#missionmarathon the story so far

Late last year I wrote about how I had won a place on the RunLounge Missionmarathon team. 7 weeks into the journey I thought it was high time I updated all my followers on what I've been up to as part of this challenge.

The first thing we were provided with was a training plan tailored to our experience level, which for me meant an experienced marathon training plan. Now this training plan differs significantly from my training plan last year in a number of ways:

  1. There are lots of different runs built into the training plan (Kenyan Hills, Threshold runs. Easy and Comfortable runs and of course the Long Slow Run)
  2. The Long Slow run is based on time rather than distance so instead of setting out to run 15 miles it's about spending 120 minutes on the road. This is significantly different from last year and takes some getting used to.
  3. Core work and conditioning are a key element of the training plan.
  4. Cross training is considered part of the plan as well, especially if you have a niggle or injury and aren't able to run as much as you'd like to.

Combined the plan aims to put you in a great position when you're standing on the start line at your Spring Marathon. In addition to the plan all the Missionmarathon team have been kitted out by Saucony UK. Of all the kit I received from Saucony my favourite two pieces have to be the Guide 7 running shoes, which are excellent and I'm certainly feeling the benefits of wearing these, and the Sonic ViZi Jacket. I'll be writing reviews of both of these products as they're excellent, especially the jacket, which has an excellent feature, which I may well have to video!

Shortly after receiving our kit the missionmarathon team all met up with Nick Anderson and Phoebe Thomas. Nick and Phoebe are the coaches that are going to help us achieve our marathon goals (for me that's a sub 4 hour marathon). This was an inspiring session and I took away loads of tips on training, nutrition and things to avoid doing! All the missionmarathon team are in regular contact with Nick, Phoebe and Saucony to discuss all things training.

As for my training,  this is going really well and I'm feeling the benefits of mixing up my training runs to incorporate all the elements of the training plan. I am to publish a few more blog posts about my training and of course that all important video of the Sonic ViZI special feature!

Intranet and Digital Workplace predictions 2014

It's the first week of January, so what better way to welcome in the New Year then by posting a list of predictions for intranets and digital workplaces in 2014.

Whilst I did consider doing this myself, we're fortunate in the intranet community to have a number of resources and individuals who are more than happy to do so.

Of these the Intranet Benchmarking Forum is an excellent resource and one which if you haven't heard of before contains some excellent resources and articles. One of their last posts in 2013 was a predictive one (unsurprisingly) which is well worth taking a look at in more detail.

So lets have a look at some of trends outlined in the post.

The first trend is that digital workplaces will become more robust and secure. As the post points out whilst many organisations have started down the digital workplace route, very few of them have considered how to provide access where the technology infrastructure is poor. This is something that will need careful consideration in 2014.

The next trend is that the lines between internal and external content/tools etc will become increasingly blurred. For example Royal Mail have an intranet that can be accessed from the internet. This I'm sure will be a big trend in 2014. Especially with the publication of a report called "Digital workplace technology roadmap 2014" which looks at the blurring of these boundaries.

Another trend, which will please a lot of people is that intranet managers, collaboration specialists etc, will be even more in demand! But we need to ensure we have the right skills in place in order to manage these opportunities well!

A "it seems obvious" trend is that companies who take the time to sit down with staff and train them on how to use new tools and functionality gain better adoption. This seems obvious to me, as I've said time and time again, you cant expect someone to just start using a new technology with no training or no context in which to use the new technology. Taking the time to hold someone's hand whilst they use the new technology is definitely a good idea.

Finally is the idea of "advanced intranets". These are intranets that combine, communication channels with collaboration and publishing in one place. In this way previously fragmented services are brought together into one place, significantly improving the user experience.

These aren't the only trends outlined in this blog post, but they certainly caught my eye, enjoy reading the full list and let me know what you think.

Mission Marathon

It has been a while since I've posted anything running related. That's predominantly because I've been slammed at work and I've been happily running at my local Parkrun and undertaking my usual long run on Sunday. I'm on target to run 1000 miles in 2013, which is fantastic, but now I have an even bigger target...the Brighton Marathon.

This time around I'll have some help from the team at RunLounge as I'll be part of their Mission Marathon team alongside 3 other lucky runners! This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I definitely make the most of it. In addition to my training I'll also be publishing more running related posts to this blog and other blogs so watch out for those in the new year.

I can't wait for 2014!

Intranets in the spotlight!

It seems like there have been a lot and I mean A LOT of articles published about intranets recently. A lot of them have been very interesting, but a few in particular have caught my eye.

