Offering Digital Workplace solutions? Include tools for Modern Workplace Learning too.

In my work, I meet quite a lot of companies that offer solutions that often are framed as “digital workplace” tools or platforms. Most of them are built in Office 365, while there are others as well. Some products are not very well thought through, while others shine. I have written about such consultants before and about their products, and I still think there could be much more focus on the customer’s core business and culture. Many vendors still let their product offerings stand in the middle. Meanwhile, where you can outshine the rest is by focusing even more on the business of the customer. Your work is not mainly to help us install and launch Yammer. Your job is mainly to unveil the biggest hurdles and pains, and then offer technology as part of the solution to fix these.

One professional area that is neglected within the digital workplace discussion is tools and support for Modern Workplace Learning. I don’t think I have ever heard a vendor talk about this. Meanwhile, there is a whole movement of smart people working day and night to improve this. My advice to digital workplace vendors is to listen to these experts, and then see how their ideas can be merged with what you offer. According to the 70:20:10 framework, only 10% of what we learn at work comes from formal training. This leaves a potential for digital workplace tools to offer some solutions that can support the other 90%. For example, emphasize how your solution can establish nurturing mentor/mentee relationships over time, show us how you support the building of communities of practice and include tools for learning about your platform into the platform. There are of course many other ways, but here is a start. Also remember that only 33% of employees in average are engaged, while 51% are not engaged, and 16% actively disengaged. How is your solution helping your customers solve this alarming problem, no matter exactly which numbers they score in such measurements?

To get started with modern workplace learning you can visit sources like these:

So, dear vendors, please don’t just focus on how we should communicate and collaborate more just for the sake of it. Please also think about how you can help support the development of our employees and solve the core problems we face.

Communication sites – as if pretty images solves it all

Microsoft just told the world that the so-called Communication sites are rolling out to 365 tenants. Here is a quote on the intended use:

Communication sites are perfect for internal cross-company campaigns, weekly and monthly reports or status updates, product launches, events and more. To help you jumpstart getting your message out fast, communication sites provide configurable templates for the sites and pages within.

Ah, yes! Everything we as communicators do is to create cool looking images, with action-inspiring text, based on templates. Yes, I know I sound a bit harsh here, but in all fairness: Anything you call Communication sites should be richer than this. I have written about the changing communications landscape before and anyone listening to professional communicators on Twitter or the like know that communicators have since long passed the times when pretty images were everything. Then we look at Microsoft’s own example from their site:

Microsoft highlights BI functionality in the launch article, but I expect more clarity and insight. If the Communications sites should really help companies, it would have been cool if Microsoft spoke to some professional communicators first. Maybe they have, and maybe more is coming. But given the message in Microsoft’s current material, I get the feeling that as long as you know Photoshop, you’ll be fine. I look forward to people proving me wrong.


My five ideas to improve Microsoft’s offering

Earlier, I posted about five ideas on improving LinkedIn, and now I have come to Microsoft. I use their products every day privately and professionally, and here are some ideas that could make them even better from my perspective:

