Change management is about communication first

Silverside is always looking for real stories about change management. This time, we interviewed Sander Verheuvel, Product Specialist and Business Analyst at Gunco BV. Sander is involved in many change management projects that regard the implementation of a digital platform, the migration to Office 365 and the re-branding of his company. How can he deal with so many change management projects? “Communication first” is his motto.

Q: Can you tell us something more about Gunco?
A: We are a Rotterdam based company, even though we also have some other branches in the Netherlands. We rent and sell lifts, other equipment and machines for companies, but we also offer lease solutions, we repair the equipment and also organize some training. Our strong point is that we deliver very quickly. If a customer gives us a call in the late afternoon, we can still deliver the machine the next morning. The competition is very high in this market and we are aware of it. Being quick in the logistics is our strength to deal with the low prices and discounts that other companies offer instead. Gunco is also part of a bigger Belgian company, TVH that acquired us in 2011.

Q: So, you do many things at Gunco and the quick delivery is your added value. Since you have been acquired, how do you deal with being a local company, acquired by a global company?
A: Well, it’s almost eight years now we are part of TVH, together with many other companies in Europe. That’s why every company was working with their own system and computer programs to do accounting, invoicing, and other operations… So they have started a project to have only one digital platform for every company so that every operation is aligned and the method is the same for all the companies in TVH. And this is why I got involved in change management.

Q: All right… So, user adoption and change management are for many companies “hot topics” nowadays…Do you agree?
A: Yes, totally…

Q: Despite this, we are lacking a bit of insight from the real world. So we started asking ourselves: ”How are these topics applied in the daily practice of organizations?“. We really need insights from real professionals in their daily working practice. And that’s why we are here today.
A: Yes, sometimes theories are good, but then in real life, it is totally different.

Q: Indeed. So how was the impact of change management on you?
A: Regarding the project of the digital platform for me was ok, I adopted very quickly because I was part of the project, involved since the beginning. But it’s a totally different story if we talk about other colleagues that just heard about the project….

Q: So, how was your strategy to deal with change management for this project?
A: First make everyone aware of what will happen with the new platform, what is the project about, what will change for them… In two words, communication and awareness.

Q: All right, so since when you started your change management strategy, how have been things going?
A: Well, as you also know, some people adopt change more rapidly and are more open-minded, other people are different and more difficult to onboard. For us, this category involves technical people and drivers for example, because they leave the company very early in the morning and come back at five in the afternoon or later. So they miss a lot of information and things going on. So I am now focused on this target to making them aware of the upcoming changes.

Q: So, the first step of your strategy is communication, especially with those targets that can be more reluctant to change, right?
A: Yes, informing everybody and communicate the change.

Q: And how are you going to deal with reluctance?
A: So, for now, we didn’t have big cases of reluctance, but in the near future we will encounter this barrier. For now, as I said, the main action is communication and involve everyone in the change project. Also because the digital platform is not the only change that will happen soon. We will also change our name and brand in November and we will move to the cloud with Office 365. And there are more change management projects. So the colleagues have to be prepared for all these little and big changes.

Q: And which channels or methods are you using now to inform people in your organization about all these changes and projects?
A: Via newsletter and emails, but we also attach informative panels to the wall or next to coffee break areas, so that everybody can read and stay updated. Also with meetings of course.

Q: Which barriers and difficulties do you expect will happen with all these change management projects going on?
A: Difficult question… we are expecting difficulties for users in working with Office 365 and the changes in the way of collaborating for example and the same can be said for the digital platform project… But then time is also another barrier. People have to deal with all these changes besides their normal job, tasks and deadlines… so time is a challenge. Another challenge is that we have several branches in different locations, so also making sure that the same information arrives at every branch and are understood correctly, is not easy.

Q: And regarding the Office 365 project, how do you make sure that communication around this project works for every branch?
A: We have selected some Office 365 ambassadors for every branch. They will work closely together from the start of the project and their role is to communicate with their colleagues about the Office 365 project, but also to train and inspire them.

Q: And how did you select these ambassadors?
A: Well, we picked up those guys that have more interest in ICT, are more enthusiastic about Office 365 and have the qualities to spread the information throughout their branch. I personally travelled a lot through the branches, so I also know a lot of colleagues. I knew who to pick for this project.

Q: Ok, so this is the strategy you are implementing right now: communication and ambassadors. But what is your vision about change management?
A: I think it is tough to find the right time for creating and implementing the strategy. So, managing time is essential and also the main challenge. Moreover, change management is about balancing constantly between pushing (because you know you have a deadline) and not pushing too hard (otherwise you can lose the attention and enthusiasm of people). Change management is a daily practice, you really have to do it every day, it’s not just a project of three months and then it’s finished. Once you get started with it, you really have to continue because it is a continuous process.

Q: Based on your experience, which will be your main suggestion to other professionals that are starting out a change management project?
A: I think that communication should be a priority and also involve the colleagues from the very beginning. Keep people informed about the steps of the change process and also which are the impacts of those changes for employees.
Change management is a hard process full of challenges: reluctance to change, people behaviour, lack of time, communication issues. However, small and big companies have to deal with it.

Sander Verhuevel’s strategy is focused on communication first. This is also what our PACE methodology suggests to do from the very beginning of the process. But communication is just the beginning.

Silverside PACE methodology is made of four phases: Prepare, Activate, Capitalise, Enhance and can help organizations to manage change in the method of working and in technologies. Download our whitepaper or register for our PACE workshop to know how we can help you to implement a successful change management strategy!

A SharePoint developer's perspective on Microsoft Teams workshops

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Jovita Elzbutaite, SharePoint Developer 

In July Silverside invited our friends, partners, and colleagues for two exclusive Office 365 workshops: Collaborate as a Team and Co-authoring documents. From our long experience of working with our customers, we see that most companies are struggling with the adoption of new technologies and new ways of working. Since many organizations are migrating to Office 365 products we see that IT department still has questions about the real effective use of Office 365. Hence, our senior consultant Sasja Beerendonk invited her colleagues and…
explore the new ways of collaborating together. Jovita Elzbutaite is a SharePoint developer in an Amsterdam-based company and she was one of the participants of the workshop “Collaborate as a Team. Jovita agreed to share her experience in participating in the workshop ‘’Collaborate as a team’’.

Q: Did your current employee already have Office 365 when you joined the company?
A: I started working in the period when the company just started working with Office 365, so I witnessed the migration process. They user SharePoint 2010 on premises before.

Q: So your company did a migration by the time you joined it, how was it?

A: It was a huge project because my organization has 40.000 users all over the world, so it was a big project. But I personally was involved in the SharePoint part. For example in The Netherlands they had SharePoint 2010 and they wanted to put Office 365 and I helped in this part, so I didn’t work in email migration, but I know that it was quite a difficult work in terms of making the end users to use the new platform. And migration is still going on, it is not finished because we use Office 365 in almost 40 countries, but we also have several countries that have their own Office 365 and now they need to migrate for their O 365 to ours, to have one global environment. Hence, the process is still in progress.

Q: Why do you think people are resistant to go to Teams?
A: Simply because it is a new tool, and they are so used to use emails that is difficult to change their habits.

Q: Being a SharePoint professional, what can you say about working in Teams? What is your opinion? Do you like this tool? Can you see the value?
A: Absolutely! The first positive thing I am seeing is that users can manage everything themselves, they don’t need to go to admin to ask to create a SharePoint site. They go to Teams instead, that is more user-friendly. They don’t need to do any complicated things. And this is easy, an advantage.

Q: Why did you decide to participate in Silverside’s workshop? 

