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Email is like Tetris: you lose eventually

How social networking is changing the way IBMers communicate and collaborate; what works.

When I've got an in-person meeting,  I tend to forget about time zones.    We'll all be in one place, after all.    Mistake!

Last month I visited a client in another time zone with a group of IBMers.    To block everyone's time and to remind them to make travel arrangements,   I had sent out a meeting invitation to all the attendees.  

The night before the meeting,  an IBMer asked me to confirm the start time for the meeting -- and I said "10 am,  as usual".    I was told "well, it says 9 am on my calendar".     For a moment I was puzzled, and then it hit me.    Yes, the meeting was starting at 10 eastern time,  but WE were all in the Central time zone.    Which meant our client had already planned for the meeting to start at 9 am, since they live in the Central time zone.  

I had a bit of a flurry chasing down all the Eastern Time zone IBMers and telling them the meeting was starting an hour earlier than expected.     We got there on time,   and all went well...but whew!   How can I forget about time zones?  

Beth Benoit | 5 September 2014 02:14:13 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Our family joined a new club last week -- the club of families who have delivered a young adult to a college campus for the first time, and gone home to a much quieter house.     Everywhere I go,    I'm running into parents who have children the same age as our oldest son.   Last year we were comparing notes on the college application process.   This year, we are comparing notes on the countdown and launch to campus.      Usually I get asked,   "have you heard from him?"

Thanks to technology,  yes.    We've seen a few facebook posts and messages,  just enough to know he is alive and well, and happy.     I'm sure his brother has probably gotten text messages that he isn't sharing,  and probably he's tracking his brother's posts on reddit too.    

We did get a phone call because he needed a credit card number.    "Call your mother"  is still good advice -- though you can space those calls out if you throw her a few bones via facebook...hint, hint.  

One thing we have definitely NOT gotten is email...and I doubt we will!

Beth Benoit | 27 August 2014 04:59:58 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Last week we had a poster session at the IBM Littleton lab, where our summer interns set up posters to show off their work and explain what they'd done.  

One of the projects surprised me.   A team of interns had been examining which parts of IBM's cloud collaboration services were getting the most use by our clients.     They focused on one of our data centers that does NOT contain IBMers,  which was a good move,  as I admit IBMer's aren't typical.    They had our collaboration services broken down into categories such as Profiles,   Files,  Activities,  email,  Instant Messaging (Sametime),  mobile, meetings, wik,  blog, etc....  

The biggest category, by far -- Instant Messaging.

The second biggest -- mobile.      

I probably should have asked more questions about exactly what they measured.  Instant messaging does have to do a lot of sampling for "awareness" (who is online,  what's their status),  so that might have pumped the numbers if they didn't screen that out.    I know instant messaging is a key tool in my corporate inbox, and one I would not want to lose (I'd choose instant messaging over email any day) -- so I shouldn't be surprised that other people outside of IBM use it extensively too!  

Beth Benoit | 14 August 2014 09:56:21 AM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

The big family calendar I've kept for years by the phone is getting a lot of blanks on it,  and not just because it's summer,  or because our oldest is off to college in 2 weeks. It's blank because last summer when we got the Smartphones we created a google calendar in order to coordinate everyone's schedules.  In a year we've reached the tipping point where the online family calendar is now THE only definitive reference.    Now we have discussions about HOW to enter events in the calendar ("Mom,  do NOT add travel time to Doctor's appointments -- I do that myself, so I showed up an hour early today")   and WHAT goes on the family calendar ("when is that concert you just bought a ticket for?  I don't want to schedule a trip on top of that.")    

I haven't played around with to see the full extent of what I could do.    For instance,  I'm sure there's probably a way for me to see all the family calendar in my Notes client.   I don't think I'll bother figuring that out though -- my smartphone calendar app is connected to both my work Calendar (through IBM Traveler),   and the family google calendar -- so that's my On the Glass integration,  where I can see everything at once.    I still have to do some double entry,  because unlike the rest of the family I have to block out my work calendar so people can't schedule work meetings on top of family  events -- and I have to block the travel time too.  

I guess this means next year I can put up a calendar with pretty pictures by the land line phone,   instead of the plain ones with huge blocks to write in.     I know, I kids will say I don't need a calendar there at all -- some habits die hard!  

Beth Benoit | 4 August 2014 01:07:21 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

IBM is running a series of company wide seminars on IBM's strategy in Big Data,   Mobile,  Cloud,  Security, Social -- all the key components of IBM's strategy, explained so that any IBMer can do a high level elevator chat.     Last week I was listening to the one on security.   There was a particularly engaging interview with Kris Lovejoy,  General Manager of IBM Security Services, where she spoke about the necessity for educating employees on security -- on WHY IBM requires an 8 character password on mobile devices, for instance.    

Kris made me laugh  -- she said "Employees are like water.  They find a way around the rules."       Her point was you have to state the rules,  but also explain WHY the rules are in place,  so that everyone understands what the possible consequences of creative rule interpretation could be.      Trust but verify is another guideline for any security policy.  