  1. Guide us on how to use all your apps. Sometimes, it seems you launch a new 365 app every week, and then post about how awesome it is. But you forget to merge it into a context where all your other apps live. When I and others ask about what to use when, you only say it is up to me, but that is not enough. You launch your product for a distinct reason I hope. Tell us this reason, and which app to use for what, and then we have an easier time selling them to our colleagues.
    –>My suggestion: Gather a group of people who run 365 environments internally, and place them in a nice venue for a week. Let them design how to use your services based on real-world examples. Serve them double espressos during the day, and wine in the evening. You will come up with the best training material and guidance ever.
  2. Build a better sync client for OneDrive. We all know that there is one company that leads here, and has been from the start, and it is Dropbox. I have never encountered problems with their sync app, but a multitude with yours. Yes, you ditched groove and rebuilt it, but still it is no way near Dropbox. Your client is far better than before, but it still complains about file types, creates unnecessary copies, and is slower.
    –>My suggestion: Set a team of sync experts to rebuild a new sync client. Don’t disturb them – just let them do their magic. Serve them Bulletproof Coffee during the day, and make sure they sleep well at night.
  3. Open your mail and calendar to 3rd party apps. This is the main reason I use Google’s mail and calendar – it just works with any other Android app around. Adding the 365 mail and calendar to other apps can be done, but especially the calendar is too complicated and feels too proprietary.
    –>My suggestion: Be more open and inclusive regarding how other apps can connect to your services. By letting your customers choose which Android apps to use, you show you want them as customers. You know you don’t always build the best apps in all areas, but that is ok if you are open to other apps talking to your services.
  4. Create a much smarter email handling. Email is still the big dark monster that eats away at people’s days and minds, and it is time you acted on it for real. You have started this work, especially in the excellent Outlook app you bought, but online is falling behind. You have also started to include data in 365 on how much time is spent on email, which only will be depressing for the majority. Yes, I know why you do it, but this is more like treating the symptoms more than the source of pain.
    –> My suggestion: Start to experiment more, and use an alternative UI which is based on AI and Graph. Google has its Inbox, and so should you. Tell people that it is an alternative way of using email, and make sure you treat the data will full respect regarding privacy even if you use AI.
  5. Bring back the Sunrise Calendar. Sunrise Calendar was the most awesome calendar around and I loved how easy it was to use it. Then you bought it, promised that the calendar in Outlook would incorporate Sunrise functionality, and then… nothing happened. Don’t do things like this Microsoft. What if someone bought Excel, turned it off and then promised to incorporate it into the next version of the Supercalculator App (just choose a name), and never did. The bad will would be massive and no one would like it.
    –> My suggestion: Get the Sunrise functionality up and running right away. Their latest blog post was 9 months ago, and you had lots of time before that to start adjusting. If you acquire an app that millions love and use, then treat it and them with respect. Basically, it’s rather easy: If you just plan correctly, you can have parallel development teams while you acquire the company. This way, once you launch the press release that the app is yours, you also launch an updated calendar app that is awesome. People would love it!

I have no hopes that Satya Nadella will read this but maybe someone else at Microsoft will listen. Microsoft sure does a lot of awesome things, but here are some ways to become even better.

Reporting from Intranätverk in Göteborg 2017

On May 16, I had the pleasure of attending the Intranätverk conference in Göteborg, Sweden. Intranätverk is a way for intranet and digital workplace people to stay connected and updated, and it has three conferences per year. This is a summary of what I heard in Göteborg, and I focus on the people working to create great intranets and not the vendors who presented. If I misheard something just e-mail me and I will correct it.


Mikaela Månsson from Kapp-Ahl, a fashion company with stores all over Sweden, spoke about their pre-study for a new intranet. The main goal was to also include the people working in their stores, so they quickly can find answers to customer questions and more. The current intranet is old but somewhat ok, with a rather bad search engine, no mobile access, and more.

The Communications department, where Mikaela works, owns the intranet but they have involved IT, Retail, and Human Resources in the pre-study. Their goal has been to provide support in the store worker’s daily jobs, and to strengthen the knowledge and connections among all. Soon, they are leaving the pre-study phase, and will go into production mode where they also will select which platform to use.

  • Main take-away for me: Make sure you involve a broad set of people from different departments when doing a pre-study for a new intranet.


Karl Brännström from Svenska Spel, which offers online and offline gambling, spoke about their intranet Hemmaplan, who has won a price as the best digital workplace. Is it based on SharePoint 2013 and has been described by researchers as a democratic intranet. As far as I understood it, they have avoided using special permissions all over the place, meaning all can use it on an equal basis.

They have placed a lot of effort on creating great profile pages. Getting people to add their own profile pictures can be a hassle, but Svenska Spel invites a professional photographer and a make-up artist on a regular basis so people look their best. Another feature is that people can nominate others as the best team players, which leads to recognition. Three things made sure they won the prize of the best digital workplace: It supports people’s daily work, it makes you more effective and saves you time, and it helps you feel proud of working there.