A: Because I was curious about how other companies are using Microsoft Teams.

Q: Could you tell me what did you like about the workshop? And maybe you have also some suggestions on where we can improve it?
A: Well, the first impression was great! I loved the environment was very cozy. I like the way your colleagues accept and welcome people, this is very important for a person to feel comfortable, not stressed. And the big plus goes how it was organized.
The way how Sasja presented Teams was not for IT specialist, was for the end users, easy to follow and not too technical.
I see it as a very positive thing, you do not need to be an IT specialist to understand the workshop and so to understand how to work with Teams and why this tool is useful.
I would say that the workshop answers the question of why you should use Teams instead, what are the benefits. And the presentation was just great, the presenters did a good job and I liked the structure a lot. We had our hands on, to try to log in and use teams by ourselves within all team. So we saw and experienced by ourselves how easy it is to communicate in Teams and to work together on the same file at the same time, having also video conferences.

Q: What can be improved when talking and presenting Teams to people?
A: Well, from my perspective I would like to know more examples from other companies. How they are dealing with Teams and how they introduce it within the whole organization. What kind of problems they encounter.  I remember the presenter gave a few examples from other companies, but I want to have more. Learning from other experience is always nice!

Q: What did you learn?
A: Well.. definitely about new features in Teams.

Q: What are the benefits that the workshop brought to you?
A: for me, it was very useful! In our company, we need to use Teams, but it is not an easy task to do so. People don’t want to do changes, they have all these questions and I need to give recommendations and help users to work in Teams. For me it was such a useful workshop, I have more ideas now how to help.  This training gives some good insights on how to show people the benefits of Teams and how to encourage them to use it.

Q: Did you talk to someone about this workshop? What did you tell?
A: The day I went back to work I was telling my colleagues about my experience. We have some difficulties to encourage people to use Teams, but these workshops gave me a good overview of why people should explore Teams. It is obviously a great tool, but users are lacking in communication about Teams and they need more explanation. I hear people saying ‘’let’s just wait’’, ‘’maybe Teams is not ready yet’. I do believe that Teams is ready.

Q: For whom you would recommend these workshops?
A: I would definitely recommend these to my colleagues… Teams is a daily work, they need some time to learn more about it. This is why we still don’t go completely to Teams. But I hope we will within the next few months. So I would say these workshops would suit for all my colleagues because all for them have to use Teams.

Q: How the workshop can help?
A: People have questions about Teams and… they are too busy to Google and find the answers by themselves. I believe that if you give them an hour and you teach them it would be very useful, it would be a good onboarding action.

Q: What do you think is the best solution when employees have a question, they don’t know how to use the tool, but they still need to work with it? Because, of course, users have issues and they contact the IT support desk. 
A: This training would be a good start because it gives answers to the most common questions. But then a platform with the right content and information is needed, so people can search for the answers by themselves. You presented a new tool QuickHelp, that gives updated, relevant content for every user. From my experience, this is exactly what people need to feel secure while migrating and using new software. But this QuickHelp is handy for all users, no matter how good they are in using Office 365. People are a bit reluctant when you give them online resources. For some people it would work, but for the rest… you need to push them a little.
And also, it is a matter of time, managers should give some time for all employees to learn. Let’s say if they offer QuickHelp tool, users should schedule some time every day to learn about Office 365.

Q: What is your opinion about collaboration with office 365 tools?
A: I think there is nothing better than collaboration in Microsoft right now. I am very glad I was able to join your workshop, this definitely gave me so more ideas and perspectives while talking about Teams.

Jovita was involved in the migration to Office 365 process. From her experience, she knows that a migration to a new tool brings confusion to people. She believes that all employees need to have a proper introduction and training with the new technology and they also need some time to get used to a new, different way of working. Jovita thinks that these presentations and workshops are necessary when on-boarding people to Office 365 environment and says ‘’It is a perfect presentation that you need to give for all users when they are informed that they will work with Teams from now on. ‘’

The untold story about change management

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Silverside is working with change management and user adoption for more than a decade. From our experience, many organizations are struggling with these processes when a new technology is being introduced in the company. The risk of a badly managed change and user adoption strategy is high without the right expertise and methodology. Despite the fact that many organizations have problems and face difficulties, it is not so common to have customers or affiliates that are open to talking about their struggles and realities when things do not go in the right direction.

But telling the truth, with awareness, is the first step to change. That’s why Silverside presents this anonymous Q&A done with one of our customers. This can be an example and source of inspiration for another company that identifies in this specific organization. Mark, the IT manager, shared with our marketing team the real, untold story about how change management is being underestimated and unexploited by his company, causing many troubles in their process of change towards Office 365.

 

untold story-change management

 

Q: Can you tell us something about yourself?
A: So, I am an IT manager for a company in the Netherlands, working there for close to 5 years now.

Q: During your working experience as IT manager, when did you first encounter change management or user adoption?
A: Apparently you are supposed to know about change management from the technical point of view, but not really. Mostly it depends on your vision and gut feelings, but also on the management vision about it. They take decisions, so they have to be on board first. Change management is something that does not really incorporate revenue. We try as IT, but it is pretty much unrealistic. The main problem is that when projects around change management are running, the people at the head of the management always think they invented the wheel, but actually, there’s no strategy at all.

Q: Which kind of projects are running now involving change management in your company?
A: Yes, so for now what we have is a migration to Office 365. I am involved in this project more on the communication side, I am an intermediate. But also my role is to help and advise the technicians involved in the potential risks or issues we could encounter. This project is not the only one, we have many other projects running now and more will start soon. So we have the feeling that we are only doing projects and nothing related to the real business.

Q: This issue is related to time, right? Do you feel that time is one of the main barriers also to change management?
A: Yes, because besides your real job and official role in the company, you are also involved in different projects… and that’s why important things like change management are underestimated and left behind. And this is really bad, above all when the top level management does not understand the importance of having and implementing a good change management strategy. And when this happens in a company, that’s really frustrating.

Q: Oh yes, I totally understand it… So, what is your vision on change management?
A: From my point of view, business-wise, any change management project should be welcome. But unfortunately, this is not the vision of this company and there is no way I can make the top management understand this. I have tried several times, but it has always been a NO.

Q: And do you have any idea of the reason why the top management do not understand the importance of change management and refuses to take it into account?
A: I really think there is no specific reason, they just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. Let’s say it is lack of knowledge, competence, and commitment. So, the thing is that if the directions do not come from the Board of Directors, it’s like moving mountains, it is useless. One person alone cannot go on with a change management strategy, it is going nowhere if there is no involvement of a team and a good strategy that engages everyone in the company, from the employees to the top managers. I am just being frank.

Q: So, from your words, I can understand that the barriers to change management are time, the lack of knowledge and capacity to understand the importance of the topic of the top management and Board of Directors, but also the lack of a proper change management strategy, right?
A: Yes… this is why many projects fail also, due to these reasons… and things have to change first on a corporate level, and only then the whole company can be involved in large-scale projects, like moving to Office 365, for an example. But if the top managers do not embed a proper change management strategy and user adoption strategy in the project, then how can you pretend that from the next day after we moved there won’t be problems all around the company? The negative consequences on users and business will be huge…

Q: So, you are also saying that a change in the culture of the whole company and corporate decisions are needed?
A: Definitely, if we want to go on with the business, be competitive and have success these days. From the management perspective, IT is just about tools, laptops, software and solve technical problems. But this is not correct. IT is about the tools, but also about the users, how to use the tools, how users can work with the tools, and thus change management and user adoption.

