blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

April 30, 2017

FastTrack has good stuff for user adoption

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 21:06

Microsoft has a customer success service called FastTrack to help organizations realize business value faster with the Microsoft Cloud, including Office 365. It gives us guidance and practical materials, like templates. Good stuff.

The Office 365 Adoption Guide offered on http://fasttrack.microsoft.com/office gives us the full story of the three phases – envision, onboard and drive value- with checklists and links to details and templates.

The Productivity Library (http://fasttrack.microsoft.com/office/envision/productivitylibrary) contains over a hundred scenarios of how Office 365 can make your life easier. For example: Plan for work effectively, using Planner. For such a scenario, you get instruction pages and videos. And templates to make announcements, posters and flyers, tips & tricks messages.

You can also get help for onboarding end-users into Office 365. Small business owners (1-49 users) can use a setup guide. Customers with more than 50 licenses are entitled to assistance from the Microsoft FastTrack team, for example in migrating content. But that is not a free-for-all option.

There is also an entry point for all resources, per phase, that anyone can use: http://fasttrack.microsoft.com/office/resources/envision , including case studies, a guide for the helpdesk and plans.

So there is a lot of good stuff in there. We might as well use it…

March 31, 2017

Do not forget to start communicating at an early stage

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: — frederique @ 21:43

Too often I see IT departments do a project to implement, for example, Office 365 and develop new site templates. And then they plan to communicate the result to the business after it is finished. Maybe even help the users to adopt the new tools, once they are available. But only after the fact.

Recently, I have been involved in efforts to help users adopt Office 365 (see also 5 lessons learned about user adoption programmes and 5 more lessons learned about User Adoption). In my new project I also tripped over questions pertaining to adoption immediately. User adoption actually is an official track in the programme initiated by the IT department. I am working in a different track, from the perspective of a business unit. And we were missing things.

First and foremost: does the business, do the employees know about the programme to move to Office 365? Or when will it be communicated?

It turned out that only communication directly related to the roll-out was part of the adoption track: for example, messages to warn users that their mailbox or the team site they manage will be migrated soon. But there was no communication plan elsewhere to deal with the more general communication. And we did need that.

Why do we need to talk with the business at an early stage?

  • Get buy-in from the stakeholders. We need the decision makers on board. Not only the executive who approved the budget, but also the others.
  • Get approval for contacts to spend time on the programme. We need input from various people , to determine what new templates we need, to find out what existing content should be migrated , to inventory mailboxes that may or may not have to be migrated. Before we ask them to participate in workshops or check our lists, they should know why we ask and that it is ok to spend time on it.
  • Start the buzz. Employees may be interested to know that soon they will get new tools for collaborating and sharing. Some of them at least. If you tell them at an early stage, they may start looking forward to it and maybe even volunteer to get involved. Recently, some people decided to wait for the new team sites instead of renewing an expensive external tool, when we told them about the new options.

So we’ll start communication as soon as possible.

February 28, 2017

So do we unplug the file shares now?

Filed under: Adoption,SharePoint — frederique @ 23:32

I often see SharePoint environments that exist in parallel to good old file shares. The idea usually is to switch from file shares to SharePoint, because they allow the users to collaborate more effectively and efficiently. However, some users do not want to move away from the file shares. But then again, other users get confused if not everything is moved immediately. I do not have a silver bullet to determine the ideal moment to unplug the file shares. But let us take a look at some considerations, which came up in recent projects.

Switch from file shares to SharePoint

People sometimes ask me why they would stop using files shares and start using SharePoint in one of its incarnations. What’s in it for them? SharePoint sites do offer more functionality for collaborating that file shares. Mosst users can benefit from them, if they adopt them.

And why do I talk about SharePoint sites and not about the newer offerings in Office 365? Because these advantages appear in old school team sites on-premises or new modern team sites in SharePoint online, as well as in the sites associated to Office 365 Groups or Teams. It does not matter, many of the relevant options still live in a version of SharePoint.

