smilelondon workshops 2016: new format wins over the crowd


by Alison Boothby

As one of 150 delegates, I had the choice of 12 interactive workshops to choose from enabling me to explore the latest developments and key issues in social intranets and collaborative networks.

Supported by an exciting range of exhibitors showcasing some of the leading platforms and latest internal communications apps, the one day event sent everyone away with plenty of food for thought. And with plenty of delicious food in their tummies too! (thanks to etc venues)

The day was organised into three streams, each tackling a particular stage of an organisation’s social journey and offering four different masterclasses. You can down load the presentations on our simplysmile yammer network:


Firstly, there was the ‘skinny intranet’ from RedEApp, particularly useful for looking at how to connect with a remote and fragmented workforce who do not generally sit behind a corporate email address. A great tool for streamlining internal comms and HR comms, but perhaps a little less genuinely collaborative than a true ESN. But it got people talking and thinking before BrightStarr took to the floor.

BrightStarr make Unily, arguably one of the most feature-full intranet solutions on the market. Based on Microsoft’s Office 365 and Sharepoint it harnesses all their power and capability and adds on a great user experience. Panos Mitsikis from Wiggle was on hand to present their own case study of Wiggly Workspace. To be honest he won me over as soon as he said. “Sharepoint: it’s a bit dry!” It was a compelling session and made a great case for an ‘out of the box’ intranet as a service solution.

However, building on top of Sharepoint and Office 365 is not the only option and a very useful session from Lecko , the digital transformation and collaboration technology consulting firm, had the group work through Lecko’s DOTU methodology in a live, real-time working example. Albeit a rather condensed version of their usual practice, it demonstrated how it is possible to whittle down the overwhelming number of technical possibilities to a handful that will address a client’s specific challenges. Well worth checking out their research and publications in their repository too.

Finally in this stream we had a session on the Meetoo event app. As one of the sponsors of the event, the app had been used throughout the day for instant audience feedback, live polling and Q&A sessions in many of the workshops and masterclasses. Audience Response Systems might sound a bit old hat, but this is dead simple, really quick to get up and running and works with PowerPoint, which I really liked. It was easy to see how it could add value and interest to a wide range of meetings.


We all know how difficult it can be to get employees to use social platforms, and certainly if you do nothing the average take up is as low as 16%. In these sessions we heard some truly inspiring stories and ideas to build adoption, learning from organisations who have succeeded in getting adoption levels up to 60%+

Emma Cumming, Head of Internal Communications at We are Social kicked off this stream sharing the stage with simply’s Peter Furtado sharing best practice ideas on getting the launch of your social intranet right. With simply’s vast body of experience and We Are Social’s own internal intranet (The SHIP) as a case study example, we were treated to a really tactical session with loads of ideas to take away and plenty of useful tools to help create our own road map for success.

Then we explored the techniques and skills required to deliver a successful external-facing online community like the BMA and how these can be applied to create vibrant and successful employee communities too. The BMA was a great choice of case study with the recent junior doctor’s contract in the limelight. Their online community has proved hugely influential throughout the crisis.

Luis Suarez led a popular workshop on his top 5 pillars of adaptation of social networks for business. Luis is a well-seasoned social business evangelist and certainly knows now to build enthusiasm in his audience. All sensible stuff looking at business need, governance, use cases, champions and education, but what people seemed to like most of all was leaving the session really wanting to just go out and get started!

And while we’re on a high octane roll, let’s talk about gamification. (It’s a horrid word but a fantastic thing!) Ninety minutes in the company of Nick Crawford left little room for cynicism: gamification tools have genuinely changed behaviours and delivered business goals, building adoption of social intranets faster than anything else. This session was great fun and highly practical with many examples drawn from Nick’s extensive consulting career, as well as cash prizes for the participants.

Building Content

No amount of fancy technology and no legions of potential readers will do you much good unless your social intranet is built with popular, social content.

When we’ve asked what organisations wanted from their social intranets, 78% told us that improved knowledge management was the number one aim. It was therefore no surprise that this was one of the busiest sessions of the entire day. Fortunately we had Knowledge Plaza on hand to illustrate how to boost knowledge sharing using social tools. The Knowledge Sharing Canvas is a methodology that provides teams with a visual tool for developing social knowledge across an organisation and encourages behaviour change. In all honesty, it was tough to do justice to this complex subject in just 90 minutes but you can learn more from our recent smileguide on the subject.

In contrast, harnessing the power of user-generated video was given a light touch by Martin Ross of the Edge Picture Company. This session received the highest feedback scores of the day and delegates left the room buzzing with new ideas and eager to get their people involved. There’s no doubt that user-generated employee film boosts engagement and crystalises knowledge too.

Next we had a workshop from Pinipa showing how to build collaborative behaviours and improve communication and involvement during projects. Although some thought this came across as a bit of a sales pitch, it did demonstrate well how their technology – a bit like a CRM tool for projects – makes working life easier. The case study examples were compelling and certainly they have an enviable client list. I’d use this any day over Excel and gantt charts!

Setting up and running your social intranet will inevitably mean you run into the culture question and for this final session Lawrence Clarke and Peter Furtado of simply interviewed Steve Perry, Community Implementation Leader, responsible for the whole Global Communities and Collaboration team at EY. MeeToo polls on the day showed that for the most part it seems that our cultures are not yet aligned with our employees’ expectations, aspirations and motivations. There is work to be done to move from our current state of being goal and task focussed, competitive and confident organisations (74%) to being where we say we’d prefer to be, which is focussed on team working, creativity, non hierarchical and social (92%). There was some very interesting discussion in this session and it’s a topic that warrants further exploration.

I’m quite sure that everyone who joined us at smilelondon workshops took away many practical ideas and examples that will help them on their own social journey.