Q: And from your practical experience in the field, which kind of difficulties have you encountered in a change management process?
A: Yes, two words: corporate decisions. The point is not whether or not to move to Office 365, the point is the way we are going to do so. Just saying that we are moving and everything’s going to be more beautiful, faster and easier… it’s not true! It can be, but not from the day after the migration, it takes time and effort. And to be successful you need more than a technical migration. You need a strategy, a plan, you need to inform everybody, you need to communicate what will change for users, you need to train them, offer support and so on… and it doesn’t take a week, there are so many things to consider…

Q: In your opinion, what do you need to implement a good change management strategy when it comes to IT?
A: Well a good strategy for sure, but also support and training for end-users. We should also not forget about the competences and knowledge of the management level, that’s also essential. You also need the right people to implement the strategy in all its aspects. I don’t have the magic formula for change management with Office 365 or whatever technology, but I certainly know how NOT to run a change management strategy or migration…

Q: At the light of what you experienced in these years, which kind of suggestions would you give to managers and professionals that are approaching change management projects in their companies?
A: In general, I think that every company should be aware of the knowledge and capabilities that are onboard and if you use them, you are going to move forward. But if you are not using the expertise and knowledge of your employees, people are going to lose interest and slowly you are going to ruin the company. Great ideas, expertise, business cases from past experiences, everything can help if managers consider and listen to their employees as useful resources. That’s why communication is so important.

Q: Well, this was a very interesting story, basically it tells what other companies are not willing to tell the world. But I am sure many organizations will identify with the story of your company and your position in particular. Change management is such a complex and challenging topic for organizations and the struggles are multiple and real. Being aware of the limits, issues and wasted opportunities is the first step to try to do better and going in the right direction.
A: Yes, this is the untold story about change management in real life. Not in every company change management is brilliant and successfully implemented. On the contrary, the story of my company represents one of many other companies in the same situation that need to do something concrete about it. Change management is a great concept, and if applied properly, it can help the organization concretely by saving time, money and reach a positive rate of user adoption. But as I said before, you need the right expertise, knowledge, capacities, strategy, planning, and communication, if you really want to make it a success.

Mark told Silverside the story of how his company is not dealing with change management, with all the wasted opportunities and issues that this behavior is causing. Lack of expertise and knowledge in management, lack of a proper strategy and unused employees’ knowledge and potentialities, are causing serious problems for Mark’s company. The negative impacts regard the business, but also the relationship between employees and the management level.
If you identify with Mark’s story, if you felt familiar with what he told us, or if, while reading the Q&A you thought “this is so true”, then most probably you are struggling with change management, but you also see the potential for your company.

Silverside can help organizations in the process of change and with our PACE methodology, we can offer the right strategy and expertise to reach a positive rate of user adoption with the new tools, while ensuring a successful change process.

running a project whitepaper

Come to our workshop or download our whitepaper to discover how Silverside helps organizations with change management and user adoption!

 

Technology and People: The Best Partnership

beezy

 

 

 

 

Ritse Klink, COO and co-founder at Beezy

 

The technology of today makes life much easier and has an enormous impact on our daily routine. Some of us may not even think about all those benefits and opportunities for new technological advances. However, people that have been working in the Information Technology industry for some time, are still surprised how technology has changed the ordinary way of doing things, opening also to new business perspectives. Silverside marketing team invited Ritse Klink to share his insights about working in this industry.  He is one of the co-founders of Beezy that is a privately held independent software vendor headquartered in Silicon Valley founded in 2011. Beezy is the most comprehensive enterprise collaboration solution for Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint, supporting on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments.  Ritse Klink tells his story about his business in software, sharing what inspires him to work every day.

Q: What does your company do?

A: What we are trying to do, is to help organizations transform the way they work. A lot of our customers are on a journey to work smarter, more open, more transparent and we want to provide a technology that enables to do this. To be more open, more transparent and to work smarter, of course, it is not only about technology. Technology makes people work differently by re-engineering the processes, but of course, people need a tool that enables them to do that. This is what we are trying to do. And a lot of our customers try to breakdown departments, work across geographical boundaries or break down your berries and throughout technology we enable that.

Q: What do you like the most about your job and your company?

A: What I like the most about my job and my company is the impact we have on a large amount of people. We work with very large organizations and enterprises with 20 -50 and sometimes over a hundred or a thousand employees and our technologies are being used across the enterprise. So we touch the way these employees work across the world and that’s what I like.

Q: So, I assume this positive impact on so many people is what inspires you to work?

A: Yes, definitely.

Q: What is your role within Beezy?

A: I am one of the three co-founders and my specific responsibility is sales and marketing.

Q: If I ask you to describe your job in 3 words, what would you say?

A: Customers, partner and users. This is what my job is about.

Q: Can you describe your daily routine, what do you at work?

A: Besides managing a team of sales people, I have a regular contact with sales people in the US, the UK and in Germany. We discuss issues, we brainstorm about how we can best support customer requirement, and the questions we get from customers. We work as a team. My job is to get and support my team. Also, I have some clients and partners that I am responsible for. So another big part of my day is taking care of customers, conversations, presentations and meetings.

Q: Working with people always brings some dynamics to your daily routine, right?

A: Indeed, it entails working with a lot with people and having many meetings. Of course, sometimes there are meetings scheduled on your agenda and you have your day planned… but at the end, you never know how your day will end, who is going to call and with whom you need to talk or to meet, what challenges you will face during the day. These dynamics make my day’s fly.

Q: Would you say that technologies are about people first?

A: I am not an engineer myself, my passion is not technologies, so I would say only by accident I ended up at software. My passion is helping customers, closing deals and working with my colleagues to grow the company and to make the company more successful. It is also about setting objectives and reaching those objectives and goals, generating results. All this is done by collaborating with the team, people, customers and partners and not that much by using technologies. As I said, I’m not a technical guy and I ended up at a software by accident but what I like about a software is when it is dynamic, innovative. In the IT industry there is a lot of innovation and that’s what I like. Overall, I like the fact that I am working in a software industry, but my real passion is about accomplishing results together with my team and colleagues. A: IT is such a dynamic environment; technologies are developing so fast. They give a lot of new possibilities to everyone. Sometimes technologies develop so fast and quick, that our customers and organizations in general cannot catch up and absorb everything at the same pace. This is the challenging part and the opportunity of being part of this industry. If you are in the insurance, banking, or financial industry, it’s a very static industry, compared to technology. The exciting thing going on in financial industry is Blockchain and Bitcoins, but it’s actually a technology that’s shaking up the industry. Financial industry itself hasn’t experienced any changes in the last hundred or two hundred years, so this is what I like about being in this technological industry: innovation, dynamism, change, flexibility.

Q: You mentioned that you didn’t plan to work with software, so tell us how did you get engaged with this industry.

A: Yes, my background is in Business Economics, so that is what I studied, with a major in marketing. My first role was a marketer in the telecommunication industry, so I worked for four years in telecommunications: the first year as a marketer and then the sales manager of that department asked me if I was interested in becoming an account manager. Well, before an account manager, I did product managing as well. So when they asked me if I was interested in becoming an account manager…I never saw myself in a sales career and I was happily pulled into sales and I did that for two years. Then me and my wife decided to take a break for a year. We traveled the world for a year in south east Asia and Central and South America. We traveled in 2001 and when we got back it was a big burst of the Internet bubble, so when we came back from our travels we both needed to find a new job and we saw a completely different working world. And through a recruiting company, I ended up at Microsoft in the Netherlands and this is how I came into technology and software. Through a recruitment company, I started at Microsoft as an account manager and had several roles nationally and internationally always in sales. Having done the sales management for almost ten years, I decided it was time for a change. So, with my two co-founders I started my own company, Beezy, in 2011.