SharePoint sites work better than file shares when you need to…

  • Share documents with people outside your organization
    In SharePoint sites, you can only allow externals if the administrators have switched the option on. But I have never had a file share that allowed for external access anyway.
  • Work anytime, anywhere.
    Of course some organizations lock down access without VPN, even in Office 365. But when it lives in SharePoint, your chances are a lot better for accessing information from outside your organization’s network or on a mobile device is a lot easier.
  • Collaborate in a controlled manner
    • Work in a document at the same time with multiple authors
    • Powerful versioning
    • Email notifications when a document is changed
  • Keep track of documents that have more properties than the windows basics
    For example, if documents have an expiry date, owner and a status, you can enrich them with metadata and use those to offer smart views, filtered to display overdue documents owned by my and grouped by status.
  • Work with more than just documents, like action lists, news, links, …
    Classic collaboration entails a lot of documents being exchanged. But the tools allow for more and more different ways to share and keep track of things, especially with the interactive Groups and Teams, including the spiffy Planner.
  • Collaborate on informal notes (for which sites contain a OneNote notebook).

Most of these advantages also apply to OneDrive for Business. OneDrive for Business is the replacement of the personal file share (P-drive or I-Drive or whatever it is called).

Unplug file shares when you switch to SharePoint

You can use file shares and SharePoint sites at the same time, in parallel. But this does cause problems, which you want to avoid by unplugging file shares.

If you have both, it is:

  • Confusing for the users: what do we store where? In an organization where IT did not want to rush the unplugging of the file shares, some users complained that the old file shares ought to be switched off right away. If we are on SharePoint and others still on a file share, how can we find each other? And how can we get used to SharePoint if most of the information is still on a file share? Of course other users panicked at the mere idea of losing their file shares, which is why the IT department took it slow…
  • Costly for IT: storage on file shares is expensive, and you don’t want to spend time and money maintaining two systems.

But look before you leap

Organizations are often eager to unplug the file shares quickly, in order to achieve the desired IT cost savings. However, this can also cause problems.

  • Some files don’t work in SharePoint For example, supersized files or “dangerous” file types (like .exe) cannot be uploaded into SharePoint. Filename with symbols like & have to be changed before they can be uploaded. Connections of connected HTML-files, such as handbooks, can no longer be browsed when they are moved into SharePoint.
  • Is SharePoint really working for the users? Don’t unplug the old file share before the new SharePoint sites can really be used. Not only should the environment be available, but it should also be accessible without hiccups and perform properly. I have hear enough people complain that they did not use SharePoint sites because they are so much slower than the old file shares. Then they are only working theoretically, but not in real life.
  • Have the users been empowered to adopt the SharePoint sites? Do they know they exist? Do they see what the benefits are? Do they understand how they can use them to achieve those benefits? Do they feel confident enough to dare use them? Can they get support?
  • If not:
    • Old school users may revert to older tools If you unplug the file share and they do not see SharePoint sites as a good option, users may go back to sending files back and forth as classic e-mail attachments. Then you may get the IT cost savings, but you will end up with a mess of unmanaged information.
    • Savvy users will find their own tools in Shadow IT Some users love spiffy new apps and tools, and they want to get the job done. So they will just go out there, download this, subscribe to that and join anything else if IT does not provide great tools. I have heard enough users explain that SharePoint sites did not work for them, so they used Dropbox or Google docs or WeTransfer or whatever else instead. This may be just fine, but it may also be a risk if they adopt Shadow IT tools that do not meet the security requirements for example. And don’t think you can prevent this by blacklisting the known tools for file sharing in the cloud. There is always one that the IT official will have missed and that some creative user has found…
  • And transition carefully The best way to transition depends on who you are as an organization, what information you have in the file shares, and what governance rules your information has to obey. Maybe you can move the current information from a file share into a new structure in SharePoint as you go along and leave the rest for a year before you just delete it. Or you can migrate a nicely structured file share into SharePoint using a migration tool. But you should think about it, before you get some garbage-in-garbage-out migration or lose crucial information. And maybe you only have regular office files, without any complications, to which SharePoint is ideally suited. But you should make sure, before users have no other option but to put exotic files onto their C-drive (which may crash) or flash drive (which they may lose) or external storage tool (which may be pirate by who knows whom).

