Think of the long journey. Slack v Teams

Think of the long journey. Slack v Teams

One of my clients staff just posted the FT article regarding Slack.

It was used to support the argument that Slack ‘is better’ and they should stop trailing MS Teams (which is in pilot).  Slight digress – it’s interesting to read some of the responses to the FT article. It takes me back 20 years when people were saying the same about email!). Anyway – back to the point.

If we look at the experience of other organisations who were early adopters of MS Teams (or Skype Teams as it was then) it’s not uncommon for those already on Slack to find it hard to adjust. Ideally, people already on Slack would be avoided as early pilot users as there are some ‘unconscious basis’ aspects, as there are with most pioneers of new technologies. For those interested in these type of technology developments it’s interesting to see early Slack users now moving to new ‘tools’ such as ‘Riot’ and ‘Mattermost’ (not that I’m suggesting it’s fashion rather than functionality that attracts many of the early pioneers)

As a standalone ‘chat based’ collaboration tool Slack has many advantages. It’s ‘momentum-friendly and the ability to link ‘third party tools’ and its open platform approach makes it appealing but the more you try to link in with ‘enterprise functionality’ the more you see its drawback.

So, I wouldn’t think of it as a matter of Teams v Slack but more a case of how you can begin to seamlessly collaborate using many capabilities. The more O365 capabilities that Shell introduce the better the experience of Teams will be and you begin to see far more advantages of using Teams over Slack.

There is also the risk and security issues. As companies learnt during the NotPetya cyber-attack in June 2017 the advantages of having an integrated enterprise wide chat tool, complying with all security aspects, are paramount. I know of many companies having their MS Teams cleared and restored within 48 hours, while other products took weeks to be fully verified and restored (or in some cases banned completely from ever being used again).

That could be part of the reason some articles now predict MS Teams will ‘overtake’ Slack by 2019 (although I would urge caution with any such reports but you begin to see the trend).

So, while many will still prefer what they use now (a basic instinct which we all have) I feel it’s important to look at the long-term roadmap of where these type of collaboration technologies are heading.

Adoption by tribes and the informal community

Having looked at adoption through chance and hierarchies the final approach is by ‘social’ adoption or adoption through the tribes, networks and communities that exist within an organisation but outside the formal hierarchies.

This generally involves engagement through informal structure of companies with adoption built around explicit use cases (not abstract but rapid, high volume explicit use cases) and supported by:

  • Deploy waves of rapid use cases
  • ‘Word of mouth’ through networks
  • Nudge channels
  • Informal advocates
  • Social learning


  • Rapid adoption and value gained through ‘real life’ use case development
  • Limited drain on time and resource
  • Rapid refinement of approach
  • Inclusive
  • Appeals to rational and emotional reasons for adoption
  • Potential for ‘wild fire spread’ is greater
  • Rapid advocate recruitment
  • Fast paced and sustained – leads to more and more use cases being developed
  • Appeal to ‘What’s in it for me’


  • Lack of detail and holistic knowledge of products and capabilities
  • Lack of process / rigidity
  • Possible limited knowledge transfer
  • Not everyone aligned
  • Limited leadership buy-in
  • Key areas may get missed
  • Reliant on skills of advocates
  • Aligned to user energy, not business value

Why do so many change management initiatives fail?


Came across this piece from Forrester looking at why so many change management initiatives fail.

I would highly recommend reading the Managing Transition essay by William Bridges. If a business transformation or change project was on the agenda I sense Bridges 3 phases of transition (Ending, Neutral Zone and the New Beginning) would well within most organisations, particularly some of the proposed early adopters. .

3 phases of Transition

Transition is split in three phases, which overlap. Ending, Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning.

These 3 phases are not sequential and at one given time, departments (generally this wouldn’t work well with communities) may be in more than one phase. This depends on how advanced different teams are in the process of transition. Some may already starting the new beginning while others are in the Neutral Zone for instance.

It is not a problem for the department to be in a mix state in terms of transition phases just as long as leaders have a clear understanding of who is at what stage.


·         Understand and accept with empathy that teams will lose many things

·         Give people didn’t have the chance to express their loss

·         Identify what people will lose according to their role, team position etc …

·         Understand what it means for the people and clearly communicate this understanding

·         Identify ways to compensate for people loss

·         Communicate on a regular basis.

