(278) Collaborating

This week we chat with Gavin Jones to talk through some of the challenges and opportunities when looking at collaborating and technology.

You can find out more about Gavin and his work at:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/MeeTime

Website: https://www.meetimeservices.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/gavin-jones-meetime

Episode Transcript… (any errors are the fault of the AIs)

Matt: Hello and welcome to episode 278 of WB40, the weekly podcast with me, Matt Ballantine, Chris Weston and Gavin Jones.

Welcome back. Uh, we’ve had a week off. , it was a award ceremony last week. My eldest son won an award, which was all a bit surreal. He appeared to win the award for winning an award. There we go. , Chris back again. , are you well? 

Chris: I am, thank you. , I think you should be downplaying that, uh, it doesn’t, you know, any sort of award is good, you know, at that age, when you’re, when you’re finding your way in the world, I think you should be a bit more, , chipper about an award, even if it’s winning an award.

Matt: Yes, you’re, you’re right. I think my big problem is that it’s a thing, it’s an organisation called the… Jack Petchy Foundation. And Jack Petchy is an East End boy, made good, , made a lot of money, I think in timeshares, I can’t remember, but wants to give all, you know, give stuff back and give other people a good start in life, which is a very laudable thing.

The only problem I’ve got with Jack Petchy, he was the first person to own Watford Football Club after Elton John sold up and he completely buggered us up. And I can’t let that go. And it’s like 30 years ago, but I’m, you know, this is the way football is. 

Chris: That’s a really terrible reason to be down on your son’s achievement.

I mean, really, you do need to get over yourself. 

Matt: Not only that, as the thing started up in the Rose Theatre in Kingston, so there’s hundreds of people there, and the Deputy Mayor of Kingston, , Council stood up and he said, I’d forgotten what it was that I knew about Jack Petchy. I’d forgotten that he used to own Watford Football Club.

He’s like, no, don’t bring attention to it right at the start. I thought he’d been able to put that aside, but no. So there we go. , how’s your week been? 

Chris: Well, my week has been fine. My week has been essentially, , coping with the, the, an upside down house because we’re having some work done, which is, , extremely, , middle class, isn’t it?

It’s not something that, , happens very often around here. , I don’t know, I normally have the money, and I certainly don’t have it now. So my time has been spent either decorating to cover for the fact that everything’s, , in a mess or Having conversations with so called project managers from so called, , companies that do these sort of things.

, and messing about with electrics, which is what I was doing just before this podcast. Which is why my head’s a bit scrambled. Because you know where you’ve got, you know if you’ve got your switches with your, like your landing light, where you’ve got, like, You could, you could switch them up upstairs and downstairs as well.

I managed to take one out and then replace it and then put it back together exactly as it was before. Now it doesn’t work properly. And now I’ve got to try and figure out where these completely similar color wires come from, where they go, whether they’re neutral, it’s live, switch live. common. So, so yeah,

Matt: like, like online diary management, , that sort of thing is a special branch of mathematics that the normal folks like you and I will never understand.

Chris: I did understand it once I’ve done it. I’ve done it before. And once I understood it, it was like, I, I saw things from a completely different perspective. It was like being on a higher plane. But I’m not on that plane anymore and I need to re re ascend to that plane in order to figure this out. Which I am going to do at the weekend now because I can’t be bothered with it anymore.

But, uh, no, my week’s been alright, you know, it’s good. Been a good week, thank you very much. How about you? 

Matt: , I have been doing lots of things. There’s lots of things on at the moment. There’s potentially a new client. There’s a, , couple of clients on the go at the moment with us thinking about what we do next and work involved in that.

I am involved in preparing for a, an event in Manchester, which is happening next week, but I won’t actually be there. So having to be able to prep everybody and make sure everything’s aligned and everybody knows what they’re doing. And I am also doing an event on Thursday night in London where we are going to be, Doing keynote karaoke, which will be fun and I’m hosting all of that.

So that’s entertaining and I’m sure that there are other some other things as well And so it’s just like lots and lots and lots and lots of bits I’m supposed to be writing a magazine article which is due by the 19th of December and that is reminding me desperately of the Douglas Adams quote about loving deadlines and loving the noise as they whoosh past It’s definitely feeling like that.

So, , yeah, it’s busy, it’s good, busy, good, busy. And, , and then trying to keep up with, you know, politics and what on earth is going on at OpenAI and, you know, that sort of stuff as well, which is of course easily distractible. That’s the thing, isn’t it? When you’re busy, you’re always looking out for something to distract you.

Ha ha!, anyway, joining us this week is, is Gavin. Gavin, , how has your week been? 