So for some types of files, you may need to keep a file share. For some organizations and some users, a file share may continue to play an important role. But for most organizations, most users and most of the information, it is a good idea to move to SharePoint and unplug the file shares. However, don’t unplug them before you have made sure that the users have adopted the new tool and embraced the new way of working.

January 31, 2017

5 more lessons learned about User Adoption

Filed under: Adoption,Office365 — frederique @ 20:01

Last month I already posted some lessons learned about user adoption. Now I have bumped into a few more things that I want to take into account next time. Some things that worked nicely and that we should repeat and some that offer definite room for improvement….

See the previous post for the other lessons I learned, and here’s the next batch:

1.Get a sense of the users and their needs

Who are the people who are supposed to be using the tools you are trying to get adopted? What do they need? What’s in it for them? Before the tool is bought in the first place, the decision makers should know what it is for. But this information should be known to all stakeholders, in sufficient detail to make it work.

We held intake discussions with all department heads at HQ before we scheduled training sessions with their departments. This worked well: it helped us to determine what these users need and how the tools could help them.

However, what was less clear was how the broader employee groups would be involved: would the logistics people also have access to the tools? The people working in the shops? Or only their managers? Are the tools only for the information workers at headquarters? Or are they for everyone at a later stage? Not only did we not involve those groups, but also we could not answer the questions of the training participants who collaborate, for example, with the people in the shops. And that was a pity.

2.Determine what you want to achieve and make it measurable

Before you start organizing training sessions and other adoption activities, determine what you are trying to achieve: when will the adoption program have been successful? When are the decision makers, the people who pay for the program, happy with the result?

In our program, we kept track of the number of training sessions and the number of people who participated. And we asked the participants to fill in a survey with questions like “Are you going to apply what you learned in your work?” and “Does this training help you to collaborate in a more clever way?” to tell us how they felt about the training sessions and the tools.

However, we did not get enough information to allow the decision makers to decide what should be the next step. And they are still not sure what they want to know before they can make that decision. But is clear that we are not measuring if and to what degree the users are actually benefiting from the new tools, nor what they would need to go to the next level. How about the Office 365 Adoption Pack in Power BI for example (which should become available by the end of March, to see how much the tools are actually used and there is an increase?

3.Organize sessions per team

Sessions per team can work well, because they allow the teams to discuss what would work best for them. One size does not fit all teams, because they do not have the same jobs and they do not have the same needs.

We organized a session per team and we had an intake meeting with the team lead beforehand, to discuss the team’s needs and the most relevant agenda for the session. Then we saw in the sessions that the participants started to brainstorm how they could use the new tools as a team. For example, do their team meeting as a Skype meeting. Put their meeting notes in a OneNote notebook within their joint team site. Some teams loved Skype’s chat functionality, while other loathed it and decided on the spot that they would not use it for now. Fair enough, whatever works for them.

It can be tricky if the team members who share a training sessions have very different levels of Office 365 savviness. We explained the possible tension with the team leaders and they all decided that the team should still all join the sessions, even if some people already knew a lot. The more savvy team members were able to help their colleagues and bring up ideas on how to use the tools. And we had an assistant trainer, who helped out the less savvy team members who got stuck on something that was uninteresting for the others. We were quite happy with the way that worked.

4.Don’t overdose

A training session of 3 hours in which you try to explain everything to users who don’t know anything about the tools yet is not effective. They simply won’t be able to absorb everything… Two sessions of an hour and a half would work better.

We got feedback from the participants that the 3 hour sessions were rather overwhelming. Especially the less savvy team members were struggling to keep up. However, the planners made it clear that it was not possible to plan two short sessions instead of one long session for each team.

So what we tried to do is at least give the participants a sense in what way they could collaborate more effectively and easily using the new tools. And reassure them that nobody expected them to remember everything… If they want to retrieve details that they had missed or forgotten, they can check the help pages and videos we created or ask a colleague. And yes, we got quite a few questions ourselves, via mail, Skype or encounters in the cafeteria.

5.An adoption program is not a one-off activity

A good adoption program is not just one series of training sessions, or one communication campaign. In some cases that might be enough, but don’t count on it.