·         Clearly communicate on what is over and why it is necessary for the organisation strategy

·         Do not denigrate the previous situation

Neutral Zone

·         Productivity might go down

·         People may feel overwhelmed and anxious

·         People may get polarized

·         Recommendations during that phase :

Openly communicate around the unstable nature of this phase

·         Build a Transition Monitoring Team.

·         Encourage experimentation

·         Ensure failures are not punished

·         Train the teams so they can feel more comfortable with the change.


·         4 P : Purpose, Picture, Plan et Part.

o    The Purpose is the answer to the question of the departments justification.

o    The Picture is critical to illustrate in a clear and straight-forward way the vision behind the change. It contributes to a much faster acceptation and change ownership process of by the teams.

o    The Plan shows that leaders have been thing about the transition process

o    The Part : involve as many people as possible to that they engage with the change process. Communication must concentrate on selling the problem.

·         Be consistent. Sending conflicting messages during the Beginning phase is the best way to foster confusion and to stay in Neutral Zone.

·         Look for quick wins : it is very important for the change initiative to get early in the project some quick wins, from small tasks..

·         Symbolize the new cultural identity. With methods, processes, visuals etc … that gives a physical and visible aspect to the change.

·         Celebrate success. Just like we need to spend time and acknowledge the loss (Endings) it is critical to celebrate results of what’s starting


Intranet Professionals


Been following this LinkedIn discussion on Intranet Professionals with interest as it’s something I and other intranet focused people have been talking about (with little action on my part) for some time.

I believe there are two major issues that are barriers to seeing greater number of ‘intranet professionals’ or defining this as a skill set.

Firstly the lack of a recognised qualification still hinders the role. HR, Marketing, Communications and these types of roles have all formed, for want of a better word, institutes that begin to define qualifications. It’s something I have pondered upon for many years (in 2010 we held the Intranet Career Path discussion at IBF 24) but I still struggle to define what we would include within this type of qualification. The demands of linking ‘people to people’ and ‘people to content’ internally changes so rapidly that developing modules would be hard. I also sense that intranet professionals are more ‘artisans’ than ‘workers’ as they are on the innovative edge of changing the way organisations work. It’s true that many intranet managers need to conduct many roles not just within the intranet field, but even in large organisations that have dedicated intranet teams it would be brave to suggest they are not innovative or creative in the practice of changing the way organisations work. Unfortunately I sense this may be to the detriment of the profession as many organisations still struggle in how they organise and departmentalise innovation.

Secondly the career path is still not mapped out. If someone was looking to become a CKO, CIO, CTO (even CDO – Chief Digital Officer) they would need a lot more on their CV than just ‘intranet’. For other areas this may not be the case. While it’s not a burden it certainly would struggle to get you a seat at the top table by just running successful intranet programmes.




No plan and no chance


2013 appears to present the same issues as 2012 with organisations unable to get value from their collaboration platform. Yesterday I attended a session with a global fashion brand to discuss why they have failed to get any value from a collaboration / social business platform deployed over a year ago. Yet again the same issue emerge.

1 – Platform determined before any requirements were gathered (in fact there were no initial business requirements gathered after the technology was chosen!

2 – Only customisation is around brand and not the features or functions (in no small part due to no requirement gathering, use cases or user testing)

2 – The ‘IT project’ has deployed and everyone has a user ID but no-one has told employees what the business needs them to discuss and share (it doesn’t come without direction).

3 – After an initial burst of activity the platform now has some idle chat completely unrelated to business strategy

4 – There has been a complete failure in integrating the platform into the ways of working within the business.

The deployment of the technology is the simple piece. What is lacking to make any social business tool an effective collaboration and knowledge sharing tool are the elements that tie all these pieces together, namely the content (both in terms of structured and unstructured content and the relationships and networks that form around this content) and the ‘stewardship’ (I would sheepishly use the word ‘management’ but that wouldn’t be appropriate in the context of a social business tool). Any future deployment will soon hit a number of hurdles unless the following elements are developed.

1 – Develop a content strategy that covers social, intranet and other relevant applications – both organisational wide and within each group or community. Once you have an understanding of the type of content you need to mine, create, discuss and refine you may then want to create a group to look at categorising this.

