Working Out Loud Barcamp 2017 – A Retrospective

A couple of days ago I had the chance to participate in the first Working-Out-Loud Barcamp in Germany. If you have never heard about WOL, in a nutshell it is about “building relationships that matter” by sharing your work openly and widely and generously offering help to others.
I am normally not someone who talks much in superlatives but this WOL Barcamp truly was unique on many different levels.

The purpose


Picture Credit: Harald Schirmer


Very much in line with the purpose and effects of WOL, the event was about sharing, learning, connecting, supporting, energising and mobilising like-minded people. Of course, it was also about promoting WOL and having fun.
The people
Picture Credit: DigitalLife@Daimler
As many as 106 people from over 48 different companies participated in the barcamp. United by a common purpose (see above) it was not about ego but eco. WE was certainly greater than ME. As far as I could tell from my conversations, overhearing others’s discussions and participating in two sessions there was no one boosting about his achievements, the “size/length” of his #WOL experience or looking down on people that have not yet started their WOL journey. Everyone seemed to be genuinely interested in the other person and his story, no matter whether they were WOLnewbies or WOLexperts. What made the barcamp even more enjoyable was the fact that many attendees, me included, were already connected with others in online channels and it was the first time to finally meet offline. Bonus point: You don’t start with clumsy questions like “Where do you work?”, “What do you do?”, “What do you want to learn here?”. It felt more like a big family reunion, but in this case with family members that you were able to choose.
The content
Yes, it was not just about happy-clappy, hello-hello, but also about interesting content. Since it was a barcamp the attendees created and decided on the agenda.
Credit: Michael Otto
I attended the following three sessions:
WOL Workshop Concept
  • The session organiser, Magnus Rode, invited us to share and discuss approaches on how to best run a WOL workshop for prospective leaders. It was a lively conversation, in which participants shared their learnings and suggestions from similar situations. Magnus documented it in this wiki.

Office Out Loud

  • Joachim Haydecker invited to this session. He is currently involved in helping employees of a big company to become comfortable with and productive on Office 365. Inspired by the key aspects of Working Out Loud he was looking for ways to use John Stepper’s WOL method to accelerate the learning process and make it more sustainable. I left the conversation early because it reminded me at times of the saying “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
Leading Change: What comes after the WOL Hype?
  • Logically, I went into the session about WOL and hype to ground myself again. It was the antidote to the session before. I missed the introduction by the organiser Harald Schirmer and first 20 minutes of the conversation.  When put on the spot and among others under the impression of the previous session I did exclaim that WOL certainly did feel like a hype. Having had time to reflect on it afterwards, I believe the answer needs to be more nuanced than that. I feel a separate blog post coming.
John Stepper gave an inspiring keynote about his personal story of how he experienced unhappiness in his corporate jobs, how WOL has helped him to find happiness again and how WOL inspires others to do the same. For him it is not about large-scale change but the impact that he and others can have on people one is directly and sometimes even indirectly connected with.
The energy
Picture Credit: DigitalLife@Daimler
You have an intimate event of about 100 attendees, people united by the same purpose that want to learn but also care to share. What could go wrong with that? Nothing! The anticipation for the event was mounting as it drew closer. About 50 attendees met for dinner the night before. Smiles, hugs, lively and lovely conversations everywhere. The next day the same happened. The energy level was sky high from the beginning and maintained its level throughout the day, even through the dreaded afternoon lull. When people left they were energised and mobilised and ready to take on the (corporate) world with its imperfection and inhumanity.
The organisers and crew
Picture Credit: Magnus Rode
All the above would would not have happened if it was not for these people:
What I find astonishing is the the fact that these individuals worked on it alongside their day job at their respective company. It needs high levels of commitment and belief to pull off such inspiring and valuable event. Thank you all for putting your energy into making this barcamp happen! And of course, not to forget about the other individuals that worked very hard prior to the event and behind the scenes during the event to ensure smooth sailing! Well done, team!!
Picture this:
  • Traditional conferences, where you first get haggled into attending, pay a lot of money even with a steep discount (because, well it is you!), have high expectations because you still paid lots of money, are stuck in a windowless, heartless and soulless conference hotel, are surrounded by bloodless people in suits, stick to the one person that you seem to have something in common with because you are tired of the same old small-talk conversations, sit through endless presentations that all talk about the WHY and WHAT, but rarely about the HOW, are forced to “network” with vendors because they paid even more money than you to attend, eat the typical conference food and are more engaged with your mobile than with the conference because you simply cannot bear it.
  • WOL Barcamp, where you pay kind of a symbolic fee, are cordially invited with the best intention, are welcomed by friends and strangers alike as if you were best friends, can feel the excitement prior, during and after the event, learn about the HOW, have no obligation to share but you do it because you want to pay it forward to others, eat delicious food in a remodelled workshop and just feel completely in the right spot at the right time.
Well, I guess it is pretty clear where you will find me next year! I really hope there will be another WOL Barcamp 🙂
If you read so far and are still interested in what really happened that day (don’t take my word for it), check out these links from other attendees:
Blog Posts

