When Shifting Desks Doesn’t Work: Pair-Ups

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I wrote recently about Tony’s Chocolonely’s cultural practice of shifting desks every few months, in order to spark the conditions for new human connections and new opportunities for team collaboration. It resonated with me as a beneficial cultural practice for encouraging the growth of a collaboration mindset. For organisations where everyone works in the same location, re-shuffling the desk layout can be an effective method for creating new pair-wise connections. But for organisations where employee proximity is measured in kilometres rather than feet, something more will be required. Several years ago, Fog Creek Software developed an app called CoffeeTime, for randomly pairing people across the firm, with a particular focus on creating connections between people who would not normally interact. At the time, Fog Creek said the intent was to “encourage the cross-team communication and serendipitous learning which otherwise happens naturally when co-workers share an office” (hat tip, Stuart McIntyre). The result of a CoffeeTime pair-up was a scheduled 30-minute chat between the two individuals.

Microsoft Teams Icebreaker Bot 

The Microsoft Teams team at Microsoft sees the value in such pair-ups too. After developing an app for internal use to do the same thing as Fog Creek CoffeeTime, the app has been released to the wider world under the moniker of the Icebreaker Bot.


The core idea seeks to create the same conditions for growing a collaboration mindset: pair-up team members for a weekly meet up, to increase the velocity of meeting new team members, fostering camaraderie, and driving stronger connections across a worldwide community. The Icebreaker Bot is available as an App Template for Microsoft Teams. This enables customisation and tailoring for each organisation. It is available immediately.

To know more about collaboration practices with Office 365, download our eBook Collaboration Framework. 

Productivity Growth and Tech Investment: Ouch

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After years of telling clients that investments in new technology can improve productivity (through its Total Economic Impact consulting service), Forrester has recently run the numbers on productivity growth and tech investment in the US and concluded the link isn’t working. The new Forrester report concludes that productivity growth in the US has “stagnated across virtually all industries despite increases in tech spending.” As per the chart from the Forrester report, while productivity growth has plateaued at 1% over the past decade, growth in tech investment over the same time frame has averaged 5%.


productivity growth and tech investment in US

Source: Forrester

The past decade (and a bit) has seen the market introduction of:

  • (2008) Apple introduces the App Store for iOS
  • (2010) Twitter users sent 50 million tweets per day in February, up from 100 million per quarter in 2008 (about 1.1 million per day)
  • (2011) Microsoft introduced Office 365 in June
  • (2012) Facebook‘s went public with its IPO
  • (2013) Slack’s team messaging service was released
  • (2015) Workplace by Facebook was introduced in pilot mode
  • (2018) Microsoft released Microsoft Teams in March, after announcing it late the previous year

Something isn’t working, and it appears that it’s us. Despite all the investment in software and tech equipment, we aren’t delivering the more that’s being sought.

Why is this?

  • Many of the above tools are designed as interruption factories, not places of productive, sustained and focused work.
  • More generally, the embrace of open plan offices has created a chatty, noisy and unproductive environment for work.
  • Many workers feel disengaged – passively or actively – and where there’s a lack of engagement, the true fruits of productivity are hard to grow and flourish.

Productivity growth is a good thing for an economy, an organisation, and for people too. It means you are creating greater value – becoming better, becoming more valuable, and helping more people. But perhaps we need to reshape the pursuit away from a direct goal to productivity to an indirect outcome of many other triggers, starting with purpose, creating the conditions for productive and creative work, and a re-emphasis and re-empowering of people, not machines.

Have you seen our new eBook on Office 365 and ROI?

From Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams: Not only a migration!

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In August 2018 Microsoft announced that Microsoft Teams was a complete calling and meeting solution. Skype for Business Online features were included in Teams and Microsoft started to encourage Skype for Business customers to migrate to Teams. 

But upgrading to Microsoft Teams, a completely new technology for a Skype for Business user, is not an easy task. Indeed, it is not just a change of application or a technical migration. It is about a full business transformation. 

Your “Upgrade Journey” from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams

The migration from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams is called by Microsoft “Upgrade Journey”. If you are looking at the possibilities for this change, you need to know that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Many variables influence this journey. However, there are a few main migration modes.  These are more or less gradual, depending on your needs and on your position in the migration process. 


