my world of work and user experiences

June 30, 2015

10 lessons learned from online presentation sessions

Filed under: New world of work — Tags: — frederique @ 23:39

I have given, organized and attended quite a few presentations online. It is very convenient that you can do a session without traveling. But it can be tricky to get your point across to the audience. A lot harder than if you are in the same room with them and look them in the eye. These are some of the lessons I learned and that I would like to share.

I have mostly used Lync and Skype for Business for my online meetings and presentations, but most of these lessons and tips are applicable to other tools as well. I use these tools, for example, for training sessions with clients in other countries, knowledge sharing sessions with my colleagues (which I discussed in a previous post), and I have attended and presented at online conferences. The more formal and important the presentation, the more important that you take heed of the 10 tips below.

1. Test beforehand if the online presentation tool works on your computer

If you have never used Lync or Skype for Business or the Webinar tool before, check if it works on your computer, your network, through your firewall and the firewall of the organiser. In short: check if it works for you in the desired situation.

In our lunchsessions, we had a guest speaker who had never used Lync before. We did a test run a week before his presentation and found out that he ran into serious difficulties when he tried to install it on his computer. So after several attempts to install Lync on his computer or getting it to work in his browser, we just ditched Lync for this meeting and switched to his favorite online presentation tool. We have also had some surprises with the demo of another guest speaker: the demo would only work if he switched on his VPN to get a secure connection to his own network, but that blocked our Skype for Business.

So test it, and do that early enough to be able to switch to another tool if needed.

2. Make sure you know how the tool works

Find out beforehand how you can mute and unmute yourself, share your desktop or your slides or whatever you want to show using the selected tool.

We fumbled a bit when Microsoft changed Lync to Skype for Business. Where has the ‘Share my desktop’ option gone? That was an internal knowledge sharing session, so no big deal. But you don’t want to look for buttons during a digital conference.

So spend some time familiarizing yourself with the tool that you are going to use.

3. Ask someone else to keep an eye on the chat

As a presenter, you want to focus on your presentation: tell your story and show your demo in a clear way. Without any distractions, that doubly distract the audience in an online session.

Sometimes we see that one attendee is having difficulties with the audio. When the presenter is handling the chat window, this stops the flow of the presentation entirely. A moderator can check if the other attendees have lost audio as well and recommend, for example, the audio-less individual to enable sound or re-enter the session.

So ask a colleague or organiser to keep an eye on the chat window, deal with practical questions and relay questions that would get lost otherwise.

4. Ask a colleague to listen in and warn you if anything goes wrong

As an online presenter, your connection with the audience is a lot more tenuous that as a ‘physical’ presenter in front of a live audience. If your audio drops, or if your video drops (your shared screen), than you may not even know that you have lost your audience.

I have attended an international digital conference where a presenter lost his audio. Nobody could hear him anymore. Fortunately I was in the same building as him, so I could run to the meeting room where he was sitting and warn him that he had to take action.

So ask somebody to attend the session online while being in the neighbourhood physically, so that they can easily warn you.

5. In big sessions, mute the attendees

Online sessions with many participants can get very messy: people speaking at the same time in a meeting room is feasible, but in an online meeting it is a disaster. And if any of the participants suffers from some background noise, that will annoy everybody.

I’ve been in plenty of sessions where you could hear someone typing or coughing or talking to another person in the room. This is very distracting and has to be avoided in online sessions.

So if you have many attendees, configure your Skype for Business meeting (or whatever you have) to mute all attendees. If anybody wants to say something, they can use the chat window or you can unmute them for a specific contribution.

6. Use a good microphone

It is more difficult to understand somebody if they are not in the same room, because you don’t get their non-verbal communication. Also, a voice through a microphone is always less clear than a voice in real life.

Many of us have attended online sessions where you had to strain your ears to hear the presenter, if you could hear him or her at all: too faint, bad quality, words disappearing. Very frustrating and tiring.

So if you are presenting an online session, use a good headset and talk right into the microphone of that headset.
If you have a mixed session with online and offline participants, where the participants in the room are also asking questions or making comments, you need something like a RoundTable/Polycom for 360 degrees of microphone. If you just use a headset or the microphone of your laptop in that case, the online participants can not understand what is being said by the offline participants in the room and that is very frustrating.

