When You're Not Allowed to Talk (Ever)

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While the word “collaboration” is now generally used to refer to the possibility of good things at work, there was a time when being called a “collaborator” was a stinging rebuke. It was particularly used to refer to people who worked alongside corrupt government regimes and ascribed as much culpability for wrongdoing to the collaborator as to those he or she worked with. This ability to work together for good or evil – yes, even in the modern world – had led to various industry and government regulations that require ethical walls to be put in place to prevent communication between specific parties or groups within an organisation. These are commonly seen in the financial services industry to prevent one person from sharing insider information that they are allowed to have by virtue of their job role with a colleague in another division who is not allowed access to that information due to the ability to unfairly profit from buying or sell trades. But ethical walls also exist as a matter of good business practice in large, distributed organisations. Think about the ad agency who provides creative services to two competitors in the same industry; each respective group in the ad agency should be barred from interacting. Ditto in a large legal firm where two separate legal teams are representing different clients in a merger or acquisition scenario. If you want to win such business opportunities, you have to be able to prove that you can absolutely prevent the two respective teams from having any interaction with each other.

The requirement for ethical walls in tools like Office 365 goes beyond just access control to private team workspaces. While access privileges can indeed prevent one group from accessing the workspace of another group, it’s always possible to change access privileges temporarily for nefarious purposes, or for two people on the respective teams from interacting outside of the team workspace to share information. In days gone by, this could have been an email thread in Exchange – “take a look at this document” – or something similar.

Ethical walls demand something much, much stronger. It’s like having a security guard for each member of each team, and any attempt across teams to speak, give someone on the other team anything, or even make eye contact will immediately result in physical intervention. “You must not do this.” “You cannot do this.” “I will prevent you from doing this.”

As a purveyor of communication tools to many of the large organisations around the world, Microsoft faces questions around ethical wall capabilities in Office 365. In the context of Microsoft Teams, the product was released to general availability on March 14, 2017. Only eight days later – on March 22 – a member of Microsoft TechCommunity asks if there are any plans for ethical wall capabilities in the product.

Well, Dan had to wait for a couple of years, but the new Information Barriers service for Microsoft Teams was released to open preview at the end of April. It enables an administrator to create policies to prevent interaction between people and groups via Microsoft Teams. While Information Barriers was announced for Teams only, it appears that the service will be extended in the future to be a cross-workload capability for all of Office 365, which it indeed needs to become. But the first steps are good, and incremental improvement is fine.

When an information barrier policy is in place, it essentially makes invisible the people who are not allowed to interact. For example, if you try to add a member to a private team, that “not allowed to even make eye contact” user won’t show up in the member search results. Or if someone attempts to start a new private chat, he or she won’t be able to do so. And Microsoft says all attempts to do things you are not allowed to do will eventually be logged so compliance officers can see who is still trying to circumvent the policies in place.

 Action  User Experience if policy is violated
 Adding Members to a team The user will not show up in search 
 Start a new private chat  The chat is not created and an error message appears
Invited a user to join a meeting The user will not join the meeting and an error message appears
Screen sharing is initiated  The screen share won’t be allowed, and an error message appears
 Placing a phone call (VOIP)  The voice call is blocked


Of course, this doesn’t prevent two “don’t even make eye contact” people from meeting after work for dinner or at the local cafe (or pub, for those with a penchant for something stronger). If you have that level of nefarious activity going on, then a private investigator will be needed, because so far, Microsoft hasn’t announced proximity alerts based on user-associated devices with worldwide tracking using Intune and other services in Enterprise Mobility + Security. They probably could do it, but that’s getting a bit creepy.

Join our Office 365 workshop and learn how to collaborate and be productive while exploiting all the possibilities Office 365 offers! Register here

Invitation to Silverside's PACE Workshop

Rotterdam, 7 June
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For the past several years I have been developing, in collaboration with my colleagues at Silverside, the PACE methodology. PACE is a structured approach for guiding practitioners to motivate and equip their people to collaborate more effectively using modern tools, such as Office 365. As in the diagram above, PACE stands for Prepare – Activate – Capitalise – Enhance, which are the four phases in the methodology. The major reason I haven’t written the third edition of my book, User Adoption Strategies, is that my work in the adoption domain is now completely focused on the PACE methodology.

Our initial design for PACE from early 2017 underwent significant stepwise improvement in mid-2018, and we have recently completed a further update to the methodology. I guess you could say that just as we encourage organisations on the journey to more effective collaboration to course correct and adjust based on actual experiences (in the Enhance phase), so we have been taking our own advice and improving the methodology we offer.