As I just mentioned, we had planned one series of training sessions.. But quite a few people contacted us afterwards with questions. Some people asked us to explain something again. But most asked for follow-up, now that they had played with the tools in real life. That is when you find out if you have really understood what’s going on: when you try to apply it yourself.

Unfortunately, nothing has been planned officially. We tried to help the users unofficially. But it was frustrating that we were just supposed to provide training, as opposed to help them to adopt the tools to boost their collaboration.

 

So to a program to increase adoption of Office 365 is helpful. We got enough positive feedback from users to make that clear. However, we can improve on the program and make it even more helpful next time.

December 31, 2016

Happy new year

Filed under: Uncategorized — frederique @ 15:56

I wish you all the best for 2017, a dynamic new year. Take a running jump and launch yourself into the new year, into new opportunities and new challenges.

All the best for 2017

 

November 30, 2016

5 lessons learned about user adoption programmes

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 23:03

Currently I am involved in a user adoption programme and there are a few lessons that have become evident. No rocket science, but things that I want to do different next time.

1.Make sure everything works well before you sell it to innocent users

Or at the very least the key features are ready to delight the innocent users. Ok, this sounds obvious, but we had a few missing pieces. Early adopters don’t mind. But innocent users who just want to get their job done and who don’t want to waste time learning something new shouldn’t hit snags.

We had some uphill work explaining Skype for Business but having to help them log on first: the user name is not what you would expect. And then we had to tell them that are not allowed to use it to communicate with people outside the organisation yet. And we decided to stay silent about the new options to attach a file to a mail message as a link to OneDrive, because that will only work when Exchange is integrated.

2.Offer help content before you start training innocent users

Or at least a draft version. Or at least a draft version. When you are in a session explaining new tools to innocent users, they usually ask where they can find the slides or where they can look up the details. After all, we can’t expect them to remember everything and we can’t expect everyone to spend time experimenting.

In our programme, something strange happened to the timeline and we started doing sessions with innocent users before we had any up-to-date help content. One reason is that we planned some fancy help pages and videos and it takes a lot of time to implement them. So now we have just put up some basis help content, like a Frequently Asked Questions list and simple pages for the time being. It is better than nothing until we have the official stuff.

3.Offer some training or getting-to-know-it sessions

Savvy users find out everything out for themselves. But innocent users benefit from a session in which they are told what’s in it for them and shown how it works. Sessions per team can work well, because they allow the teams to discuss what would work best for them. One size does not fit all teams, because they do not have the same work and they do not have the same needs.

We organised a session per team and we had an intake meeting with the team lead before hand, to discuss the team’s needs and the most relevant agenda for the session.

4.Be visible and approachable

One you start introducing new tools and a new way of working, people will have questions. Basic questions for which the answers are in a Frequently Asked Questions list but that some people still prefer to ask in person. And questions about advanced stuff, from enthusiasts want to push the envelope.

We have a mail address for questions and we will have a big ‘help me’ button on the intranet. Between the intake meetings and team sessions, we are present in a central location at their head quarters, wearing t-shirts and hoodies with the ‘Collaborate smarter’ logo. We’ve got a big banner with the logo to flag our location and to lure participants into the sessions. The only problem is that the people who are most visible now are consultants who are only there part time and who will leave after the programme. We need to make some ‘natives’ more visible soon…

5.Plan ahead

An adoption programme does not end after the first series of getting-to-know-it sessions. For one thing, Office 365 changes all the time. For another thing, users want to widen and deepen their knowledge of the tools and of how to use them to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. How are they doing with the new tools and new insights? Do they need more guidance?

Several people in our sessions have already asked if we will do a follow-up session, to take the next step. In particular, we’ve introduced basic team sites and several team representatives have already asked how they should make the team site do what their team needs. At the moment, this follow-up has not been planned yet, though something will have to be arranged.

 

So we should improve our user adoption programme. But we do see how important it is to pay attention to user adoption. New tools and new ways of working won’t land properly and won’t yield the desired benefits when we just drop them into the laps of the innocent users.

