Tagged: IBM

Social Connections V – or the story of a STRESSful city

The 5th Social Connections in Zurich last Friday was a great success. It is always a joy to see when things come together and they certainly did this time!

I flew out of Schiphol airport on Wednesday night after dropping off my car at the massive car park to meet up  with the rest of the Social Connections team in the Zurich airport arrivals lounge for a short commute to the hotel. A celebratory drink ensued as this was the first time in over 4 months we’d been together. Most people don’t realize this but all the organizing of these events is done primarily through social media, mail, a Greenhouse community and Skype. Due to the geographical dispersion of the team (England, Wales & The Netherlands) most of us only get to see each other during the events themselves so in a sense they are our little reunions too.

Thursday morning started with a very early arrival at the IBM Client Centre at the “Vulkanstrasse” (“vulkan street” or as the English SatNav hilariously called it: “VulkanSTRESS”) for our first glimpse of the venue.

We’d seen pictures but it is almost impossible to get a really good impression and always a bit nerve wrecking to not have seen a location until you get there. Luckily it turned out to be a fantastic location with more then enough room for our 11 sponsors and the 185 people we were expecting.

First thing required was to prepare one of the three auditoriums for the Michael Sampson Masterclass on collaboration strategies that would kick off the two days of Social Connections as the first of the 16 participants for this masterclass were expected to arrive around 8:30am At 9am sharp the masterclass started.

At this point it was time to start inspecting the materials that had been ordered and delivered to Zurich ahead of time and start preparing for the Friday event. I won’t go into details but it involves a lot of tedious work folding folders, creating & sorting badges, checking and back-checking lists, then editing those lists and checking them again and handling lots of mails with last minute questions from participants. Culminating in setting up the sponsor area and sponsor booths and discussing the best possible layout and locations for each of the sponsors (the closeness to the catering forms an important factor).

You might be surprised but this took a 7 person team (thanks Brian, Klaus and Nathan!) most of the day. So after a full day of preparations it was time to head over (through Zurich rush hour) to the other side of Zurich for a short inspection of the Friday night dinner venue, and another traffic jam filled mad dash back into the city to the hotel. Where I had just enough time to change clothes – and head back down to the hotel lobby for the Speaker/Sponsor dinner. Our speakers & Sponsors are what makes Social Connections possible so having this complimentary dinner is our way of saying ‘thanks!’ to them. It was great to see no less then 47 of them where there for this occasion and that many of them were first time speakers/sponsors. I my eyes that diversion shows just how vibrant this community really is!

At around 1am it was time to head back to my room for some last minute mails (things I thought of during the dinner) and one last round of editing of my slides and then it was time for lights out. The alarm would go off at 6am.

Arriving at the IBM Client Center at 7:15 on Friday morning, it was time to get ready. Instruct the volunteers, help sponsors to their stations, welcome speakers and guest and getting ready for the opening. After having told the speakers several times to NOT forget their AVG and power adapters it of course was no surprise that I had forgotten it myself. Luckily Michael Sampson – organized and perceptive as he is – produced one before I even noticed I had forgotten it.

The day was started by a welcome by Stuart McIntyre, a few notes from me on the days logistics and a general welcome by Peter van Buul, Sales leader for IBM Switzerland. Followed closely by an excellent opening Keynote by Heidi Ambler, Director of Social Computing at IBM.

It is very special sitting there looking around and realizing that the day that we’ve been working on for so long is finally there and that people from all over the world (we had people traveling in from locations as far as South-Africa, Japan, Australia, Russia and Saudi-Arabia!) are there to enjoy it. That really is the moment when you realize what you are doing it all for!

The day flew by in a flurry of conversations, checking up and making sure everything was ok which unfortunately also means that I didn’t get a chance to see many of the sessions myself. I made sure though that I got to see the great “Pardon the interruption” panel with Louis Richardson, Michael Sampson, Brian O’Neill, Sandra Buhler and moderated by Stuart McIntyre as well as Helen Crumble’s excellent Case Study session on SSP’s -no pilot- implementation of IBM Connections. After closing the program off with the Keynote by Michael Sampson on collaboration strategies & adoption it was time for a group photo (a tradition started in Amsterdam) and then the drinks reception and speed sponsoring.

There were some excellent prizes to be won during the speed sponsoring although some prizes posed a bit of a problem (how do you get a bottle of excellent Tasmanian wine safely back to Japan?!? And what do you do when you win a Swiss army knife but only have carry-on luggage?!?) but all was solved in the end (the wine was consumed, the knife will be send by mail).

Social Connections wouldn’t be Social Connections if it didn’t include a ‘social’ component too so after the speed sponsoring a double decker bus was ready to bring those that had registered for it to the Lake Side restaurant for a fantastic dinner with a view over lake Zurich. A great way to have some quality time discussing the day with those you’ve just met. At 22:45 the bus waited for us to take us back to the IBM Client Center & hotel while others choose to head into town for some extended Zurich night life.