Workshop on June 7

Our first public workshop based on the new PACE methodology is coming up, and it would be great to have you there if more effective collaboration is important in your organisation. Sasja Beerendonk, our Senior Consultant, will be presenting the workshop in Rotterdam on June 7. We have the following agenda for the day:

  1. Setting the Stage for your User Adoption Approach
  2. Current Situation and your Ideal Situation
  3. Creating your User Adoption Plan
  4. Implementing your User Adoption Plan

Here are the benefits we see for participants in the workshop:

  • Create your user adoption plan for Office 365 & SharePoint in your organization by using our PACE methodology.
  • Measure the probable success rate of your user adoption strategies, based on our benchmark.
  • Learn from companies like Omron, SES, Kawasaki, Attero and others in the market, know where to improve your adoption and how to save time and make the change easier.

Does this sound like a day of actionable learning that would return great outcomes for you and your organisation? If yes, please check out the details and get registered.

Azure, Office 365 & SharePoint Community will welcome us in Moscow!

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Moscow will welcome us on July 9th! Sasja Beerendonk has been selected as a speaker for the aOS event in Moscow! It will be an exciting event about Microsoft collaboration platform and a great occasion to expand our horizons! Get to know the aOS community and the trailer of our session! 

About aOS Community

aOS (Azure, Office 365 & SharePoint) is an international community of professionals working on Microsoft Collaboration Platform. The mission of the aOS community is to ease sharing and exchanges between members and all users of Microsoft collaboration platform. The aim is to develop and deepen knowledge and know-how and best practices. To achieve this goal, the community organises a series of online and live events, together with the production of high-quality content (technical articles, blogs posts, podcasts, webcasts). 

On 9 July, in Moscow, the aOS community organises a day of discovery, exchanges and sharing around Microsoft Collaborative platform. The event will take place in Microsoft Rus17, к.1 Krylatskaya Ulitsa, Moskva, Moskva 121614, Russian Federation.

Come to:

  • Discover news around Microsoft collaboratives technologies (SharePoint 2019, Office 365, Teams, …)
  • Share and exchange between users and professionals of Microsoft collaborative platform (including international speakers)

Take a look at the agenda: 

aOS community Moscow


About our session at aOS Moscow: From “send to” to “share with” 

Our senior adoption consultant Sasja Beerendonk will be on stage in Moscow. She will present the session “From send-to to share with” in the time slot 14:00-14:50 (local time GMT+3). 

This is not a ‘what can the app do’ demo! This is about changing your collaboration mindset. See practical steps for getting out of your email and into collaboration, using smarter features in Microsoft Teams. The tool is merely an enabler, if you do not change your work habits, you can still use new tools for old-fashioned work styles. Let’s start creating better habits!
The event is free and open to everybody interested in joining! Click below to register.

Proud sponsors and speakers at Office 365 & SharePoint Connect 2019

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Silverside list of events never ends! 

10th and 11th October Silverside will be in Haarlem, The Netherlands to participate in the conference Office 365 & SharePoint Connect 2019. This year, we upgraded our role. We will be among the sponsors for the event, we will have our booth and… our Senior Consultant Sasja Beerendonk will be presenting the session “Start your journey from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams”! 

About Office 365 & SharePoint Connect 2019

Office 365 & SharePoint Connect 2019-community edition. This year User Groups and IT Communities are coming together to deliver a community conference that will be focused on members’ needs. User Groups and communities involved in Office365, Cloud Computing, Azure, SharePoint & Security, are joining together to put together a conference you just don’t want to miss. The aim is to deliver a conference that includes sessions with interesting topics, case studies and real-life experience and solutions, on subjects such as migrations to the Microsoft cloud, driving adoption, development, search, security, privacy and compliance etc.

Not all sessions will be ‘case studies’. The agenda will also contain sessions, including but not restricted to the latest business practices, security, hot topics and the latest news from Microsoft for IT professionals, power users and developers. The leaders of the User Groups are all MVP’s and will make sure that the agenda will be of the best quality and relevant to the attendees. The conference will present news and announcements from Microsoft as well as insights into the key topics across Office 365, SharePoint Server, Hybrid,  Azure, Cloud Computing and Security. 


Start your journey from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams

It’s time for Silverside to dominate the stage with this session! Sasja Beerendonk will be presenting a super interesting session: “Start your journey from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams”.
Microsoft Teams is now a complete meeting and calling solution! Discover why you should make the switch from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. As an existing Skype for Business customer, upgrading to new technology can be confusing and this session will guide you on your journey to Microsoft Teams. Is your organisation ready for this change?
Does Microsoft Teams meet your collaboration and communication requirements? Is your network ready to support Teams? What user adoption plan do you need to read your employees for the move to Teams? Find out how to transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams making your employees adopt it effectively.
Don’t miss this session and all the other exciting sessions in the conference agenda! 