Gavin: My week was, , good, thank you. Yeah. Work-wise, I was mostly trying to keep up with, , all of the renaming, I mean announcements that, , came outta Microsoft’s event, , last week, which had to re-watch things quite a few times to, did they say something slightly different?

Yeah. Is that paid for? Is that not? But yeah. Is it, 

Matt: is this a good, , long tradition of Microsoft’s appalling ability to brand things? 

Gavin: They even joked that they were bad at it, but then they also didn’t make it much better in the following sentence. 

Matt: Oh, yes, it’s, from, from the time that I worked there, I think that there was a, there was a second release of the version of Windows that only ran on the underpowered ARM based tablet that they had for Windows 8.

And I can’t remember what they ended up calling that, but it was so ungainly, it was untrue. I need to kind of hark back to those days when at least they had a year to be able to Seems to have gone out the window We will be talking this week about , some of the stuff that you do So rather than trade it before we start talking about it.

I say we should probably just crack on

Chris: So Gavin joins us because today we’re going to talk about collaboration and we’re going to talk about how we do it or don’t do it, particularly in offices these days. And this also touches on some of the stuff that Matt’s been putting out into the universe around where do we work and what the nature of remote work really is.

 And, , the reason we’ve got Gavin with us is because that Gavin teaches people how to use Microsoft Teams. , how to, not just how to use it, but how to get the best out of it and how to set up collaboration in a way that benefits an organization. So, welcome Gavin. Nice to have you on with us. , , you did this, , for one of your employers, , as I recall, and then decided it was worth, , branching out and doing it as a, full time job.

Is that right? 

Gavin: That’s right, yeah. So I spent, , the last 15 years at Molson Coors, the beer company, doing lots of different jobs there, but nothing in IT. So I started in finance, business partnering, went into logistics. There’s some bits on kegs, some demand management forecasting, and then it ends up on some like bigger projects.

So like integrated business planning, which was like a, I have to run the business sort of projects. And then some it wants an SAP implementation, trade promotions, management system implementation. And my last job there was transformation manager working for the sales director. Who’s only brief when starting the job was, I think I was spending too much time on internal stuff and not enough time selling.

Go and do something and, , of course it was right because it’s, you know, a massive global company and like most big companies We’re just completely hamstrung by internal stuff, emails, meetings, and it’s very nice company to work for I should say, but With, you know, if you go too far on anything it turns into a negative So because everyone was like really wanted to, you know, never wanted to annoy anybody then that just turned into like bigger and bigger meetings to try and Make sure everyone’s okay.

And, we had some, , licenses from the U S business, which again, Microsoft renaming was at the time called workplace analytics, which to me was better named than now called Viva Insights because Viva Insights you get for free, but also you get Viva Insights that you pay for, which is confusing.

But this particular one, you could like, it scans everyone’s emails and meetings, anonymizes it. You can see how everyone’s sort of working together. So if there’s any pockets of brilliance or. Otherwise across the organization and you know how people work in and can link it to HR data and all sorts of stuff So there’s a good stuff But but basically proved that the sales director was correct with like spending lots of time on internal stuff and not very much time with customers from the data that Microsoft collected and Yeah, I’d use slack in a side project At the time, Teams had only just come out, which, and at the time, it was before the pandemic, so it wasn’t, they weren’t borrowing things from Zoom at the time, they were borrowing things from Slack, and so, , I thought, well, that seems like a good thing to do, there was some research come out from Slack saying that, If you move everything to slack, you can decrease emails and meetings and increase employee engagement.

So all the things that we were after doing and, led a 12, 18 month long project to try and get supply chain, marketing, sales, all working better together. reducing internal time on stuff, so reducing meetings and emails, getting more time for well being, and more time to go and sell stuff.

, and because we had the analytics turned on, sort of found out that my approach sort of saved up to three hours per person per week on average, and decreased after hours work by 30 percent. And I thought it was a good idea to go and try to help other companies do the same thing. , but my timing was probably off because I decided to do that in…

April 2020, just as everything was being locked down, but, , such is the nature of trying to set up a business, never a good time. And, here we are now, three years on. 

Chris: , this doesn’t sound like it’s a damning indictment of anybody, including Molson Cause, because let’s face it, we all have those problems.

As you say, it’s, it’s a, it’s a common issue around the sales people in particular, you know, and I think. No matter where you go, we used to have a term once upon a time about salespeople being in the office, and as much as they used to almost applaud the work that they brought in through the process, because partly it’s…

One of the reasons we realized this, this is a company I worked for many years ago, is because they really didn’t trust that the work would be done and prioritized unless they were there. And, , so part of their service as they saw it to their customers was to make sure it got back to them in good time, you know, as they expected it to.