  • Main take-away for me: Instead of sending out nagging e-mails telling people to update their profile images, invite them to a great photo shoot.


Petra Graus from Pensionsmyndigheten told us how they moved from information stored in pdf files over to being stored on pages in their intranet. Pensionsmyndigheten handles all the governmental pension savings and more in Sweden, and receive a lot of calls an email about pensions and money. Earlier, the people working with supporting pension savers needed several clicks way down in pdf files each time they looked for an answer. By using Site Vision, they transferred all the material stored in pdf files, so everything about one subject was stored on one page.

  • Main take-away for me: Focusing on your important target groups and give them a solution that actually helps them.


Annika Lennstam from Transdev spoke about how to give the right information to the right people at the right time. Transdev drives and takes care of trains, buses, boats and more, to cover transport needs all over Sweden (backed by a global company). Many of her colleagues work as drivers and on the ground, and earlier they met a multitude of pages on the intranet depending on your role and location but mixed all together. This meant a search for ‘uniform’ could display a multitude of results, but none that was relevant for you. Therefore, Annika and the team created a matrix where they could see which role should find what based on their location. This role-based intranet helps people find information much quicker, and you can also switch roles to see the information aimed at other roles and locations. They meet the super users twice per year and have trained them to use their iPhones to record movies and then use iMovie to publish these movies. For example, they recorded “What are you most proud of during 2016?” which proved to become very popular.

  • Main take-away for me: Role-based intranets can do wonders for organizations with many roles, and movies are a fun and effective way to reach out.


Johan Simon from Sveriges Television spoke about their current intranet built in Site Vision as front-end and their 365 environment as back-end. It is currently in a beta release and is planned to go live in June. Sveriges Television is a governmental TV and media company in Sweden. Their old intranet was the third worst ever within Customer Carewords’ measurements and didn’t meet the end user’s expectations. Johan showed the upcoming “Nyttosidor”, which could translate into “Usefulness pages”. Instead of having several different pages about “Visiting Sveriges Television”, they created one single page for this but with several authors. Site Vision shows clickable “accordions” within the page which expand when clicked and if you click them again, they fold. Mutual hashtags between Site Vision and 365 hold it together. They also created printed how-to guides on how to use the intranet, since these are more tangible than pdf files or the like.

  • Main take-away for me: By using tools like Site Vision or Azure, companies can create a front-end that is built exactly the way they want. Then it can talk to Office 365 and other systems in the background. I think this is the way to move forward, since it gives full freedom instead of relying on the somewhat confusing AI offered in 365.


Elisabeth Lundholm from Malmö Stad spoke about their plans for building a digital workplace. Malmö is Sweden’s third largest city and Malmö Stad takes care of everything relating to running the city. Their previous intranet was built as a best-of-breeds intranet and mainly open source, but now they are looking at using Office 365 instead. The timing is right for them, since the old intranet needs to be updated, there are political decisions to support this, and there is a big need for better digital tools. Elisabeth and her colleagues are now matching which 365 tools can cover their old tools, plus grounding this work all over the organization.

  • Main take-away for me: Don’t be scared to change your platform and move way from earlier decisions, if you think that choice better supports your organization going forward. Legacy decisions should not decide where you should go.


Tobias Mossop from Martin and Servera told the story of moving from 250.000 files on a file server and sloppy use of e-mail, to today’s well-functioning intranet. Martin and Servera is a food and logistics company serving schools, restaurants, and more. The intranet development theme during the last couple of years has been “Koll på läget”, which could be translated into “Stay updated”. As much as possible the intranet should support the co-workers in knowing what is happening. Therefore, the search bar is really big, the lunch menu is always at the top since people look for it, and all corporate news follow a set content layout template which is easy to follow. So far they have published around 480 corporate news following this template, and every Monday they ask the “Question of the week” and let people vote.