Header Picture Credit: DigitalLife@Daimler

WTF is a Learning Mindset?

As the world moves faster and faster around us, companies and their employees are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

“Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again” –@graemewood

Therefore, constant learning has never been been more important than today. But first, the old adage “we learn not for school, but for life” rings hallow, as the the skills we are taught in school resemble only a small subset of what is needed to master one’s life. Second, once we have completed our education, we join a company, take on a role and become a vertical (domain) expert. Back in 1991 David Guest already proposed the T-shaped professional, where the vertical bar represents the depth of related skills and expertise within a certain domain and the horizontal bar reflects the ability to collaborate across disciplines and apply knowledge in areas of expertise that are not one’s own. Granted, that was within the context of IT professionals but should be true for probably most roles in the modern workplace.

Many companies today resemble fragmented information silos. Employees in different departments work in sequence along the value chain. Each department has its own purpose, processes and even culture. Each individual becomes a master of his trade during his professional career. However, that is not good enough in today’s world. As the world becomes more complex and intertwined, companies need to adapt accordingly and create networked structures with interdisciplinary teams, promote a collaborative mindset and encourage and empower their employees to constantly learn.

Hang on, are companies not already spending a fortune on trainings, development courses, external coaches, you name it? Indeed they are, and I am not going to make the point that all that is futile. I very well believe that there is a case for such trainings and coachings but it is only one side of the story (remember that vertical bar of T?!). If companies really want their employees to grow, want them to be curious and inquisitive, they need to lay the foundations for a learning mindset, especially when it comes to soft skills and mindset, since you cannot “learn” these in a classroom or e-learning or similar.

Differences between a training and learning mindset

Here are some aspects that in my view define a “training mindset” and “learning mindset” within organizations.

Overview of training and learning mindset

How to assess a learning mindset?

To assess whether an organization focuses more on a training and less on a learning mindset, ask the following questions:

  1. Are employees that attended a training required to share what they learned with others within the organization or not?
  2. Are employees given time to apply their knowledge, experiment and most importantly reflect on the experiment (aka the learning process) or are they thrown back into their daily business once the training is over?
  3. Are employees encouraged to look left and right of their role for new things to learn or can employees only get training for things relevant to their role?
  4. Does the company openly and proactively provide the means (financial, time, space) for informal learning to happen or does it primarily offer formal training courses?
  5. Does the organization encourage employees to attend informal learning formats during working hours or only formal training sessions?

I can only repeat myself: This is not a black and white story. Formal training in whatever way has its definite place within organiziations. But if this is the only focus, an organization is blind on the other eye. It shows that it has not yet fully come to appreciate the importance of a learning mindset in this VUCA world. It woefully neglects the power of self-organized, grassroot, informal learning movements and methods, and that in my view is a big mistake.

In a subsequent blog post I am planning on looking at some of those informal learning methods for individuals, teams and organizations that might be helpful and relevant to you and your company.

helping employees to work out loud

Small and effective steps to help your employees work out loud

Congratulations! Your company has implemented an enterprise social network. You drummed up excitement with your fancy launch campaign, created initial content on the platform and training material to help your colleagues understand the why and the what. Yet after the initial hype, interest and activitity are slowly fading. Most people might have logged in once to look around, but are never seen again.

