share the things we know, find interesting, but also share our questions and doubts. By being open about our knowledge and questions we give others the opportunity to build on them, learn, help us, pick us up after being wrong and encourage us to go on.

Realizing your wrong is not the same a being wrong, says Schulz. And it's only human to err. She quotes Augustine: I err therefore I am. (This statement has to do with Augustines acknowledgement of man being sinful, by the way. Not a popular concept these days...)

Schulz challenges us to take life as it comes: it surprises us, astonishes us, it turns up differently than we expect. We should rediscover wonder (- it keeps me going!). We should listen more and say we were wrong more often. (Refer to Jan van Veen's good post about the importance of listening.)

So, let's encourage each other to fail more. It's a priviledge.

Review The Intranet Management Handbook by Martin White

Martin White recently sent me a review copy of his new book ‘The Intranet Management Handbook’. I reviewed it in Dutch here (Frankwatching link will be inserted soon). I’m posting slightly different review here on my blog. One with a bit more questions about the book.

What is the book about?
Not many books have been written about intranet. And the existing books usually address an aspect of intranet. For this reason the publication of ‘The Intranet Management Handbook’ is special.  I’d like to congratulate the author of the book, Martin White, with this event! I really enjoyed reading the book. It is well-written and complete. (For those that don’t know Martin: he’s one of the older internationally known intranet experts.)

As I said I enjoyed reading the book. It addresses all or most of the intranet topics. It doesn’t go into too much detail, but enough detail for it to be a real handbook. It helps intranet managers and employees in their daily work. Whether you’ve been in this space for years or just heard you’ve become responsible for the intranet, this book will help you proceed. Examples of topics are: the intranet manager’s rol and skills, intranet governance, deployment and technology. It also addresses related topics like collaboration, social media and the Sharepoint platform.

Business case
I really liked the part in which White addresses the intranet business case. His advice is not to just focus on numbers and not to try to write up a case for the intranet as a whole per se. Focus on features of the intranet that bring value and also write a good story why the intranet is essential.

Now for some questions about the book.
What I really missed was a nice definition of the intranet. What is an intranet according to White? Somewhere he defines it based on underlying technology. It used to be content management, document management and search. Now we must also add collaboration and social media. My definition is: the intranet is collection of internal webservices (based on one or more platforms).

Somewhere else White addresses why intranets are often not essential to organizations. He mentions a couple of reasons: companies don’t see information as a key asset and the intranet doesn’t connect to what the company finds important. But can’t we be a bit more specific about this? Isn’t the key problem that intranets don’t connect to business processes. It doesn’t support (knowledge) workers in their daily work. A large part of their work is collecting, improving and distributing information. The fact that companies don’t find that important is actually quite weird… On the other hand: we have work to do to explain that to decision makers.
Two other remarks intrigued me. White says the “greatest opportunity and challenge for intranet management will be to adapt the intranet to the way in which people work in the future”. Why is that a challenge for the future? Hasn’t that always been the challenge for intranet managers?

You need this book
These questions don’t imply I think less of the book. On the contrary. They’re intended to keep the discussion about intranet going! I enjoyed reading the handbook. It should be on every intranet manager’s desk. Right there, to pick it up and learn from it when needed.

Have you read this book? Or are you going to? In both cases tell me what you think of the book when you’re ready. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about my questions about the book.

Keep the Intranet Small

This tweet by Jonathan Phillips (@digitaljonathan) triggered to finalize this post, that's been burning in my draft box.
I've always been intrigued by how unsuccessful many intranets are. And there are all kinds of good reasons for intranet failure. One of the things that is hardly ever mentioned is: Shouldn't the intranet be smaller?
Usually intranets are huge. Lots and lots of pages with lots and lots of content. With complex navigation. The intranet  evaluation surveys almost always show employees only use the news page and people finder. But still we build and maintain nice big intranets.

Not only stats point to smaller intranets. There are others reasons as well. I came up with a few. If you have more, just leave a comment. Here's my list:

-          user requirements: users don't require large intranet
-          search/navigation: searching and navigating a small intranet is easier than in a large intranet
-          mobile: the content of the intranet is easier to take with you on mobile devices and the like
-          bandwidth: loading and accessing the intranet is faster
-          money: a small intranet is not as expensive to build and maintain
-          implementation and improvement (makkelijk en snel): improving a small intranet is easier because interdependences are clear
-          migration easier: migrating a small intranet to a new tech platform is easier
-          manageble: a smaller intranet is just easier to manage by the intranet team

Maybe 'smaller is better' should be the new intranet trend, like it is being proposed for information management.

What do you think, should the intranet be smaller? And will that make the intranet more essential?

Thanks for the trigger, Jonathan!

Participate in the Intranet Innovation Awards #iia

There are many ways to evaluate your intranet. For instance, by regularly polling your users. You can also look at the statistics: how often is the intranet accessed. Have you ever thought of benchmarking your intranet with the intranets of the world? When I was at Oce, we did. (My ex-colleague Jan van Veen also wrote about this experience here.) We participated in the Intranet Innovation Awards by StepTwo Designs. We didn’t win…, but participating was worth it. Just by filling out the participation form is a great learning experience in itself.

You’re evaluating the intranet before the intranet is evaluated by the expert panel of the Awards itself.

The Intranet Innovation Awards is about celebrating innovative intranets and/or segments of the intranet. So your whole intranet does not have to be special, as long as part of it is, you’ve got something to submit to these Awards. And if you win, it’s a great way to get international attention for the hard work you put into your web workplace.

You can find more on how to participate here. I hope you will hop in and submit your entry to these Awards. But be quick, May 31 is the deadline.

Join the State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration Survey

Although social media has been around for some time and more and more examples of the opportunity of social media for business are popping up, I find we are still just getting started. More experiments need to be done to show the power of social media within, between and outside companies. More research need to be done to prove the value of social media for business. And that’s one of the things Jacob Morgan of the Chess Media Group is doing. With the survey The State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration they want to get more understanding on “how emergent social and collaborative technologies are being used for sharing information and collaborating within organizations (not partner or customer facing)”. Jacob has written several case studies about Enterprise 2.0 adoption. One of which I had the pleasure to provide input for.

Filling out the survey will only take about 10 minutes. I hope you can find that time to help us all gain a deeper understanding of this new, vibrant and exciting field.

IBF24 – I’m in! #ibf24

For the first time I’ll be participating in IBF24. I don’t know why this is only my first time. The program is great, interesting speakers and companies are giving talk, also about more general topics like social business and collaboration, and it’s free!

I’ll be in the slot on Thursday, May 18 from 7:00-9:00 (Amsterdam time). But I’ll be dipping in regularly. And all the sessions can be rerun afterwards as well.

Will you be joining the IBF24 (#ibf4)? If so, leave a comment. Hope to meet you there.