2 – Develop a governance process to provide stewardship around the content – not the channel.

3 – Once the governance is establish you will ideally have work streams to enabling integration of content throughout the available channels (Social, Document Management, Intranet, ‘People directory’?). These may focus around:

·         Metadata – this will be needed to tie any social, document management and intranet content together to enable real enterprise value to be gained

·         Search – define a strategy to ensure the surfacing of content is possible

·         Content – maintaining the developed strategy and aligning all departments

·         Usability – ensuring all the channels develop a common standard (not just look and feel)

·         Connectivity – this relates to how we ‘connect’ all the common elements. This maybe be employee directory and social business tool bio or documents and users profile.

4 – Do the ‘boring’ ground work of requirement gathering, building personas, develop use cases that are integrated into the way people are working.

 5 – Start small with some simple use cases that can be supported. Have a phased approach to adoption that can be supported, building case studies as you go to support the business case. 

6 – Don’t sell the benefit of ‘removing email’ because until the various platform vendors solve issues around filtering activity streams people will still reply on email as there ‘go to’ application.

From ‘Social’ to ‘Open’

Love the blog posts from Luis Suarez and this one is no exception as he challenges the terminology of using ‘social business’ and also where the next level of sponsorship will come for the tools and methodologies used to make the workplace a more ‘social’ (‘open’) place to work.

I agree ‘social’ still struggles to hit the right targets. Terms such as ‘social intranets’ and ‘social business’ may be used within the industry but to the people that sign the cheques and deploy the campaigns within the business it sits on the shelf with other terms such as ‘user generated content’ and ‘semantic web’ – people just don’t care how they are bracketed.

I like the term ‘open business’ and steers closely to my belief that the tools that enable greater engagement, collaboration and knowledge sharing within organisations that will lead to greater innovation for the company and a more democratic and inspiring place for employees to work and develop work / life balance. My only concern is the Risk and Compliance people in organisations may raise a concern if they hear of becoming an ‘open business’.

In terms of sponsor these type of tools currently IT and CIO (if there is one) have ownership or responsibility for much of the deployment. A savvy CIO will see how they can become a perfect fit for them to go beyond IT, step up, and take an enterprise-wide view.

A CFO may also become a good sponsor. Now, this is less obvious. Why get the numbers person on board here? Well, collaboration is first and foremost about creating economic value; it’s a strategic search for good cross-company projects. Many CFOs also oversee the strategy department, so why not add cross-company strategic activities to the portfolio?

I would steer away from Internal Communication, Brand or Marketing if you are looking for the social (open) tools to untap hidden expertise, knowledge or innovation. In most companies the more traditional Marketing and Communication roles have other priorities and agendas that don’t sit well with this type of tool. For example, Marketing may be extremely pleased if the social tool is fully brand compliant and has all the latest corporate messages. But that may turn users off in drove as the goal will be to create relationships and networks that create new value.

The head of HR should be a perfect fit for new streams of sponsorship and potential adoption campaigns. Good collaboration requires the right incentives, performance evaluations, promotion criteria, and people development. So it’s only natural for the head of HR to take on the role; that entails going beyond HR issues and working with others, such as the CIO, to craft a holistic solution to disengaged employees.

If you need to choose between email or ‘activity streams’ email still wins


Nice to see one of the social networking vendors looking at some filtering or context capabilities within ‘activity streams’

Working with organisations one of the biggest barriers to the acceptance of social networking tools is the unfiltered activity stream. Once thought of as a key function (and for many it still is) the constant stream of unrelated updates, activities and content is totally unsuitable for the way many people work. In the current market given a choice between email or an activity stream employees will still prefer email.

I recently worked with a global travel organisation and spend time with many of their remote workforce in observing their daily tasks. Unless you are regularly tied to a screen (whether desktop, tablet or mobile) the ability to follow and make sense of unfiltered activity streams becomes an increasing burden. You could argue that withg appropriate training we can guide people to use these streams more effectively but few companies will provide that training – similar to few companies providing training on how to use email effectively. Users then result in use many of the ‘inbox’ features within the social tool, however, we begin to lose initiative once the ‘inbox’ starts to become less effective tool than their enterprise application email client.

Until more content, filtering and understanding is provided the reliance on email will still prevail despite the presence of social business and networking tools within many companies.