Q: How did Beezy and Silverside become partners?

A: It happened maybe for two reasons, from a technological perspective Bezzy has the technology to help organizations migrate from IBM connection to Office 365. From a partnership perspective, I saw the opportunity to partner, because Silverside has a strong network in the IBM market in the Netherlands, so this is one opportunity. The other reason is the fact that we truly focused on technology and we needed to have partners to help our customs change the way people work. That is why the combination of Beezy and Silverside is a really nice fit, because together, we can solve not only the technology, but also the processes of digital workplace projects.

Q: So, what do Beezy and Silverside do as a team together?

A: So all the projects we are involved, are about making people work more openly, transparent and smarter. This requires a change in the behavior of people and we are aware that this is a very important component. But we are not specialists in that, our specialty is software development. So, that is why we partner with companies like Silverside who help us and, more importantly, help our customers with the whole change management aspect of embracing new collaboration strategies and tools.

In a world in which technology goes so fast, companies and organizations that work in the IT industry, feel the need to provide customers not only technological solutions and software but also a human help to deal with the rapid changes of the working and technological environment. The partnership Beezy-Silverside is a great example of how two companies in the innovative IT sector collaborate to help people and customers get the full benefit from using new technologies in their dynamic workplace.

"Towards an enhanced learning experience"

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Jan van Vledder

                                     

     “Experience is one of the most valuable things we can offer.”

                                                              Jan van Vledder

 

 

User adoption, change management and training are very complex topics. To become real experts, a long-term experience is needed for professionals. You cannot learn in books how to deal with these topics, nor someone can just tell you the magic formula. How do user adoption trainers and change managers face these issues in the real life? To answer this question, we interviewed Jan van Vledder, a training consultant with over 25 years of experience in training, change management, and user adoption fields.

Q: Can you tell us something about yourself, background, position?

A: Well… I started working a long time ago at the Philips Research Laboratory during which period I studied for a Bachelor degree in physics. But after five years of working there, I wanted to do something else. I wanted to work in telecommunications. After a few years in Philips Telecommunications, I was offered the opportunity to work in product sales training and I became their sales training manager. I started organizing trainings, creating content in collaboration with the product managers and a more structured training curriculum. In 2003 I started my own company to provide training services and training consultancy. My first client was a satellite communications company, where I was asked to support them with the introduction of their new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) application, Axapta. So, I started to design workshops and work instructions to help users with the new software, especially for finance, sales, legal and marketing staff and I created a simple but effective communication campaign. So, that’s where I started working with change management and user adoption. From that experience, my career in change management and user adoption developed. Later, after joining SES and working as a process manager, I was made responsible for change management specifically. When IBM Connections was introduced in the company, I soon was an enthusiastic user and created a comprehensive wiki, resulting in an integrated digital learning environment on SAP CRM and related business processes.

My motto is: “Towards an enhanced learning experience”. I have always used this quote because I want to provide people with a good learning experience.

Q: Oh, that’s impressive, you are always developing and building up new skills and experiences in different fields.
A: Yes, and what I appreciate so much is that through the years I have learned a lot, always new skills. I can say I am an example of life-long learning. Also during the last years with SES, I had the opportunity to learn and use new tools. It’s not that I reached the retirement age and didn’t want to experiment new things anymore. No, the contrary for me. And now, for example, I am experimenting with Office 365, to see how I can use that platform for user training. I really like my job and I’m still full of energy.

Q: So, in your career, you managed to design and build training for the user adoption of SAP CRM and Axapta. So, from your experience, what do you think is needed to reach a positive rate of user adoption?
A: Erm…in general, it’s all about software: a new program, software, a platform. To get people to feel confident about it, you have not only to teach them how it works but also, and most importantly, they have to start appreciating it. You need to communicate with them what it means for them, what are the benefits for them and then give real concrete examples. And you need a step by step approach, not everything in one session, otherwise, it is useless. Also, you have to focus on the most important things and functionalities that will be used in the company, not on every possibility offered by the software. And speaking the users’ language is very important, fundamental.

Q: So, in the end, will you say that technology is about people first?
A: Definitely yes, technology is about people first. Most people are not experts in technology, they only need to work with it, and do their job with the new technology. Speaking their language, so that they can understand the technology is very important, but also doing a lot of training because they have to understand and learn how to use it. So, from my experience training is about making it as easy as possible for the users. Also, you should make somebody responsible for this adoption process who is a real expert on the topic.

Q: So in your opinion is also about finding the right people, the real experts, to give the training and hold workshops, using the right language and attitude according to the audience?

A: Oh yes, yes. And you have to do everything you can to make it easy for people to learn. Then in small steps, they will learn and appreciate the tool, instead of just saying: “here it is, the new tool, from tomorrow you have to use it”. You have to really hold their hands and accompany them in the adoption process.

Q: So, if you have to summarize your user adoption strategy, your formula would be…?
A: Erm…with respect to user training, a media mix I would say, so not just workshops, videos, e-learning or written materials, but a combination of these methods. Everything that is needed to help people and give them the support they need, so they don’t feel alone in the process. Also, the contents of all training materials must be valuable and consistent and also look good visually. People should recognize that a lot of effort has been put into all material to make it as easy as possible for them. Therefore, I like to use the phrase “towards an enhanced learning experience”.

Q: We also read a nice quote you stated in your LinkedIn profile “where technology meets people”, can you elaborate on that?
A: Yes, technology and people are often a clash, since you are forced to work with something new that, you’re not familiar with, but still, you need to use it. Technology develops also fast and people cannot go along with it in many cases. To help people to work with a new technology, you need experts who understand the technology, but also are able to explain the functionality in normal language to the users.

Q: And according to your experience, which are the main difficulties that users have during the process of user adoption of a new technology?
A: Erm…So first there is reluctance like if it is a new tool, it cannot be good. I heard so many times “if it’s SAP it cannot be good”. So people believe the new application is not good for them or not useful, or too complex. The other difficulty is those people that have a problem with change. I remember a colleague that often said “I hate change”, but she managed to become a superuser because she discovered and learned to appreciate functionalities that really helped her in her job. Of course, there is this well-known technology adaption curve, but these are two examples of difficulties I had to deal with.

From Jan’s experience, a successful formula for reaching a positive rate of user adoption of a new technology always starts with learning. The users’ learning experience has a great impact on the results of the adoption process. That’s why consultants and trainers should follow Jan’s motto “towards an enhanced learning experience”. Consequently, they have to work hard to offer users the best learning experience using different tools and methods. In the end, the success of a user adoption strategy depends highly on the efforts, passion, and experience that consultants and trainers have to offer.

Use your email to stand out from the crowd ! Crossware reference story

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amanda abbitt-crossware         Crossware-mail signature

Amanda Abbitt, Sales Support Manager for EMEA at Crossware

 

Did you know that (despite popular opinion) research by Forbes has found email to still be a more effective tool than social media for attracting customers online?

Emails may be considered old fashioned, but in reality, they’re still the most widely used and successful marketing channel. Competing with social media channels like Twitter and Instagram has led to regular updates making the humble email an increasingly effective marketing tool. Email marketing today recognizes the value of building your brand – emails should share your company branding, look consistent, be personalized, and display equally well on every device (mobile especially, since everyone is checking their inboxes on their phone).

At the Engage event that took place in Rotterdam on May 2018, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Abbitt, Sales Support Manager for EMEA at Crossware, an international leader in company email signature management. Crossware’s flagship product, Crossware Mail Signature, gives users complete control over their company email signatures. They can easily design an attractive and professional email signature and ensure that these are included on every email leaving their company, even those sent from mobile devices.