7. Open the session early and test if it works

Take your time to set up your computer, connect to the network, open the Skype for Business session (or whatever tool you are using) and test if it is really working as you expected.

I have attended plenty of online meetings and presentations where we started late because of technical issues. This is also true for ‘classic’ presentation in meeting rooms with faulty beamers of course. The worst issues were usually in sessions with a mix of online and offline participants, where the beamer, the audio and the shared screen would go wrong independently…

So set everything up at least 15 minutes before you start the session. You need to have enough time to fix problems or ask technical support to fix them for you. Ask a colleague who is not in the same room if they can check if they can hear you and see your screen. If you have a mix of online and offline participants, check if your test colleague can also hear people talking at the other end of the room (i.e. if your RoundTable device is working). If you don’t want your attendees to see your tests (in formal sessions), you can configure your Skype for Business meeting to let attendees wait in the meeting lobby until you allow them to enter your digital meeting room. For informal meetings, I usually let everybody see my tests, because then I don’t have to remember letting them in…

8. Be careful of open mikes

With these microphones, you do not immediately see who can hear you.

We have all heard of politicians’ bloopers when they speak ill or people without realizing that they are doing so in front of an open microphone. Fortunately I have never witnessed any really embarrassing situations in online presentations, but it is still a pitfall. Especially if you are about to start a mixed session and only one colleague has arrived in your meeting room. Be careful what you are gossiping about with that one colleague, because there may be ten colleagues who have just joined online and who are listening in…

So assume that other people are listing and that a recording is running unless you are quite sure that this is not the case.

9. Take into account that the shared screen may be slow

When you share your screen in an online presentation, the visual part tends to lag behind: the online attendees see your cursor move seconds after you have moved it.

I gave a training session to a lot of online participants from all over the world; the cursor was a least 3 seconds slow and I had to be very careful of how I moved my mouse. And we once had a meeting with people that had a slow internet connection where it took even longer; we had to wait for them to tell us if they had actually seen the cursor reach the button we were aiming for – I hope I never have to experience that again.

So move your cursor slowly. Don’t move it around a lot. Just move it slowly to where it has to be. Wait a moment before you click anything. For important presentations with a lot of participants, ask a colleague to sit next to you as an attendee, so that they can signal to you if you need to slow down.

If the session has a video component showing you as a presenter, you need to be careful not to move yourself too much or too quickly either. That would be distracting and it can also disrupt the video signal, which can’t keep up.

10. Don’t forget your online attendees in a mixed session

Mixed sessions can be tricky, with offline participants who are with you in the room as well as online participants who have joined via Skype for Business for example.

Our knowledge sharing lunch sessions always have a mix of participants who are at our headquarters and particpants online who cannot make it to the meeting room. Especially if there are many participants in the room, presenters sometimes forget about the online particpants: they start to point out things on the beamer screen with their hands instead of their cursors for example.

So stick with your computer and your cursor. Don’t move around in the room and point with your hands. Somebody has to keep an eye on the chat to see if there are any questions from the online people, especially if you have muted all attendees. Unmute people who have complicated questions or remarks – talking is easier than typing.


For any presentation, you need to prepare your story, prepare your demo, speak slowly and clearly, and use all the regular presentation skills. But if you present to an online audience, you need to do a bit more. I hope these 10 tips will help you with that.

February 28, 2015

Share knowledge? Let’s do lunch

Filed under: Digital Workplace,New world of work — frederique @ 20:23

My colleagues and I are consultants, who usually work in different locations. But we need to share knowledge, as in our domain things change a lot and best practices are not necessarily clear cut. So we organise biweekly lunch sessions, where we get together online and offline, to share our questions and answers, tips and tricks, thoughts and results.

Of course we also use digital means to share knowledge, like Yammer groups for discussion, team sites to share more structured information, Lync for meetings and conversations when we have urgent questions. But we like to get together in an informal setting, to discuss interesting projects, new features that we are finding out about, spiffy solutions to problems that others may also be experiencing, and anything else that is on our mind.