There are many reasons why this happens. One of them though is that people are thrown into unknown waters. They might have understood what is expected of them, but they still feel highly uncomfortable.  Simply telling them to share what they are working on or participating in conversations on the platform gives many people the chills. It may sound easy but it’s not! Very crucial steps towards becoming comfortable with this new way of communicating are missing that create barriers to participation.

What I have seen successfully working in my projects is showing  people a clear path towards making full use of an enterprise social network. Explain what they can do at the different levels to become more comfortable over time. Explain that they don’t have to post anything in the beginning. Normally, people don’t appear at a party shouting what they have to say. Normally, people listen to conversations first and if they feel comfortable and have something to say they will participate. It’s very similar in an enterprise social network.

Steps to helping your company work out loud

The ladder below shows the different levels of engagement. You will need to read it bottom-up.

Helping your company work out loud

Helping your company work out loud

Any good learning material takes the fears and concerns of people into account. It explains the Why, the What and the How in a language that is relevant and easy to understand by the audience. I have seen many training and awareness material created for enterprise social network platforms, but many fail to speak to the target audience. Often the Why is  primiarly based on why the platform is good for the company but not the individual. The What is often describing abstract use cases and user scenarios and the How talks about the functionality to make the magic work. Maybe I will write a blog post about the right content of ESN learning material. 

To sum it all up, if you want to influence behaviour, do not only look at the end game. Take good care that you make your target audience comfortable by taking small steps without much risk. It may take a while longer, but in the end it will all be worth it.

Bridging internal and external silos in a connected enterprise

Recently I was involved in a project with the aim to support a M&A process. It was about thinking of traditional and innovative formats and means to help employees learn about the M&A process but also about new tools, especially Yammer, which had been in use for years at one of the companies.

As I was collecting thoughts and ideas of how to support the M&A process, I was also thinking about easy ways to provide interesting and relevant content in Yammer. We often underestimate people’s readiness to actively use new tools if those are not mandatory. This is especially true for social tools. In the beginning most people will simply observe and lurk before actively engaging with content and colleagues. It’s easier if content can spark thoughts and discussion instead of trying to convince people to post their questions or what they are currently working on on the company’s collaboration platform.

This initially triggered the idea to automatically bring in external content from the company’s own external blog into Yammer. Thanks to services like Zapier and IFTTT (If this then that) and their integration with many SaaS based solutions, including Yammer, this is usually a piece of cake. No IT involvement needed.

But why stop at posting the content from the company’s own external blog in the home feed on Yammer?  Admins or community managers could set up feeds for their groups to automatically pull in content from blogs relevant to their purpose. This builds current awareness among group members and could potentially spark interesting conversations.

There are also some potentially interesting scenarios when thinking about pulling in conversations from Twitter. These days many companies are already using social media engagement tools to monitor and respond to conversations in external channels. Some of them even allow to pull in employees that are not part of the monitoring team in case relevant questions come up. If a company doesn’t use these kind of tools or use one that doesn’t offer this kind of functionality, you could pull mentions and questions from customers on Twitter into a Customer Service group in Yammer and discuss the right response there before posting it on Twitter.

Are you using applications like Zapier or IFTTT for your enterprise social network or other applications? Or have you developed other bots to automate mundane processes?

A book on Networked Organisations

A couple of day ago I received my personal copy of a book called “Vernetzte Organisation“, in English “The networked organisation” or even “Social Business”. In the context of the book the word “social” is a synoym for “related”, “connected”, “networked”.

Vernetzte Organisation - Book

I contributed a chapter in which I describe a practical method for influencing effective behaviour change called “6 Sources of Influence“. It’s a method by Patterson which I have come to use in some of my client projects. It’s a great way to think through the different methods and pressure points that can be applied to an individual or target group to influence their behaviour.

The book is comprised of a large number of contributions written by academics and practioners from various view points but all talking about the future of work and organisations. It provides the theoretical framework to grasp the changes that organisations need to face if they want to be successful in the networked century. This is followed by various practioners presenting their respective projects and programmes which they initiated to prepare their organisation for the necessary changes and related challenges. Last but not least, the final third of the book is devoted to methods and toolkits that can help to successfully navigate the difficult waters of organisational change.

