5x50 summary!

For the last 50 days I've been undertaking a rather interesting challenge. Called 5x50 the challenge asks participants to undertake a least 5km of exercise everyday for 50 days. There is a £5 entry fee with all money raised via the entry fee and any sponsorship going to Sport Relief.

This was a great challenge to participate in and whilst there were a couple of days where I felt like I wouldn't do my run (mostly the cold dark mornings) I'm pleased to say I got out there are did 50 days worth of exercise. These are my totals for the 50 days:

Total number of Kilometres - 324 or 201 miles
Number of runs - 48
Number of walks - 2
Average distance per run - 6.54 km or 4.06 miles
Number of injuries - none
Number of times lost - once
Number of times face to face with two bored looking horses - once
Number of trips - none :-)

For someone who wants to form an exercise habit 5x50 is an excellent way of doing so, if you don't fancy exercising 50 days in a row 5x50 are planning a mini event in November and the 2013 event will take place in March.

You can view my 5x50 activity log by clicking on this link alternatively all my runs (and walks) are logged on Runkeeper.

Making the case for collaboration: Content and Code seminar

Earlier today I attended a Content and Code event at the Microsoft UK Customer Service centre called "Making the case for collaboration". The morning seminar was designed to help attendees understand the value of collaboration within an organisation and how SharePoint can help individuals collaborate with each other. The day started with an introduction to some of the challenges currently facing organisations, these include the following;

  • Information silos - these make information hard to find and share
  • Changing workplaces - today's workforces expect more and more individuals want to work remotely
  • Mergers & Acquisitions - companies are being bought and sold and internal teams are merging
  • Globalisation - organisations need to communicate globally, connect distributed teams and search across global content
  • Security issues - more people want to work from home and use different devices, these all mean more issues relating to security
  • Keeping up to date - organisations need to know what their employees are doing, with may organisations this can be difficult given the amount of information
  • Budgets - these are either being cut or remain stagnant

Another point that was made, which I thought was very interesting was that 80% of IT budgets are spent on keeping the lights on e.g. paying for licences, hardware etc. As a result there is very little to spend on improvements. So the question is how can collaboration/collaborative tools help. Content & Code listed 6 reasons where collaboration can help with these issues, they are:

  • More effective sharing of knowledge
  • More effective search tools
  • Better communication channels
  • Process consistency
  • Systems consolidation
  • Potential cost reductions

Content and Code then looked at how an organisations information landscape looks (lots of little silos) and how it could look (a great big mountain range). Whilst it's nice to think that every organisation could have a mountain range, it's important to recognise what it takes to get there and why you want to get there. This was the subject of the next session where the speaker look at at collaboration tools role to inspire, to inform and to evolved.

If it wasn't clear already it was reiterated that it was important to understand your business before you even think about implementing a collaborative tool. This means knowing the following:

  • Your organisations strategic goal and ensuring your tool is aligned with it
  • What other systems, tools and processes exist
  • What customers and suppliers your organisation is working with
  • What the expectations of your staff are

If you have an good understanding of these, then you're well on the way to delivering the foundations of a collaborative platform. 

Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013

The final session of the day was a very quick look at some of the new functionality in Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013. The release to manufacturing version of SharePoint was released the day before this seminar so we also got to see some of the new features live. They include the following:

SharePoint search

  • One search rather then a search for the free product and a search for the enterprise product
  • An improved UI
  • Consolidation of content
  • Better query rules
  • Better result sources
  • Content organised by search

SharePoint communities (Discussion forums)

  • An improved UI
  • Badges feature
  • More like forums then previously
  • A reputation builder so if you don't post something for 6 months your reputation decreases

SharePoint social

  • Improved MySites
  • Your newsfeed
  • Site newsfeed
  • Rich content
  • Likes and hashtags
  • Unlike SharePoint 2010 you have to turn on MySites in SharePoint 2013

SharePoint Apps

  • A new development model for SharePoint 2013
  • Apps now leveraged in the cloud
  • Sell your Apps now an option
  • Option to add apps to your SharePoint platform
  • Significantly everything is an App!

Overall this was a really interesting if intense morning. For anyone already using SharePoint the 2013 version looks to be even bigger and better.

Become a change agent or be miserable!

Scary...sort of :-)
This is an interesting article which I recommend you read, it's not long so you wont have wasted too much time reading it, if you don't  like it. Anyway at first glance you might think this article is targeted at fee-earners, the title is a bit confusing as I think it should say "Knowledge Lawyers" or "Professional support lawyers" rather then just lawyers.

When you read it you'll see how actually it could apply to any Knowledge & Information role, not just the Senior Knowledge Lawyers Sam mentions later in the article. The article itself is an interview with Sam Dimond who recently moved from Clifford Chance to Norton Rose to become Global Director of Knowledge.

In the article Sam describes how the process of "going global" will mean and has meant massive changes for Knowledge Staff and that right now, things are pretty scary for Knowledge Staff. If that's not enough Sam's next quote is that if Knowledge Staff resist these changes then they're going to be "miserable"

So what can Knowledge Staff do to avoid being miserable. Well Sam suggests that "resistance is futile" I'm not sure if the reference to Star Trek and the Borg is deliberate, anyway the point Sam is making is that Knowledge Staff shouldn't be resisting change, they should be embracing it and working to enable it. Essentially this means become a "change agent" rather then someone who blocks change. Now I'm sure most Knowledge Staff would always want to be perceived as change agents rather then blockers, but it would seem that this is even more important in the age of global law firms. Sam also suggests that Knowledge Staff should look even closer at the value they add to an organisation and their relevance in our increasingly large organisations.