In our department, Macaw Workplace Solutions, we have been organizing biweekly lunch sessions for several years now. Other departments are also starting lunch sessions, and the new organisers asked me for some tips. So let me share my tips and lessons learned concerning knowledge sharing lunch sessions.

Locate offline and online, live and recorded

  • Meeting room for people in the office: We prefer to meet in person, to be able to look each other in the eye as we discuss our knowledge. So we book a meeting room in our headquarters that is large enough to accommodate the people who can make it there.
    • Practical tip: Book the meeting room in advance, even when you don’t know yet who the speaker will be.
  • Lync for people who are elsewhere: When we are at a client’s office, for example, we can join online, via Lync. We are in the New World of Work after all…
    • Practical tip: In the Lync meeting, you can switch off audio for the participants, if there are too many of them and the session becomes messy. I usually ask the participants to mute themselves while they eat (it is a lunch session after all…), and unmute themselves to join the discussion when they have a question or a contribution.

      Invitation to a lunch sessions, including a Lync Meeting. Set the options in the Lync meeting according to your needs.

      Invitation to a lunch sessions, including a Lync Meeting. Set the options in the Lync meeting according to your needs.

    • Practical tip: Try to get a meeting room with a RoundTable videoconferencing device or something similar. We hardly ever use the video part of it, as we look at the presenter’s shared desktop, to see his or her demo or presentation. But we do use the audio part: the participants online can hear everything that is discussed in the meeting room and join in. If audio only comes from the microphone in the speaker’s laptop, the online participants can’t hear the offline participants’ questions and remarks.
  • Lync recording: For people who can’t make it at all, we make a recording of the entire session. These recordings are then shared in our digital workplace environment.
    Start recording in your Lync meeting

    Start recording in your Lync meeting

    • Practical tip: record the session from a computer that is firmly connected to the network and to a power source, to avoid hiccups. I’ve ended up with a disappointing recording when I tried to record the session from a wobbly outside network and I won’t try that again…

Time during our lunch break, biweekly

  • Biweekly: We organise a session every other week. This is a rhythm we can sustain, without taking too much time from the volunteers who present their work and ideas or from the participants.
    • Practical tip: Don’t aim for a frequency that you cannot sustain. Once you have to start canceling sessions because you can’t find enough speakers, your series may fall apart.
  • Fixed day and time: We have a regular schedule, so that people can predict when the next lunch session will take place, even if it has not been announced yet. That makes it easier to join. We alternate between Wednesdays and Thursdays, because there was no single day when every colleague could attend. If we would always pick, for example, Wednesdays, we would exclude some colleagues. Now we know that everybody can at least attend some sessions.
    • Practical tip: Ask your colleagues which days they would prefer (in a survey for example). Consider alternating between two days, especially if you know that colleagues would be unable to attend at all during the single day you pick, because it is their part-time day or because they are working at a client’s office without an opportunity to dial in via Lync.
    • Practical tip: Book the meeting room and the speaker for 30 minutes before the session is scheduled to start, so that you have time to set things up. Then you can fight with uncooperative devices without annoying a dozen or more colleagues who don’t want to sacrifice their lunchtime for delays.
  • Lunchtime works well: Years ago, we organised knowledge sessions in the evenings. But then the group of colleagues grew older, started families, and it became more difficult to claim the evenings for work-related knowledge sharing. If we organise these sessions during working hours, most colleagues could not attend due to project-related commitments. So the lunch break is a nice compromise.
    • Practical tip: Start a bit later than lunch hour. The participants usually want to go to the cafeteria to grab a take-away lunch first (no, we don’t have funding to actually offer the participants lunch during our lunch sessions…). When we started at 12:00 sharp; many participants were still in the queue at the cafeteria and arrived late….