In our interview, Amanda shares her own strategy on managing the ever increasing number of emails piling into your inbox (though she still admits that a zero inbox is a utopia we may never achieve). Amanda also discussed common email issues and how Crossware Solutions can help to solve these, and finally how to improve corporate emails in a world of increasing competition for attention in an inbox.

 

Crossware email signature Silverside

Crossware Mail Signature Preview tool – see what email signature will be attached to your email before you send. Silverside

 

Q: Can you tell me something about your company?

A: Crossware’s journey began in Denmark with an email signature tool for the IBM Domino platform and other services offered for IBM products.  Our founders relocated to New Zealand in 1999 forming a skilled, global team with a passion for email signatures. As the market changed, there became a clear need for a tool to create beautiful, standardized email signatures for Microsoft products – first Exchange, and later, Office 365. We have now been serving our global customers for almost 20 years from our headquarters in New Zealand.

Q: How big is the company more or less?

A: Our team is relatively small but distributed globally. Our development and accounts teams are based in our headquarters in NZ, but we have global offices based in the UK and USA where we look after European and Americas sales and support.

Q: So basically you have different departments spread all over the world.

A: Yes, indeed.

Q: And do you manage all this?

A: It works well. For example, we might receive a support question in the UK. If our support is not available at that time, it will be transferred to the New Zealand support team. There is complete continuity with no waiting time. Everything is done immediately. We make great use of the technologies that we sell. Using Notes and Domino allows us to understand our customer’s requirements and challenges better as well as providing a great place for customer records and things like that. And of course lots and lots of emails.

Q: So emails are a big issue for you…

A:  I think emails are something huge for every business, I mean they are not going away…there are some areas where it works really well, like ask me a quick question, quick answer. But for most of the cases, this is not enough…so if I get an email from a customer or partner, it does not work like this, because before answering I need to make sure of my answer and that it is stored, so that we can refere to that later…so the very simple way that you can get your email response back into the customer relationship management system is absolutely key…if it is complex or difficult, I just would not do it…so it has to be simple.

Q: And how do you manage all these emails piling up day per day?

A: The trick is not to make them pile up…so generally if it comes from a customer and it requires a response it goes directly into our CRM system. My background is in teaching people how to make effective use of their email. One of the things I used to say is that when you get an email, you need to read, reply or delete, as soon as you can.

The principle is if it is coming into my inbox, there is a reason. I try hard to have a fairly empty inbox. An empty inbox is not realistic, but fairly empty yes, we can do that. And generally, the problem is “my mail box is full, I do not know what is important, I cannot work out what I have to do next…”.

Solving this problem is not just about managing your inbox, but also about managing the expectations about how people behave with their emails. If you put me on CC, then there must be a reason, if there is no reason, do not put me as CC just because you are covering your back, that is not appropriate. And if you want me to do something for you, do not put me in the CC field, put me in the TO field, because TO implies an action, the CC means “I am keeping you informed about this”. And again if you put in BCC, blind copy, why are you doing it? Is there any specific reason you are correctly hiding a person’s email address?

Making sure that if people send you emails in an inappropriate way, you engender your culture within the business to say thanks, but no thanks. It is perfectly polite and professional to say to people “You put me as CC, but I just do not need to know this”.  And they might not know that you don’t need to know because maybe your job has moved on and nobody told them, so they think you are still involved in that project. So managing emails is two things: using the tools and having the right culture around emails.

Q:  And in your experience with managing emails and teaching others to do so, have you ever experienced reluctance?

A:  Yes, and the behavior with emails and mindset should be encouraged by management. For example, in one organization when you attended the training you got a voucher to use in the café and the right to take half a day from your calendar to try out what you learned. So, people do it in different ways, but it is a combination of technology and culture.

Q: And going back to Crossware, can you tell me something more about what you do, which products does Crossware offer?

A: Crossware Mail Signature is our flagship solution – it addresses five particular challenges that businesses face.

  • The first is how you support and enhance your brand in a very noisy world. Everybody is shouting about their brand, logo, colors…and typically what we notice is that companies spend a lot of money in having their website and social media right and then emails go out with “sent from an iPhone” at the bottom of them…this is not professional. One of the drivers to get Crossware Mail Signature is often the marketing and branding within the business because they need to make sure that the correct brand is present and consistent in every channel: emails, social media, website.
  • The second issue is about compliance in terms of legal requirements: in Germany you must have the names of the owners of the business at the bottom of the emails, in the UK you have the registration number of the company at the bottom of your email, in Denmark it’s different again, so in different parts of the world the rules are different. So, in multinational companies how do you manage that? And this is one of the other reasons people use something like Crossware Mail Signature because we can say: “Ok, for the UK this is what you need to have at the end of your email, while this is what you need for Germany…” offices and so on.
  • The next issue is that typically an email between two people implies a level of trust in the relationship already. So every email is an opportunity for a better marketing and advertising and with Crossware what shows up can be very tailored and targeted.
  • And in a world where so many emails are sent from mobile devices, you have to update your signature email to fit mobile devices, but some people do and some don’t. So, the idea is that you have a consistent branding email signature no matter for which devices, iPhone, Android, whatever.
  • And the last thing is about centralizing all this. Let your users do what they do best. Engineers, marketers, accountants, IT people, they are not email signature specialist. So centralized control is important. So with Crossware whether you are using IBM Notes and Domino, Microsoft Office 365, Exchange (on-premises or cloud), you can have a signature on every email that leaves the business.

Q: And how important it is for customers to have the possibility to personalize the email signature?

A: Well it is very, very important. They need a solution that can make it look exactly how they want it to look, which is something Crossware Mail Signature can do, because it is so flexible. And also because emails are not going away. Despite the rise of social media, email is still the most effective form of communication and will continue to be so for a long time. So, let’s make sure our emails are consistent and we send out the correct messages we want to convey. This is an added value nowadays!

Do you want to know more about Crossware? Contact us! Or start your Free 30 Day Trial here!

Marc Aerts                            CNC

Marc Aerts, IT manager at CNC

IT manager’s attitude: changes are for people, not for the IT department

Recently, we visited CNC, a company which produces substrates for all sorts of edible mushrooms. This time the interview was focused on the IT department with the IT manager Marc Aerts. He shared his insights and experience working with change management and user adoption. Marc is IT manager at CNC since 2005. Currently, CNC is going through several changes and is introducing new tools.

Q: We are curious about the people’s reaction when you introduced these new tools. Were they reluctant or excited?
A: We have all different kind of users, we have those few that accepted all changes very easily, we have a lot who says no, I don’t want to, I like my own old way of working, please don’t do anything. Yes, it is difficult sometimes, but because we have done many implementations and changes during these years, we have found the right way to make people change. We provide training and give lectures constantly. We tell them what are the benefits of this new tool or program. We explain why they have to work in another way. It is important to understand that people are different, they adapt differently and they need different motivators to start something new. During our training for new tools, we have some groups, with different types of people. It is very important that in one group there are some early adopters, and also those who do not adopt that easily, so they can work together and learn from each other.

Q: Knowing that someone else was happy with this change, do you think this can reduce the reluctance of people?
A: Yes, I am sure.

Q: Why did you decide to change? We know it is a difficult decision to take, it requires a lot of time and effort.
A: It is not about IT managers. I do not need to change alone. It is for the people. That is what they have to know, that it is for them, not for an IT department. So that is why all the decisions about selecting the software are done in collaboration with employees from other departments. We always do it with a group of key users. It is not an IT decision, choice, implementation, no. We do it together. We take them from the start and we do like this with every implementation. When they see the benefits and are involved in the process, they are more motivated to change.