October 31, 2016

Office 365 groups now have real SharePoint site

Filed under: Office365,SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:55

An Office 365 Group or a SharePoint Team Site? Now we mostly get an Office 365 AND a SharePoint Team Site: the integration between Groups and SharePoint gives us a full SharePoint Site when we create Group. At a later stage, we will also get a Group when we create a site from SharePoint.

When I talked about Office 365 Groups a year ago, I was not particularly pleased with them. They had potential, but also a lot of drawbacks. But these Groups are really getting somewhere now. Earlier this year I felt that these Groups were making serious progress. Then I enthused about external access. Now the integration with SharePoint sites is starting to make me a happy Groupie…

A SharePoint site for my Groups…

It took a while for the integration between Groups and SharePoint arrived at my Dutch first release tenants, but now all of my Office 365 Groups have a SharePoint site associated to it. Not just newly created Groups, also existing Groups.

When I am in the Conversations section of the Group, I even see an explicit link to the Site.

Link to the SharePoint site from the Conversations section of the Group

Link to the SharePoint site from the Conversations section of the Group

Clicking on that link opens the homepage of the SharePoint site associated to this Group. On the left hand side, we get the Quick Launch menu which we recognize from SharePoint.

The homepage is less recognizable, because it is the homepage of a Modern Team site, which looks quite different from an old-fashioned Team Site. This is actually the first Modern Team Site that I can play with, but that is a different story.

My Group has a full blow Modern Team Site, with a site home page.

My Group now has a full blow Modern Team Site, with a site home page.

I am very happy that I have a SharePoint site with my Group, because now I can:

  • Add lists for anything from the who-brings-what for the team barbecue to inventories of special solutions with their owners and statuses.
  • Use a page where I can bring information together. Not just the home page; I can create new pages if I want

… But I do not see a full SharePoint site

When I dug a little deeper in the site settng of my new “Group Site”, I saw that some options are missing:

  • Users and Permissions, with the site permissions
  • Look & feel: Title, description and logo, plus the Top Link Bar
  • Site actions: Save the site as template, and Delete this site
  • Most of the Web Designer Galleries
  • Site administration: Site closure and deletion, popularity trends
  • Site collection administration: Enterprise Content Management tools like audit log reports, content type policy templates and site policies,. Also popularity and search reports. And the sharepoint designer settings
Site settings in a site associated with  Group versus the settings of a native SharePoint site

The settings of a native SharePoint site versus the settings in a site associated with Group versus

So did these settings drop out of the site? No. According to Mark Kashman in the Q&A of his keynote at the Collab365 Global Conference, nothing has been taken out of the sites. However, some things have been hidden…

The options that are hidden in a site associated with a Group are the options that you are supposed to manage in the Group (in Outlook) instead of in the site, like its membership. You are also not supposed the delete the site but the Group as a whole. And he said that they had hidden the options that would confuse non-SharePoint experts, so that may be why we don’t get the policy stuff.

So

When I need full blown Enterprise Content Management functionality in a site, with Audit log reports and policies, I still create a native SharePoint site. But for “normal” collaboration, Office 365 are becoming the go-to option…

September 30, 2016

External access to Office 365 Groups

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 19:31

This is what I have been waiting for: External access to Groups. I can now invite people from outside our organization to join me in Office 365 Groups. This is great, because I do not only collaborate with my colleagues, but also with my clients.

Recently, I started to work on a small project with my client. We used Skype for Business to talk and show each other what we were working on, and that was just fine. But then they wanted to give me some input documents. And I wanted to share some drafts with them. We did not have a shared team site, so these documents were sent back and forth by e-mail as classic attachments. Really annoying, because:

  • it was hard to get an overview of what we had shared,
  • a new version had to be sent again, which clutters our inboxes
  • and are we sure we have the latest version before us?

I was on the brink of requesting an official project site, when external access to Office 365 Groups was announced. It was not available immediately in our tenant, but after a few days of increasingly eager attempts, it suddenly was there! The option to invite people from outside our organisations.

As an Owner of an Office 365 Group, I can now invite people by entering their mail address.

Add a guest to the Office 365 Group. The Group does warn you that this is an external user: a guest.