Invite speakers who have done an interesting project

  • Don’t wait for volunteers, but ask: My colleagues don’t often come up to me and proactively tell me they want to present their work at a lunch session. But when I ask them, they are ready enough to volunteer their time and share their knowledge.
    • Practical tip: Try to get backing from your management, so that you can spend official time on this. It does take time to organise these meetings and prepare a presentation (especially for novice presenters), and if it is all your own time, the series may fail.
  • Put out feelers and ask for ideas: I try to keep an eye on the discussions in Yammer and other channels. And I spar with a colleague who has a better overview than I have of the projects that we do and the challenges that we run into. That gives us ideas that we can discuss with potential speakers.
    • Pratical tip: Put ideas in a shared list. If they don’t work out now, they may result in a lunch session later.

Advertise to the core audience and all other colleagues

  • Put up a clear announcement: Tell the prospective audience what they can expect from the lunch session, so that they can decide if it is relevant for them:
    • Practical tip: Include:
      • the name of the speaker,
      • the title of the sessions,
      • an abstract,
      • the type of session (is it about a specific project we did for a client or about the technology or tools?),
      • the target audience (for example, is it a technical session for developers, or a business oriented session that is also interesting for sales people?),
      • the level (can anybody follow the session or is it for specialists only?)
  • Send Outlook invitation to the core audience: I send Outlook invitations to the colleagues in my department and to the colleagues in other departments for who this particular session could be particularly relevant. The Outlook invitation allows these core participants to put the lunch session in their calendar, including the link to start the session online in Lync.
    • Practical tip: Encourage everybody to forward the invitation to all colleagues that they know would be interested. I don’t know all of my 250 colleagues, so I am taking advantage of our people network …
  • Post it on the intranet and/or internal discussion forum: I put the full announcement, including the link to the Lync version of the meeting, in the Events list we see on the homepage of our intranet. In addition, I post the key information in our Yammer network, in the All Company group. This post links to the event page for further details and the Lync link.
    • Practical tip: Post the invitation about a week before the session, and add a reply on the morning before the session to pull it back up to the top of the page.

So let’s do lunch, in person or virtually, and share our knowledge!

March 30, 2014

Roads are blocked? We can still work in our digital workplace!

Filed under: Digital Workplace,New world of work — frederique @ 17:06

The Netherlands hosted the Nuclear Security Summit this week. To safely accommodate and transport 58 world leaders and associate crowds of delegates, a lot of roads were blocked. We were all advised not to commute in this area. So could we all please work from home or anywhere except the offices in the NSS area? Yes, we can, in our digital workplace in the New World of Work!

This is not just a theoretical answer, but an empirical one. As it turned out, a lot of people did work from home during the summit. As a result, there were actually less traffic jams on the roads and the trains were less full than during a normal rush hour…

A lot of people concluded on Twitter and other social media that now we have proven that working from home in the New World of Word does work and we saw a lot of “workplace selfies” of people working from home in a very professional home office, or for example

Digital workplace on a train

…on a train….

Digital Workplace outdoors

… outdoors, grabbing some fresh air (it’s spring time!)…

So how about the messages we get from companies like Yahoo, who are asking their employees to stop working from home and get back to the office? Well, nobody said that the New World of Work implied working from home all the time. We can work anytime and anywhere and we should pick the time and place that suits the job at hand. For me, working from home is often more efficient and productive, while working at our own offices or a client’s offices may be more effective and innovative, depending on the day’s tasks. For example:

  • I work from home when I need to focus on writing documentation, configuring a lot of sites, performing administrative tasks, or something else for which I don’t want to be distracted or waste time on traveling.
  • I go to our office when I want to be inspired by my colleagues and inspire them to be innovative: serendipity works better if you can simply join a discussion at the coffee machine or ask colleagues sitting near you if they have an idea when you are stuck.
  • For working or training sessions with a group of clients, I prefer to be at the client’s location, to make sure we communicate seamlessly. We can look each other in the eye and pick up non-verbal clues, for example, when we are putting together the requirements for a solution, or when we start building and we think that some requirements needs to be discussed on the spot.
  • But when my clients are dispersed over a wide geographical area, then we do our session online and use the video conferencing options to look each other in the eye. It would simply be impractical to gather in real life for more than an initial kick-off or at most a once-a-year joint session with the key people, if even that can be managed given the budget and everybody’s agenda.
  • Usually I start from home and commute a bit later, to avoid the rush hour.
  • And when I go and see a client at their location in the afternoon, I work from home in the morning, to save traveling time.
  • En route to a presentation or meeting elsewhere, I do the last minute preparations on the train, so that I make productive use of my traveling time and have everything at my fingertips when I arrive.
  • And while I am waiting for my train or anywhere else, I can deal with my e-mail, check my to do list, manage my calendar, join in on discussion forums and of course talk to people on my smartphone.
  • Plus of course: I can keep working when something happens on the roads or rail roads, like a Nuclear Security Summit or a bad snowstorm. I work from home, so I don’t get trapped in traffic.