I am very grateful to be included in the book. Alexander Richter, the publisher of the book, managed to assemble a very impressive group of academics and practioners to create a thorough, practical and inspirational guide for anyone interested in the future of work and organisations.

Alex created a Twitter list of the authors, which also provides a great stream for inspiration and learning.

Successful social business stories from Germany

I recently published a guest post called “A German perspective on successful social business stories” on the Ripple Effect Group blog.

Many know of examples of social business transformation in the Anglo-American hemisphere, but in the past few years some German companies have stepped into the limelight. In the post I present the stories of adidas Group, Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental and highlight some unique approaches these companies took that contributed much to their success and might in the end be rooted in certain German cultural norms and traits.

Everyone is a Change Agent but there is only one Change Agents WorldWide network

Change Agents WorldWideI recently became a member of Change Agents WorldWide. It’s a global network of experts from very different fields, but we all have a common vision and passion: We help organisations thrive in the 21st century!

If you only have 2 minutes, I recommend flipping through the slides below to learn more about CAWW.

In the 20th century people were busy creating the most efficient companies the world had seen to that date. Every company introduced processes, procedures and structures to manage every little single aspect of the organisation.  Companies adopted a mindset of control, distrust, opacity and shareholder value. By doing so they alienated employees, partners and customers. Paradoxically, these are the very same people who keep a company running!

Whilst these people felt powerless against the de-humanising companies of the 20th century, the tide has started to turn. As we move into the 21st century (“The Networked Century”), traditional companies need to evolve into networked companies. Companies are not at the center of networks anymore, they merely form part of it. This changes pretty much everything we know about companies:

  1. Why companies exist: Shareholder Value vs. Stakeholder Value
  2. What companies do: Consumption vs. Sharing Economy
  3. How companies create value for themselves and the ecosystem that breeds them: Short-term Profit vs. Sustainable Outcomes

These fundamental changes do not affect just  one industry, one company, one department, a single employee or manager. It affects everything and everybody. It affects people, processes, structures, culture and technology. Since this change is so complex, there is no single company in this world that can provide the expertise and credibility to facilitate the necessary change.

Imagine a company with a rigid structure trying to tie hundreds of experts to it, that are then controlled by overpriced and frustrated managers and supported by a thick administration layer and located in expensive offices. We are everything but that!

What is Change Agents WorldWide?

  1. A group of psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, technologists, management consultants, marketeers and other professions.
  2. Expertise in organisational design, (organisational) psychology, organisational learning, social business, collaboration & communication, knowledge management, innovation management, gamification, enterprise technology, change management and other disciplines.
  3. Solo change agents that work independently with a large variety of organisations and enterprise change agents that work as intrapreneurs within organisations like Deutsche Bank, Disney, UNICEF, BASF, Evonik, Walmart and many others.
  4. A lean network that thrives on distributed leadership but has no managers.
  5. A learning and evolving ecosystem fueled by passionate and engaged people connected globally and virtually together.

 How can Change Agents WorldWide help you?

  1. You have a business problem and believe it could be (better) solved with new business thinking and technology? Contact us! Seeing is believing, which is why we have created Project Green Room. It’s free of risk and charge! It allows you to pose your business problem and questions to the change agents that best know your industry and have the most expertise in the required field. If you like what you see and feel that change agents could provide sufficient value in helping you with your business problem, you are free to engage with selected change agents without having to give up access to the wider network. Please feel free to contact us to discuss Project Green Room or contact me directly.
  2. It takes knowledgable, curious and courageous leaders to make the shift from a traditional to networked business. But the managers and employees of your company are stuck in their daily business and ignorant to the changes around them? Engage us to help educate and coach decision-makers to prepare your organisation for the change necessary. We are not only good in creating the right content, but also in knowing how to influence people and facilitate change.
  3. You are looking for sponsorship opportunities? We are currently working with leading universities, but also social technology vendors to spread the messages near and dear to our hearts, i.e. the changing face of business in the 21st century. You can download our first free e-book or tune in to the webinars we have done to date.

How to engage with Change Agents WorldWide?