So that was something we had to deal with because having salespeople hanging around in the office where The sales almost certainly weren’t, they weren’t going to sell anything standing in the office. , , wasn’t a very good idea. So most companies I’ve been to since then have had a similar problem, around sales and also around other areas.

I mean, when I’ve worked in IT departments, you know, the amount of meetings we would have in IT departments where I think it was just to keep people from feeling that they hadn’t missed out on something. So everybody got invited to these interminable meetings. And then of course. Lots of people would decide these meetings were a waste of time, so it wouldn’t turn up.

And then the whole point of the meeting would be, it would be, you know, it would fall apart anyway because the , the only, only people that would be in them are the people who had paranoid that they didn’t know everything that was going on Called it. Yeah. . Yeah. And those that called it, you know, who, who, who really should have seen the light and C it by then?

So. You know, these are problems that everybody has, , and we’ve been through, as you say, you know, as you say, unfortunate timing for you, but we’ve been through this kind of massive experiment where everybody was forced to go and work from whatever. , you know, whether work from home, from the sofa, from the kitchen table, from an office, you know, a home office or whatever, or, or a McDonald’s or a WeWork or what, you know, whatever it might be.

, and now we’re kind of coming back together. So I guess the question we’ve got to ask ourselves is what’s. What’s normal now? And what is the, you know, what should we expect from our workplace and our collaboration tools? Now, you know, do we really know that? Have we got a, do you think we’ve got handlers organisations on that?

Gavin: Yeah, well, the handout was interesting in that it forced everyone to adopt something new, although really it’s like we’ve been using the phone for quite a while. And group calling and just moving that onto video was probably a bigger change that for a lot of people, especially if they’re sat in the PJs, but it’s like, well, the old way is gone.

So if you want to do any work, you need to get on board with the new thing. So the change was relatively easy because the old thing has been taken away. And I think. A lot of organizations struggle with Microsoft adoption, although I hate the word adoption because it’s all what you want to adopt it for, you don’t need to link it to something that, you know, what benefit is it going to have, , one, for anyone to care and two, for why you should care if you’re running the company.

But yeah, the old thing’s been taken away. So everything else with Microsoft, like there’s millions of ways to do stuff. And I guess from the pandemic, then one, the change to go into like video calling very easily, which is why Microsoft was like, okay, we need to borrow more stuff off Zoom rather than borrowing stuff off Slack to keep up, as well as the nature of the time. 

But yeah, everyone sort of carried on working in the same way. With new technology. So what ended up happening was that oh, we’ll just look how those would be All have the same meetings, but now they’re online and there’s no walking in between meeting rooms There’s no commute to work and there’s no commute from work.

So then everyone just had a meeting meeting meeting me to be oh This is brilliant because we never like back to back meetings finish one start the next one and then your entire day was meetings So it just perpetuated all the bad things of how people working without really taking a step back to think well actually Do we even need these meetings as we as we’re saying before the call started?

 I’m, not sure that people still have got a handle on it microsoft keep releasing more and more stuff as As the nature of tech is that everything keeps changing Sure people move the buttons around just for the sake of it So the next time someone logs on they’ve not used it for a while.

Oh Hang on, that button’s moved, just to, , to catch people out. But, , but they are doing lots of, innovative stuff that, keeps coming out. But I don’t think a lot of organisations have really, still since the pandemic, taken a step back and think, well, how do we want to work? Where do we want people to be?

And, you know, the age old, age old seems quite old now, but do we need people in the office or do we let people work from home? Rather than really think a lot of what work are they doing and what sort of culture do we want to build? I think is a better starting question. 

Matt: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it?

 There’s some things that seem to have become sacrosanct about the the natural order of things in office and knowledge work as if we emerged from the Planes of the Serengeti with a tablet in our hand, and it’s fascinating because, , fun to, I mean, I’ve, I’ve just celebrated working for 30 years and the, the monitors are a lot smaller than they were when I started working and.

, we have connectivity at home, which we didn’t when I started working. But the layout of offices, actually, the, the fashions of the colour schemes within offices has changed. But the fundamentals of how they’re just laid out in open plan offices really haven’t changed very much at all in the 30 years I’ve been working.

And the, the working mechanisms, the, meetings that we have and the, the ways in which we communicate and the structures and the hierarchies. I don’t think of really changed very much, despite the fact that we’ve had 30 years of quite rapid evolution of information technology that should have maybe had more of an impact than it did.

