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Enterprise Collaboration Techfest Review

The Intranetizen team is delighted to attend a number of digital workplace events each year. We do our best to write them up to share those insights we picked up with the community, but also so you can work out the best way to spend your training and development budget in future years.

Australia is home to a vibrant intranet and digital workplace community; one which professional events communities firm The Eventful Group thought deserved a dedicated conference exploring the topic of enterprise collaboration.

Eventful conducted extensive research into what the community wanted to hear about; based on this they bought together speakers from across the region and a handful of experts from further afield who could share sought-after insights. This approach meant the agenda covered a wide scope of collaboration-related topics, from content and narrative to the design of the physical working environment (or, in the case of Paul Miller’s talk, the non-physical workplace), as well as the nuts and bolts of technology and culture change programmes.

CONFERENCE STRUCTURE

This was a nicely-paced two-day event with each day beginning with keynotes before attendees split into three smaller conference tracks, each in sessions of 50 to 60 minutes. This felt about right; long enough to get into the detail you need for them to be useful, but not so long you lose concentration.

This being world coffee mecca Melbourne, several sponsoring vendors competed to offer the best warm beverages in exchange for attendee attention in the breaks. And not crappy cups of tea either, but proper Italian cafe-style. This is a conference innovation I hope makes it to Europe pronto. The sponsors seemed heavily skewed toward the Sharepoint stack; in future years it’d be good to see more from alternative product vendors too.

OUR CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

The agenda featured such intranet stalwarts as Dion Hinchcliffe and Paul Miller, but also many names, organisations and case studies I’d never heard of before. This is always positive as it brings new perspectives and knowledge to the conference scene which we can all learn from.

With three conference tracks I couldn’t attend everything that piqued my interest – as is always the way – but my highlights were:

Julie Challinor of Dulux Group Australia, who shared her experiences of rolling out an enterprise social network that supported the group’s strongly embedded values, yet delivered real business value – creating connections, improving customer service and driving product innovation.

Robyn Randell, VP of IT for Burberry Asia Pacific delivered a compelling keynote on how she transformed the IT function to become one that was as collaborative as a Silicon Valley startup. Burberry are one of the few brands to successfully combine a traditional, high-end product and heritage brand with a cutting edge digital brand, and this was reflected both in what they do and even the attention to brand details in the slides and multimedia.

Ethan McCarty, Head of Brand and Employee Communications at Bloomberg, delivered two top-notch talks in trademark New York style. The first was on delivering a coherent and powerful narrative through collaborative channels. The second made the case that communications and collaboration aren’t a zero-sum game but rather two sides of the same coin. He managed to weave a strong case for the use of agile practices within comms and collaboration – something which I wholeheartedly support.

But one of the top highlights for me was the attendees. The wide scope of the agenda meant it had appeal beyond intranet managers, and it was refreshing to see whole teams attending together – often including IT, comms and HR people from the same company. This reflects the reality that collaboration can only be successful if it’s led cross-functionally rather than by one person or team.

LOGISTICS

Full marks to Eventful for this. The venue ticked all the boxes, with a highly professional setup supporting the event; a dedicated AV person in each room meant everything ran like clockwork. Nice touches included bottles of water and sweets on hand at the back of each room, as well as plentiful refreshments in the breaks. They even had a conference app so everyone was kept up to date on any last-minute agenda changes.

GETTING THERE

Attendees came from across Australia and New Zealand, and Melbourne offers frequent flights to all points in what is a very large continent. It’s just a short $18 bus trip or $55 cab fare from the airport to the city centre conference venue.

The relatively low cost of flights and plentiful hotel options makes it a reasonable proposition for those in Asia too, where there’s a dearth of conference options.

WHAT INTRANETIZEN THINKS

A well-organised and welcome addition to the southern hemisphere conference scene, this event brings a different lens to intranets and digital workplace, recognising collaboration as much about people and design as it is about technology.




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