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Email is like Tetris: you lose eventually

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

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

Last week I had a session with our User Interface Design team exploring the use of social business tools to work collaboratively with people outside of IBM.     That got me thinking about just how much remote collaboration I do on a daily basis...and when I say remote,  I mean remote!  

In the past week,   I've been working on client projects with IBMers in:  the United States,   Canada,  Spain,   Italy,  and Australia.   I've had Sametime chats directly with clients in Hawaii,  Wisconsin,  and Connecticut.   This morning I spent an hour on a call with an IBM manager in Beijing,  going over the IBM Docs roadmap  -- a capability that is going to catch on big time within IBM as soon as it gets turned on in Connections for us!  

A lot of collaboration still goes on by email  and by phone.   I attend two daily scrums -- one by phone and one by group Sametime chat.   Sametime use is very intensive too.  

What is interesting to watch is how much internal IBM collaboration is  being executed via social business tools now.    I am a member of about 3 dozen communities in  IBM Connections.   At any given time I am actively participating in only 3 or 4 of them,   but I still reference 5 or 6 others on a regular basis.      Files has definitely caught on in a big way -- experts who frequently get pinged by people wanting to know the latest factoid often keep key information in Connections Files.    I just have to remember that the certified partner list is in Gideon's files in SmartCloud,   and the Sametime Roadmap is in Marc's files in Connections -- and I am only a few clicks away from being able to find the information I need -- without having to wait for Gideon and Mark to respond to my message,  or  come online in Sametime.      In a working environment where Gideon or Mark might be 12 or 14 hours away from me,   that is priceless!  

Beth Benoit | 6 June 2014 04:06:08 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

More than once I've met an IBMer whose laptop has little pieces of paper stuck on it,  with interesting combinations of letters and numbers.   Once it happened at a work blood drive at the snack table -- the woman who sat down next to me had about a dozen stickees on her laptop.   I asked what they were, so she started pointing to them and naming them:  "That's my teleconference moderator and participant passcodes,  and that's my emeeting  number and password,    that's my co-worker's moderator password because I run her scrum sometimes,  and this is the customer number for my primary client so I can look up PMR's, and...."   Nothing was labelled,  so it wasn't TOO bad a security breach.    I was impressed how many she had.    And I empathized with the inability to trust herself to remember these key pieces of information.  I have an encrypted password protected document myself of usernames and passwords -- that goes on for 3 pages.  

Today I read an internal blog by a member of our design team,  telling how he got tired of looking up his call in numbers and emeeting information in order to send them to folks by Sametime chat.   So he did something interesting -- he set up Sametime emoticons to auto-expand a codeword into the text he wants to send.    

In Sametime,   open up preferences,  go to Emoticon Palette,    

1. Click Add text and enter the text you want to appear  and save it.
2. Select the text in the Contents pane and enter the string you want to use as the codeword in your chat into the Keyboard field.

Later, if you want to update the text that appears, you can just edit the Name field.  

Image:Using Sametime emoticons to remember passwords and web conferences

So now if I open up a Sametime chat window,  all I have to do is type concall1,  and it expands completely.  Brilliant.   this will eliminate typos when I send remote meeting information for impromptu meetings.       Thanks Sametime team and UI team!    

Beth Benoit | 2 June 2014 03:54:36 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

I don't know what I do wrong in my usage of Notes,  but over the course of a busy day I end up with dozens of open tabs running across the top of my Notes client indicating emails or Notes applications I've opened but not closed.   The tabs running across the top only have room to display about 3 characters of the email title,  and usually I have  that dratted icon at the right, indicating "but wait, there's more".  When I hit that drop down icon appears a list appears down the right hand side of all the other open tabs.   Sadly,  on really busy days, I have even gotten to the point where that list has a "but wait there's more"  icon at the bottom of the screen.    

For my own sanity,  my personal best practice is to execute a File > Close All as soon as that "but wait, there's more" icon appears to the right.      The reason is that I am interrupted a LOT,   and almost every time I hit Close all I discover a partially drafted email or a form in process in a Notes application, or......

This morning when I restarted my laptop,   I found I was over due to hit close-all...and as soon as I did I found two messages drafted yesterday that I never completed.   One of which I had drafted over 24 hours ago.    Some days really are just too darn busy!  

Beth Benoit | 30 May 2014 09:16:27 AM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

Recently I've started consulting with an IBM team deploying SmartCloud for Social Business for a client in Spain.    With a 6 hour time difference,  finding a time for a daily scrum was difficult.     Making it even more difficult is that most of the client team is onsite with the client,  and doesn't have access to a conference room for an IBM internal meeting every day.  

We decided to try having a daily scrum by Sametime group chat.    For me,   this has an interesting side effect -- I have other client meetings that sometimes conflict with our scrum time,   and now I can be both on the phone and on Sametime -- and do both meetings at once.    I'm not sure this is a good thing.     With a 2 hour overlap in our working days,  our options are limited, so I'm willing to give it a go.

This morning,  I had kid chauffeur duty,  and was going to be cutting it close (within 5 minutes) to get to my office to be on our group chat on time.     So of course,  I hit traffic.   Lots of it.    I got off the highway into a parking lot,  and for the first time fired up Sametime Mobile,  hoping it was up to the job.  

The Sametime mobile team did a great job on the user interface -- I was able to immediately figure out how to start my group chat -- which went on for the next hour  While on the group chat,  I got pinged by an IBMer in Europe needing an answer,  and a ping from another IBMer wanting me to call a client --   I was able to figure out how to switch between all of my active chats.      We had a very productive meeting by Sametime.  Later I was even able to open up the chat history on my phone,  for a reminder of what we have on the agenda for tomorrows' scrum.    It was all intuitive, and it just worked when I needed it to!   Thank you Sametime team.  

Now if I could just wave a magic want to enable me to type with my thumbs like a teenager,  then I'd be REALLY productive on Sametime mobile.  

Beth Benoit | 19 May 2014 02:20:48 PM ET | | Comments (0) | Permanent Link

When I need to find something out about IBM's product capability for one of my clients, or figure out how to solve an IT challenge of my own --   there are three places I go:

1) Internet search -- IBM publishes a LOT of product information out there,  and a lot of our business partners publish interesting how-to's as well.  If I'm looking for product information about SmartCloud for Social business an internet search quite often gets me what I need.
2)  ping a buddy --   Once I've pinged three people and none of them know and none of them have any suggestions of who else to ask,  then it's time to move on to....
3)  search IBM Connections.      Usually this is the winner,  because  the answer is out there in the IBM brain trust,  and I curse myself for not doing that first.  

More and more IBMers are "working out loud" trying to keep exchanges out of email --  exactly so they are discoverable by a search.    In tandem with search,  there is also the deliberate group query.     I can post a general question on my profile board --and  if I want particular people to see it,  I use the @mentions feature in my post to flag particular people that they should look at my entry.      When I go into Connections,  there's a section on the left that alerts me to @mentions directed to me.  

Image:@mentions. -- key to working out loud

and when click on @mentions,  it takes me a stream that shows all the places where I've been they are easy to click on for a follow up.     So for instance,  here's the latest one directed at me -- in response to one I directed at Marc earlier today.  

Image:@mentions. -- key to working out loud

@mentions are catching on fast within IBM.   It's a great substitute for an email message.    

Beth Benoit | 9 May 2014 04:15:42 PM ET | | Comments (1) | Permanent Link

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