IBM's done a stellar job on these seminars.    I know corporate training is out of vogue,  but I have to say,  thank you Ginni -- this has been very well done!    Engaging,  nicely chunked so busy people can do a small (<10 min) chunk at a time,   opportunities to check that you really understand the main points.  

Beth Benoit | 28 July 2014 08:20:22 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

An IBMer I know from a past position is coming over to the Littleton lab after a customer visit.  Since she lives in Europe,  she asked if I could suggest any executives she could meet on her trip.   Except for Sales,  IBMers don't travel nearly as much as you would think!    We like to take advantage of visits to other IBM sites for some face to face time.  

Of course my middle aged mind went blank -- who the heck ARE the executives located in the Littleton Lab?

Profiles to the rescue.   A search of Profiles with "Director",  "VP", or "President" in the title field,  and MA in the State field -- and within 10 minutes I had a list of about a dozen interesting folks she might want to meet.     Profiles really does help answer the question of who works here, and what do they do?  

Beth Benoit | 21 July 2014 05:38:28 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

This week in my social business stream,  I saw a link to a TedTalk by IBMer Arne Sigurd Rognan Nielsen,  called "How to do less and get more done."      This is a lovely little talk, about back to basics on managing life, work, stress.     Arne has leveraged IBM's social business tools as part of optimizing his time.   He's an advocate for "working out loud" using social business.  One phrase in particular made me laugh:   "Email is where knowledge goes to die."   And this is oh so true!    

Arne deletes any email that he is just copied on.  If it's not directed at him, or a small group,  it's not worth his time to read it.    Which is an interesting perspective on email, and an interesting algorithm for dealing with email overload.  I don't think I can quite pull that off,  given my work context,  but it's a very interesting idea!  

I love Ted Talks, and this reminded me that I don't watch nearly enough of them.

Beth Benoit | 11 July 2014 11:22:53 AM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Working with IBMers all over the world,  I've gotten accustomed to suddenly being surprised by the news that tomorrow (or today) is a public holiday somewhere.   IBMers work with so many people,  that we can't possibly pre-notify everyone who might contact us  that we are on holiday.     Except for clients -- IBMers generally notify the clients we work with in advance on who our backup is!    Everybody else finds out by getting an Out of Office return on email.  

Depending on who I'm working with,  and how closely,   I'll put reminders of various country holidays on my calendar.  This year it's Canada and Spain,  but in previous years it's been Ireland, Germany,  Israel, China, and one region of India.    Last week Canada celebrated Canada day  and the US the Fourth of July.  Coming up in Spain  is Assumption Day,  and in Canada Civic day.   I love that there is so much local variation around the world....and by having global teams supporting our clients,   if one team member is on a national holiday,   there's another team member who isn't.    

Beth Benoit | 7 July 2014 03:49:57 PM ET | | Comments (1) | Permanent Link

On Friday, I took a day off.  However,  like many IBMers I didn't actually take the whole day off.   I just couldn't resist accepting a few critical meetings during time I'd be in transit.    I had forgotten that there is no such thing as a quiet space in public transit.  

The first meeting wasn't too bad...I was waiting on a wharf by the Boston Harbor for the ferry.   We got through our conversation and I got my action items, and only had to avoid a few loud groups of people.

The second call wasn't too bad for me,  but agony for the person on the other end.    The ferry had a volunteer historian on board,  giving us a history of the landmarks we were passing.    My choices were be near a loudspeaker,  or be near the engine.     I used the mute button a lot...but the person on the other end of the call had to put up with an enormous amount of background noise.

This is pretty common when it comes to IBMers on conference calls.  If you have more than 6 people on the call,  odds are someone is in transit --  either in a car,  in an airport, or walking outside -- and this generates a lot of background "clutter" for everyone else.     Road noise,  boarding announcements and muzak,  wind.     This is when I wish there was such a thing as a 'cone of silence' that could descend,   creating a nice quiet zone to complete a conversation.    Come to think of it,  haven't we all wished for this when someone in a restaurant or waiting room takes a phone call?    It's why we all hope cell phone use won't be allowed on planes!  

The third meeting I was walking on the shore of Lovell's island -- with a gorgeous view of Boston over the harbor.      Plenty of wind came with that view,  so I stayed on mute except when I had something to say.  

There are worse places to be when on a conference call.....

Beth Benoit | 30 June 2014 01:03:00 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

I had forgotten that not all IBMers have a full SmartCloud Engage account.

Our CIO has been moving everyone off an IBM internal e-meeting server onto SmartCloud meetings.     But not everyone has a full SmartCloud Engage account -- it's one of those things your manager has to approve,  since there is a minimal monthly charge.     Which means some people just have SmartCloud meetings.

I've been re-organized into our Client Success Organization,  and one of my new colleagues got on a rant today.   He posted a mini-blog extorting all client facing IBMers to go get a full Engage subscription if they didn't already have one.   It's just too darn useful -- to share confidential information with clients,   to connect in real time by instant messaging,  to store the latest project assets for ready access....and it is secure.    Best of all,  it's instantly available once you have a subscription.    

He was really quite eloquent  -- and right on target.    As a client facing IBMer,  I love my Engage account!    I can't imagine working without it.  

Beth Benoit | 20 June 2014 07:48:53 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

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