I guess one of the things that may be as a problem is that, , most software, certainly most collaboration software has been developed primarily with the people who develop it in mind. So teams or slack or any of these tools are primarily geared around the idea of a. a West Coast American software company and that then has weird manifestations in where it doesn’t work and then where people need to adapt the tool to be able to make it somehow be be useful so For example your sales teams or in my last role working in a housing association our caretakers and our care home half of our workforce wasn’t office based, but it took the pandemic for everybody in the office to realize that, which is fascinating.

, there was some work I was doing with the civil service about seven or eight years ago, I guess now. And there were. , private secretaries, so the, the executive assistants to very senior civil servants. And they were horrified with the idea that the collaboration tools in the Microsoft platform would assign changes to documents to them because they were working on behalf of their superior.

And it was really important that the work that they did should be seen as being done by somebody else because that’s how the structure in the hierarchy. And then even down to really, you know, weird things like the use of things like emojis in, , office culture now. I put a thing out on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago about the incredible variation that there is in interpretation of emojis.

And the kind of internet speak that the example I use was LOL, where my mum’s best friend used it exclusively to mean lots of love. So you’d end up with these really weird text messages like, I’m really sorry to hear about your grandma, LOL. And it’s like, well, what’s going on? So there’s, I think there’s this weird thing where we’re kind of, we have tools that have been designed really with either very general.

Principles in mind or actually really quite specific principles that aren’t most organizations and then having to find ways to be able to meld and adapt them to be able to actually get them to be useful in different contexts. 

Gavin: Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, I often wonder if anyone at Microsoft knows.

How to use Teams, apart from how they use it at Microsoft, to be honest, because, well, I like the story of Slack, because it was made, they weren’t designing, they weren’t trying to design Slack, they were like making a computer game, they all got bored of emails and meetings, and so, to make them make the computer game faster, they designed something internally.

That could like help them collaborate better and then no one’s ever heard of the computer game because it was either didn’t come out It was a flop, but then they ended up developing slack and then the law actually that we could sell this to other companies So at least that was like born out of a real pain that they then solved and I think Microsoft tried or was it rumors at the time that Microsoft tried to acquire it and got turned down.

So then they ended up obviously making teams to Compete with slack then as with everything Microsoft there’s got a lot of baggage. So then there was lots of Technical debt, I suppose what a better word where they’re like trying to link it to sharepoint And there are loads of things that are better so like threaded chat in teams I think it’s the best.

Thing that Microsoft make and, and the biggest, the much better than Slack and better than most things, , any other ways of collaborating, but Microsoft never talk about it. So it’s like one of my main fundamental things is you can get that right. You can save like everything else is easy or irrelevant down the line.

Uh, but Microsoft will, like, never talk about it, and always leave the development of that last with any new feature. Like, oh come on, that’s the main thing that’s saving people time, and they don’t even know that. Because I guess they’re so massive, that there’s no, they, they, like, the way they set stuff up can’t possibly be very simple.

Whereas for like, a small, medium sized company, Microsoft’s like, well, we don’t know how to make it simple, because you can just do whatever you want, we don’t care, we just make loads of different apps, and whether they fit together or not, you know, just use whatever, they’re all in a bundle, and they’re all free once you’ve paid for the thing.

So their advice is never very, yeah, you could do that, you could do that, you know, you’re still paying us, we don’t care. Whereas, I think, hopefully the niche that I’m trying to carve out is like, I’ve actually got an opinion about the best way that you should use the things that you’re paying for. And, I’m not particularly a Microsoft fan.

I think they’re doing loads of good stuff. Pragmatically, everyone’s paying for it, so you should get more out of it. But if they’re not the right thing to use, then I’ll recommend someone to use something else. But, like, there usually is a way that you can make it work better than people who weren’t using it already.

, but yeah, I think you’re right. It is, , an interesting take to say, well, actually I think with all tech, like there’s a very, it’s born out of a very small subculture in a tiny geographical location. And then because of how they, like, they can disseminate information, it’s then spread around the globe without much thought.

It’s like, well, it’s actually, does this work for like Billy Builders in Doncaster? Not sure because it wasn’t built by them. It was built by some tech guy in San Francisco. Yeah 

Matt: So where do you start with a client? What’s the thing that a client is asking you for help for and then? What do you do to to be able to go from that that first engagement into actually helping them?

Gavin: Yeah, good question So I mean Chris Introduce me as doing Microsoft Teams training, which I don’t not do, but I don’t think of myself as doing that if I, when I think about what I do. So I, what I’m mostly interested in saving someone time at work to increase sales or try, you know, increase wellbeing and just naff off early and see their friends and family.

, and happen to use Microsoft to do that, but usually there’s lots of ways that they could improve the way they’re working without using any technology at all. So there might be just like some process changes, there might be some tech stuff we can link it to, if they’re, if they’re interested in technology that might be a way in to say well actually you can use this new thing and if they like new things then, then they’re bought in.