Sam also briefly talks about how different attitudes to sharing information in law firms affect the role of Knowledge Sharing staff. Sam puts this in the content of a merger, where unsurprisingly knowledge workers tend to feel very vulnerable. This isn't surprising given that most support services include Knowledge & Information Services will be scrutinised closely as part of any merger with the potential for redundancies or outsourcing of existing roles.

So is there anything positive to take from this article? Yes I think there is and that is the Knowledge & Information staff can be and are change agents and that we have a crucial role to play in law firms, especially where we're adding value by providing knowledge services to clients.

Building your own technology (intranet) platform

Build it  yourself, if you dare!
So I spotted this article on the Law Society Gazette website and felt compelled to write about it as it discusses one of my favourite subjects Intranets.

First some context; in the article the author who is Managing Partner at Keystone Law talks about how as a business grows and more staff are employed there is a tendency for information to become buried and as a result for the effectiveness of individuals and their productivity to suffer. The solution, you guessed it "...an intuitive web-based intranet on which your personnel can find and do just about everything. An environment where even the most old-school solicitors can reach their desired destination with a few clicks of the mouse, whether they are in the office or at home. A tool that makes collaboration and the proactive sharing of information not just easy, but enjoyable"

So how you should you go about delivering such a tool. Well Keystone Law decided to build their own. Now this is where the article starts to trouble me. Whilst building your own intranet might sound like a good idea. It usually means that one person is responsible for coding and building it, if they leave then you're up a particular creek without a useful paddle. That's not to say there aren't some good examples of intranets that have been built in-house. For example Shepherd and Wedderburn won a Gold Award in the 2010 Intranet innovation awards for their MyShepwedd intranet site.

But I have to ask how do you build scalability and longevity into a home grown tool? If the firm decides to merger and there are an extra 100, 500, 1000 staff will the intranet be able to cope? Whilst I'm sure a piece of bespoke technology will offer lots of functionality it's not going to be able to do everything a commercial product does. As the author says "whenever a piece of non-essential functionality proved too complex or time-consuming, it was put on the back burner to be dealt with post-launch" It's good that Keystone have identified nice to haves from essential but it would have been more interesting to know what this "non-essential" functionality was.

The author does have some good advice about naming your intranet "You have a tremendous opportunity to boost morale, to reflect your firm’s personality and help create the culture you want. So for starters, give your intranet a good name, something that relates to your firm in some tangible way. The name doesn’t have to be brilliant but don’t miss a free opportunity by allowing your IT platform to be known as ‘the intranet’" This is a must if you're rolling out a new intranet, whatever you do, don't call your intranet, intranet, this is like calling a pet dog, dog!

The author also suggests that to ensure your intranet is adopted you make it essential (James Robertson would be very proud). Keystone Law have done this by making the intranet the only place to open a new client record. According to the author this means that "Luddites have no choice but to log in daily, and in so doing they discover a whole world of usefulness which is accessible in seconds. Before long they are regularly updating their profiles, submitting suppliers for approval and suggesting upgrades. Sometimes people only know what they need once you give it to them."

Unfortunately the author had to go and spoil all that hard work by revealing that Keystone law have a photo carousel with the latest pictures uploaded to it. The Intranetizen team will not be happy!

[Photo credit - Build it yourself from Flickr]

Interaction #intranet conference 2012

At the beginning of October I was lucky enough to attend Interaction 2012. This is an annual conference organised by Interact with the focus firmly on how intranets are being used and developed. This year once again the conference featured a number of very high profile speakers including James Robertson, Martin White, Janus Boye, Michael Sampson, Lee Bryant and the guys and gals from the brilliant Intranetizen.

Now I could easily sit her and write a review of the excellent session that took place at the Conference, instead I'm going to point you toward the many excellent reviews that have already been published, they include the following:

If you missed the Conference then don't fear you can receive the slides of all the presentations by contacting Interact and asking for them!

So that brings me nicely to the question of what did I get out of the day. Well the first thing to say is it's really nice to meet people from Twitter in real life (IRL) and catch up from the last Interaction conference. I especially enjoyed talked to the guys and gals from Intranetizen who in no particular order I talked to about; cheek kissing etiquette, ties and PowerPoint presentations, Tweeting whilst running and the Coca-Cola secret recipe*

For me their session was the highlight of the conference and was timed just right so that it woke people up (if they were feeling sleepy) whilst presenting them with some really useful information to take back to their organisation. I'd love to see more conference organisers adopt the Ignite 5 minute presentation style so that presenters ensure they are actually providing some useful information in the time they have rather then just clicking through 50 PowerPoint slides.

I also met someone from an organisation that uses the same Web CMS as us but is moving to SharePoint 2010. I'll definitely be keeping in touch with them to find out how that project goes.

I do have two very small complaints though, whilst the venue was excellent, especially as it was only 2 minutes from my office it was quite hard to see some of the slides in individuals presentations as the screens used were quite low down. Also whilst there was an opportunity to ask questions at a "Town Hall" style session at the end of the day I thought it would have been nice to have had a least 5 minutes to ask presenters questions. If I recall the only session where there was time to do this was after the Intranetizen presentation and nobody had any questions, we were obviously all in awe :-)

*This may have happened after the event.