Q: What motivates you every day to work on changes and to inspire people to go through these changes together?
A: I see this proses not about technologies, but about helping people. First, not everybody is happy with the new tools and new ways of working, but in the end, people see all the benefits. And my personal motivation comes with the attitude that changes and novelties are the possibilities to make people work easier.

Mister Marc is happy that in every process of changes more and more employees and key users are involved from the beginning of the process. Nowadays, technologies give us many choices, however, if one tool suits one organization perfectly, it might be refused by people in another company. He believes that every organization has to find its own unique way how to deal with changes. Mister Marc is convinced that when the whole company understands that changes bring the benefit, people get the motivation to change.

Office 365 client use case: Product Launch Process

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Collect and document approvals per stage gate in a Product Launch Process (PLP), using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Approval Workflow.

The marketing team at an international client uses Microsoft Teams and standard Microsoft SharePoint approval workflow to comply to the QA/RA regulations as described in their SOP. Launching new products and services for the EMEA region is one of the core functions of the marketing department.

Product Launch Process

The Product Launch Process is the business process that supports the bringing to the EMEA market of newly developed products. Therefore the Product Launch Process (PLP) manages new product and service launches. Because the PLP has to ensure a timely product launch, the product launch process is a controlled, flexible and supportive process. It has the following objectives:

  • Ensure that new projects are assessed against business needs / requirements and ROI before starting the project;
  • Provide a structure in which deliverables can be delivered timely;
  • Create clear objectives, goals and measures for all new product launches planned in the organisation;
  • Define roles and decision-making authority for product/service launches;
  • Establish consistent communication and approval processes.

Approval Workflow

Each phase of the PLP process comprises of a set of deliverables, followed by a stage gate review. Consequently each stage gate is evaluated and concluded with an approval round. Overall purpose of the PLP stage gate approval is to prepare for approval and collect feedback from approvers. And as a result to be able to proceed with the project’s next phase. Microsoft Teams collects approvals through a SharePoint Library Approval workflow solution in the back-end. Workflows help automate the PLP stage gate process. As a result making it both more consistent and more efficient. The workflow routes documents stored in Teams to one or more people for their approval.

Product Launch Approval Workflow makes collaboration efficient

Product Launch Approval Workflow makes collaboration efficient

Workflows are:

  • Efficient and consistent An Approval workflow automatically routes the document (link) to the approvers via email, assigns review tasks and tracks their progress, and sends reminders and notifications when needed. The activity in a workflow can be monitored and adjusted from a central status page.
  • Less work for you An Approval workflow saves you and your colleagues both time and trouble (searching, status updates), and at the same time streamlines and standardizes your approval process.

 

 

Here’s a graphical example of the PLP Approval Workflow:

Graphical summary of the PLPGraphical summary of the PLP

Graphical summary of the PLP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approve Product Launch documents

Approvers receive a message, containing a link to the file in Teams, and a link to their task in the SharePoint Task list. They can go to their task from this email, or from the opened document. From the taks they can approve or reject, and also include some comments.

PLP Email information

PLP Email information

 

PLP Task link

PLP Task link

 

PLP Task informationPLP Task information

PLP Task information

 

Especially relevant is the link from Teams to the task list. To make it easier for approvers to find all of thier open tasks, we’ve added a tab to the Team’s channel that displays ‘My Pending Approvals’. This tab is showing a filtered view of the PLP Task list, showing only ‘my’ open tasks.

My Pending Tasks

My Pending Tasks Product Launch Process

 

Saving the full approval process for a Product Launch Process document

The Document Status Page gathers all information centrally for each PLP document.

Approval steps for PLP documnt

Approval steps for PLP document

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, after the process for approval is done, the project manager creates a pdf from the Document Status Page. This final approval report contains the final decision (approved or rejected) and in addition feedback to take into consideration for the next PLP stage. The approval report in pdf format is stored in MS Teams as well. As a last step, if all approvals are positive, the project manager will indicate how the feedback will be incorporated into the project going forward.   More examples of smarter ways to work in this Customer use case Sales meeting notes.

Office 365 Client Use Case: Sales meeting notes

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Centralising regional sales meeting notes with customers / business partners
using Microsoft Teams and OneNote notebooks

At an international client the sales organisation wanted better insights from meetings held with large customers or resellers of their products. The sales organisation is spread out across EMEA, divided into 5 regions, each of which consists of sub-regions and/or countries:

  • Germany& North-West- and Eastern Europe
  • Middle East and Africa
  • Southern Europe
  • Turkey, CIS & Poland
  • UK

Better sales meeting notes required

To help the organisation’s sales team be more efficient and effective, the Centre of Excellence decided they needed more alignment between the regions and countries sales meetings with customers and business partners. The current practice entailed many different forms of meeting notes taking. So each regional or even sub-regional team had their own way of working. Also, sales meeting notes were taken in many different formats (Word, Excel, paper-based, or other forms), and in many locations (laptop hard drives, shared network drives). Consequently there was no single place to be able to find all sales meeting notes. Therefore it was hard for executive management to get insights into all of these scattered meeting notes, done in many different formats.

This organisation had already started using Microsoft Teams for the day-to-day collaboration. But rather than having many teams who shared their meeting notes in their team (per region or country), they started a Sales meeting notes team, of which all people from all regions are members, including senior management. Because there was a specific requirement to not let the regional sales people see eachothers files and notes, the standard Teams and OneNote setup would not suffice. Only senior executives should have access to all sales meeting notes (across regions and countries).

Using OneNote notebooks in each channel in Microsoft Teams

The team has (besides the General channel) a channel for each region, where sales people share their meeting notes in a OneNote notebook for that region. Subsequently each regional notebook is setup, with section groups, sections and pages. Especially relevant is that meeting notes are standardised by template pages, for more uniformity.

Sales Meeting Notes Team Overview

Sales Meeting Notes Team Overview of regions in Channels and a OneNote notebook per channel containing sections.

 

We love Teams, and we love OneNote as well. First of all, it allows for note-taking that fits the way our brain is wired. A research article ‘The pen is mightier than the keyboard‘ explains that taking notes by hand is superior because the mental processes involved requires the learner to summarize, imagine, and conceptualise what the speaker is trying to communicate. Where people who type their notes into a device focus primarily on transcribing.

Most of all, OneNote allows us to not only type, but also write, draw and record audio. It’s very free-form, meaning you can scribble everywhere on the ‘paper’, not just from top to bottom as in Word.  Learn more about using OneNote in these training lessons.

Restricted permissions for channel’s Files and OneNote notebooks

Since the team only allows for simple membership management (access to all the team’s channels and tabs), we tweaked the membership a little on the SharePoint back-end. While everybody can access the team, and view the channel’s conversations, the Files tab showing the SharePoint document Library is limited to members that have permission to edit that folder in the library. Instead of having one central OneNote notebook, a notebook is created within the channels Files folder, therefore inheriting the access rights from that folder. The executives get access to all files and folders in the team.

OneNote notebook setup

Each Channel’s Files folder (with restricted permissions for sales of that region only) contains a OneNote notebook. Therefore only the sales people for that region (and the executives) have access to these sales meeting notes.

Sales meeting notes - Section groups and sections

Section groups and sections

This is how we setup the OneNote notebook:

  • Instructions page on how to create meeting notes
  • Section groups for regions that have sub-regions
  • Sections for countries within (sub-) regions
  • Page for each customer (name), and Sub-page (based on template) for each customer meeting.
  • A template page for each customer / Business Partner meeting

 

 

Sales Meeting Note Template Page

Sales Meeting Note Template Page

 

Read more about the productivity scenario Smarter Meetings.

