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Digital Workplace 24 Blog Posts

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Welcome to the official blog of IBF 24 – our around-the-clock, across-the-globe excursion into current ideas and practice in the field of intranets and digital workplace (DW) technology.

Over the next 24 hours, we’ll bring you highlights from the interviews, live tours and keynote presentations which make this such a unique event for intranet and DW professionals.

For those of you just joining IBF 24, there’s plenty of content still to come. What’s more, if you’re an IBF Member or IBF Live subscriber, you can listen to and watch everything again at a later date. We’ll be releasing the material in weekly episodes on our members extranet site.

But, of course, it’s not the same as experiencing it live!

As in previous years, the event’s centre of gravity will shift from the UK to North America to Australia before returning to Europe and finally to London for a final session, ending at 10.00 GMT on Wednesday morning.

Kicking off our opening segment, Luke Mepham of Aviva hosted a tour of the insurance giant’s SharePoint 2010 upgrade, launched less than a month ago. Despite being fresh out of the box, the implementation is already making its presence felt, thanks in no small part to strong backing from senior management. Luke focused particularly on the intranet’s forums, which are responding to employee posts in an average of 11 minutes.

An interview with Lee Bryant, co-founder of the consultancy Headshift, on trends in social software and social networking was followed by a live tour of the BT intranet, generally regarded as one of the world’s best and a perennial high performer in IBF benchmarking. Among the features on show in Richard Dennison’s presentation were an internal ‘YouTube’ channel (provocatively named ‘Dare2Share’), comprehensive employee profiles, a company wiki (BTpedia) and a vibrant, interactive news desk. The company’s decision to host external advertising on its site was another major topic of discussion.

There were some nuggets of wisdom from Jonathan Austin, CEO and Founder of Best Companies, on how CEOs and managers can engage more effectively with employees, and the implications of such strategies for intranets and internal communications. Continuing the theme, Rebecca Richmond from Melcrum argued for a more visible presence of senior managers in the online sphere (does your CEO blog?), but also for intranet professionals to make a better case for increased social media usage inside the firewall.

As if to underline Rebecca’s point, Richard Hare’s demonstration of British American Tobacco’s intranet, Interact, showed how a social networking tool (in this case, Connect) can evolve into the centrepiece of the digital workplace platform. The afternoon session also took attendees behind the firewall at City of London-based legal services firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, which is making effective use of dashboard views, wikis and activity streams on its “very social intranet”, and offered a peek at Bell Labs’ video-sharing platform, used by Alcatel-Lucent for its ALU TV application.

There was a challenge to senior management from Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group, one of the world’s leading thinkers on the use of social and ‘disruptive’ technologies in the workplace, and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership. Learning to “leverage disruption”, in Charlene’s words, is key to effecting meaningful change in organisations; as such, it should viewed as a legitimate goal of management, not a threat to it.

More thought-provocation from Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of Alone Together, a devastating exposé of how the ‘digital terrain’, while offering unprecedented personal freedom, is depleting social relations and creating a new form of solitude both inside and outside the workplace. According to Sherry, we turn to new technology to fill a void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down. What’s the impact of a parent who seems more interested in their smartphone than their kids? The answer, not surprisingly, is “devastating”. “We’re denying each other moments of presence,” was her rather poignant conclusion.

In the afternoon we also went live to the National Field/Organising for America collaboration site, the world’s largest private social network, which played a significant role in co-ordinating President Obama’s election campaign and is now being adapted for use inside enterprises. Finally, Brian Murray of Yammer shared best practice for implementing the social network tool, with case studies from clients such as Polycom and Deloitte.

All in all, a full and fascinating opening session. Plenty for attendees to get their teeth into and, judging by responses on Twitter (#ibf24) and elsewhere, some useful interaction going on behind the scenes.

That’s all from London for now. We’ll be back here tomorrow morning for coverage of the final session. In the meantime, it’s over to New York….

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