  • Main take-away for me: Are people often looking for certain content, such as the lunch menu and train time table? Place it in front of them so they don’t spend time looking for it.


Thank you Intranätverk for creating this awesome meeting point, where we share knowledge on intranets and digital workplaces. Going forward, I just wish more presenters placed time on describing how their intranets supports their company’s strategies. What have you built that pushed you closer to the most central goals of your organization? We saw some examples of great applications at Intranätverk, but I wish more would mention their strategies so we see the clear connection.

Recommended jobs via LinkedIn is a sure miss, and AngelList is smarter

For some reason, LinkedIn sends me its recommended jobs via e-mail a few times a week. And each time it is a sure miss compared to what I have described on my LinkedIn profile. The last e-mail I received took some wild guesses:

For sure, here are several interesting companies, but it is closer to a random draw of jobs than something that would help if I actually was looking for a job. Microsoft sure has a few things to do with the LinkedIn AI before it can help both companies and job seekers meet.

Another initiative that I found via Tim Ferriss, is AngelList. It matches the jobs in startup companies with the people who could match:

It costs nothing, saves people’s time, and leads to awesome matches. A true way of working smarter, which could easily be done for other companies than start-ups. For the people looking for jobs, a feeling of hit and miss or missing opportunities should be avoided. And given the enormous costs for companies to recruit the right people, we must look at better solutions going forward.

Making sense of the Office 365 suite

It is hard making sense of the Office 365 suite from Microsoft. Barely had we had time to grasp that they have included Yammer in all Office 365 tenants, and what that means. Then Microsoft threw their Teams app into the game, and it became even more challenging to understand which product does what.

To help us, they gave an excellent introduction to the product’s capabilities:

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It is, however, not the product in itself that is hard to grasp. On the contrary, it seems straightforward and well-designed, and it is integrated with the rest of the 365 suite. The somewhat obscured path ahead is created when comparing Teams with Yammer and more. Here is where people like Naomi Moneypenny and Marc D Anderson come to the rescue.

Confused by all the apps

Marc D Anderson wrote an article called “Dear Microsoft: I’m Confused. Can You Help Me Collaborate Well?” Here, he highlights the feeling so many of us get when looking at the array of tools Microsoft give us:

What has me confused about Microsoft’s overlapping offerings in the communication spectrum is that they don’t come with guidance about which is good when or for what type of organizations. Instead we see a lot of talk about choice being good.

He also asks Microsoft to guide us much better:

Here’s hoping that the smart people in Redmond get on this soon. As the options keep piling up on us, it’s only getting harder to choose.

The solution: Highlighting what each app is good at

Naomi took a step in clarifying the road ahead by writing an article called “Choices in Collaboration: Microsoft Teams, Yammer & Office 365 Groups Service“. Here, Naomi clarifies that Office 365 Groups are the fabric behind our collaboration choices. She also explains what separates Teams from Yammer:

Yammer is the really the only app in O365 that allows you to have a conversation with the entire company. You can of course push an email or IM to the entire company, but that’s not the level of dialog we are looking for these days. Yammer is a great way to enable conversation across an entire organization. […] Once a project team has come together to work on a specific set of tasks and deliverables, that team should decide whether they want to use the Groups conversation experience primarily in Outlook, or Outlook then Teams, Teams or Yammer to get their specific work done.

Thank you Microsoft for wanting us to collaborate better. You could, however, reach even further by listening to Naomi, Marc, and more. Many of us take care of Office 365 environments, and our job is to alleviate collaboration pains. The better you at Microsoft describe what to use when, the smoother our ride becomes.

Mapping the Neo-Generalist in you

“The neo-generalist wanderer often has to adapt to contextual shifts and reinvent themselves when circumstances call for it.” (from The Neo-Generalist)

Recently, I finished reading an excellent book called “The Neo-Generalist,” with the Zen-like subtitle “Where You Go Is Who You Are.” Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin wrote this book – two authors that clearly have wandered between specializations, and learned a lot from it.

