BT

Druids, pagans, chocolate and the Great Gathering (@IntraTeam) #IEC14

Augustus Gloop

Gorging on IntraTeam riches

The A303 is a road which runs from the affluent, urban, south of England to the beautiful, rural, south west of England – the latter, a region which conjures up for many English people long, hot, summer holidays by the sea. I’m sure many countries have an equivalent road. But surely, only in England, would someone actually write a book about such a road … and only English people would surely buy it in their thousands! I surprised myself by being one of them … reading it and really enjoying it.

Anyway, about halfway along the A303 – highway to the sun (<- the author’s description, not mine!) – lies a pile of prehistoric stones called Stonehenge, described as one of the ‘wonders of the world’. Frankly, it’s a pretty disappointing wonder of the world compared to some of the others littering the globe but, nonetheless, it has for hundreds of years been the meeting place at the Summer Solstice for various groups who purport to worship the sun or feel the urge to commune with their ancestors. The most famous of these groups is The Stonehenge Druids.

Every year on 21 June at sunrise, the Druids, accompanied by various pagans and occultists are drawn to Stonehenge to do their thing – they just can’t help themselves. Similarly, in the midst of winter in the dark and distant land of Denmark (<- unless you live there or near it … in which case it’s near and dark), an equally strange group of misfits gathers each year to commune with one another at the ancient ceremony (<- by conference standards at least) of IntraTeam. They just can’t help themselves!

As well as being part of the odd group of people who read books about roads, this year, I’m also one of the strange misfits gravitating to IntraTeam in Copenhagen in February. I haven’t spoken at any conferences for some time because, to be frank, in most cases there isn’t much in it for me. IntraTeam is different though. Without wishing to compromise my normally cool and calm image … I’m like Augustus Gloop in the Chocolate Factory! The riches on display are breath-taking.

I fully intend to gorge myself until I’m fit to burst … and really hope you can make it too!

In case you’re interested, I’m presenting on how to be an effective internal communicator and remain relevant in a social organisation. Between now and the conference, I hope to publish some posts giving a flavour of what I’ll present … well hope springs eternal!

In conversation: social media and corporate culture

The fourth in the series of in conversation with Red Sky Vision talking about social media and corporate culture. It’s quite long (6 mins: 53 sec) but I think it’s quite interesting (I would wouldn’t I 🙂 ).

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In conversation: the importance of social media in a business context

Following the great feedback received for Red Sky Vision’s fantastic Social Media @ Work video, I was looking through the interview footage of me which didn’t make it into the final film (there was quite a lot of it because when you get me started on social media it’s impossible to shut me up!) … and wondered if it might be possible to make these cuttings into a series of short videos – it seemed a shame to waste them and recycling is so important these days!

So, Red Sky worked their magic and the result is six short films entitled: In conversation with … in which I get to stand atop my soapbox and spew forth on various topics. The films vary in length and, because they are swept up from the cutting room floor, they are a bit bitty at times. Nonetheless, I hope you find time to watch and enjoy them … 🙂

The first video is some of my random views on the importance of social media in a business context.

In conversation with Richard Dennison – Why is social media important in a business context from Red Sky Vision on Vimeo.

[If for any reason you can’t see the embedded video above, you can view it on the Vimeo site]

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The challenge for internal comms in the social enterprise

I spoke earlier in the week at the Melcrum SharePoint User Forum on the subject of: the challenges facing the internal comms (IC) profession in the social enterprise. I wasn’t able to talk as much about SharePoint as perhaps I was expected to as, quite frankly, we don’t have a lot to show yet … which is another story entirely! 😦

Anyway, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the challenges facing the IC profession in a social enterprise. The slide below pretty well sums it up …

Having scoped the challenge, I started thinking about how comms people should respond … something I’ve touched upon before. I decided to write a vision statement for a world in which internal comms is REALLY engaged … a bit old-fashioned maybe, but it helped crystallize my thinking. Anyway, my first bash at it is below … I’d value your thoughts and feedback:

A community of internal comms practitioners embedded into the social fabric of BT as power-networkers influencing the conversations and culture of the organisation to meet its business objectives. A community engaged in communications activities underpinned by social interactivity and conversation to help BT employees arrive at shared understanding of what is expected of them from the communications we create and disseminate.

