The below review of Social Connections III was blogged to the Greenhouse IBM Connections Users community by attendee Lynn Russell. Lynn is a Communication & Collaboration Tools Training Specialist at WL Gore & Associates and kindly allowed us to copy her insightful review to our blog. Lynn has been an active contributor to the Connections User community in Greenhouse and is a true evangelist for IBM Connections.

Social Connections – Are you considering attending Social Connections IV?

Social Connections III
IBM Dublin Labs – 22 June 2012

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Social Connections III, I have worked with Notes & Domino applications for over 10 years and in the past I’ve been lucky enough to attend Lotusphere and The View Admin conferences so I suspected that this would have a similar feel to it with several presentations targetted towards technical and business streams, the big question in my head was “How much was I going to get out of this?”.

Gore started implementing IBM Connections just over a year ago and although our implementation is going well, we were experiencing pressures from various groups within Gore to speed up our implementation.  Although we could open IBM Connections up to all Associates within Gore tomorrow, one of our objectives with the implementation is for IBM Connections to be used effectively hence we have a more focused approach.   I travelled with my colleague Brian O’Neill to Dublin.  Brian has a technical role at Gore looking at the architecture, server/admin side of IBM Connections and my role looks at developing and delivering training to our users.   We were looking to gather information and contacts to help us with our implementation and Social Connections III didn’t disappoint!!

My day was full with presentations, mainly focused on the business stream.  There were 4 presentations in particular that I attended that have had a lasting effect and I have taken back to Gore:

  • Alfonso Lopez de Arenosa from Sogeti shared a customer implementation of IBM Connections they had carried out.  This customer implementation was large compared to Gore – 20,000 users and I was surprised by the short space of time it had taken them to roll out IBM Connections to all these users.   This started to challenge my thoughts and open my mind to expanding our own IBM Connections implementation at an increased pace.
  • Simon Vaughn & Jon Scott from Cardiff University shared an insightful presentation entitled “Targetting an exceptional education experience – IBM Connections in education”.  I have to admit being sceptical at the start of this presentation as I wondered how relevant what they were doing at Cardiff University would be to Gore as a company.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, what an engaging presentation this turned out to be as Simon shared the mix of ages and expectations amongst their students that they are faced with, I soon realised that this is the same for any company!  Jon then went on to share some of the cool things they have been doing to help manage these differences and expectations.  As someone who develops the training material for IBM Connections at Gore this got me particularly excited and sparked my energy to get more adventorous with what we create.
  • Femke Goedhart’s presentation on “A social revolution…….”Can I control that?” was the one presentation that made my head hurt but in a really good way! Grin It contained several light bulb moments for me as Femke shared a definition of communities that was a little different to how we had been introducing communities at Gore.  Femke also warned against being too controlling, it is important to stimulate rather than regulate, ensuring you allow for experimentation in your implementation and building appropriate support for success through leadership, training the trainers and champions.  What Femke shared in her presentation challenged parts of our implementation at Gore and caused me to spark discussion within our project team.
  • Stuart McIntyre delivered a presentation on Profiles in Connections stating Profiles as the most important feature in Connections, I had my sceptical hat on again!  In Gore we have been focused on Communities, Profiles is the feature that some of our business users associate with Facebook so its harder to get some of them to hook onto to that feature hence our energies have been on other features in Connections.  Stuart challenged this by explaining your profile is your identity, therefore if you choose not to complete your profile any posts you create in a community or elsewhere in Connections have little chance of standing out, how can you expect trust and your post to be taken seriously if you have a grey anonymous image with no detail next to it.  It is key to building trust and relationships when working virtually.

I believe 100 people had registered for Social Connections III and this meant the presentations had an intimate feel to them unlike the size of the likes of Lotusphere, for me this made me feel more comfortable asking questions, talking with other attendees and I felt a true part of this event, special even!!!

Brian and I also attended the reception at the Guinness Storehouse at night, which gave us an opportunity to continue those discussions from earlier in the day, doing the networking bit.   There was one presentation that I wish I had attended and that was one by Sasja Beerendonk looking at leveraging user adoption with gamification.  Unfortunately it was scheduled at the same time as the presentation on What’s New in Connections 4 which I chose to attend instead.  The reception however gave us the opportunity to talk with Sasja about gamification so despite not seeing her presentation I feel we did not miss out entirely.

From this one day I came away with a heightened level of energy thinking there are many more things we need to consider now in our implementation at Gore, Brian and I have a lot to share with our project team when we get back and if that wasn’t all we have started to build a network of contacts who we can reach out to for help as we continue.

So, if you are thinking if Social Connections IV is worth the trip – I’d say absolutely!

source: Greenhouse , author: Lynn Russell

Thanks, Lynn !