The book hits a current issue right on the head: Hiring managers and HR departments still focus most of their efforts on finding specialists. It seems to be the default view for everything. We have an issue here – let’s call in an expert! It is reminiscent of kids’ cartoons – the problems there are always clear, and a specialist can always solve them. As in Paw Patrol – they can dig, fly, stop traffic, pour water on fire, and more, focusing on one thing each to save the city over and over. But, as it turns out, the world is more complicated than that, and our work should follow. Yes, the world still needs specialists, of course. Meanwhile, there is a significant need to highlight the serial specialists/neo-generalists too. People who can draw experience from several different professional areas, and merge them into something new. For many of us, this is how we know we can bring value to the world, and we should nurture this. In one sense, it is like saying yes to the open, childlike curiosity we all have had at some point:

“Throughout our early lives we talk about what we want to be when we grow up. Then middle age hits and there is a slow realisation and gradual acceptance that, actually, we never grow up. The potential, the opportunity, remains to be many things.” (from The Neo-Generalist)

It might be that you have experience from different professional areas, and want to support all your skills and interests. One way of making this understanding more concrete can be to create a simple map of who you are as a neo-generalist. This way of thinking is fully in line with the Personal Knowledge Mastery ideas I have learned from Harold Jarche – throw out half-baked ideas to see where they land. I will start with myself as an example, based on my interests and experiences:


My current job title is “communications manager,” but I have done many other things earlier in my life: technical writing, Ph.D. studies in educational sciences, writing and producing e-learning, taking care of intranets, and focusing on how new technology can help us evolve the workplace based on a healthy culture. If I place them together, it can be a bit easier to see where my different set of skills can take me. I can see how experiences of various disciplines can merge and support each other. And since I have practiced Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) for years, I also know which people can help and inspire me for each circle. Yes, this is an experiment, but I like the visual idea of mapping the serial specialist areas to see where they land. Start by looking at yourself right now, and then build a map. In a few years, it will probably change. A good thing that might come out of such an exercise is that you find what makes you unique. As Oscar Wilde said:

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

I highly recommend the book The Neo-Generalist. It has grown on me, gives me new ideas every week, and has awakened a childlike curiosity. Thank you, Kenneth and Richard! I look forward to more discussions going forward.

On the road again

This week was the first after the lovely Swedish summer. Once back, I learned that two companies want to buy Haldex. One company, ZF, is now left and we need to wait and see what happens. If they buy us, we take one road, if they don’t, we take another.

Meanwhile, I turn up the sound on the car stereo and have as fun as possible going forward. There is still so much to do to transform our technology into really supporting humans. No matter in which constellation I will work, creating a humane digital workplace is at the center.

Using an intranet to increase engagement

Disengagement at work is a real and big problem for companies. According to Gallup’s 2011-2012 numbers, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. The rest is either Non-engaged or Actively disengaged.

Gallup’s definitions of these groups, featured Gallup’s definitions of these groups, featured in Harvard Business Review (HBR) here, are:

  • “Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”
  • “Not engaged employees (we use “unengaged” on our map) are essentially checked out. They’re sleepwalking through their workday putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.”
  • “Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”

According to the map provided via the HBR article above, the figures are quite astounding (here are three examples):

France_disengaged Sweden_disengaged US_disengaged

In Sweden, this would mean that on average about every 6th person you meet is engaged, drives innovation and moves things forward. The absolute majority (3/4 of all) are just there to pick up the paycheck by doing an ok job and are basically sleep walking. Finally, about every 10th person you meet are unhappy and shows this actively in action and spirit by destroying the morale and business of others. Of course, this varies strongly between companies. None the less, these figures are alarming.

Disengagement at work is not only annoying and sad. As Stephan Schillerwein noted, also the productivity loss due to active disengagement is huge:


Also, as Chris McGrath and Ephraim Freed pointed out in their Social Intranets and Employee Engagement, the level of engagement has real business impacts:

Top-quartile companies have 37% less absenteeism, 25% to 49% less employee turnover (depending on the type of organization), 27% less shrinkage (employee theft), 18% higher productivity and 16% higher profitability.