The thing is, that I am and feel responsible for my own work, so I can decide for myself where and how I can perform it optimally. My managers and colleagues trust me to do my job; they don’t have to see me in person do it. And they support me by placing an open and powerful digital workplace at my disposal.

In a way, my main workplace is digital, regardless of where I am physically. At our company and at clients, we use Office 365 in the cloud or SharePoint and Office on-premises versions, from laptops and other devices. Jasper Oosterveld has recently published a series of blogs on Office 365 from mobile devices. Tools in my digital workplace that I use a lot include:

  • SharePoint team sites for projects and ongoing department work, where we share information systematically: one version of the truth. We collaborate on documents with versioning and, for example, assign tasks and issues and track their status using lists. We can always get to these sites, wherever we have an internet connection. When I am traveling light with my iPad, I can still do the basics in my team sites. The screen is big enough to read and work comfortably. Site management and heavy-duty contributions can be a tricky on non-Microsoft devices.
  • Classic Office software like Word, PowerPoint and Excel integrate with these team sites: I can open a document from a team site, edit it, and save it back to the team site as the latest version. The options keep improving: the 2013 version allows for multiple authors to work in the same document at the same time in the browser, so you don’t even need Office on the device you are working on.
  • OneDrive and the sync option in SharePoint 2013 sites allow me to take documents offline (to work on while I am traveling by train for example) and synchronise them back to the site as soon as I am back online. I have some issues with this synchronization, maybe because I have connected too many different clouds to my laptop. But I hope this sync option gets more stable, as it can be very useful to me.
  • Outlook is a very powerful tool to manage my e-mail, calendar, tasks and address book. I have customized it with views, rules, short cuts and other options to suit my needs, and the search allows me find any item. When I am working on a client’s computer, inside their firewall, I can still access the online version. And I when I am away from any “big” computer, I can do all of this on my smartphone.
  • Lync enables me to chat with colleagues and clients who are also on Lync: see if they are available, ask a quick question, and then share my screen with them if I want to show them what I am talking about. A lot of my meetings take place in Lync, because for those meetings it is not worth the travel time and we can work more efficiently in the digital workplace. I don’t have to go to the Instant Messaging client separately, because it is integrated with the rest: it’s one integrated platform.
  • OneNote is getting more and more interesting as a tool to take notes and gather information as a team and share them in a team site: offline and online are integrated seamlessly. And the Office integration allows me also to, for example, add relevant mail messages or contacts to the notes in two clicks.
  • Yammer is becoming the discussion forum of choice for informal announcements, Q&A and brainstorming within the company. So far, it is only partly integrated with SharePoint, but as we move forward, it is getting better.
My digital workplace

My digital workplace: Office 365

Actually, I’ve been doing this for years and not just because of the Nuclear Security Summit that blocked the roads. We talk about the New World of Work or the New Way of Working, but it is not all that new.  But it is getting more and more relevant: easier because our digital workplace is getting better and better, and more and more widespread. We can work any time, any place and on any device and get the job done….

So when people ask if the Digital Workplace in the New World of Work actually works, we can answer with a resounding YES, we have seen it work!

January 31, 2013

Can you share your desktop?

Filed under: New world of work — Tags: — frederique @ 22:25

It’s funny how important some tools are for my daily work. And how I take them for granted… until they don’t work.

Sharing my or your desktop is very useful to me

I collaborate with, learn from and teach information workers. The desktops we work at may technically be those table-like things, but they are mostly our computer screens. So when I want to see what they are talking about, I ask them to share their desktop with me. I don’t have to leave my table-like desktop to see what’s on the computer desktop of people who are in a different building, different city, different country or different continent.