  • You can start by using Skype for Business for chatting, calling, meeting and start integrating Teams into your organization as the main collaboration platform.
  • Alternatively, you could use Skype during the migration for chatting and calling, while Teams will be your app for meetings and collaboration.
  • Another option is to have all workloads on both products or going for a “Teams only” approach, where chats, calls, meetings and collaboration are done exclusively in Teams.

Despite the approach you will use, the central issue here regards the change management and user adoption process of Microsoft Teams, coming from Skype for Business. How to plan this change? How to deal with the implementation? How to help users to get used to the new functionalities in Microsoft Teams? 

Guidance and planning are needed, as well as the right support. Training can help, but it won’t be enough to ensure a productive use of Teams among your employees. Microsoft provides some helpful resources that can support your upgrade journey. But there is not enough focus on change management and user adoption. 

Silverside knows that this upgrade journey is not easy. That is why we wrote a complete eBook focused on the migration from Skype for Business to Teams and the user adoption process of the new technology for your employees. You can download the eBook for free here below.

After our PACE Workshop, attendees said...

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On 7th June 2019, we organized the workshop: “Learn how to create the best Office 365 User Adoption Plan”. In this blog, we want to tell you something more about how the workshop went, from the perspective of our participants! We hope to transmit the feeling and the positive vibe of the PACE Experience so that you would want to join next time! 

You can read more about the workshop’s agenda here.

Top 3 ingredients of the workshop:

  1. Attendees with superpowers: This PACE experience has been so nice thanks to all of you. We especially admired your energy, expectations, will to learn, actively participate and debate. We couldn’t ask better than this!
  2. Quality of content and collaboration: During the workshop, there were many moments to collaborate, discuss, criticise, share experiences and opinions. We loved this! And the quality of the conversations was impressive. Well done!
  3. We had so much fun! On Friday we had time for learning, discussing, playing and having fun! Gamification worked perfectly to generate fruitful discussions and inspiration for real-life scenarios. The cocktail of games and serious stuff was just perfect!

Participants said they liked the most…

“The mix between theory and practice and discuss different topics with attendees”

“Concrete methods and samples, materials provided, understandable explanations”

“Combination of lecture and activities: Sasja is an excellent teacher. Like the digging into scenarios and working as a team through the day”

This PACE Experience has been a great success! Thanks to all the participants. But we don’t stop here! This is just the beginning!

So, what’s next? Will you be there at the next PACE Experience? Work in progress…

In the meantime, you can download our eBooks or PACE whitepaper to know more. 

Strategic Allocation of Minutes Saved

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The week before I presented on ROI for Office 365 at the Digital Workplace Conference in Auckland, I did a trial run of the slide deck with my team at Silverside. They provided several helpful points of feedback, such as slow down (yup, I definitely raced through the trial run), offer better signposting in the slides (yes, good call), and add a section on strategically allocating freed up minutes in advance. I heard the last one in passing during the trial run, but it was only afterwards that the a-ha moment hit.

The new section – which I inserted as Value Pattern 4. Strategic allocation of minutes saved – is now one of my favourite sections of the slide deck (and our new ebook) because it actually offers a way of seeing an uplift in effectiveness, productivity and business value. The idea is very simple: rather than trying to sweep up as many 1-2 minutes of saved time at the end of the day to create enough time quantum to do something with, invest the totality of them upfront in a key strategic project, opportunity or client.

Here’s the thought flow:

  1. You can see logically how using the new tools in Office 365 can save time – eliminating waste, making things faster, streamlining tasks, etc.
  2. Add up how many minutes you could expect to save out of your regular workday – given what you actually do and the new tools that you could actually use. That number could be 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes or more.
  3. Brainstorm a list of key strategic activities that you could be doing but haven’t found the time to get started on. Perhaps it is being more intentional about coaching members on your team. Or calling one important client every day that you’re not currently working with to check in. Or writing a blog or a book in your area. Or reading a book a week. Or working on a new idea for a product or service.
  4. Select one or two of these activities and invest the number of minutes you calculated at step 2 directly into this activity – and do it first or early every day, before the demands of the day derail your plans.

Investing 30 to 60 to 90 minutes every day in a key strategic activity holds the potential for opening up brand new client opportunities, new lines of business, new products and services, and new career opportunities for yourself. What will you create?

