What I learned at Denmark’s IntraTeam Event
by Chris McGrath | Mar 17, 2017
Register for a live webinar repeat of my session from IntraTeam, “Why Chatbots Will Transform Mobile Intranets.”
I just returned from a great week in Copenhagen at the IntraTeam Event, an annual gathering of European intranet and technology experts hosted by Kurt Kragh Sørensen and his team. (How cool is that slash through the letter O? I want one of those. I think I’ll start insisting that everyone refer to me as Christøpher.)
The best thing about conferences is the people you meet and the connections you make. Here are a few of the people I enjoyed meeting at IntraTeam and the things I learned from them.
Paolo Tosolini from Tosolini Productions led us through a hands-on workshop where we took 3D photos and donned VR glasses. His firm uses 3D cameras to create virtual reality tours of real spaces — I took a VR tour of some museum (can’t remember which one). Really cool stuff! My takeaway: VR will remain completely irrelevant in some industries (like management consulting), and will become absolutely indispensable in others (like real estate and tourism).
Sabine Kluge from Siemens AG introduced me to Working Out Loud Circles, an idea pioneered by John Stepper. I’d heard of this book in passing but never paid attention. The 3 questions you ask in a Circle: What am I trying to do? Who is related to my goal? How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships? My takeaway: Behaviors that support working out loud on an enterprise social network start in real life.
David Kennedy from Save the Children talked us through their Workplace by Facebook implementation. He also shared the most amazing launch statistics I’ve ever heard: in the first 3 days, 8000 employees signed up (41%) and 6000 (!) posts were made. My takeaway: Nothing beats a familiar UI. Workplace by Facebook will see consistently strong adoption by employees because it’s instantly familiar.
Steve Sale from AstraZeneca told me about some experiments they’re doing with voice chatbots and the Amazon Echo. For most workplace environments I think text is more useful than voice, but he shared a scenario with me that I hadn’t though of before: a technician working in a cleanroom. Touching a keyboard or touchscreen would mean removing gloves or leaving the cleanroom, but a voice bot could allow the technician to continue his or her work uninterrupted. My takeaway: In some workplace environments, voice will be the best UI.
Den Carter from Virgin Trains got me thinking when he said that his iPhone home screen replaced their old intranet. Virgin Trains gave 80% of their workforce an iPhone, and access to an internal app store. Each app has a discrete function, such as checking leave balance or reporting a fault. I think this is brilliant: instead of phone —> intranet —> tool, it’s simply phone —> tool. His team also launched their Yammer social network using some brilliant videos; I’ve included one below. My takeaway: It’s feasible to completely eliminate the intranet home page as we know it today.
Sharon O’Dea presented “Chatbots 101”. She showed examples of chatbots allowing you to do things within your messaging apps that previously required switching to a confusing web application — such as booking time off. She explained the heavy cognitive load that this context-switching places on the user. My takeaway: People will choose to use a chatbot over an app or website if it helps them avoid context-switching.
Jonathan Seal from Mando Agency showed off his timesheets chatbot. Just type “i worked 3 hours today on the pepsi project” and BAM! you’ve updated your timecard. But the really impressive part? The beer fridge stays locked until everyone files their timesheets on Friday afternoon. My takeaway: Free beer is a great motivator.
In my chatbot roundtable, I demonstrated how to build a chatbot in about 5 minutes using Microsoft’s QnA Maker and an existing website FAQ. Then we talked through some chatbot concepts, like natural language processing, intents and entities. My takeaway: Chatbots remain a new and unfamiliar concept, even among tech workers.
Lee Bryant from Postshift always presents heady thoughts on organizational theory and digital change. I liked one of his slides (shared below) that shows his firm’s “wheel” model of the digital workplace. There is an intranet or enterprise social network as a stable “hub”, and then faster-changing team collaboration tools near the edge of the wheel. My takeaway: Organizations should provide a stable intranet as the hub of their digital workplace and then let teams make their own technology choices for team collaboration and productivity.
I enjoyed talking about a bunch of everything with Euan Semple, who rounded up the conference with a somewhat depressing take on where it’s all headed (tl;dr: jobs in the entertainment industry are probably safe). He showed me an interesting expense tracking app he’s using that noticed he was out of the country and asked him if he wanted to file all credit card expenses as “business” while he was in Denmark. Cool! My takeaway: The best chatbots will leverage the underlying phone — the GPS, the camera, the accelerometer — to deliver a better user experience.
I didn’t catch Martin White’s presentation, but I did have a couple hallway conversations with him. Martin is known in intranet circles as a search engine expert. He dismissed the excitement over natural language processing and said that the “search problem” is one that people have been working on since the 1960s, and it’s not close to solved. My takeaway: Conversational UIs can’t present 10 search results; they have to present just one. Chatbots will put tremendous pressure on search engines to deliver the one best result.
Time and a fading memory prevent me from sharing the details of all the other great conversations I had with people like Patrik Bergman, Sam Marshall, Jonathan Phillips, Chris Tubb, and many, many more. While the food, venue and conference logistics were excellent, it was the people that really made the event. Kudos to Kurt, Irmina, Sanne and the rest of the folks at IntraTeam — I hope to be back in 2018!
If you missed my session at IntraTeam, “Why Chatbots Will Transform Mobile Intranets”, you can watch the recorded version now.