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La Rencontre Internationale des Responsables Intranet Conference Review — #riri12

Last week, Jonathan Phillips from the Intranetizen team had the pleasure of attending and presenting at La Rencontre Internationale des Responsables Intranet. This year, the team has had the pleasure of presenting all over the US and Europe, so how does this Paris-based conference stack up and what are the challenges faced by French intranet professionals? Here’s our review.

Conference Structure

Unlike many conferences I’ve attended as a speaker or delegate, this is a rather formal event. Held in a beautiful, marbled ballroom with faded 20century grandeur, the 150+ delegates sit formally at rows of tables. Naturally, this has its advantages and disadvantages: those with laptops or iPads will appreciate the desk surface for work but it really doesn’t lend itself to conference collaboration or networking.

The conference agenda set out four sensible quarters of content, each lasting half a day: Governance and Strategy; Collaborative Platforms and Work; Information Management in the Era of Social and Mobile; Deployment, Curation and Limitation of Enterprise Social Networks. Within each quarter, organisers had scheduled a mixture of presentations and panel discussions to help explore the topics.

Chairing the conference and each of the panel sessions was Jane McConnell. Effusive, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and bi-lingual, Jane was an excellent chair and did much to make all speakers feel comfortable in what is a pretty daunting conference room.

As you might expect from a conference in France, the conference food was very good. From breakfast croissants and coffee to the three course lunch with wine, we were very well catered for.

Our conference highlights

The conference provided an excellent mix of true intranet and digital workplace presentations from a range of business. As an international visitor, it was a fascinating insight into French businesses and their use of workplace technologies.

The meeting kicked off with a formal welcome to the meeting from Jane McConnell, followed by the latest tranche of research from her Digital Workplace survey. As a stats geek, I’m always grateful and fascinated by the insight, particularly around the maturing nature of digital workplaces and the value to organisations. I’m struck once again by the power and importance of digital boards in getting things done in organisations.

Other intranet highlights were provided by Raquel Córdoba at ArcelorMittal who focused on the importance of governance for intranets. As we have discussed on these pages before, alignment of intranet and enterprise strategy is critical. Lucile Leclercq from Sogeti highlighted their enterprise social network tool called TeamPark. Particularly impressive was their attention to adoption: nothing left to chance through a comprehensive communication, training, roadshow and champion program. Lucile also focused on the importance of aligning social enterprise tools with the underlying business strategy. As she says herself, these are tools for business, they need to reflect the needs of the business.

Andrew Watson from Nokia demonstrated their enterprise social network and gave a great insight into their gamification model. Called ‘You Rock’, it gives the ability for employees to recognise the contributions of others through reward badges. This manifestly works at Nokia but be cautious: when gamifying processes and organisations, the ‘copy and paste’ approach is unlikely to work. We’ll be writing more about gamification in the near future.

Kelli Carlson-Jagersma’s  presentation talked about the importance of social networks in creating and developing corporate culture. Through acquisition, her employers, Wells Fargo, doubled employee numbers over a remarkably short time period which created both a huge technology crunch point but also an excellent community challenge. One of my key takeaways from Kelli’s presentation is the importance of light-touch, thoughtful moderation. Negative comments on intranets should not automatically be deleted. As long as they don’t offend, leaving them for all to see (and all to comment on), demonstrates transparency and honesty.

Outside of pure intranet technologies, I was impressed by the virtual assistant project at PSA (Peugeot Citroen). Odile Beurier and Frédéric Durka provided a live demonstration of the tool which they use as an alternative to traditional IT helpdesks. It was very comprehensive, with a very simple front end and provided both excellent service to employees and great value for money. My only concern with such technology is that it doesn’t learn: as new solutions or new issues are raised, new responses need to be coded and I wonder if a gamified self-serve solution isn’t a more natural future direction. Or maybe a hybrid? I watch with interest.

The back-channel conversation on Twitter was also fascinating, focusing on two key topics of viral launches and the importance of sharing. Here are some of the most re-tweeted tweets.

 

 

 

I’m grateful for the generous feedback given to my speech in the room and via Twitter.

Getting there

This is Paris, you’ll have absolutely no trouble getting here from any global city of your choice. The conference room, at Salons Hoche, is in the heart of the 8ème arrondissment and within easy walking distance of countless metro and RER stations. In the evening, you can easily walk to L’Arc du Triomphe and the Champs Elysees for a slice of tourist Paris.

Opportunities

There were a number of things that I would offer up as opportunities for improvement for future conferences.

  • Networking: I was struck by the marked difference between the round lunch tables, at which we talked, shared, learned and networked, and the stark formality of the rows of tables in the conference room itself. In addition, the first evening post-conference cocktails were poorly signposted and were thus poorly attended. Such a shame as once again, the food was excellent. This felt like a missed opportunity to network
  • Administration: One very alarming issue that conference organisers attempted to fix mid-way through was that all presentations had been provided to delegates in .ppt, not .pdf format. I’ll be candid and say that this is pretty unforgiveable. The open powerpoint format means that materials could be copied or edited and exposes speakers and their companies to significant risk. If you work for a consulting company, your slides are your company IP.
  • Scheduling: Both conference days were too long and could have been much improved by a 17:00 finish and then use the extra time for improved networking. I am aware that conference organisers often wish to provide more content to somehow demonstrate better value for money so this is a fine line to tred.
  • Power: How many times have we said on these pages that conference organisers need to expect delegates at digital conferences to bring devices to take notes or tweet? I brought three. There must be sufficient power points made available to delegates to allow them to charge as needed.

Summary

These days, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re based in France, Denmark, Germany or the US — the battles you face when working in digital workplace circles are very similar: governance, social, gamification, knowledge management, employee efficiencies, cost savings. As you might expect, there are companies who excel in certain aspects of these universal challenges, but everyone has something to learn. That’s the conference raison d’être: share and learn.

This is an interesting conference to attend but despite the increasing number of international english-speaking keynotes, this remains a conference for French speakers. I say this not because I was unable to understand the quality presentations made — in fact, the organisers laid on UN-style live translation — but because a conference is for learning through on-agenda and off-agenda meetings and that’s much harder when you don’t speak the native language of the conference.

 




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