At 23:30 we dropped off the last people at the Client Center with the bus and returned to the hotel lobby bar. And that is the moment when you sit back as a team, smile at each other and finally relax. It’s done, and it was marvelous.

Organizing these events is a long and not always easy process. It involves lots of discussions, phone calls, mails, thousands of Skype conversations and a fair amount of sleepless nights. It also involves a team of people to do this as this absolutely is a team effort.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of this excellent team that helps organize Social Connections. It’s the diversity and different angles we all bring in that make each one such a success.

So a big Kudos to Stuart McIntyre, Simon Vaughan and Sharon Bellamy for allowing me to be a part of that amazing team for the last three Social Connections. It’s their friendship and humor that have often kept me sane & going and seeing them is as if we never said goodbye…

also a BIG thanks to all the volunteers (Sandra, Rachel, Brian, Klaus, Christian, Nathan and many others…), to the speakers (without whom we wouldn’t have a program!), the sponsors (who make it possible) and not in the least all the participants… You make Social Connections a success!

I got home from the many ‘stresses’ (that SatNav kept cracking me up) of Zurich on Saturday feeling a bit lost and lonely. I will have to wait another few months before I get to see my friends again. Luckily I don’t have to miss them completely and Facebook, Twitter and Skype have already fired up again (after going quiet for a few days while we were onsite).

Social is what keeps it going and Social is what makes Social Connections tick!

 

If only I could remember where I parked my car now….

 

 

 

Sametime meetings – simple but effective

I had an interesting discussion about Sametime earlier this week after I told someone I had been doing trainings all week to users about the new Sametime Meetings options they get with Sametime Standard. The other person didn’t think much of Sametime but asking through it turned out he really didn’t know what it had to offer either.

I really like the ease that Sametime Meetings has. It’s a very basic interface, which is great with users who have no clue (the less buttons, the less they can screw up) but it also has some very strong and nice features that I really love:

1. The option to have participants record the meeting themselves. This saves a lot on large data files having to be shared later on as well as stress for the presenter about having to think about it.

2. The option to set specific types of entries in the side chat. This way input gets categorized as you go and you can filter what types of updates you want to see by selecting the view options and selecting the appropriate filter. By getting questions being asked through the “Questions” option and setting the filter to show ‘questions only’ a presenter can easily keep track of what questions are being asked and by whom and address them without being distracted by other chatting or note taking going on.

3. Which brings me to the next feature: the option to mark an item in the discussion list as a “starred item” to draw attention to it or as an “answered” question. Both the participant as well as presenter have the ability to do this by simply clicking the icon in front of the entry and changing it to the appropriate option. This allows for easy management of still open issues and questions as well as categorizing.

4. Which then can be used to create a meeting report through the option “Room tools” – “Meeting report”. This one I especially love as it is an instant and easy way to get a quick overview of everything that went on during the meeting. The meeting report lists:

  • the room details (url / owner / name)
  • all participants with the times they were logged in
  • all communication going on in the Discussion side window by type so already categorized into “Meeting minutes”, “actions”, etc.
  • any polls with their results
  • the displayed content (documents & screen shares)
  • any recordings made by any of the participants.

So all in all I really like the Sametime Standard meeting options. The above are just a few, there are more, like the polling option but these really set it apart for me.

And it can be used both on-premises as well as in the cloud. The new meeting functionality is fully enabled on the IBM Smartcloud environment and can be tried there for free for 60 days. After that a stand alone web meetings account will cost you $5 a month and allows you to set up meetings that can host up to 200 participants. Similar options on either GoTo meeting or WebEx will cost you 10 times as much at least. Ok granted, you will get some additional features with those services that Sametime doesn’t offer but the question is: do you really need those or will they just confuse your users?

I think Sametime really is a great option for a lot of us there and definitely worth a look!

Microsoft buying Yammer: big steps forward or stifling a promising hatchling?

Some interesting discussions going on this week about Social Business, Yammer being bought by Microsoft one of them. Until now I really haven’t given my opinion on it even though I was asked about it by several people as I have been blogging a few times about Yammer before and have been specifically looking at it for it’s possibilities of extending Sharepoint, one of the platforms on which we actively sell services and solutions. But not just about the Yammer/Microsoft move but also in respect to what this could mean to IBM Connection. IBM’s social platform that has been a major focus for me professionally over the last few years.

To be honest, I had to mull this one over a bit before I could answer but here it goes, my 2 cents worth on it…

 

First steps

First of all, I think Microsoft did a really wise move buying Yammer. I think someone in Redmond finally realized that just calling Sharepoint a collaborative ‘social’ platform doesn’t make it one and that they really had to take some bold moves to catch up as others like Jive and IBM were miles ahead there in the social business arena.