  • When somebody in the business calls me with a strange question about a team site, they can show me where they are in the site and what behaviour they see. This may be very different from what I had imaged when they started talking.
  • When experts gives an interesting presentation, I can follow their presentation and their demo by looking at the screen they share. A picture is worth a thousands words, and a live demo that actually shows you what’s going on is worth even more. And of course I do the same thing when I am the expert giving a presentation or training.
  • In a project team meeting where we discuss a list of issues that need to be solved, we can be in different places and still have the same overview and the same live view of changes we make on-the-spot

For this purpose we used MS Communicator and Live Meeting, and now we use MS Lync.

But it doesn’t work if my Lync and your Lync bite each other

This week I was caught flat-footed when I clicked on the Lync link (huh…) in an Online Meeting invitation and got: “An error occurred”. Help!
And even worse, I was planning an important meeting about a technical subject with that same high-tech partner. So I actually had to waste time travelling to their offices and sit at a table with them, because I could not risk not sharing my desktop with them. How old fashioned is that?!

The problem was that their Lync and our Lync are not friends (ok, I mean: they are not federated). So when I click their invitation link, it opens my Lync, but my Lync does not recognize them.

Fortunately we can keep them apart

To my relief, I found a way to keep those unfriendly Lyncs apart and still see their desktop:  copy the Lync Online Meeting link from the invitation and paste it into a non-Microsoft browser (in my case Firefox and Chrome worked). This opened a web version of Lync, where I could enter as a guest.

Note to self: pasting the link in Internet Explorer does not work, because the Microsoft browser starts to be smart and recognize the Microsoft Lync stuff and then it tries to connect the unconnectable Lyncs.

So that should be the end of this error…

November 30, 2011

Metaphorical interlude: my blackberry is frozen

Filed under: New world of work — frederique @ 23:48

Ok, this sketch is almost a year old. But when I rewatched it recently, it still made me laugh out loud, so let me share it here…

And no, my phone’s not a blackberry, but it still gets frozen….

While we’re at it:

The New World of Work huh….

December 31, 2010

Last day of 2010

Filed under: New world of work — frederique @ 15:22

This is the last day of 2010. Ok, I am talking about the year 2010. I wish you all an enjoyable new year’s eve – champagne and all – and then of course all the best for 2011!

This definitely not the last day of “twenty-ten”, 2010 as in SharePoint 2010, Office 2010 and what have we. Twenty-ten is full swing: launched officially, used in real life and talked about a lot.

Actually, what is making my day this last day of 2010 is not twenty-ten as such. It is The New World of Work, which allows me to work from home.

We don’t need the latest & greatest technology for that. The client who I work for today is not using twenty-ten, but SharePoint and Office 2003. But I have a laptop that connects me to their network. And we have an agreement that working from home is perfectly fine, as long we get the job done.

In any case, most of my project contacts at this multinational client are based in other countries. So we work in team sites rather than in physical locations. We discuss our projects in Live Meeting rather than real life meetings. We talk via e-mail, communicator and, when things get complicated, over the phone.

Today our conversations mostly pertain to champagne, fireworks and other holiday related subjects. I could easily interrupt that to open the door for the delivery guy who brought me my party ingredients for tonight. But over the last weeks I have been working from home more seriously. The bad weather blocked the trains or at the very least delayed them substantially. And I was extremely pleased to be able to work from home and actually get things done, instead of wasting my time on freezing platforms, waiting for trains that did not arrive.

So I’m all set for the new year, even if we get more snow and ice. And I have interesting things to look forward to in 2011: my client is going to leap from 2003 straight to 2010 in 2011, and we’ll have a huge new productivity platform to conceive, create and get adopted.

Happy New Year!

September 30, 2009

Cliquez Parcourir pour télécharger le ficher?

Filed under: New world of work,Usability — Tags: — frederique @ 23:31

Currently I am working for an American multinational. I am based at the headquarters for the international part of the business, which are in The Netherlands, and the other half of my team is in Chicago. Because we are one company, the intranet and collaboration environment that binds us together is in English. The idea being that we can all understand and use English, the lingua franca of the modern age and the obvious choice for a company with its main headquarters in the Chicago area.