The first of these is "Closing the Gap between Intranets and Websites" in this article the author looks at how intranets are beginning to push the boundaries of design. This is demonstrated by the latest Intranet Innovation Awards and the cutting edge design used in some of the winning entries. There really are some very interesting designs demonstrated in this article and if you're an intranet manager looking to update your intranet, then it's well worth reviewing these.

Another article on Intranet design published recently is "Intranet Visual Design: Does Your Intranet Need To Be Pretty?" In this article, the author consider how important it is for your intranet to be "pretty". I wont ruin your enjoyment of the article by saying whether intranets should be pretty or not, but suffice to say I believe visual design is an important element of any intranet.

Two recently published articles from the the CMS wire website look at some emerging trends in intranets. The first of these "Social Intranets, the Lemming Curve and 'Down With People'" discusses whether social intranets are designed primarily to support collaboration and discussions between individuals or whether they're designed to support the work that individuals do, to make them more efficient. You could argue that social intranets are actually designed to support both people and the work they can do. In fact I think it's important not to get too obsessed with your social intranet only serving one particular purpose. I'm certain most intranet managers will agree that intranets actually server a number of very distinct purposes.

The last and perhaps most interesting article is one called "What's the hottest trend in intranets" which looks at the concept of ICE. Intranet, Community and Extranet and how the hottest trend in intranets is to deliver these three elements on the same platform. As the article outlines combined the ICE elements provide "provide holistic engagement, reduce development and software costs, and simplify user experience for employees and customers alike." Whilst it might seem odd to incorporate all of these elements within an intranet, the author explains why it make sense to do so.

Your intranet is one facet of an overall collaboration platform that extends through and beyond the walls of your offices. Organizations should evaluate their technology and software based on its ability to manage all three types of “ICE” sites using a common set of tools, shared content repositories and infrastructure.
I like how the intranet is described as a "facet" of business collaboration and as providing effective solutions for employees. That should certainly be the aim for ALL intranet managers, but it's not easy to accomplish. If you're interested in an introduction to some of the concepts that you should aim to introduce into an existing or new intranet then this article is well worth reading.

So it has been quite a couple of months for intranets, lets hope 2014 continues in the same way.

Social media in the spotlight

The September 2013 issue of the CILIP Update has not one but two interesting feature articles on Social Media. The second of these two articles is called @NSPCCpro and looks at the challenges faced by the Information Services Team at NSPCC as they set out to create a Twitter account.

The first thing to say is that this Twitter account is seperate from the main NSPCC Twitter account and is designed to published current awareness on child protection. There were a number of reasons why the information services team decided to open a Twitter account, which include the immediacy of Twitter, the potential reach and the opportunity for the information services team to be more interactive and build up a network of followers with similar interests.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the article are the lessons that the Information Services Team learnt during the course of their (ongoing) Twitter journey. I've picked out some of these as there are quite a few:

  • If you make a mistake, learn from it, but let it go. The brevity and immediacy of the medium means tweeters forgive and forget quickly
  • Don't stay silent too long - you have to tweet to be seen and an idle account will not attract new followers
  • Sometimes news breaks first on Twitter making this a good place for finding as well as sharing informatio
  • Actively searching for tweets and tweeters who are talking about your topic can help to find new followers and share knowledge
  • Tweet with added value - avoid cutting and pasting a headline and a link, try to make a tweet useful, accurate and interesting

Of these I think the last two points are very useful guidance to anyone considering joining Twitter or anyone who already has a Twitter account. Whilst retweeting is a great way to share content on Twitter, it's almost too easy to do, which means that a lot of content gets retweeted without any value added to it, or any explanation as to what it actually is, which might encourage someone to read it. The latter of these two points is also important and when you've just joined Twitter, searching for tweets and tweeters is a great way to find people to follow. Looking at other tweeters profile may also display other individuals you or your organisation might want to follow.

Overall this is a really interesting article, which is well worth reading if you're thinking about or even have a Twitter account.

The next article written by Megan Roberts looks at her experience of using Social Media from both a personal and professional experience. This reads a bit like a history of social media, but it's very interesting to read what value Megan gets from Twitter and of course there are some lessons learnt.

The first of these is to keep yourself up-to-date. I think this is extremely important to do. As Megan says "you become the a go-to-person and vital to the organisation. You want to be the one they turn to when they have these questions" Ultimately this makes you invaluable to the organisation, or as invaluable as you can be!  The next lesson learnt is an important one and easy one to do and that is to "dip your toe into the world of social media" Yes it can be a bit scary but as Megan says "you messing up on social media is unlikely to end up as catastrophic event" basically there is no reason why you shouldn't give it a go.

One final point from Megan's article that I liked was that you need to be flexible. Megan talks about how she has often done things that wouldn't be considered typical librarian/information roles. But importantly she has acquired skills that have been beneficial later in her career. I think this is a really important point and could apply to anyone within an organisation, not just an information professional.