Because I’ve got a YouTube channel that sort of overlapped my corporate job because I only started making videos because I was having to train people, they’re asking the same question all the time, and I’m like well, There’s only one of me. I’ll just scale myself by pre recording videos.

If they ask the same question, I’ll just direct them to the video. And if they’ve still got questions, then we can pick up on Team’s channel. , and I didn’t think that information was out there. So I was like, HR, do you mind if I put these videos on YouTube? there’s anything out there at the moment. And if so, do you want to brand it as the company or brand it as me?

And they’re like, yeah, that’s cool, but the latter. So, , , those YouTube videos started. It’s like. Here’s how to do something specific on a specific Microsoft app. And so a lot of people that come to me, like, well, can you just do some training? And I was like, well, what do you think is going to happen after half an hour training session for 200 people?

Hmm. Don’t know probably. Well, we don’t know what we don’t know. It’s like, well, cool, but I could train you on every single feature of every single Microsoft app that they make in your subscription and. Try and rattle through that in half an hour, but I wouldn’t even get through it. And most people wouldn’t pay attention, and if they do, they won’t remember most of it.

And even the people that do pay attention and remember it, won’t be able to change anything, because they haven’t got enough buy in with the rest of the company to actually make any improvements. So, rather than do that, it’s a lot easier for me to come in. So I always think of myself as like a business consultant by stealth.

I’m going in under the guise of like helping them with technology, but really it’s like, it’s a lot easier to see how they’re working, and then recommend some ways they can work better together. And happen to then use Microsoft to do that and then give them a plan, , of how to change because like with most things, people don’t give enough attention to like, well, how are you actually going to get people to change?

Like I said before, if there’s no way of going backwards, then change is really easy. Like with most IT projects, we turn the old thing off and a new thing starting. But anything in Microsoft land, there’s a million ways to do stuff and the easiest way for anyone to do it, even if it’s slower than a new way.

It’s still the old way because it’s a lot quicker for them to do it the old way rather than think, oh, hang on, yeah, I need to do it a new way. That’s usually where I start is, and that’s the most popular product is sort of going in, doing some group workshops, interviews. Usually what’s top of people’s minds of, , you know, usually the answer is within the employees level.

What’s taking you ages? What bits do you hate? And it’s like, yeah, this manager is running this meeting all the time and it’s a waste of time and blah, blah. It’s like, cool. We can sort that out. , so one, it’s like helping them understand what’s possible and also it’s starting the change. Because like, if you’re talking to the employees, they at least feel heard before we then go back and say, Oh, actually, yeah, you said this is a big pain.

We can, you know, help that out. 

Chris: You did talk at the start about people going from the pandemic and then doing the same things, but doing them online. So is there a danger that that’s what people try to do is they say is like they go, well, we have this meeting.

We don’t think it’s of great value, but we’re too frightened to do away with it or analyze it too deeply. So we’re going to try and make it just like, make it slightly more. 

Gavin: Yeah, exactly that. Yeah, so I had, one of my, , most recent clients, it was another consulting firm. And , how they voiced the problem is like, well, we used to run in person workshops with.

that, you know, any big company you’ve ever heard of they work with. We used to run in person workshops to get them into this new process of working. And, you know, we were really famous for like running really engaging workshops. We used to take them out after, you know, it was like two days of workshop.

You used to take them out, have really big, lavish meals. And, you know, you’re bumping into people , , in the breaks. And, you know, you can… pull stuff together. People on a whiteboard over there and a whiteboard over there. You stood in the middle, you can hear them. And they’re like, well, online they’re trying to replicate the same thing.

So like, well, we, then it’s like the online version is worse than what they used to do before. So they’re like, well, we need breakout rooms to do the same thing, but then we’re having trouble moving between breakout rooms. We’re trying to use Miro, but then not everyone’s got a license. You know, the, the client doesn’t know what to move on the Miro board of what we’ve tried X, Y, Z, all the technological solutions.

So they would like after help with that, but after I’d been in and interviewed everyone, I was like, well, pragmatically. You, you know, they’re a sort of boutique consulting firm, so they’re, they’re, they’re sort of benefit, USP, however you want to badge it. They’re all older people, so they’ve got loads of experience.

I guess, you know, they’re not an Accenture or a big consulting thing where they’re getting loads of graduates that then rock up, ask you loads of stuff, they don’t know anything, go back to their boss and then… Find out something and then come back again. Like, you know, most of the big boys, they’ve got loads of experience, so they’re really knowledgeable, but they’re really old.

