What I heard at smilelondon today

Want to know what’s happening with Microsoft’s roadmap, what you need to know about bots and whether you can integrate Workplace with Office 365?

I have the answers.

Today I joined professional communicators for the ninth Social Media in the Large Enterprise (smile) event here in London. It was hosted by Marc Wright of simply-communicate and featured a range of speakers focused on enterprise social networks, digital workplaces, intranets and much more.

Beware the comms bling
I’ve been blogging about enterprise social networks, intranet and digital workplaces for nearly nine years. Throughout that time, I’ve warned readers about “comms bling” – the latest shiniest tool or widget you want to have, encouraged “#wonkycomms” aka authentic and user-generated content, and championed the need to ban stock photographs of fake employees and replace them with your own people.

These three topics struck me constantly today listening to the conversations from vendors on the #smilelondon stage and the informal conversations I had during the networking breaks with Comms friends, clients and people in my network.

Just because you heard a case study of someone using a certain piece of kit in an organisation does not mean it’s the right one for you.

We wouldn’t do it with printed publications or live events, but for some reason, when it comes to technology, practitioners look for a silver bullet to cure all their comms woes.

It felt like we’d moved away from those conversations, but in recent months I’ve noticed it creeping in again. Have you? Do let me know by commenting below or Tweeting me @AllthingsIC.

What I heard at smilelondon today

Well done to Marc Wright and the simply-communicate team for today’s successful event. Congrats to Jenni Field @mrsjennifield (pictured below) for hosting the livestream interviews and asking all the questions there wasn’t time to address in the main room.

There were so many familiar faces at smilelondon today but lots of new ones too. Thank you to everyone who said hello. As ever, there wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone, but it was great to at hear your news and views.

Chuck Gose’s session on bots was well worth listening to. What do you need to know about bots? His advice is: “Just start using them. Before you start thinking about how to integrate them into your organisation, use them yourself e.g. on news sites. Test them out, what do you like/dislike? Get familiar with how they work and only then start thinking about your own company and whether they could work for you.”

It was good to see you today Chuck @chuckgose. If you’ve never heard his ICology podcast, do check it out.

What I heard
I made a list in my notebook today to share with you based on presentations I heard at smilelondon.

P.s. You can now buy my All Things IC notebooks. Thank you to all the comms pros who have contacted me in recent months after spotting mine in photographs. You can now get your very own.

Here’s what made me think or I thought was interesting.

Did you go today? What were your takeaways? Do share yours with me.

Further reading: You can now buy your own All Things IC notebook.

Here’s what made it into my notebook:

  • 70% of organisations don’t publish information that focuses on what employees need on an intranet (just lots of things they don’t!)
  • Facebook uses Office 365 internally
  • The main purpose of a digital workplace is often described as being “a one-stop-shop for information and collaboration”
  • “Within the Bank of England, the community set the tone of the organisation via our Bank Exchange platform.
  • Beezy has been designed to be like Medium: “If it works well in the commercial world, of course we (at Beezy) decided to replicate it”
  • Pladis has digital ninjas (change agents), which works out as one ninja per 25 employees
  • Digital ninjas share ideas within the Bank of England’s platform (Workplace) to solve Microsoft-software related problems
  • At Pladis, we say “SharePoint is for structured work. Workplace is for unstructured work.”
  • Within Pladis, 92% of content on their ESN is work-related content as it’s focused on communicating business needs first
  • “Our CEO asks employees what would you like to hear from me? That question has transformed our internal communication”
  • “Collaborating is a contact sport – you need to get involved”
  • “We use network mapping (at SWOOP analytics) to show how the organisation is networked to itself
  • “Do your leaders listen, engage or yell?” – See this article for more info
  • Companies are interested in integrating Office 365 and Workplace. If you have an open API you could integrate Workplace into Teams to aid discussions
  • Queries in the room re: live video within Office 365 (Facebook Live style).

I hope my notes and these Tweets are useful. See the smilelondon website to check out the speakers and find out more about simply-communicate.

What do I think?

I think there is still much to do to ensure we are making the right decisions when it comes to technology in our workplaces.

I see two gaps: 1) Knowledge 2) Relationships.

Knowledge about the problems our organisations have is high among communicators. We love talking about it with each other. “My CEO doesn’t understand why she needs to be spending time at the frontline” or “I don’t know how to reach our factory workers as they say they’re too busy to read communication sent from HQ” – the list goes on.

However, knowledge about how to solve these problems often seems skewed to me. It feels like “We need an app for that” has become the answer to many a problem. (Hint: it rarely is).