[PS – my slides from the Melcrum event are available on slideshare]

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You can’t run and you can’t hide … from Sharepoint 2010

It’s true … you can’t run, and you can’t hide. The inexorable roll out of Sharepoint 2010 (SP2010) is about to begin in earnest. From my brief and unscientific poking around on our trial instance, it looks like SP2010 answers many of the niggling questions I had about SP2007 – particularly in the user-generated content (UGC) space. The enhancements Microsoft has made to the social functionality compared with SP2007 are significant – better blogs, better wiki functionality, beefed-up personal profile and social networking-type functionality (within the constraints of the SP environment of course) all integrated into one platform … good stuff.

As it looks increasingly inevitable that SP2010 will power a significant portion of our intranet going forward – including our social media functionality – I should be excited … and I am … sort of … and sort of not.

I’m not sure why, but the prospect of SP2010 powering our social content leaves me feeling slightly depressed. It may just be that I’ll be sad to see all the lovely social tools I so lovingly helped to nurse into the business being replaced by the SP monolith … or it may be something deeper … more intuitive. I can’t help feeling that we’re going to lose something fundamental by institutionalising … or even corporatizing … our social tools in this way. While I always wanted our social and collaborative content to be fully integrated into the mainstream way of working inside our organisation, this wasn’t how I had imagined it would happen – it appears you just can’t please some people.

On the other hand, this could be the best thing to happen to corporate social content since its conception … and I may just be an old social media dinosaur … I guess only time will tell.

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IntraTeam reminiscences …

I’ve been following the IntraTeam conference tweets and remembering last year’s event and wishing I was there this year … when I came across this video on YouTube – it’s an interview I gave after my presentation at last year’s event … not sure I’ve ever posted it here so thought I’d give it a belated airing.

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Musical chairs …

Wow … has it REALLY been that long since I last posted?? 😦

In my defence, we’ve just finished a high-stakes game of musical chairs in my bit of BT – when the music stopped, there were 25% fewer chairs to sit on and they were arranged in a different way.

I had to dust off my CV and have a job interview for the first time in more years than I care to mention … fortunately, I secured one of the new chairs upon which my butt is now firmly placed … to recover from the experience, I had to take two weeks off!

Anyway, I’m now responsible for managing a group of business partners in a channels centre of excellence team providing channels expertise to the communications community in BT.

The major downside to this is that I’m having to hand over all my lovely social media toys to Mark Morrell, the BT Intranet Manager 😦 I’m sure he’ll love and nurture them as if they were his own … and if not, I’ll be waiting for him in a dark alley one night when he least expects it!

Although I no longer have the luxury of majoring on social media in BT, I am still very involved … we’re actually doing some really interesting pilots engaging with our customers in on-line forums … and Twitter is also on the radar screen which is really exciting.

In recent weeks, there has been a huge amount of interest in engaging with customers and stakeholders externally in social channels from different bits of the company … we’re taking it slowly and not biting off more then we can chew. The great thing about this enthusiasm is that it’s coming from unexpected quarters and from people who seem to get it. I’m optimistic that we are doing, or plan to do, the right things … time will tell.

Anyway, one of my final parting shots as social-media-guy was to re-write our social media guidelines. If you’re interested, take a look (downloads a PDF file; some of the links in it pointing to BT Intranet pages obviously won’t work).

I plan to keep blogging … if you can call my poor performance over recent weeks blogging! Must do better …

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I’m still here …

Sorry for the long silence! I was quite busy before Christmas and then had flu for three weeks … I’m a stone in weight lighter and look 10 years older!