Additional information

Have a look at what some fellow change agents (link to the entire team) have written about their involvement in the network.

There are currently 3 change agents in Germany. If you would like to chat further, please do let me know.

Crumbling infrastructure - change or be changed

Change or be changed!

There is a lot of talk about how 20th century organisations need to change to be successful in the 21st century. And when we say organisations need to change, we actually mean people, as they make up and shape organisations.

Change is a process, not an event

Change is a process, not an event. It is underpinned by a learning process, as depicted below:

The learning process visualised

The learning process visualised. (Source: Author)

The end of the process may be fuzzy and thus be without concrete end date. However, the learning process is coming to an end once a person has learned a new skill, behaviour or technology and is first consciously and later unconsciously applying and using it. Traditional IT change management has always been about the changing technology itself. Change requests are raised for new features. Communication is tailored towards explaining new functionality. The traditional change management process is often part of an IT initiative with a defined start and end date. Becoming a 21st century company is not purely about introducing new technology. It is about new work models, new (social) contracts between employer and employees, new behaviours, a different corporate culture and organisational structures. Unlike technology, this is all rather fuzzy.

In the past ten years many organisations have experimented with new (social) technology to address existing business problems. Many of them focused on the technology aspect, some paid lip-service to the importance of behaviour and culture, though few really lived it. Changing technology is something tangible and can often be implemented by a project team. A business case is construed based on the most disputable facts. And of course, a start and end-date is set, ideally within a short timeframe to deliver results and be predictable. Organisations did themselves a disfavour though, as these projects did not yield the promised results. Many of them are now going through the Trough of Disillusionment, rethinking and redesigning the early initiatives. Other companies have been more realistic and strategic (holistic) about their initiative to evolve from a traditional to a social (connected) business. It’s not about implementing a set of technologies but about becoming a 21st century business. A great example is the Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany. Joachim Heinz of Robert Bosch GmbH presented the journey of his company at the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. What is noticeably different to other companies is the realistic and holistic design of the change process. Joachim said that it will take between 7 – 10 years. It may sound like a long time, but again probably realistic for what the company is set out to do and based on what kind of actual change we have seen in the past 10 years.

Change or be changed!

Change or be changed!  When you listen to the conversations between E20 practitioners in general or at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in particular it is often like preaching to the converted. But then they return to Planet Earth and reality kicks in. People immersed in their day-to-day work life don’t see the need for change, are afraid to change, have other priorities. Change or be changed. While it is a true statement, it immediately creates resistance because it is seen as a threat.  Change is a learning process as depicted above. The question is whether we could and should accelerate the process. So I asked this question on Twitter during Joachim’s presentation at the E20 Summit and it evoked pushback from people, whose opinion I value and trust.

Could and should we accelerate change?

Could and should we accelerate change?

With its strategic and long-term programme Bosch is actively facilitating the learning / change process. In a sense, it is also accelerating the process. Maybe it does take 7 – 10 years instead of 10 – 15 years. What we should not be aspiring to is to let change happen, especially when meeting resistance.

A Change Acceleration Programme

We can’t expect people to simply change. At the same time we often can’t afford to wait until people are willing to change. In a recent client engagement I created a Change Acceleration Programme (partly inspired by General Electric’s Change Acceleration Programme) to plant the seeds for change. Based on an overall strategy it comprised a large number of concrete tactics, nudges and messages to help people change. Some of these tactics and nudges were derived by applying the Influencer Framework (Amazon) for specific people (CEO, COO etc.) and roles within the 40,000 employee strong organisation, others based on my own experience from other engagements or inspired by other practitioners.  The initial tactics and nudges were targeted primarily at changing employees’ behaviour from ‘working in silos’ to ‘working out loud’. The better you understand the motivation and ability of single individuals the better (and quicker) you can help them change and learn new behaviours, skills and technologies. (Shameless plug: 21 of my fellow change agents of the Change Agents WorldWide network just published our first e-book ‘Changing the world of work. One human at a time‘). Below is just a very short list of change tactics that were part of the programme:

  • Supporting key company events
  • Reverse Mentoring (Video; Reverse Mentoring at Bosch)
  • Email-Free-Friday / Meeting-Free-Friday
  • Flow of Work integration (Desktop, Mobile, IM, Office, Email, ERP)
  • Ask Me Anything
  • When To Use What Matrix
  • Before/After Scenarios
  • Card decks for specific roles
  • A day in the life of…

Sometimes, your posters, brown-bag lunches, user manuals and other communication and education material is simply not enough. You will need to find more creative ways of nudging people into the right direction and facilitate the change process. The tactics above and their exact content and approach depend on the organisation and should therefore not be simply copied.

