#intrel13 : Intranet Reloaded Conference, Berlin

Last week, Intranetizen headed to Berlin for the 2nd Intranet Reloaded conference in Berlin. Despite it being a relative newbie on the conference trail, this event has quickly become a ‘must-attend’ date calendar – Jonathan Phillips explains why.


For the 2013, the we.Conect team moved the conference to a new venue – the Kosmos cinema in Berlin. The organisers were excited by this venue and I can see why. Situated in East Berlin, it was at the heart of the GDR film scene and showed secret screenings of films from the West to the East German leadership. And it’s a great space; huge stage and a floor to occupy a big audience without it feeling packed.

The only downside of this choice was that this is a conference centre without a hotel, so delegates were bussed in from a few nearby venues. This was very well organised by the team, but meant that we were a little more tied to the bus timetable. I stayed in the Andels Hotel, others in the NH, but both were praised by delegates.


Last year in my conference write up, I made note of the smart thinking by the organisers to make use of the night before the conference proper. Once again, the icebreaker was a big hit. It’s a great opportunity to get people together early, start the networking over a glass of wine or beer and kick off the conference in the right way.

This year, the icebreakers were hosted in one of the conference hotels (it just happened to be mine). That was a little awkward for one or two, such are the difficulties of managing a multi-site conference. However, it was a great evening providing a few lightning-style presentations and great networking.

Day 1: Hamburg Sd>, , Deutsche Bank<ZyncroStora EnsoCompagnie Financière RichemontInfocentricSkanskaNestle NespressoNovozymesSensika and Pfizer.

An early start on Day 1 started with registration and coffees at 07:30 ahead of the chairman’s welcome at 08:30. Within the bowels of the Kosmos, it was the usual round table affair – a format I much prefer over the long bench format I’ve seen at other conferences. Again, the careful attention to detail of the organising team shone through as there were sufficient seats to ensure that no-one had their back to the screen. Following my feedback last year, some of the tables were powered up – invaluable at digital conferences. Wifi was fast and strong in all locations. In a conference first (at least for me), the entire event was sketched as we went. It was a brilliant record of two days of presentations.

Max Lund from Hamburg Süd kicked us off with a fine summary of their intranet launch journey. From start to finish, theirs took 12 months. Having spoken to many in the room and via Twitter, this seems par for the course. Lund’s presentation made note of  the network of editors and editors-in-chief at Hamburg Süd. With 4,500 employees (3,500 of whom are regular intranet users), the company had a network of some 200 editors, a ratio of 1:17. It struck me then and now that this is a very high number and I’m sure we’ll investigate this ratio in future posts. Predictably, the site itself was very news heavy; my estimate was 60% of the real estate. Never-the-less, this was a pleasing project and product and was rightfully nominated in the top three of the inaugural reloaded awards. You can read more about this project here.

Philipp Rosenthal (now of Infocentric, then of Tieto), presented a fine insight into the his project work at the Infocentric/Tieto client, Andritz. I’ve seen Rosenthal speak on several occasions and I never fail to learn. A few snippets:

  1. “Don’t copy, get inspired” – expressing the importance of not copying consumer digital technologies, but learning from them.
  2. FOMO – “fear of missing out”
  3. FOLC – “fear of losing control”
  4. The Subway Map – a visual representation of the information flow underpinning the organisation. Fascinating.
  5. “It’s not about winning awards, it’s about being functional” – an important reminder to remain business and employee-centric at all times in the project.

Other day one highlights include the brilliant community work at Deutsche Bank (presented by Thomas Olsen); the ideation with gamification overlay all on SharePoint 2013 (demonstrated by Frank Hatzack); the ever-affable Lluis Font from Zyncro showing how his platform connects the social world; Kimi Matsubara from Skanska showing why their intranet was nominated top 10 by Nielsen Norman; Bob Libbey from Pfizer making the case that content is the king and a demonstration of the importance of cross-functional collaboration by the team at Stora Enso.

