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21 November 2017
Adoption, Ninjas and Rules; thoughts from Smile London 2017

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Simply Communicate event Smile London and interview some of the speakers, panellists and attendees via a live feed on Facebook during the breaks – thanks to all those at home that tuned in! This is the larger event from the team at Simply Communicate with the Expo taking place earlier in the year.

The day was filled with interviews on stage and round tables with some interesting case studies that covered the use of robotics, analytics and launch campaigns. I have attended the Smile events for a number of years and it was interesting to hear some themes today that made me think we need to start moving the conversation forward:

Adoption is not a measure of success
The use of the word ‘adoption’ was a big topic for discussion both in the room and on Twitter – especially when we are hearing stats like ‘Workplace has over 70% adoption’. But adoption does but not tell us about the engagement in the platform. It doesn’t tell us what people are doing and how they are using the platform – understanding how many people have claimed an account is not the same as people contributing to the discussion. It’s time to have a better conversation about engagement online and what good really looks like. I was pleased that when I interviewed Nick Crawford on the topic he was able to clarify that the percentage of active users was equally strong.

Integration is the future
There is no one platform for success anymore and I think chasing one to do everything is a hard ask. We heard case studies that showed how Facebook Workplace is integrating with other platforms and how some companies are turning off elements of Microsoft’s suite to enable better conversations and collaboration. There is no one size fits all and there is no silver bullet – there never has been. It takes time to understand your audience, your culture and how you want to shape it and then find the right mix of tools to meet those needs.

Culture and making time for each other should be on your radar
There was little talk about the importance of culture and relationships in the workplace to enable conversations and collaboration. Relationships across departments were described as battles in some questions to the presenters – why are comms and IT battling for the same thing? Working together, making time to talk and discuss the goals and visions for each department is the only way we can succeed when it comes to creating a digital workplace – or in fact a sustainable communications strategy.

Relax or rule?
The panel debate around governance was interesting – mainly because I think the definition of governance is different for different people. I was baffled to hear one of the panellist suggest that creating a naming convention was basically impossible. Naming conventions contribute to that cultural element and the tone of voice of the organisation. They help employees find what they are looking for online and ensure they have the right piece of information from a trusted source – I was glad to see Sharon O’Dea on the panel talking some sense about all this!

The budget needs to be split
It was great to hear from the team at Pandora that they split the budget into thirds; one on the platform, one on marketing and the final third on training. This is so rare to hear and so very important. I know from my own experience as a global head of comms that I only managed to get buy-in to an ESN by flying to see the team, running workshops on what they needed help with and then tailoring everything to them. Again, this is about investing time rather than money – it’s just the cost of travel and this shouldn’t be seen as a blocker.

We are not Ninjas!
A new term for me was Digital Ninjas. This is the new word for change agents or comms champions and I can’t help but think this is a little odd. A Ninja, by definition, is a covert agent linked to sabotage and assassination – that’s not the right connotation for someone trying to help a business engage in a new communications channel / cultural change with a digital workplace agenda.

We need to have clear definitions
Earlier this month I hosted the CIPR Inside conference where we published the findings of our research into the strategic value of internal communication. One of the things we highlighted was the need to distinguish between internal communication and employee engagement. Yesterday, I fear the same is true when it comes to talking about digital workplace, intranets, social media, ESN – I heard all of these used interchangeably throughout the day which just makes it harder to have those meaningful conversations with business leaders.

There were some thought-provoking debates throughout the day – thank you to all the presenters, those that came for an interview and the team at Simply for organising it all!

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