To sum it all up, I believe we could and should accelerate change by facilitating the underlying learning process and influencing behaviours. For that we will need to zoom into the individual and group layer, rather than talking about big-splash change that is orchestrated only on the organisational level.

© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Engaging the workforce

16 interesting event formats to engage your employees

Many traditional businesses are exploring ways to adapt to the 21st century and become social businesses. A social business is a fancy word for a networked business or connected business. In the end it’s about networks and connections and its radical impact and mindshift to the way businesses have operated in the 20th century.

There are various ways of building and strengthening networks, including employee networks within companies. The idea is to tear down corporate silos, strengthen the corporate culture, improve employee loyalty, leverage the collective intelligence but also to have some fun! One of the most scalable ways is the use of an enterprise social network or social Intranet. It allows employees to connect with each other based on joint interests and work beyond all departmental silos, locations and hierarchies. Whilst the introduction and use of such platforms comes with its own challenges, it is still the most preferred method for connecting a company’s workforce because of its scale and value.

But actually there are many other ways and formats of bringing employees together. Carsten Rossi from Kuhn, Kammann & Kuhn recently published a great list of online and offline events (German) that have the power to bring together employees from different departments, divisions, hierarchies and locations of a company. Some of them can also take place on or at least can be facilitated through a company’s enterprise social network or social intranet increasing its usage. Since Carsten’s list is in German, but I find it interesting and valuable, I thought I would briefly list the ideas and events in English:

1) Corporate Commuter App
This app facilitates connections among commuting employees and allows them to organise shared rides from and to work. (Author’s comment: SAP has already developed an app that could be used by other companies.)

2) Top Chef
Employees of a global company that love to cook can show off their talent in the company’s cafeterias. Local recipes can be exchanged and discussed on a Cooking Community on the company’s enterprise social network.

3) WorldCafé “worldwide”
See link to Wikipedia.

4) Corporate Quiz Duel
This could be first facilitated online and quarter, semi and finals could be held in real life. Format could be similar to ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ or similar.

5) Film Series
Based on a rough concept, employees in one office location create the first part of a movie and then pass the result on to the next office location. Progress and discussions take place on the enterprise social network or intranet.

6) Academy on the road
Employees that are traveling to other office locations present in Pecha Kucha style a project or innovations of his own office. All presentations can also be collected on the company’s intranet or similar.

7) ExOlympic Games
Instead of the usual company’s soccer tournament, the ‘Exotic Olympic Games’ are held. Activities could be for example Stacking or Mental Arithmetic.

8) Sandbox Days (inspired by Google Creative Sandbox)
Every company needs to address some big questions. Once a year it could organise a Sandbox day in different locations, where people come together to find answers to those big questions. At the end of the day the answers are presented to all participating locations.

9) Crowd Choir
Based on apps like Crowdflik groups / choirs could meet in different office locations and choreograph a previously chose song.

10) Citizen Day
Employees can talk about their social engagement outside work. On the company’s Intranet they can showcase their work through stories, photos and videos. Other employees can vote on the different engagements. The one with the most votes will be supported in a next Citizen Day.

11) Lunch Roulette
Why always go with the same colleagues for lunch? An app could help to pair people from different departments and roles to meet for lunch to learn about each other’s work. This could also be based on interests. (edited 27 Feb: There is an app for that called Mystery Lunch.)

12) Skill Swap
An idea by Clay Hebert.

13) Tracksuit Day (I would add it to the list)
The adidas Group organises once a year a track suit day. Employees are asked to come to work in a tracksuit. They can then upload their photos or videos and others can vote on them. This takes place on the company’s Intranet and has been a great success.