Save the date!

When? October 10, 8:00 am-October 11, 4:00pm

Where? Philharmonie Haarlem, Lange Begijnestraat 11. 2011 HH Haarlem


SharePoint Saturday Atlanta

Facebook never needed adoption, why does Office 365?
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SharePoint administrators, end users, architects, developers, and other professionals that work with Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft 365, and Azure Technologies will meet for SPS Atlanta on May 11, 2019,​ at the Kennesaw State University,​ Marietta Campus.

Facebook never needed adoption, why does Office 365?

Next stop? Atlanta! Silverside will go overseas represented by Sasja Beerendonk. She will be hosting the session “Facebook never needed adoption, why does Office 365?” The session will take place in the time slot 2:30-3:30 pm EDT (GMT-4), Atlanta local time. 
If you cannot be there, the session will be live on Microsoft Teams. The CEST time slot (Amsterdam)  is 8:30-9:30 am. Here is the link to attend the Microsoft Teams Live Event.
The session is directed to IT professionals, end-users and businesses. 
Learn what makes change for technology in business so difficult and how to motivate your employees to adopt it.  What are the reasons employees do not simply embrace new technology?
Resistance to change is what you’ll get without a proper user adoption strategy for your collaboration platform. Unlike IT people, business users are not necessarily thrilled about new technology, features and functionalities.
Build it and they will come does not work. Most employees will need to be motivated differently to start a new way of working.
How can we bend resistance to change, to change readiness? How do we find your Champions and activate them? How do employees understand when to use what app? This session will show you how to build a successful user adoption strategy.
The event is free, so if you are in Atlanta on May 11, join us! 


Date and Location:

When? Saturday, May 11, 2019, 2:30-3:30 pm EDT, GMT-4 (CEST time is 8:30-9:30 am). 

Where? Kennesaw State University, Marietta Campus, 1100 S Marietta Pkwy, Building Q, Marietta, GA 30060 Atlanta. Or Teams Live Event. 


The Risk of Being the Sucker

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The fear of being exploited by others – rather than the temptation to follow your own self-interest and exploit other people – is the greatest threat to cooperation. This is the conclusion from a recent meta-analysis of social dilemma games by Professor Friederike Mengel of the University of Essex. As a closely-related idea to collaboration, the willingness to cooperate sets the stage for jointly pursuing a shared outcome. If that cooperation is undermined, the collaborative endeavour itself will flounder.

Professor Mengel studied cooperation under controlled conditions, using the prisoner’s dilemma game to gauge whether the risk of them being exploited or the temptation to exploit was higher. In the prisoner’s dilemma game, two prisoners have to decide independently whether to cooperate with each other or not. If both cooperate, both go free. If neither cooperates (both “defect” which means saying the other person is guilty), both stay in prison. But if only one cooperates and the other defects, the defector goes free and the one who cooperates stays in prison. The game captures the trade-off between the risk of being exploited and the temptation to exploit (using the frame of reference from Professor Mengel), because while it is better for both parties to cooperate, individually one is best off if they defect while the other cooperates. The one who defects takes everything, and the one who cooperates loses everything. The overall conclusion was that in low-risk one-shot games, rates of cooperation are the highest. Which also means that:

  • In low-risk, multi-shot games – where players can establish a reputation for cooperating or not that can then be used again them – rates of cooperation are not as high. The longer you cooperate, the greater the risk that at some point another party will take advantage of your tendency to do so.
  • In high-risk games where the potential payoff is significant, rates of cooperation are not as high.

“What if they cheat me” becomes the rallying cry in these situations where this fear takes root, and as a consequence, people hold back from cooperating to protect themselves from loss.

One implication for collaboration in organisational life is that collaboration denotes more than just ad hoc working together. Structured and long-running collaborations benefit from terms of reference, contractual obligations, and checks-and-balances in resource allocations. These formal mechanisms decrease the perceived risk of being exploited and thus increase the likelihood that people will both cooperate and collaborate effectively over the long term.

It also sounds a warning on only building trust using the tit-for-tat approach, because while a pattern of responding in kind can be built up over time through repeated interactions, there’s nothing to stop one party from making the decision to exploit the other as the rewards available increase. Or for one party to hold back from fully investing in the work because they fear being exploited at the last turn.

Download the eBook Collaboration Framework and learn more about collaboration patterns and how to collaborate better using Microsoft Office 365 tools!