So two really great articles on social media, which if you're a CILIP member are well worth reading.

[Photo credit - Spotlights from Flickr]

Sue Hill Networking Breakfast

What my breakfast may have looked like
Earlier today I was fortunate enough to take part in a Sue Hill Networking Breakfast at the Roast restaurant in Borough Market. Its been a while since I've attended one of these so I jumped at the opportunity to do so and not just because Roast serves a damn fine breakfast.

The format of the breakfasts is that Sue Hill invite Senior Information Professionals from across different sectors to come and enjoy a breakfast and discuss issues that are affecting their day to day work.

There are usually some very Senior Managers present so I feel very much in awe when I'm sat at the table. The format is Chatham House Rules, which means that anything said isn't attribute to anybody, essentially everybody can speak freely about their issues. So having ordered our breakfasts we went round the table introducing ourselves and our role. We then put forward two issues which were affecting our work.

These ranged widely from, restructuring, alternative service models, content management, SharePoint vs other tools and many more. However there were definitely some issues which appeared to affect information professionals irrespective of the sector they were working in.

We were then asked for more information on some of the issues we had mentioned and this is where things got really interesting, with discussions around the following topics:

  • Records Management and Twitter
  • Open Access
  • Digital Shadows
  • The accuracy of information
  • Information vs Knowledge
  • Salt mines in Chester

The last was especially interesting as two of the attendees had visited the Salt Mines in Chester where it would seem most of the UK's archives are stored and spoke about how wonderful the experience was. Although I'm not sure I would like to have the lingering taste of salt!

Of most interest to me were the discussions around Records Management and Twitter and Information vs Knowledge. Records Management and Twitter isn't something I'd thought about before, fortunately for me other people have thought about Records Management and Twitter and I've included some links to these resources below:
These links are a few years old, so I wonder whether this means everyone has considered Twitter and the implications for Records Management or whether we're all choosing to ignore it?  The other discussion I was interested in was the old chestnut of "Information vs Knowledge" I believe both Information and Knowledge can exist harmoniously alongside each other. But they do mean different things to different people.  If you're looking for a good description of both of these terms and data then I would recommend having a look at the "Differences between data, information and knowledge" on the Infogineering blog.

This was another excellent Sue Hill networking breakfast, although next time I wont be ordering the Full Borough as it's some commitment.

[Photo credit - Full English Breakfast from Flickr]

How collaborative is your organisation?

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to listen in on a webinar delivered by Jacob Morgan called "How collaborative are you? - The five types of collaborative organisations" Unfortunately there were some technical issues at the start of the webinar, which mean I was thrown out of the webinar and missed the start of the webinar, where I presume Jacob provided the context as to why organisations should be looking to be more collaborative.

However it didn't really matter as the bulk of the webinar was a discussion of the five types of collaborative organisations, or perhaps more accurately the five stages of collaboration within organisations.

Jacob outline these as:

  1. Unaware
  2. Exploratory
  3. Defined
  4. Adoptive
  5. Adapative

Stage 1 - Unaware

  • This is the first stage in the collaboration process
  • An organisation at this stage will usually have no goals or objectives
  • Will not be aware of new technology
  • Will not have addressed governance or cultural challenges

Stage 2 - Exploratory

  • The second stage in the process
  • Organisations are starting to learn/educate themselves
  • They are looking at the company impact
  • They may be testing/playing with collaborative technologies
  • The organisation will also be thinking about the big picture

Stage 3 - Defined

  • The third stage of the process
  • Organisations will have put a strategy together
  • They will have selected a technology or technologies
  • They may also have defined metrics
  • A team will have been assembled
  • The organisation will have assessed any risks
  • Support will be in place

Stage 4 - Adoptive

  • The fourth stage of the process
  • At this stage technologies will have been deployed
  • Organisations will have benchmarked what they're trying to do
  • Policies and guidance will have been written
  • Community managers and evangelists will be in place
  • Collaborative processes will be integrated into the flow of work

Stage 5 - Adaptive

  • The final stage of the collaborative process
  • Organisations can regress backwards from this stage
  • Organisations have identified their successes and failures
  • The collaborative initiative has been well explained to users
  • New functions/roles have been developed
  • The collaborative technology has been integrated deeply
  • Areas of improvement/development have been assessed
  • The adoption strategy has been updated

And that was pretty much the essence of Jacob's presentation. There were however some interesting takeways which came out of the questions. I've captured these below.

It's important to make collaboration part of how employers work
The only certainty in life is uncertainty
Organisations that don't think about the future, have no future
I think this last statement is perhaps the most interesting and says much about how important it is for organisations to adopt collaborative technologies.