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Congres Intranet 2013 (#intra13) Review

This week, Jonathan Phillips from the Intranetizen team had the pleasure of attending and presenting at Congres Intranet 2013. With an increasing number of international intranet conferences, how does this Utrecht-based conference stack up? Here’s our review.

Conference Structure

Unlike many conferences, the Congres Intranet event is a day conference, with a day of focused workshops preceding it. Whilst I did not attend the workshops themselves, the calibre of the presenters and delegate feedback shared with me suggests that they were well run and well received.

The day itself consisted of thought-provoking keynote speakers (in both Dutch and English) either side of a series of breakout sessions. The full agenda can be found here in English and Dutch.

Chairing the conference on behalf of Entopic was consultant Samuel Driessen. Samuel is a well respected contributor to the global intranet community and chaired our day effortlessly. As a non-Dutch speaker, I particularly appreciated segments in English to allow the whole room to connect.

The main presenting room, Congres Utretcht

The main presenting room, Congres Utretcht

Our Conference Highlights

Without doubt, my highlights were the three keynote speakers who topped and tailed the conference agenda. Keynoters, unlike those running breakouts, often have the opportunity to speak to the trends and themes in our industry so are often a brief insight into our near future. Entertaining the main room with plenty of inspirational goodies were Euan Semple, Luis Suarez and Steven Van Belleghem.

So what did we learn?

Euan Semple at Congres 2013. Picture via Motion10. Click through to original

Euan Semple at Congres 2013. Picture via Motion10. Click through to original

All three speakers provided thought-leadership on social enterprise, particularly the value of conversation and social interaction and the implications for how we will all work in the future. Whilst many practitioners are on the first step of the ladder — convincing senior leaders to invest in and embrace social technologies — Euan Semple reminisced about introducing bulletin boards in to the BBC some 12 years ago. We were social even then. With consumer technologies becoming the professional IT benchmark, the argument was that businesses need to embrace social concepts quickly or simply fall behind employee and customer expectations.

Both Euan and Steven talked about the value and importance of conversation. Euan noted that blogging was a way “writing your way into existence: your trace”. I felt that was an important challenge. Employee blogging is often seen as frivolous, but here was a well-presented argument that blogging was a way to create organisational history, complementary to traditional KM sources. We should blog to find our voice, blog to filter and our thinking and blog to create knowledge. Employees should not fear adding to the noise. As we’ve noted elsewhere, social noise helps drive networked productivity, but in time through writing, the signal to noise ratio improves.

Luis Suarez presenting in the main hall at Congres Intranet 2013. Picture from Motion10. Click through

Luis Suarez presenting in the main hall at Congres Intranet 2013. Picture from Motion10. Click through

Luis Suarez (http://www.elsua.net/, IBM), focused on the changes technology would make to the knowledge worker and the enterprise in his presentation “The Evolving Knowledge Worker“.  Luis asked his audience about the greatest challenge facing businesses and with guidance, we landed on engagement (and one assumes we can take this as both employee and customer/consumer engagement in an enterprise). Social technologies have a huge role to play in meeting such challenges through openness, transparency, honesty, authenticity, driving responsibility, ownership, caring and even empathy. This was compelling stuff, material that I hope every CIO and CEO gets to hear. Euan Semple writes “Organisations don’t tweet, people do“; Luis’ adds that social technologies make businesses more human.

Steven Van Belleghem’s presentation was in Dutch, so I owe an apology to him and to readers for any mis-interpretations of themes. Steven’s challenging title was “Internal Communication is Dead” , arguing that it’s conversation and dialogue which is now vital to health within, and without, the enterprise. It’s conversation that helps drive engagement and conversation that helps drive collaboration. Steven makes a strong case for the traditional intranet manager role to evolve more into a community manager who will help drive conversation.

I sincerely regret I don’t speak any Dutch since it was clear from the audience that Steven is a tremendously engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker. He owned the stage and even had his audience joining in. Impressive.

I must also apologise to presenters running breakouts. The twitter backchannel showed that there were some great sessions that generated healthy conversation but as I was presenting one, and don’t speak Dutch, my participation was somewhat limited. I’ll follow up and learn through the decks.

Getting there

Getting to Congres Intranet could not be easier. There are countless cheap flights into Amsterdam Schipol airport and from there, it’s a quick 30minute, €10-15 train journey to Utrecht Centraal. The vast Media Plaza is a short 5 minute walk from the station. The price and ease of transfer will make selling this conference to your manager much easier.

Summary

Congres Intranet is one of the best established conferences in the calendar. This was its fifth year and that longevity speaks volumes about the speakers and agendas that Entopic curate. I was impressed with the organisation, the venue, the speakers and the delegates — I enjoyed myself.

There was a good balance with the vendors too. As delegates, we all know that vendor attendance helps keep the cost of attendance down, but how and where they participate in the proceedings make all the difference. At Congres Intranet, vendors did not take to the stage so there was no auditorium selling, but they were present in breakout areas. I want to mention Coconut and Liferay – impressive products, knowledgeable and non-pushy sales teams. We hope to feature both in future vendor profiles.

I do wonder if there was a missed opportunity for the conference organisers though. The main conference day is a great introduction to some excellent presenters who, it transpired, were also running workshops the day before. If organisers switched the days, I suspect many delegates may be tempted to stay another day and hear more detail.

I would also add that whilst speaking Dutch is not essential, it would certainly be an advantage. The majority of keynotes and a minority of breakouts were in English, so whilst it’s possible to attend a full English program, choices are naturally limited. This is no criticism but international visitors should just be aware.

In summary: great value, great agenda, go.




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  1. Samuel Driessen

    Thanks for the extensive overview and review of our conference, Jonathan. It was great to have you as a breakout leader! And it’s really interesting to read what your overall opinion is of our conference. Happy to read you enjoyed it.
    Thanks a lot for the great idea to switch the conference day and pre-conference workshops around. And with respect to Dutch or English: you give us an extra reason to bump this conference up to an international conference completely in English. Till next time!


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