Using the intranet to create engagement

We who are in charge of an intranet and other digital workplace tools must do what we can here. If we can help decrease absenteeism, decrease big turnovers, and increase productivity and profitability, we are sure doing a good thing.

To get started, we can look at Harvard Business Review’s Achievers Report. Here, they asked 550 executives to rate the importance of different activities on employee engagement. Some of the actions that were most important were:

  • Business goals communicated company-wide and understood
  • Senior leadership continually updates/communicates strategy
  • Recognition given for high performers
  • Individuals have clear understanding of how job contributes to strategy

This also goes fully in line with what Nonlinear Enterprise reported in their excellent article How to improve employee engagement with a great intranet:

… but virtually all of these studies agree that employee engagement increases when three things happen:

  1. Employees clearly understand how their job contributes to the corporate mission – how they can personally make a difference
  2. High performers are publicly recognized for their efforts
  3. Leadership closes the loop, providing frequent, transparent updates on the success of corporate initiatives and changes in corporate strategy

Nonlinear Enterprise then goes on to mention three tactics we can use today to improve employee engagement:

  1. Make celebration special, and clearly recognize when people are doing a great job.
  2. Show how the contributions from individuals really matter when achieving the goals.
  3. Clearly show the status of the company for all employees to see if what we are doing now is leading us closer to, or further away from, the goals.

Here, I would also add what Newsweaver mentioned in their 10 quick tips to improve employee engagement on your intranet:

Ensuring the intranet is accessible to remote workers. If you want all employees to use the intranet, then it must be mobile-enabled so they can access it wherever they are. Don’t cut corners in your mobile design. It is frustrating for those working remotely to not have access to the full functionality of the intranet – and gives them a reason to not use it.

In companies with a lot of production workers and traveling staff, we sure need to reach them with the celebrations, company goals, and strategies.

To conclude, low engagement is a real threat to companies and we need to deal with it constructively. Make sure you also use the intranet to:

  • Display and describe the company strategy and goals on your intranet, and keep them updated.
  • Make sure each individual understands and sees how they as individuals plus their departments and teams contribute to the bigger picture.
  • Praise people in front of others, and have them share successful stories with others.
  • Enable access for all employees, no matter where they are.

We will continue this journey, and look forward to hearing more about how others succeed.

A quick guide to instant intranet solutions in a box

During the last weeks, I have had the privilege to read reports on ready-made intranet solutions:

The above three resources give you a very good overview of what is available today. They also update these overviews regularly, so keep your eyes open for new versions.

When I browse the descriptions of such intranet solutions, many vendors sound the same. Yes, they all sell the same products, but still, something is missing. I wish more of them came from an organizational psychology / change management / sound workplace angle. And that they show they really know how to code SharePoint, as in jaw-droppingly cool.

Many of them still tell us what we can read from Microsoft’s site: There are search and libraries, it can be online, you can integrate with other services, and so on.

It would be awesome if some vendors took this to the next level, such as:

  • Since we know SharePoint search so well, we have tweaked it via the search engine and web parts to make your daily life easier. Our search experts make sure no one will complain about the search again.
  • Since we know SharePoint, but don’t know you, we always start all projects having coffee and listening to your stories. Once we know you, we present the technical solution.
  • Since we know the hybrid environments so well, we have of course already integrated Delve in your on-prem solution, and can integrate it in your Win 10 installations for a smooth experience.
  • Since we know the current discussions about digital workplaces, that is the start of our talks. We are not here to sell you a platform. We are here to help you work more effectively, lessen your stress, and help you save money no matter where you are.
  • Since we like you, we invite you to meet us and other clients over a coffee or a beer regularly, to socialize and network.

It will be interesting to see if any vendors take such steps. My guess is that, if they remain talking just about the technology, they could be outmaneuvered by others.