The round table ‘Challenge your Peers’ concept is another gem: find your expert, settle down for an hour and pick their brains and those of your peers to help you advance your own work. I like this. It’s simple and practical. It works where LinkedIn groups often fail. It would be interesting to see how the conference team could expand this concept and make the conference work in the other 363 days of the year.


Once again, this is where the we.Conect team get it so right. When other conferences leave delegates to their own devices, the intranet Reloaded event gets the delegates back together for a meal and let’s be honest, the best networking is done over a glass of wine. Good food, good company, great location and a great band despite their tron-inspired jazz funk outfits. Special thanks to Jacqueline Hanlon who looked after us all until the ‘wee hours’.

Day 2: Sonae, Towers Watson, Kempinski, Philips, Robert Bosch

The less hungover delegates will have no doubt made it to the conference jog before our agenda started. Please, don’t judge me, but I decided that sleep and breakfast had greater appeal! The fact that these social networking opportunities are built into the agenda is a reflection of the overall attention to detail.
Due to flights and some other work conflicts, I was not able to attend all of the sessions, but did want to highlight the work of João Piedade at Sonae and James Lewis at Towers Watson.

Piedade is doing some sterling work at Sonae in developing their intranet, Sonae Circle. I lost count of the great framework models he presented for his work but rest assured they were all photographed and will be studied for applicability to my own business in due course.  An early gem was concerned with the importance of foundations for your project: governance. We’ve discussed governance  a few times on these pages, but Joao called it out his own way: Governance is about people, processes, policies and goals. He also took time to describe what Sonae Circle would ultimately be: People, Social, knowledge, contents, communities, mobility, search and collaboration. Finally, he added another great model for driving change: Define the problem, understand stakeholders, beta development for iteration and then use and re-use. As Piedade said “…if you don’t understand the problem, you will fail with the solution”. This was an excellent start to the second day with so many learning points. He had the floor, he had the room and we were all ears as this fellow delegate noted. Our cartoonist captured it beautifully.

James Lewis is another excellent presenter and his methodology for delivering change for the Towers Watson intranet gave plenty of food for thought. We have written about the differences between the big bang and the long wow approaches to development and Lewis ran with this long wow theme and presented the TW method for deciding upon- and delivering change. The approach was to deliver small incremental changes in the main, with any one block of working lasting 40-1600 hours of work. This ‘iterate fast and release often’ style is increasingly popular but they key learning for me was the use of multipliers and votes to decide on which pieces of work got chosen. Democratic delivery!

World Cafe

The world cafe saw conference delegates and presenters take on the role of facilitators to focus on some specific intranet challenges. I hosted a facilitated conversation on the top of mobile intranets and learnt so much from the 80 or so delegates that passed by my table. Sadly, that also meant that I didn’t get to experience the other elements of the world cafe and unlike last year, there was no verbal summary from which to learn. The organisers have promised visual summaries which we will add to this blog in due course.


It’s all about the people

A good conference is about the agenda and the presentations; a great conference is the additional networking opportunities afforded. Intranet Reloaded has this in buckets: icebreakers, conference dinner, world cafes and challenge your peers. The conference is two days long but the network strength built should last you the remaining 363 days until the next gathering.

I often see familiar returning faces at this Berlin conference which speaks volumes. This conference is not cheap, there are plenty of other potential dates in the calendar but yet folks return. I’m glad they return: it’s great to see and hear how their projects have matured. If you are a regular attendee of intranet or digital workplace conferences you will have seen some of these people (and some of their content before). I accept that this is inevitable to a degree since conference folks hate taking a risk with their agendas and presenters – delegates pay too much to allow it. I’d like to see the lightning presentations brought into the full agenda: it’d be a welcome change of pace and give some in-experienced speakers a more gentle introduction to public speaking. And once again, a distinct male bias on the speakers list that did not appear reflected in the audience. I encourage any conference organiser to work with the 300seconds crew to identify new talent.

Should you attend in 2014?

The short answer is ‘yes’. This conference attracts some excellent international speakers who have delivered some ground breaking products. I learnt a huge amount, met and re-met some outstanding thought-leaders.

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