Realisation: Remote collaboration was the engine behind my engagement during my years with IBM

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

It took me a year to get sufficient perspective of the fifteen years I spent with IBM to realise just how much of my engagement and energy had been generated from the transparent collaboration and networking I had experienced with colleagues around the ENTIRE world.

Not that I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it’s not until now that I have realised just how much it really meant to me.

Missing your colleagues

When people say “I miss my colleagues” they usually mean “…in my office”. Of course I miss the colleagues in the offices of Malmö, Kista and Gothenburg too. But the unique was the colleagues in offices in Paris, London, Newcastle, Bristol, Milan, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangalore, Raleigh, Auckland, Atlanta, Toronto, Madrid, Washington, Zürich, Vienna, Brno….and all the folks who had their offices at home – way ahead of COVID-19. All these colleagues, I have worked with, had dialogues with and shared experience with over many years, many without ever meeting live. Who were my colleagues, albeit remotely, via keyboards, phone and screen. And via Connections.


Yes, Connections was the arena where we mingled and collaborated, as available time allowed and as was needed, by own needs or those of others. Then it was called IBM Connections and was fantastic. Now, it’s called HCL Connections and develops faste and better than in many years.

What is HCL Connections? Imagine merging all kinds of professional tools for collaboration and networking into a single one. In addition, you do it inside the firewall with everybody showing up by their real names. No trolls, no hate, no additional risk of leakage of intellectual capital. Imagine merging the capabilities of LinkedIn, LinkedIn Groups, Dropbox, Zoom (both meetings and chat), Google Docs, WordPress, Trello, discussion forums, suggestions boxes and a tool for simplified publishing of web pages (a wiki, that is, if you know the concept). ALL of this, TOGETHER, with a SINGLE flow of updates in order for it all to work together so you only need to log in once and can easily move and link from the one to the other. It all comes together. And, in addition, with the possibility of collaborate also with selected external people – but not as widely, of course. Finally, the information is presented for you based on what you have previously showed interest in (like on Facebook), not all the irrelevant overflow that others try to heap onto you.

Amy, Jessica, Derrick and the others – who all helped each other

As when Amy developed her client presentation in plain view of all about 400.000 colleagues, with support and ideas from several of us, both people she knew already and others, like Jonathan in Newcastle, who I knew but not her. Who later shared her completed deck with all those colleagues again, for anyone to re-use or get inspired. So that, some weeks later, I happened to witness Anders, a colleague in Stockholm use one of them at a seminar, completely unaware of me, one of the spectators, having contributed to that specific slide.

Or like when I needed to correct a couple of files in Adobe Illustrator (which is NOT for free) and Jessica Ramirez in USA offered to help and fixed the corrections in her spare time over the course of a couple of days.

When Derrick sold transformation services in Shenzhen and found a Swede capable of delivering them, on Connections, which resulted in eight months of extremely enriching work for me in China.

When a colleague in Japan volunteered to help me split pages in a PDF, but a colleague a few desks away instead tipped me off about a freeware to use to do the same thing.

All the times I held web meetings with new hire consultants to help them understand the dynamics of being a consultant in a world-wide organisation or with leaders to make the4m realise why and how they and their employees could help each other – and others – as I did.

Ar as when I finally met a colleague from Atlanta who I had collaborated with remotely for four months (or was it six?) and she told me that she had a better connections with me than she had ever ha with colleagues in “the next cubicle”.

All the times I have received and given help in big or small things, gotten inspired and ideas from what unknown colleagues had published online on topics of my interest. Learned, grown and “met” all kinds of exciting and friendly colleagues of mixed backgrounds and experiences.

You can experience the same inspiration

Usually, as I wrote earlier, it’s the people you miss. With Connections there were so many more of them, with so many more perspectives and ideas.

With this insight, I’m even more passionate about contributing to others getting the possibility to get inspired and engaged in the same way as I did during my years at IBM.

