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Monday, November 12, 2012 by Angela Ashenden
Last week I attended the J.Boye Aarhus 2012 conference, where I was giving a “state of the nation” for collaboration software and practices, looking at where we are today and coming trends for 2013. It was my second visit to the Aarhus conference – if you’re not familiar with Aarhus, it’s the second biggest city in Denmark after Copenhagen, and it’s where Janus Boye and his team are based. The conference itself – which this year took the theme “Sharing is caring” – is very much a practitioners’ event, with the emphasis on sharing experiences and networking, and there is a truly refreshing sense of openness and enthusiasm when it comes to learning from each other and getting ideas to take forward.
Once again, my focus was on the intranet and collaboration tracks, where I listened to some great case studies from organisations such as G4S, Philips and Deloitte. On Wednesday, my favourite session was a discussion towards the end of the day about the role of the intranet manager. In a room of maybe 30 people who mostly had responsibility for the intranet in their own organisation, only two actually had the words “intranet” and “manager” in their title, with other titles including terms such as “digital”, “communications”, “online” and “project manager”. However, the discussion about what skills were the most valuable in the intranet manager role highlighted for me that a good intranet manager is born, not made. To give you a sense of what I mean, here was the list we came up with:
- Ability to communicate with all levels in the organisation
- Process management
- Ability to make connections
- Jack of all trades
- Organisation development
- Distiller (i.e. translating the complex into simple)
- Business change
The overall sense that came from this was that this role is about people rather than technology – as much as the technology has to be right, making it work is about communication and persuasion, and I think this is also the case when you are talking about anything related to cultural change within the organisation, particularly when improving collaboration. Are there any skills you think we missed? If so, feel free to offer them up in the comments.
On Thursday we switched from intranets to collaboration, with Alan Pelz-Sharpe keynoting with an entertaining and challenging presentation on whether or not the social workplace revolution is real. His comment that “big data is just a pile of junk” sent the greatest ripple around the room, along with his comparing IT departments with the subjects of Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders programme. As much as I’m sure that is how some organisations are approaching big data analytics, I do think that analytics of social data within organisations offers great potential when it comes to learning from the information we have on how people are using tools to feed into adoption strategies, for example (see the social analytics strategic insights report I wrote with my Analytics expert colleague, Helena Schwenk).
Following my own presentation, Alan and I took part in a great combined Q&A session which for me further highlighted that – while social is no longer just a nice-to-have for collaboration vendors, for many organisations this is still something that is a long way off really happening in the business, at least beyond small pockets of enthusiasm. However, it was great to have such enthusiastic participation from the conference attendees.
For me the conference was a thoroughly enjoyable and valuable experience – I came away with many new contacts, and I hope to write case studies on some of the stories that were presented. While Aarhus is not the easiest place to get to (there was ongoing debate on whether it would be better to hold the event in Copenhagen, for example), Janus Boye’s events do bring a more human feel to the business conference – for example including a “Run with the Vikings” session before breakfast for the more energetic delegates, as well as a short walking tour around the city before the well-attended evening networking events. These small but important aspects truly help to facilitate conversations which continue even after the event has concluded, creating a fantastic ongoing sense of community. If you haven’t been to one yet, I’d highly recommend it.