Maturing

Secondly I think Yammer can benefit from this as well. As I said before I believe Yammer has one of the best social conversation streams in the Social Business arena right now and their way of bottom up adoption is innovative and effective in getting new users, but their collaboration options (file sharing, activities, communities) just aren’t mature yet and on that end it was missing out and in need of some serious investment.

So combining Microsoft’s capital and Sharepoint’s collaborative content management with Yammers  capabilities in getting the social conversations going, I think, could benefit both. Especially as this is already being done. Integrating Yammer in Sharepoint isn’t something new, it is already there. This move will only embed Yammer into Sharepoint even more.

Competitive position

So what does this mean to IBM Connections and to Microsoft’s competitive position on the Social market?

To be honest, I don’t know. It all depends on Microsoft’s next moves:

  • Will they take Yammer as is and just make the already existing integration stronger? Yammer right now is a cloud based product. Will that appeal to customers who deliberately chose for on-premises installs?
  • Will they incorporate the Yammer data into Sharepoint? A big downdraft I see with the existing Yammer/Sharepoint integration is the fact that the conversation is separated from the content. The document, file or workflow being in Sharepoint and the ‘conversation’ and social content about that document, file or workflow being in an externally hosted social environment. Maintaining integrity and consistency of data with a model like that over time and during the contents lifespan can be a big challenge.
  • And lastly…. Will Microsoft allow Yammer to fully incorporate into Sharepoint allowing the social knowledge Yammer has to embed itself into the more document oriented current Sharepoint environment or will it remain a little new playfriend on the sideline? From the communications right now it seems Microsoft is keeping Yammer as a separate entity within it’s portfolio and not blending but integrating it into the other product streams, not bad from an innovation stand point but not beneficial to Sharepoint either which is in desperate need of some ‘social understanding’ influx.
Leading by example, building from experience

So what does all this mean to IBM Connection? Well, for now little I think. Of course, Microsoft will use this to strengthen its position on the social market and give some footing to it’s claims of being a social platform provider. Rightly so, it is taking steps. But to really leverage Social Business I think it needs to do more. It needs to start thinking as a social business.

And that is exactly where I see IBM’s strength coming through. IBM Connections wasn’t created as a platform to fill a gap for a new hype, it was designed from personal experience in becoming a social business, living an ideal and experiencing it’s challenges and pitfalls as IBM itself was becoming a social business. It was build on experience and is focused on getting people to leverage their strengths to grow as an organization by collaboration and participation. To say it bluntly: It’s not just about starting a conversation, it’s about getting that conversation to turn into collaboration and therefore to start generating revenue.

Taking it forward

Yammer was well on its way to build a truly collaborative social environment over the last year and a half or so. So if this move from Microsoft is going to succeed depends, in my eyes, solely on how much of this Microsoft really gets. Personally I hope Microsoft will recognize it and use the knowledge and social strengths of Yammer to, for lack of a better word, “infect” it’s organization and Sharepoint development with the social bug. Or, better yet, build out Yammer to eventually overtake Sharepoint (I know a bold thing to say!). The market for social business is booming and the combination of Sharepoint’s market with Yammers social aptitude has enough potential to grow into a major player. But I also think Microsoft still has a few steps to take before they truly ‘get it’.

After all, social isn’t just a tool to be bought, it’s a mindset and requires a major culture shift, and on those IBM can still teach Microsoft a lesson or two I think.

 

 

Social Connections & James Joyce

Just booked my tickets to go to Social Connections III in Dublin on June 22nd. Really looking forward to it as I was not able to attend the previous Social Connections events held in Cardiff and London.

One of the major things I’m looking forward to is being there where it’s all happening, the IBM Development Labs in Dublin, the mothership for IBM Connections and hearing from others using, developing and working with IBM Connections!

Social Connections Banner

Now going to Dublin in June is nice for more then just the user group. As I lately (thanks to a quirky twitter conversation with Steve McDonagh (@DominoyesMaybe) got into reading some James Joyce. The advise I got from him and others when starting this endeavor was to ‘read out loud‘ to grasp the meaning of some of the pretty complex words & sentence structures used.

So I am….

Literally!

Each night, just before falling asleep I read (out loud) a couple of pages in my best Dutch-imitating-an-Irish-accent English of ‘A portrait of the artist as a young man‘. Yeah, I know, weird hobby, but reading it out loud does absolutely help in better understanding the meanings of some of the complex words and sentences used, and besides, it can be kind of comical hearing my own bad attempts at imitating that lovely accent! So after reading about Dublin I can’t wait to see the city in real life. Too bad I’m just a week late for Bloomsday

“IBM 5in5” five predictions for the next five years

IBM regularly comes out with predictions about the future of Tech. Not always accurate, most often very futuristic. On the Building a Smarter Planet Blog 5 of those were publicized today. I can’t help thinking that some are a bit too optimistic but then I was one of those that 3 years ago thought that ‘Social’ would never become a Business thing….. Now how wrong was I on that one!

to get an idea of the ideas check them out via the below links. Curious to see how accurate they turn out to be in 5 years time!