Taking this approach is also a key idea in the time management area: identify your priorities and intentionally order your day around those. Don’t get caught out by trying to finish all the little and often low-value tasks at the expense of the major one or two initiatives that would make a transformative difference in your work and career. The Harvard Business Review has a nice article on this – see Make Time for the Work That Matters (September 2013).

It’s also similar to the idea in creativity and innovation, where a firm empowers employees to spend 15% to 20% of their time on tinkering, inventing and attempting new things. For 3M, the Post-It Note line is the most famous result of its 15% Culture which was introduced in 1948. For Google, the number is 20%, or one day a week for projects that employees “think will most benefit Google” (although whether this policy is still in force, or is actually “120% time” is a matter of debate).

The Post-It Notes market globally was over $2 billion last year, and even has its own market supply and analysis report and forecast. That’s got to be a whole lot better for business than attempting to do email 2 minutes faster a day.

There are of course many ways in which you can measure your ROI. But it is quite clear that measuring it in terms of minutes saved, might not be so useful.

Download our eBook User Adoption for Office 365: How to Lock-in a Return-on-Investment and find out the possibilities of getting your ROI with Office 365.

SharePoint Saturday Omaha: Co-author documents, collaborate and communicate with Office 365

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Another appointment with SharePoint Saturdays! Our world tour is more and more exciting! This time we will go to present the session “Collaborate to Co-Author Documents using Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Office” at SharePoint Saturday Omaha on 3rd August. 

About SharePoint Saturday Omaha

Join SharePoint end users, power users, architects, developers, administrators, and other professionals who work with Microsoft SharePoint for the 7th annual SharePoint Saturday – Omaha on Saturday, August 3, 2019, at Mammel Hall on the University of Nebraska – Omaha campus.

SharePoint Saturday will be an educational, informative, and lively day filled with sessions from respected SharePoint professionals covering a wide variety of SharePoint-oriented topics. SharePoint Saturday is FREE, open to the public, and is your local chance to immerse yourself in SharePoint!

There are 25 sessions planned in 5 tracks (IT Pro/Power User, Developer, End User/Business User, SharePoint 101 and Office 365) plus a keynote. There is also a vendor track for those interested in learning more about particular products.

About Sasja Beerendonk’s Sessions

Session 1: “Collaborate to Co-Author Documents, using Microsoft Teams & Microsoft Office”

Learn how you can be more effective in ‘Co-authoring documents’ using a mix Office 365 apps OneDrive, Teams and Office.
This session explains how the complete reviewing process (draft – collaborate – publish) can be done smarter and with a lot more fun by using a mix of great features in Office 365 tools.

Have you ever gotten lost in all the feedback and reviews done on one of your documents? Likely there were many emails with copies of the file, and different people giving their feedback using different tools and options. It’s a mess, and hard to finalise your documents.
There are many apps and possibilities in Office 365 to make co-authoring a smooth and effective process. But many employees lack the digital skills, or are stuck in old habits and using outdated tools.

This session goes beyond the real-time co-editing feature possible in Office Online or sharing a file through OneDrive. It focusses on a real-to-life work scenario, where people discover what a combination of Office 365 tools can do to improve their everyday work.
Learn how teams can re-think the tools and practices they use today and how they can work together efficiently on documents with all the great new features of Office 365 to achieve a better process and result.

Session 2:Create a solid communication plan for Microsoft Office 365 implementation projects”

Have you ever experienced the implementation of new technology, and found people were not aware of what was happening, or when, or what they needed to do? Or worse: there was no understanding of why we are even doing this? According to George Bernard Shaw, Irish poet “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

This session is about doing communication in user adoption of your Office 365 & SharePoint implementation right. User Adoption is about combining many aspects. Some of these are: project guidance, setting outcomes and measuring results, or learning strategies. And communication is one of them too.

Learn how you can develop your communication plan, execute your plan by setting the right scene and context and capture and share stories of success. Start with why, and then create your messaging to achieve changes in mindset, behaviour and actions using different communication channels and aimed at different target groups.

See practical examples from customers to introduce the change, trigger new ways of working, to explain the new tools and features and inform on what-when-where. You will walk away with a clear recipe to mix your own communication cocktail.

Register now, it’s free!

If you cannot physically attend, don’t worry! We will share as much as possible the experience with you through our slide share and Microsoft Teams Live Event. So stay tuned!