I think communicators are at risk of becoming distracted by technology and led down a path by IT colleagues or vendors, and setting aside what they know to be true.

Mark my words, “We need a bot for that” will become the new request.

Events like smilelondon are important for practitioners to hear from peers, get the latest updates from vendors and learn what other IC pros are doing.

Relationships are critical. As a professional communicator you need to be an expert influencer and negotiator, but you also need to be excellent at forming and keeping effective working relationships.

Work hard at this, it pays off.

You need to get to know your IT colleagues, really know them. What are they planning? What’s your IT roadmap (detailed plan of what’s ahead) and what decisions are they making when it comes to technology for your organisation?

Further reading: Are you ready for GDPR and shadow comms?

So what can we do?
Questions to ask yourself when choosing technology platforms should always come down to problems. When clients approach me for help with choosing what to use, I don’t talk tech first.

I sit down with them to understand what the problems are in their organisation that they’re trying to solve.

Questions I want to know the answers to include:

  • what their culture is like
  • what makes their organisation unique
  • tone of their existing communication methods
  • what makes their people remarkable
  • where conversations happen
  • where decisions are made
  • who or what employees trust
  • if there’s a single source (or multiple sources) of truth
  • what makes their employees stay in the organisation/leave
  • what information people need to do their jobs – note need not want
  • what’s worked well in the past/what’s been dire in terms of comms channels.

– it’s such a long list!

Only once I’ve mapped out how communication happens and got a feel for the organisation, do I then move on to talk about devices and appetite for technology and access etc. Which is a whole other set of questions.

Here are my thoughts on today overall:

Microsoft roadmap

I enjoyed hearing Rich Ellis and Angela Evans of Microsoft talking about a variety of topics on stage at #smilelondon today.

It became apparent that practitioners don’t know what each element of Office 365 is for (am adding this to the article I’m writing with my husband).

Further reading: Microsoft FastTrack website.

I heard “Teams is for teamwork” used as a phrase a couple of times today, and think the “what to use when” graphic Rich showed is useful.

But (and he knows my views as we’ve been messaging this afternoon), I think the inner and outer loop idea is confusing. In everything we’re striving to do in our organisations, we’re trying to bust silos and stop grouping people into distinct groups.

The mindset is ok – you use Teams to communicate with your Inner loop and Yammer for your Outer loop. But as the phase “keep in the loop” is used way too much in organisations, it jars with me. I think it also implies silos and it reminds me of Robert De Niro’s character with his “circle of trust” – which is a hilarious film, but not helpful in this context!

So instead, could it be: “you use Teams with your teammates and Yammer to bring everyone else into the conversation?” Hmm, I know that’s not catchy. Anyone got a better idea? Do comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Yammer is not dead

Do you think Yammer is dead? The level of conversations about it coming out of Microsoft died down. But they now appear to be getting noisier, it feels like one to keep an eye on again.

I’ve seen it used well in organisations and I was pleased to hear Rich say: “Yammer is not dead, it’s thriving and an important part of our stack, including the Yammer desktop app and new iPad app. Magic happens when it’s all integrated.”

I’ve blogged countless times about Yammer over the years. How people are using it is changing, but it’s certainly not dead.

Further reading on my blog: How to rollout and use Yammer, Seven golden rules when using Yammer, plus Yammer Time.

What were your takeaways from today?

Thank you for stopping by,


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 20 November 2017.


  1. Ciara says:

    Great post, Rachel. Really useful for me since I couldn’t attend or watch live, thank you for sharing it.

    I couldn’t agree more with your point around the search for the silver bullet. I come across this mindset at least once a week. I can understand why this happens so your list of discovery questions are excellent. I also find that working with communicators on a communications matrix is eye-opening for them. It shows why one channel for all will not work and actually makes things more complicated for everyone.

    Lastly, how about MS Teams for teammates and Yammer for y’all? Sorry, it’s the Californian influence 😉

  2. Lon says:

    I’d like to hear more about FB Workplace and O365 integration. Besides Onedrive integration what other API’s are available?

  3. Hi Ciara, thank you for your comment. Ha, loving the new accent coming through! Not sure us Brits could make that work well 🙂 Hope you’re doing ok, was strange not seeing you in London. Will DM you with some news, R x

  4. Marc Wright says:

    Thanks for the overview Rachel!
    At our next event – smileexpo in May – we will be able to reveal how integrations between Workplace and SharePoint are working in the real world using custom skin apps…

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