If you’d like that chance, or even better, want your staff to have the chance of getting more engaged, mor inspired, more innovative and more productive – both within teams and across the entire organisation – just get in touch. My partners and I can help with both the platform and the transformation work in the organisation (which is essential).

By the way, HCL Connections comes both as a cloud service and to run on own servers if you prefer to.

If you want to know more, just reach out.


Social Change Communications

Seriously, I should rebrand this blog a “splog”, a sporadic blog! It’s been two and a half months since my latest blog post. Shame on me! I have to change my habits.

change-aheadTalking about change, let’s continue where I left off late August; changing change management. I promised then to expand on how an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) can facilitate your change management efforts.

Obviously, the inner circle can leverage a wide range of tools to make their work more efficient. They can develop and manage their plans in a community, share, comment and co-edit files to minimise confusion and effort duplication, they can discuss in a forum or in status updates and so on. But those things are a given. Let’s look instead at how the ESN can help the work outside of the change team and decision makers.

Let’s have a look at what you need for reasonably smooth, lasting change:

  • Understand the terrain – Face it. You will never understand the situation as-is as well as the people “out there”. Nor will you ever understand what their pains are or their aspirations. You need to get input from the field.
    • An ideation blog lends itself as well to gathering input – requirements – as it does to collect and evaluate ideas. Let people post their input, encourage others to comment to develop and refine. Ask them to vote to help you in your prioritisation
  • Clarity is key – Times of change are usually times of worry (at least by the people expecting to get impacted by the change). The main remedy is early, clear and frequent communications.
    • A blog (maybe a video blog) – is a perfect way to spread the word without risk for it getting lost in translation. Use blogs, early and continuously, to communicate the rationale, milestones and progress of the change programme
    • Wikis are great to post plans, new policies and procedures. The entire team can edit and they can be changed over time. As questions start to flow in, it’s easy for the team to create and maintain an FAQ in a wiki
    • If you happen to miss out on something in your blog or wiki, anyone can be allowed to comment, giving you a chance to fill the gaps, clear misunderstandings and kill rumours. Nice, ey?
  • Manage questions, manage worry – As I stated above, many get worried as soon as they hear a rumour of change coming. And worries is fertile ground for rumours.
    • Open forums allow people to air their worry and allows you to respond before they grow into rumours in email chains, at lunch tables or by the water coolers. As I mentioned above, the most frequent or most important questions could easily be turned into an FAQ, to simplify your response management.

Finally, if the change at hand involves acquiring or creating new units or teams, try to compare the effort of just pushing a button to create a community for that team or unit with restructuring and changing the navigation of your old fashioned top-down intranet with or asking an administrator to build a team site in clumsier tools than my favourite one.

Helping out while chilling out

Helping out while chilling out
Credit: Franklin Pi, Flickr. Published under Creative Commons

At the end of today, I will switch on my out of office message and leave for three weeks of vacation. But colleagues who reach out to me will still have a fair chance to get the help they need and their questions answered.

Not by me, though. By my internal network.

In IBM, where I work, we have a huge internal social network. Like here on LinkedIn but within the firewall (plus blogs, easy web publishing, social bookmarks, forums, ideation and some other things that you have to combine from different providers on the public web). It’s called IBM Connections and is my major source for work efficiency, effectiveness, inspiration …. and help.

So, instead of the usual OOO telling you that I’m gone, that I’ll be back on 14 August and leaving you waiting until then, my message says: “I’m on vacation until 14 August. If you post your question on my board in IBM Connections instead <link>, my helpful network of about 1800 IBM’ers will have a chance to help you in the meantime (unless it’s about something sensitive or confidential of course. If it is, and urgent too, please send me a text message and I will try to get back to you.)”

This way, colleagues in need of help have a good chance of getting it and there will be fewer urgent things overloading my inbox on my return. Win-win!

And OOO that not only tells you when people will return, but that actually solves problems too! How’s that for a personal and business benefit of having and using an #ESN, Enterprise Social Network?

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