Some of the event formats above are clearly targeted ‘only’ at creating a stronger team spirit.  But there are others that can yield more immediate work-related results.

1) Corporate Barcamps
Similar to public barcamps this event format brings together employees to discuss various aspects of a pre-selected topic. Aspects are discussed and presented in various sessions organised by attendees rather than by a central committee. An extension would be to include partners, suppliers or even a completely external audience.

2) Innovation Slams
Employees present innovative ideas within a certain timeframe. These are rated and voted up on by others.

3) Jams
Jams can involve many hundreds and thousands of employees since they primarily take place online. Collaboratively employees work on predefined questions and challenges. Most jams are time-boxed between 24 and 72 hours. IBM has been a poster child for jams.

© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Corporate website trend: From single launch to continuous improvement

Summary: Moving ‘from single launch to continuous improvement’ is the ninth corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

It used to be the case that corporate websites were launched and then forgotten about for the next five years until the site was dated and another relaunch was necessary. Of course, content changed, but functionality and information architecture were hardly touched in between the relaunches. As developments in the networked world move faster and faster, a single big-bang launch every five years is not a viable strategy anymore. Instead, we will see continuous improvements to corporate websites, more exploring and testing of valuable functionality for stakeholders.

To ensure continuous improvements are possible you will need to make sure that you have an appropriate technology platform. One that can be extended and customised without compromising the performance and stability.  There are hundreds of CMS options out there, both proprietary and open-source, making the right selection a challenge. If you work in the External Communication department make sure you work closely with the IT department to select the right platform. However, you should lead! Previous approaches were often only a tickbox exercise. Some IT departments would tweak the list of functional requirements in a way that the CMS came out first, that would best fit the IT landscape, could be best supported by IT or was in use at the company already. But that CMS might not be useful and usable for content editors that need to use the tool on a daily basis.

It is highly important to avoid making the CMS selection a tickbox exercise only. A hybrid approach works much better. Together with IT draft a list of requirements for security, licenses, compliance etc. From that you can create a shortlist of relevant CMS platforms. In a next step document so-called user scenarios. These are scenarios written in plain English explaining what a certain user needs to accomplish. You create these scenarios based on interviews with stakeholders. Here is one example that I used in a client project:

Henry is part of the <Company X> Corporate Communications team. Today he needs to publish a news item on the corporate website. He has prepared the content in a Word document including text, pictures and a table. Once he has moved the content from the Word document into the CMS he searches the media library for relevant assets, finds a picture and includes it in the article. A widget shows him related content, from which he selects one item. As with all <Company X> related content on the corporate website the article needs to be in German and English. In addition to the version in German, Henry creates an English version. He saves both versions and triggers a workflow (optional) that informs Alice, Henry’s manager, of new content in the CMS. She receives a notification and accesses Henry’s article.

This is a very common user scenario for content editors. When investigating different CMS platforms, ask vendors or your IT department to walk you and your team through such user scenarios using the different systems. That way you will get a much better feel of which system helps you accomplish the tasks best. Too often vendors and IT departments highlight functionality that is not relevant to your workflows and thus makes the use of the systems just more complex and cumbersome. Concentrate on what you need the system to accomplish instead of all the bells and whistles it offers. For my client we decided to go for a CMS framework instead of a complete CMS platform. It is more suitable for the requirements identified, does not incur additional license cost and provides the client with a platform that he can build upon in the coming years.

In this blog post series I looked at a number of trends for corporate websites. Many of them require a substantial mindshift. This shift and its implications will take time. It’s nothing that will be accomplished and implemented over night. If you are tasked with the relaunch or further development of your organisation’s corporate website you may want to consider the  trends discussed and start pushing the envelope. Start with expressing your organisation’s objectives and corporate communication strategy. What is it that you want to achieve? In a next step, research in-depth your target audience and understand how you can attract but also help them. Consider the corporate website trends I talked about in this series and start brainstorming relevant functionality. Some of those ideas might not be applicable right away, simply because your corporate culture or processes are not ready for them yet. Start with the quick wins, but plot all ideas on a timeline. That way you develop a roadmap that can be used for the continuous improvement after your last big-bang launch of your corporate website. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Duane Schoon