Add a guest to the Office 365 Group. The Group does warn you that this is an external user: a guest.

The guest (in this case, Garth) then gets an invitation e-mail, from which he can start an e-mail conversation and open the shared files.

Invitation to join a Group as a guest.

Invitation to join a Group as a guest.

And to open the shared files, his e-mail address does have to be connected to a Microsoft account. If it isn’t, the recipient of the invitation is prompted to create a Microsoft account and connect it to this mail address. My guests (now Garth,  in real life my clients) fortunately have a Microsoft account associated to their mail address. But they do have to sign in.

The guest needs to sign in to get the files shared in the Group.

The guest needs to sign in to get the files shared in the Group.

 

What the guest can do in the Group is limited:

  • He cannot view the Conversations in the context of the Group. Only in Outlook.
  • He cannot see the Calendar in the Group.
  • He cannot use the Planner.
  • He does not see the “external group” listed with the groups of his own organization.
    So he needs to keep the e-mail with the link at hand or bookmark the external group in his browser.
  • He does not get the full list of all members and cannot see the details of the people.
    This is undoubtedly a security / privacy feature: it is none of Garth’s business who we report to and what else we do.

    People details visible for colleagues

    People details visible for colleagues

    People details hidden from guests.

    People details hidden from guests.

But for my purpose, it was sufficient, because the guest can collaborate on documents and notes:

  • He can read, edit and upload documents.
  • He can use the OneNote notebook.
Sharing files with guests.

Sharing files with guests.

 

So I am definitely a happy camper, or rather: a happy collaborator.  I was able to share files and share notes with my clients in a quick & easy way, and that is exactly what we wanted…

August 31, 2016

All users are equal…

Filed under: Adoption — frederique @ 20:28

But some are more equal than others. Lately, I have been working in a Functional Management team that supports users, mostly content owners and site owners, in the new intranet. We have a lot to do and never quite enough time to give all of them our full attention. So we have to prioritize.

But is it OK to “play favourites”? Spend time with some users, while others are pointed to a standard help page and told that if they want personal attention, they will have to wait?

Yes, I think that is OK. If we pick our favourites for the right reasons.
Not the people who smile most prettily at us.
Not the people who yell most loudly.
Not automatically the biggest bosses.

We give priority people who are trying to achieve something that will help many end-users a lot.
The content owners publishing key information.
The site owners managing solutions that support important business processes.
The early adoptor users who inspire many colleagues to take advantage of the new options.

I was very pleased to hear Richard Harbridge emphasize this as well in his very interesting webinar titled How to improve Office 365 & SharePoint adoption in the real world: The perception is that we need to support and invest in our users equally. But some users are more impactful than others: 20% of the people are responsible for 80% of the activity on the intranet.

We are not being undemocratic. We are just aiming to get the biggest bang for our buck. And to mix my metaphors: we pick the low hanging fruit, by helping users who only need a small boost to get back on track to rich pickings for the entire community. We don’t have an official champions programma at that organisation (yet…). But unofficially, we know who the champions are. Who makes an impact, who spends a lot of time and energy on the intranet to make such an impact. These people do a lot to make the intranet matter. So we do a lot to help these people.

We are not being undemocratic, we are not being unfriendly, we are just being practical. Because after all, some users are more equal than others.

July 31, 2016

Life imitating art? Recognizing my work in holiday sightseeing

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 22:58

I have just spent my holidays touring France. No, I did not think about work, Office 365, SharePoint, user adoption, governance or anything like that. But now that I am back, I do notice that often the principles that governed what we saw and did during our holidays are quite similar to the ones that govern my work.

Take advantage of what is availble, with tweaks where needed

In the Dordogne, people have been living under stone shelters since prehistoric times: natural rock overhangs, which protect you from the rain (if did still work for us, on our walk). The Cro-Magnon lived there, and may already made them more comfortable and practical by . Later, people built houses under such shelters, which already had a back wall and part of a roof.