So then they’re not really up to speed with all the technology and stuff. And they don’t like to do that. They don’t want to do it. And so it’s like, well, that isn’t the solution. Actually, you need to strip all of that back and do something that’s really simple, like just using the chat to make it more engaging.

Or, core problem, you haven’t rethought your product offer. In this new world. So it’s like, forget video calling. If you had to start from scratch in 2023, and you don’t want to go and travel around the world on planes, how would you get the change done in a client using some, some, you know, thought of what other people do now, like online courses, a place for people, for the client to collaborate with you asynchronously.

It’s like, why do you keep, why do you need to run it like 20 people for two days? It’s like, let’s do more bite sized things, more asynchronous and, and, you know, think about like a, an online product offer. , and that might even generate you more revenue, because that might be a better engaging solution, which you won’t have a reputational risk of running what you used to run, but now in a, in a bad online environment.

So, , I think people’s natural thing is to jump to what they do now. Even if you give them a new tech tool, which is why it’s better to sort of strip it back as a what’s your problem and try and address something fundamentally rather than a sticking plaster over the top. 

Matt: And I think in examples like that, there’s also something interesting about how much, , let’s be blunt, time and materials based costing and selling of stuff comes into play.

Because if you are selling yourself on the basis of the time you input rather than the outputs you deliver. Then anything that reduces the time that you input is not a good thing. And so there’s a kind of inbuilt problem about driving efficiency in any model that involves me selling my time.

 Hopefully we’ve got somebody coming on in a couple of weeks who’s been doing some experiments around,, the use of generative AI in the software development. And he’s created using, , AI agents, a simulated development team, and he’s put the wind up himself quite dramatically, I think, from the conversation I had with him this week, because it can just do stuff and being able to, to be able to have the now to be able to work out how you set that together for, as I am a business that sells essentially on the basis of time and materials.

Custom software. This is an existential challenge for us But actually it comes more fundamentally down You know, there’s all sorts of ways in which the technology should be enabling people to be able to spend less time doing things But it’s not always necessarily in their immediate interest to do that.

There’s some tricky dynamics in that Yeah, 

Gavin: the time and materials one is it’s a very very tricky situation so I can see why people end up getting into it because if you’ve, especially in software development, if you’ve got like a not very clear defined solution, like no one knows how long it’s going to take. And if you’re employing people, it’s like, well, I still need to pay them, and I’m paying them on some basis of they need to work a bit of time for me.

, but then on the flip side, it’s like, well, if it’s truly knowledge work, and say you had to bill someone for an hour or a minute, it’s like, well, if I think up the best solution for them when I’m in the shower, And that would have taken me eight hours sat in an office at a desk with like, , I’m trying to block out all the noise from the office.

Hang on. I’ve had a brainwave. It’s like, do you charge them for the eight hours? Or are you charging for the one minute of the brain thing? Do you charge them for 10 minutes of the shower? Or do you charge them for like, The eight hours you’re asleep if you think of something when you’re asleep. I was like, oh, yeah, they’ve got a solution and Yeah, it’s really I think it’s an interesting and tricky tricky And 

Matt: I think that there’s both in when do we work and where do we work for knowledge work?

one of the biggest impacts I think that the pandemic has had has been allowing people to realise that it wasn’t that you went to work, you started working at the time you arrived at the office, and you finished working at the time you left the office. And that now feels for many people like a really weird, restrictive way of defining how they would do a job.

And with collaboration tools and our ability to be able to access, you know, I mean we were tired to the office because we couldn’t get access to the stuff that was in the office. That’s gone and the last remnants of it have definitely now go, you know When when banks are able to get people working from home Here with a lot the last real stick in the muds about this because security or something It’s just because they had massive complexity that they couldn’t work out how to make accessible But I think it’s it’s it’s really interesting.

So when it comes to helping , establish better working practice between organizations. So as opposed to it’s all my employees, but working with partners or customers or, or other groups, is that something that you started to, to look at? 

Gavin: Yeah. I mean, that always comes up pretty much with any engagement and I guess it’s only going to be more and more prevalent as companies, especially startups, don’t want to hire employees.

They’ll just want to outsource things and have, you know, more contractors and. You know, employees themselves maybe want to leave and set their own company and be more like, gig economy type, type workers. And they’re, you know, like that because they can be more flexible and work with a different amounts of clients.

So, yeah, it always comes up. And then I guess… Especially in Microsoft land, which I’m working in predominantly, is like, well, you just need to assess little how, how much are they like an internal person and how much are they like an external person and sort of have different tech solutions to manage each sort of group.

So I guess the best example is where you might have outsourced. Like to a marketing agency, but really they’re, they would have been your marketing people if they didn’t happen to be external. It’s like, well then you can just kind of treat them as if they’re your employees as long as you trust them enough.