However, are all my colleagues in that multinational quite as comfortable with English as all that? I am afraid not…

Language barrier
The language barrier may be underestimated by the people in America, as well as by the people in The Netherlands. The Dutch are not native speakers, but they can handle English just fine. After all, it is a small country and a “small language”, so everybody is at least familiar with English. But this is not the case for, for example, Russia and France.

In the project I am doing with the Russians, it is an ongoing struggle to try and understand each other. My contacts there have to write all the texts for the site we are creating and end-user materials in Russian, to allow the end-users to understand it. Fortunately SharePoint can deal with the Cyrillic script, even if I can’t….

Mixed terminology
It is easier for me to do projects with my colleagues based in Paris, because I do speak French. But I am only familiar with the terminology in English. I prefer to use English language settings on my computer, because I do not like to get my terminology translated. A browse button should be called a browse button and nothing else. But my French colleagues have computers that are French all over. Except for the intranet itself, because that is in English.

They see a button in the intranet that says ‘Upload’ and they have to know that this means ‘Télécharger’. And then their version of Windows takes over and offers them a button that says ‘Parcourir’ and I only know that that means ‘Browse’ because it appears in the location where I usually get the browse button. And none of the Help files and training materials are in French, so no help there.

So, the user experience that is straightforward when you are working in an English world becomes really messy when you are working on a French computer. It is not surprising that the employees in France hardly use the intranet at all and they don’t feel that it is meant for them.

What can we do?

  • Offer the most relevant content in different languages and make sure their content is not hidden behind anything English. That means personalization, as well as a lot of communication, to tell the people that it is worthwhile to look at the intranet and use the collaboration tools.
  • Configure the collaboration sites to be as local as needed: local time zone and time settings (not 10:00 AM 9/31/2009 Chicago time but 17:00 31/09/2009 Paris time), local language headings and explanatory texts.
  • Make sure the Quick Reference Cards and other ‘first aid’ user materials exist in all main languages of the company. It took me a moment to translate the Quick Reference Card to French, but it is not that much of an investment.
  • Preferably, the intranet and collaboration platform should also exist in different language versions, which follows the regional preferences of the computer. Most of all the buttons and action links that ordinary users see in their collaboration environment, such as Upload document, Edit document.

The last point requires a major overhaul of the system and is not something that we can do right now. But we are getting started with the other points. Now see if I can find a colleague who can start translating into Russian and Portuguese and what else do we need….

August 31, 2009

Limits to my New World of Work

Filed under: New world of work — frederique @ 21:14

At the moment, I am on a business trip in Chicago. As I also have to do some work with people in my original time zone in the Netherlands, I had planned to get some work done on SharePoint team sites and then join a Live Meeting session from my hotel room. Always on, always connected, right? But here I encountered some limits to my New World of Work

No network, no work
It all went swimmingly, until my secured connection broke. From that moment I was unable to get online. Well, I already knew I was addicted to team sites, but having no network at all was far worse! No SharePoint, no Outlook, no Live Meeting, no Instant Messaging, no Google… The main part of the work that I wanted to do was impossible without a network.

Phone as first aid
Fortunately I still had my phone. So I could send an SMS to the person with who I was to have that Live Meeting, to tell him I’d miss the meeting. And it is a smart phone, so I could still use one of my e-mail accounts and find some basics on the internet. I try to limit that use while I’m here though, as well as using the phone in the classical way to call people, because it costs me a fortune.

Offline as backup plan
And fortunately I had taken the relevant documents offline, so I still had the information I required on the spot. My means of synchronizing online and offline information are far from perfect: I just download and re-upload the relevant documents. But it works, until I get better tools.

Real life meeting versus Live Meeting
So, you may ask, if I am wallowing in the new world of work, why take a trip across the Atlantic at all and not just use Live Meeting? Well, because in any world of work, it good to actually meet people in real life from time to time. Not just to work, but to have a drink together. Drinks are not a collaboration feature in the new tools yet…

We want to have some brainstorm session with a larger group of people. It is a lot easier to do that effectively and efficiently if you can see each other in person. Video conferencing is getting better, but what we have at our disposal is nowhere near as good as a trip to Chicago to meet in real life.