Curious about how you can help organisations to adopt and embrace Office 365? Download our ebook ‘Wanting to use instead of having to’.

eBook – Change made easy for Office 365

Liesbeth Jansen                                                                                                       leasd2connect

Liesbeth Jansen, LinkedIn expert at leads2connect

 

Become a LinkedIn expert and build your own business

Liesbeth Jansen is a LinkedIn expert and trainer. She runs the company leads2connect that helps employees to connect with Linkedln, making them explore and use better the social media for business purposes. On 14th February 2018 Silverside marketing team had the pleasure to have an interview with her about the use of LinkedIn for business and how she managed to become a LinkedIn coach.

Q: Please tell us something about yourself.
A: My name is Liesbeth Jansen, my company name is leads2connect. First, this idea came to my mind in 2008 or 2009 but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had my career always in sales, like account manager, selling IT solutions to companies. But at some point, I was fed up with this and I thought that maybe I could have started something for myself, having my own business. I had no idea about what to do, but I had my company name: leads2connect. Because everything I am doing, leads to connection, to connect people, business, thoughts, whatever. So this was how it was born, but I still didn’t know what to do to make money out of it. Then, I started talking about LinkedIn and I found out that I knew a bit more about LinkedIn than other people. And that a little bit more, became a lot more, because I was focusing on the website all day. So people started asking me: “Can you give me a workshop on LinkedIn?” So this is the story of my career.

Q: What was the reason why you decided to focus on LinkedIn?
A: My company name is leads2connect, about connecting people. For example, I can introduce people to each other and ask money for it, because I brought a good connection to them, but this is very hard, this is networking, but to ask money for it… doesn’t feel good. So what is next? By accident, I found out that I know about LinkedIn more than regular people. So, in 2009 I started thinking about giving LinkedIn trainings. I realised that I liked to stand up and teach, talk and communicate with people. I find it amazing. Now, it is 2018 and I still do LinkedIn trainings, it is so surprising!

Q: Why do people appreciate LinkedIn in your opinion? Could you tell us some advantages and disadvantages of LinkedIn?
A: I think LinkedIn has one thing that any other social media hasn’t: you can see who you know, on Facebook, Instagram or other social media, but on LinkedIn, you can also see who your network knows. And also the other aspect, you can like something they posted and people feel very positive about it, it is very human. Everybody likes it.

Q: How does your daily work look like? How do you prepare for your LinkedIn trainings?
A: I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn on my mobile phone, also on the website, I follow a lot of people from America and Australia to get to know another way of looking at things, because they can show how to be more exceptional.

Q: What do you like the most about your job?
A: Meeting people of course! Meeting people absolutely! I have always an interesting conversation with people about different topics. I like to make connections with people and I like the tool.

Q: So, does communication inspire you?
A: Absolutely! Communication and connection.

Q: Is collaboration also linked to LinkedIn?
A: Yes, if you find the right people, connect them, so they can work together, of course it is about collaboration. I think that LinkedIn is like a big telephone book, but with skills and personal achievements. You just have to use the right words, and then people will find you or you can be introduced to someone, and this is nice!

Q: What about user adoption? Do you work on user adoption? Do you see people who do not want to use this tool?
A: This is the hardest part. I can inspire people to use LinkedIn, but I do not have a program where I am holding your hand and make you use it. It has to come from you. However, the user adoption in the Netherlands is quite low, we have around 7 million LinkedIn users, but only 500 000 people use it daily, so Dutch people just don’t use it.

Q: Why?
A: I guess that they got inspired at the moment to make the profile, they created it, but don’t use it, and of course, when the account is not active, they don’t see the benefits from it. I go to several companies and help them to make profiles better. Yet, using LinkedIn effectively it is a different thing… it is more about showing yourself and this is difficult for some people.

Q: Can you share your opinion about advantages and disadvantages of using LinkedIn? We believe there are plenty of advantages, but maybe you see some disadvantages of it? Can you think of any?
A: There are a lot of advantages, I think one of it, would be that you can use LinkedIn the way you want to use it. If you want to just have the account and don’t do anything, or make a profile and do something. But at the end, you have a profile and you can be found, so either way it is ok. I think this is an advantage, because if you have a profile on Facebook and it is not active, it has no value at all, but here it is different. So I see it as a big advantage, you can choose what you want to do with it. And an important thing is to communicate. If people add you on their connection list or if they send you a message, it is important to reply: this is the way to be connected to people. But if you do not reply, it would be a disadvantage, because people might think something negative about you… so if you have a profile and you are not replying to a message or any other interaction, it is a disadvantage. For example, if you have a phone and people are trying to call you, but you never pick up the phone, then what is the advantage of having the phone? You have to answer it. So if you have a profile, it means you opened one more way for people to connect with you. I don’t know any other disadvantage…

Q: And in your experience, what kind of help and support do your trainings give to people in the business sector?
A: First is to hear something new, not only to see what my boss is doing on LinkedIn or a manager does. Also, I think it is important to make connections at any level. I do not care what somebody is doing in the company, or for how long, or how old they are… you can always do something with LinkedIn, so I make it attainable for everybody. And be inspiring, of course, put high energy in it.

Q: You have many years of experience, so we are curious. Have you ever had some interesting, funny or bad experiences during your trainings?
A: Let’s start with an interesting one. So yes, I am quite judgemental, so what happened … I was giving the training in the company, there were like 9 or 10 people in the workshop. They said that one person has no LinkedIn account, it was 2017. I was curious about his age, he was a bit over 50, but at the end he can’t come in if he doesn’t have a profile, so the profile must be created before the workshop. So, we decided that he will be told to create a profile. At the day of the training, he came in and we started with the workshop and that person was so motivated, so curious about LinkedIn. He wanted to know more, he started to change things in his profile to make it better. The person was quite digitally capable, he was very good in working with a computer, he was very fast. I was so amazed. Then I had some coaching calls with that company and that person was always interested in my feedback, was willing to make the profile better and better. I was positively surprised. At the end, it seems that when you want to, everything is possible.

Liesbeth’s story shows us that social media has great potential and advantages for business purposes. LinkedIn in particular, is a powerful tool: it helps companies and professionals to grow their network, it offers new perspectives and, if used correctly and with enthusiasm, LinkedIn can also become an income and network generator. Yet, what also Liesbeth teaches us, is that we should not forget that technology and social media are not embedded only in the digital world, but they involve also people in their real life. At the end, if people are inspired everything is possible, even if we are dealing with the adoption of new technologies!

 

Robert Sigmond-productivityeurocol forbo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Sigmond, IT Manager at Forbo Eurocol Nederland BV

 

Productivity, Technology, People. How to solve the maze?

 

The Oxford Dictionary defines Productivity as:

“the rate at which a worker, a company, or a country produces goods or services, and the amount produced, compared with how much time, work, and money is needed to produce them”

But what is productivity in todays’ business reality?

We tried to understand it by interviewing an IT Manager with 35 years of experience, Robert Sigmond. He works at Forbo Eurocol Nederland BV, an international company in the Netherlands, that develops and produces adhesives and levelling compounds for the building sector. One of his main goals (and passion) is to make people more productive, efficient and effective. So, nobody better than Robert understands what an increase of user productivity means for a company.  Here is an extract from the interview with him.

Q: So, what is productivity in your opinion?

A: People can do more in the same amount of time, being more efficient and more effective, achieving their goals in a shorter amount of time.

Q: Do you think that, to be more productive, you need someone that motivates you or it is just a natural attitude that some people have and some other don’t?  