And, , and having the same sort of tech stack. , And then, , going as far out as you can, like customer, there might be some customers you want to collaborate with, but really usually you want to like collaborate on stuff internally before you then go out and face things like we don’t want to see the internal workings, , and usually that, that bridge is then like, if you do my sort of three pronged approach to sort of trying to, well usual three pronged approach to try and make people work better together, we’re trying to free up internal email.

And then that allows email itself to be like mostly external. And so that’s always like the ubiquitous go to of like, you know, you can always collaborate externally via email, which isn’t great if there’s like lots of churn. But, , but yeah, if you need to be external, then it’s like, at least a nice little, you know, you know, what’s gone, there’s a record of it.

It’s been around for ages, everyone’s, everyone’s used to it. The law is caught up with email. So like, if you send an email, it’s as good as, you know, sending a fax or a letter. , not so with a Teams chat, maybe. I’m not sure. 

Matt: , yes. Or, or WhatsApp chats, which of course is then the other lowest common denominator into organizational service.

That’s been, used quite extensively by lots of people. , is part of all of this then about being able to get people to have consensus about how they’re going to work before they start thinking about the technology in any depth? 

Gavin: , yeah, I mean we, we’re always looking at what’s the bottleneck essentially.

It’s like what, what do you want the company to go and do? Do you want to grow sales? Increase profit, reduce risk, reduce costs. 

Chris: The bottleneck to making a decision though, Gavin, is that, 

Gavin: is that… Well, it could be anything all the way through. It’s like, well, then, I guess, you know, from the owner’s perspective, like, where do you want the company to go?

And then from the employee’s perspective, like, what’s stopping, what’s the main thing stopping you doing your job, assuming that the, the jobs are well defined? , and usually something comes out, you know, whatever’s top of people’s mind is usually right. So it’s like, oh yeah, we spend energy doing this.

This process and we know the sales guy goes to have to do something for like the back office We don’t know where it is. They’re chasing around and users end up like, you know Communications across organizations are never never great once they get to a certain certain size I’ve said then there’s like the the usual thing Well, they were phoning around which then interrupts someone else from doing what they were doing And then, you know, there’s more interruptions, more slowdown, it’s just like a flywheel of, of inefficiency.

, and so, yeah, there’s usually something that’s like, well, if we removed that, what would the result be?

Matt: And, and how are you feeling given it’s the, the topic of the year, , about some of the, the generative AI and other AI tools that are increasingly coming into platforms like Teams? What’s your general take on how that’s landing and where it might be going? Thank you. 

Gavin: Yeah, it’s , I mean, it’s an interesting space isn’t it?

It’s changing Our little daily with the, we’re just trying to keep up with all the stuff at OpenAI, , going on. , it’s gonna be a weird future. I was trying to think of that old TV show where, Quantum Leap, whoever watched that, where it’s like, he’s got amazing technology, but it’s always like, he’s always like banging the headset thing to like speak to his assistant.

I always think like Siri, it’s like, you know, we live in an amazing age, you can get… like any song to play just by speaking to it but then it’s like it just you never use it because it’s like it messed up one time you’re like oh it never understands me or it’s set a timer for an egg for like four hours rather than four minutes or something so it’s like an amazing sort of half dystopian future but like mostly No one’s that bothered.

It’s a weird time, where it could take over the world, or it could be completely benign, and no one, no one cares. But yeah, I’m really excited to get my hands on it. I think that there’s so much, like, nuance, like, just like one example, Microsoft, like, saying, Oh, we’re massively into, you know, ethical AI. They released a blog post saying, you know, small to medium sized companies are the lifeblood of the economy, we don’t want to support them.

And then like the next announcement was like, yeah, Copilot’s out. General release. It’s not really general release because you’ve got to be an enterprise customer and you’ve got to buy 300 licenses. Like, hang on, what happened to like the ethical thing and the small to medium sized business? Like, if it is the biggest thing to change work, then surely you should be supporting the small guys first.

I know there’s probably loads of reasons to do that, but it’s like, well, then don’t. Don’t say that you’re really ethical. , and yeah, I’m not sure if there’s some ethical things going on with the, with the changes that the board made of, of, , open ai, maybe reading between the lines and some X FK Twitter threads, , overnight.

 But yeah, it’s an interesting time. I think it’s gonna be, like you say, it is designed like technology designed for the individual rather than working together. So I know like Microsoft’s putting it into all of its products, , a lot. them of collaborative, but like you were saying before, you could quite quickly end up with like, well, this person’s using Copilot to write a response to this person, who’s then using Copilot to write a response back to that person, who’s then using Copilot to write a response.