July 31, 2009

My New World of Work

Filed under: New world of work — frederique @ 23:55

Microsoft, the local paper and everybody talks about the New World of Work. What do I think about it? Well, to me the New World of Work is not about the technology, but about flexibility. It means working when and where suits me best, so that I can be more effective and efficient. And of course make my life easier.

To be honest, I have never had a job where I had to be in an office from 9 to 5. In the nineties, I could get far with a key to the office building, a terminal and e-mail that allowed me to collaborate on an article with a co-author in New York. Today, I have better tools.

Wherever & whenever

I can work any time and any place where the internet is available. So I don’t have to commute to the office during rush hour, which makes my life easier. And I can check for e-mail before I leave and before I go to sleep, and help out my clients in Australia during their office hours. That makes me more effective and efficient.

  • Right now, I’m working from my couch at home after dinner, using my laptop and wireless internet.
  • At Macaw, we work in a SharePoint team sites. So I don’t need to be in the office to share documents or knowledge with my colleagues.  I really miss it when I collaborate with people who don’t have access to a team site.
  • Also, I have a secured connection that allows me to work within the company network of my client. So I can access their more heavily secured intranet.

Long distance

My current client is a multinational, so I do projects with teams in many countries. Most of them, I have never met in person. But we can still work together.

  • We share our desktop using Live Meeting. We can all see what the presenter is showing in a team site or a powerpoint presentation.
  • With a phone bridge, we can join a call and talk with the entire team. We have phones for that of course, but I can also call via Communicator on my laptop. A headset helps me to talk freely.
  • If I don’t want to interrupt a colleague with a phone call, I use Instant Messaging to chat. This is especially handy to talk with my team mates on the other side of the Atlantic: I can see if they are available in the Presence information displayed in the messenger tool.
  • The different time zones are a complication. But it helps that I can have a meeting from home, so that I don’t have to wait in the office for the Australians to wake up.

So yes, I do like this new world of work. And yes, I am working a lot more hours than the usual 40 hours a week. But I prefer spending that additional time to get results that I can be proud of.

June 30, 2009

How Outlook helped me survive the post-holiday mail stack

Filed under: New world of work — Tags: — frederique @ 23:23

I have just come back from a three week holiday. If I am not careful, I land in a huge stack of unread e-mail upon my return. Finding the urgent and important e-mail in that stack is difficult but very necessary. But I’ve set up Outlook to help me deal with it, by structuring the pile more than in previous years. It’s not high tech, but it’s effective. I have used the following:

  • Out-of-office assistant: Of course I try to warn my contacts in advance that I will be out of office, but it is useful to have an automatic reply which tells the sender when I’m back and whom to contact during my absence. In Outlook 2007, I could set the end date and distinguish between mailers from within my organization and mailers from the outside. In my other workplace, with Outlook 2003, I had to switch it off manually after I returned, but it did warn me. (Tools > Out of Office Assistant).
  • Rules to sort mail: I used rules to sort mail into different folders. Especially recurring mail that usually is not that urgent. For example, all mail with the word ‘newletter’ in the subject goes into the newsletter folder. This works already in Outlook 2003 (Tools > Rules and Alerts)
  • Rules to forward urgent mail: For projects with deadlines that interfered with my holidays (actually, it’s the other way around), I set up a rule to forward mail to colleagues, so that they could deal with it immediately. That concerned mail with specific keywords in the subject or from particular senders. This works also in Outlook 2003 (Tools > Rules and Alerts)
  • Archive: I cleaned up the Inboxes beforehand, so that they would not overflow during my absence.

And I have switched off many automatic notifications, that alert me of changes in project sites. Or at least changed them from immediate or daily notifications to weekly notifications. Of course I don’t need to be notified immediately if anything happens in an interesting project site or blog while I am watching the puffins on the cliffs of Orkney…

Note to self: next year, take the same measures, because they really help.

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