Abri de Cro-Magnon in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, with recontructed "tent walls"

Prehistoric abri de Cro-Magnon in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, with recontructed “tent walls”

Modern house built under the shelter near the Grotte de Combarelles

Modern house built under the shelter near the Grotte de Combarelles

On the SharePoint platform and in Office 365 we do the same thing: we take advantage of what Microsoft (instead of mother nature) has already created for us, and we tweak a bit or develop more extensively to make it fit our needs better. We actually do that more and more. While a decade ago we started by building a new house from scratch, now we immediately head for the nearest standard feature and use that with as little customization as possible.

The environment changes and we have to go with the flow

As we went to the south of France, we assumed that the weather would be quite nice and that we would be just fine camping in our little tent. Well, not everywhere and not every day. It seems like that the climate change is acting up: there had been torrential rains, flooding many rivers and swamping the countryside in many areas.  And there were frequent thunderstorms, with hail.

So we chose carefully where to pitch our tent and where to go hiking. We changed our plans to steer clear of the worst inundations. And when the weather forecast threatened with a hailstorm, we took shelter in a hotel room.

Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : better be careful where you walk

Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : better be careful where you walk

But the local wildlife, in particular the water birds and waders, where quite happy that there was water everywhere…

Ducks taking advantage of the rains in the Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : this was supposed to be dry land.

Ducks taking advantage of the rains in the Le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne : this was supposed to be dry land.

In Office 365 cloud burst are usually less destructive. But the environment does change all the time. As users and administrators, we have to go with the flow. Change our plans if they don’t mesh with the evolution of the environment, and take advantage of the new opportunities.

Old and broken? It is still useful for somebody

The statues outside the cathedral of Sens have all been broken: their heads were cut off during the revolution. But the statues (and art lovers’) loss is the birds (and nature lovers’) gain. A lot of swallows built their nests amongst the statues.

Swallows nesting in the west portal

Swallows nesting in the west portal

In Sarlat-la-Canéda it weren’t the birds but people who recycled an old church; now they use it as a covered market.

Sarlat-la-Canéda: The second life of the church of Sainte-Marie

Sarlat-la-Canéda: The second life of the church of Sainte-Marie

I recently saw the same thing with an old SharePoint environment. People had circumvented the old, dilapidated templates to create very useful solutions. Don’t underestimate the creativity of your fellow man – or bird – in reusing old sites.

You don’t always need an expensive, high tech solution

In the city centre of Cahors, the inhabitants of one of the main pedestrian streets wanted to have some flowers to go with the official garden festival. They did not have gardens, space or money. But they had some basic materials and a good idea. So they created some very funny and colourful flower pots from old plastic soap bottles and hung them on the drain pipes.

Flower pots made from old soap bottles in Cahors

Flower pots made from old soap bottles in Cahors

This is often my approach in projects, especially small-scale projects for teams that don’t have much money. Do they really need some expensive product, or can we just tweak some standard stuff to meet their needs?

Blocking the main entry with fun stuff: Check the priorities and navigation

There is a main road running through Saint-Gilles (Gard). But not on the day of their festival. On that they, that main route is blocked, so you cannot enter the town or go through it to other villages and towns connected by that road. Fortunately, we were on the right side of the barriers, staying at the town camp site and enjoying the festivities.
For that day, the priorities of the people of Saint-Gilles were clearly with their fête. They did provide some sign posts to guide people around the town centre, but these did not suffice: we saw plenty of drivers who got stuck and lost. Maybe they tried regardless of the signs, but the barriers were quite solid…

Saint-Gilles, Fête de la Musique. The barriers went up plenty of time before the festival started.

Saint-Gilles, Fête de la Musique. The barriers went up plenty of time before the festival started.

I sometimes see something similar happen on the homepage of an intranet: the entire page or at least the visible part of the page, is taken over by ‘fun stuff’: a campaign, something interesting that Communication wants to tell the world. But what about the users who are looking for their tools, their collaboration sites, support, or other useful things? You have to be pretty sure that all of these users share your priorities and want to see your ‘fun stuff’, or you have to offer them sufficiently clear pointers to the place where they do want to go.

 

So no, I am not a workaholic: while I was on holiday, I did not think about work. But now that I am back at the office and looking at my holiday pictures over the weekend, I do see similarities. Maybe I am just trying to find my holiday in my work….

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