It’s like, well, just take the people out, and then it’s like the AI’s just, like, exactly like you said, just talking a strangely, , iterative thing to each other. Which I actually saw, , where someone made two GPTs, one to be like, and you can say, well, You pretend to be Marlon Brando, and this GPT pretend to be, I don’t know, Kevin Spacey.

And then they just talk to each other in the thing, you can just like listen in to two AI celebrities talking to each other. So, it’s , interesting time. Yeah, I mean it should save a lot of time at work for Copilot, if people use it. But like most things. Microsoft, you can already say those, you could say loads of time at work if you learn Excel.

But I think obviously this is going to be a lot more, , accessible, hopefully for people to just try it. 

Chris: Lots to think about there. And, , no doubt the answers are not as simple as maybe a lot of people make out. We’ve got quite a lot of work to do to figure out how we’re going to keep collaborating. And of course, as you say, Matt, there’s going to be a lot of AI gender generated content that will. Create even more need for us to generate AI tools to help read them.

So, , we can all look forward to that. , so let’s look at the week ahead. , Gavin, what have you got coming up? Have you got an interesting week, an exciting week, new, anything new going on? 

Gavin: , I’ll go to a managed services summit tomorrow, which is the first one that I will have been to, sort of trying to get more into the, , outsourced IT and MSP world, because it seems like a decent fit where they don’t really want to do any, you know, messy people y stuff that I do, and I don’t want to do any messy back end techie stuff that they do, so it seems like a good fit that we might be able to help out the same customers and clients.

, just eager to learn a bit more about their, their sort of business model and pain points, really, tomorrow. Yeah. 

Chris: Excellent. What about you, Matt? Anything of interest coming up in your week? 

Matt: We’ve got a co working day. So one of the things that we’ve started doing is to, because our, our people, both our employees and our associates are all over the place, renting a bit of office space in a place where there are people who live by it and then having co working days.

In that place is one off. So on Wednesday, we’re going to do the first one for Southwest London and we’re going to have a, , I think it’s 10 people or so lined up to, , gather and meet and work together in Richmond. , and they’re not working on the same things, but just so that people can get to meet some others from different parts of the organization.

So that’s gonna be fun. And then on Thursday. I have got a meeting with somebody who works for an, it’s an industry body for engineering, which is interesting. And then I am running this keynote karaoke thing on Wednesday night, Thursday night, sorry, when we’re going to have people who will be doing five minute improvised presentations on subjects that they will discover at the time at which they are about to do the presentation.

What could possibly go wrong? How about you? 

Chris: , Well, uh, busy week. I’m going down to London tomorrow morning to , the launch of an Open UK report. And then I’m going down to London on Wednesday as well for some other things going on. So yeah, I haven’t been down to the. Down to the smoke for a few weeks, so, , it’ll be interesting to get down and see what’s going on.

, and it’s just a very busy week, lots of things going on at work, lots of, exciting, changes and whatnot that we’re, we’re putting into place, so, yeah, that’s, that’s all great. I, , I was intrigued by this, this, , karaoke, keynote karaoke, because I know that, , now you, to explain what it is, I know that, , it’s been mentioned before, this kind of,

Make it up as you go along presentation stuff. 

Matt: There’s a randomised subject, which is off the basis of, , some special dice that I have created, which is all very exciting. I’m just showing those to the camera for you. At home you won’t see them, but they’re dice with various things on them.

You throw the dice, you get your subject. So, How Robotics Energised Birdwatching is the one I’ve just thrown there. And then there’s 15 random images that come up and are 20 seconds on the screen. I, , I’m really, , It’s a silly idea, but I’m really interested to see, , for those people who volunteer to do it.

And there’s eight, eight volunteers, , how they get on with it. I’m sure it’ll be quite entertaining and as a good way to be able to get people to have a bit of practice of being in front of an audience and have a license to spout bollocks as opposed to doing it accidentally. 

Chris: Well, of course, we’re all guilty of that from time to time.

But yeah, so it sounds like, it sounds like we’ve all got something good to look forward to this weekend. Let’s, , let’s hope it all pays out. 

Matt: Absolutely. Well, that’s it. , Gavin, thank you again for joining us. , it was a fascinating conversation. Oh, thanks for having me. And we will be back again next week.

, we have, I think three shows left before we decamp for the Christmas festivities. And next week, if all goes to plan, we will be being joined by somebody who helped to build, , Calendly amongst other things. So, look forward to that. We’ll be back same time, same place. See you next week.

Gavin: Thank you for listening to the WB40 podcast. You can find us on the internet here at WB40podcast. com and on all good podcasting platforms.

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