Anyway, I’m coming out the other side! Thought I’d just let you know of a couple of conferences I’m speaking at over the next three months:

Internal communications: A vital business function in difficult economic times on 11-12 Feb in London
IntraTeam 2009 in Copenhagen on 3-5 Mar (there’s a 15% early bird discount if you book by 10 Jan – sorry not long left to do this – if you quote ‘Dennison15′) – added 8 Jan – thanks for the clarification Kurt – see Kurt’s comment below

After these two conferences, I’ve decided to take a break from speaking as, quite frankly, I’m getting bored of the sound of my own voice and I’m repeating myself too much! When, and if, I have something new to say I’ll start speaking again.

We’re really going through a bedding-down period with our social media tools – trying to increase adoption levels and ensuring they comply with our governance and information management standards. While this is extremely important for us, it isn’t that exciting to talk about!

Anyway, I’ll endeavour to keep posting to this blog so keep stopping by every now and then!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Feel the fear and do it anyway …

For the first time, I’ve started writing a blog post without really having a clear idea about what I want to say or what point I want to get across. Given the growing tide of bad news battering our lives at the moment, it felt like a good idea to write something about … well … feelings. I’ve no idea where this is going, but here goes …

Sustainability has become such a buzzword these days that it’s become almost meaningless … but, there is a dimension to sustainability that seems to get little attention – personal sustainability … in other words not the external, macro-level sustainability talked about all the time, but an inner dimension that is personal to each of us and that fuels and energises us each day … a sustainability that offers periodic renewal so that we can embrace life and work with new enthusiasm and through fresh eyes.

Over the last few weeks in BT we’ve had a series of much publicised announcements that have made people feel uneasy … nervous … frightened even. We’ve had announcements about poor business performance in our global services division; the need to cut costs and jobs; possible changes to our pension scheme which will make it less attractive to members going forward; … to name but a few!

Don’t get me wrong … all these announcements have been handled VERY professionally … employees have been, or are being, consulted and we get very thorough and timely communications. And, frankly, these changes have been a long time coming and are absolutely essential for BT to be a sustainable (… that word again!) and profitable business going forward. However, while deep down I know that these changes are necessary and far from a surprise, it doesn’t make me feel great to hear them.

So, I hear you say, what the hell have my feelings got to do with my employer?? Quite a lot actually … if I’m not happy and fulfilled I’m certainly not going to be loyal, motivated and probably won’t give a damn about my work. If I don’t give a damn about my work, I certainly won’t be engaged and probably won’t give a damn about the customers annoying me all day. If I feel isolated and disconnected from my colleagues, I’m going to suffer more deeply and internalise or depress these feelings, making them even worse. If I don’t have an outlet to express my feelings and if I don’t feel heard, I’m going to get frustrated and angry.

Wow … lots of touchy feely stuff there … I can feel the suits getting anxious 🙂

While I’m not supporting the notion of nanny-plc, I do think companies have a responsibility to provide ways for employees to become connected, to express how they feel, and to engage in conversation. Companies also have a responsibility to support an environment of trust and openness in which employees feel safe to participate in these activities without fear of retribution.

And, when a company does provides these tools and creates the right atmosphere, employees have a responsibility to use them … to express how they feel … both good and bad … to engage openly and honestly however hard that might be to do. Employees also need to learn to help themselves … to get connected, build relationships … make their presence felt so that when bad times do come, they are as well equipped as possible to get through them.

A healthy relationship is an open relationship and all those in that relationship have responsibilities to make it work.

So, I guess what I’m saying in a very roundabout kind of way, is that creating the kind of company that will be successful and that people will want to work for requires tough choices and great leadership … from both management AND employees. Getting social technology working successfully inside the enterprise is more than just another technology implementation project … it’s about understanding people and how they think, behave and FEEL … a lot of the old rules won’t apply … the question is, when our backs are against the wall and when every penny counts, who will be brave enough to acknowledge this?

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