A: For some reasons, I’ve always had the drive to encourage people to get the most out of their software tooling. In my role as application manager, it is my task to facilitate the users with software that supports their business goals. Over the years I came to the conclusion that it’s not only the software itself, but also the behavior of people while using the application, that is important. You can have state-of-the-art software, but if people aren’t using it properly, it will not increase their productivity. Of course, you also need external motivation. If I see an IT solution demonstrated that can help our business forward, I am always looking for ways to fit in into our own software and hardware landscape, as I did with a many IT solutions.  I must say, the people at Silverside have inspired me a lot with their solutions and ideas. Following the experts on social media, that show us what is possible with innovative solutions, also does a lot with my motivation to improve our IT services.

Q: It is nice to hear that there are people who see an opportunity for improvement.

 A: This is something we always have to strive for, continual service improvement. Luckily, when I look at my colleagues, there are always some people who share these ideas of improvement and want to work with me. They are also the people who enthusiastically start using the new tooling we roll out and make sure it will be widely adopted throughout the organization.  Without the help of these so called ‘early adopters’, it is really difficult to start such a productivity increase initiative.  Making people more productive is not something you can easily make a business case of. It’s difficult to measure increase of personal productivity and translate it into hard cash. Luckily my management recognizes the value of such a project. It is therefore part of a bigger digital transformation initiative, where we are preparing ourselves for the future.

Q: Yes, but you can compare how it was before and how it is after the productivity increased, right?

A: Exactly, but there is more to it. You can separate two components in here, behavior and result. You have to influence behavior to produce a desired result.  In our case we want to use improved collaboration tooling to increase productivity. By making sure people are using the software correctly in their environment (changing of behavior) we can get an increased productivity (result) that we can measure.  In my opinion, it is wise to invest in user adoption strategies to make sure your efforts to achieve more productivity will be successful.

Q: Before you mentioned time management. How important is it to save time while doing your work and projects? And how do you manage and save your time?

A: Well, using the right tooling could save you a lot of time.  Because not having a lot of time, collaboration is critical.  What is still the number-one tool in a lot of organizations when it comes to collaboration …email! In this day and age where information needs to be exchanged fast and efficient, we use a more than 40-year-old technology to do our business with!
If you look around in your private environment, you see a lot of applications used that are way more efficient. How do you collaborate and communicate with your friends? By emailing them? No, you use a tool like WhatsApp. Why? Because it’s fast, easy, accessible.  So, using a chat based platform within our business wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

We now have started to use Microsoft Teams. By collaborating with this platform, we will save a lot of time. No emailing back and forth asking for things, remember activities, meetings, responding to questions to different people etc. It will all be done on one workspace where you can have conversations, do skype meetings, share and work on the same documents and switch between different applications. All from within one workspace that can be accessible for everybody, regardless of the device they are working on.

Q: So, being more productive at work is really valuable and possible!

A: Absolutely! But it does not happen automatically. Like I said, you have to change the working behavior of people in the organization. By rolling out the software and giving a brief explanation to the user, just doesn’t cut it. IT is good at installing and maintaining software solutions. Making sure people work with it in a correct and agreed sort of way, is not something that an IT department has to do. Actually, there is no role in the company that is responsible for such a task. Therefore, a good adoption strategy is necessary to make the change from one tool to another and to make sure people work with it in a way that is effective to the organization.  It’s my personal challenge to enable this and bring out the best in people within the company. With a good IT solution and a good user adoption method, I will surely succeed.

Under the light of these precious insights, managers should bear in mind that productivity is about people’s efficiency at work. Technological tools are important to ensure effectiveness, but in the end, everything depends on people’s behavior and managers must develop a strategy to deal with it.

Thanks Robert for your inspiring vision.

   Matthijs de Zoeten                      Baker Tilly Beark

Matthijs de Zoeten, IT manager at Baker Tilly Berk

IT manager’s experience: ‘What you need is the right attitude’

This week Silverside marketing team visited Baker Tilly Berk office in Rotterdam. This company offers accountancy and tax advices, a full range of services including: statutory audits, advice on VAT, employment law consulting, acquisition guidance, business valuations, financial staffing, IT consulting, and business strategy. We had a meeting with Matthijs de Zoeten, who is the manager of the IT department and is the leader of a group of 15 people that are working daily on the technical side and on managing the applications. His main role is to make sure that they work on right things, according to priorities. We asked Matthijs to share his experience with changes in IT departments: how to motivate people to accept and use new applications and have the biggest advantages of every change. He believes that business is always changing and cannot avoid innovations. However, ’’no one wants changes, only a baby in a diaper’’ he says. We asked Matthijs to share his experience on how he deals with different employees’ attitude towards changes and user adoption.

Q: How do you deal with user adoption and what is your opinion about it?
A: I would say it is challenging. The easiest part is the technical solution, but changing people behavior is very difficult, so we always split big projects in three parts. To change tools is easy, but the most difficult part is to change people’s mind and convince them that the change is for the best.

Q: Which are the main challenges and difficulties that you experience in your work?
A: Well… it depends. Small projects go very easy and the change is not that big. For example, when we changed from Lotus notes to Office 365 it was just the change of the email application. The only difference was that buttons are located in a different position. The change is very easy, so it was only a little bit of hesitation, mostly from people who don’t like changes, but they have to work with it and they have no alternatives. But if you have a new application and a new process and they can still use the old one, then the difficulties come to change people’s behavior. There are only a few people who like to change and the others will wait till they will be forced to do so. You have to take the older application away and only then they will use the new one.

Q: How did the majority of people react to changes?
A: Well, normally people don’t like to change. Most people ask for an explanation why we need to change. They claim that they don’t want to use their time to learn how to work with the new application. They try to convince that the old process is good, even though they complain every day about the older one. But yes… This is the challenge.

Q: When and what was the trigger for your company that made you to do changes? How do you go through changes in your company? Do you use any specific method?
A: Sometimes you just have to change. For the last two years, we have used the key users. They are people who are specially trained and they try new tools that are about to come into our workplace. Most of the time they are people who like changes, so they become the ambassadors of the new tool. We ask them to give presentations at their own branch, so people can hear the experiences from the people they know. Consequently, people are more interested and motivated to listen, when they hear the experience from their coworkers. We can see that this helps a lot, because first of all, it gives more trust because if they have a problem, they will go to that person and will ask for a help.

Q: To which extent is important that all employees are involved in the process?
A: It depends, on which application, but it is important all the time. Especially when we have big projects, that requires a lot of energy, time and attention. The process should not only be top-down but also bottom up: from key users to the people who are sponsors of the new application. So, we use different people, for example, our key users or managers to explain to all employees the importance of the new application. This technique helps, but everybody should be involved, otherwise, they will not use it.

Q: Now you are going through the change process, so in which stage are you right now?
A: We completed the out role, so everybody is working now with the new system, and they only can use Lotus notes to read their old emails and to see old contacts. We decided to go with a ’’clean sheet’’, it means that we haven’t transferred the old mail and old appointments to the new system, except for the contacts. At first, there was a lot of opposition, but now you don’t hear complains anymore. You can look up at the old system, but you can’t mail from it. And that’s why the adoption is 100% now. The first two-three months we had a lot of questions, but key uses and other colleagues who already had some experience with Office 356 helped us a lot.

Getting users to change their behavior is one of the biggest barriers to the successful deployment of a new system or technology. From the practice, we see that most people are resistant to change. However, Matthijs thinks that the right method brings the success. Employees have to feel the support and receive help as much as they need. They listen to the opinion of the key users, collaborate with them and at the end, they are able to see the benefits of the new tool.