Dynamics 365 User Group Reading 14/11/2017

This week I made my first visit as a new member to the Dynamics 365 User Group UK chapter meeting.

I’d been invited to speak about our experiences in using Dynamics 365 and Thunderhead ONE together – my slides embedded below.

Overall I found the day valuable and enjoyable, especially the review of new features in Dynamics Version 9 from Sarah Critchley, and Ben Walker detailing his experience with setting up a CI/CD environment for Dynamics.

Secondly as someone speaking at a CRMUG event for the first time I found the atmosphere welcoming and the facilities excellent.

Other highlight – finally meeting Scott Durow, the man whose blogs have saved us hours of work with the more arcane aspects of Dynamics!

Edit – it’s been pointed out to me that the “view full screen” button on the embed doesn’t work in some browsers – you can view directly in SlideShare here

The rise of the machines (continued)

Following on from The machines may eat your job, but that might not be a bad thing, I notice that Joanne Jacobs  has written Who will work? Education, automation and jobs  in which she references the (Obama) White House report “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” , which in turn was informed by the Frey and Osborne paper I referenced.

Joanne goes on to highlight from that White House report that an increasing proportion of US high-school students are not “college-ready” at the end of high school.,

She also quotes Andrew Yang‘s call to action in Quartz “Silicon Valley is right – our jobs are already disappearing” :

“Unprecedented things are happening in real-time and starting to wreak havoc on lives and communities around the country, particularly on those least able to adapt and adjust.”

How does that map to the UK?

My own, nascent, thoughts about what we should be doing as  matter of policy to address these changes mirror those set out in the Obama administraiton report:

  • Invest in and develop AI for its many benefits
  • Educate and train [citizens] for jobs of the future.
  • Aid workers in the transition and empower workers to ensure broadly shared growth

How do those ideas translate to a UK perspective?

Investment in AI is critical – without it our society will not have the wealth  to support the changes thatare needed. That suggests  a legal environment that is pro-competition and without the negative impact of protectionism (whether enacted by UKGOV or potential trading partners).

Doesn’t sound much like the Brexit-tainted future we are currently looking at!

Alongside investment, we need a progressive tax system, and a government that is committed to spending the tax take in the areas that are needed.

Investment in education, and an adaptation of education to reflect the reality of a world in which many jobs are automated

.The country appears to be disinvesting in education, certainly when considered per-capita. The National Audit Office  has challenged ministers on the matter, and headteachers from across the country  are highlighting the challenges they face.

Even much-trumpeted plans about addressing regional school issues as part of the “Northern Powerhouse” seem doomed to be a further example of re-arranging the deckchairs unless additional funds are injected.

In this environment it seems foolishly optimistic to talk about adapting education to the future, not least because there is no national debate I can see about the need for a changed social contract in response to the predicted changes.

Yet the people who will be entering the workforce in 2030 are those children starting school now.

Without a national dialogue around the social contract, how will our political debate ever begin to address the prospect of large swathes of the population structurally precluded from employment as we know it now?

When debate around benefits is locked into old positions about deserving/undeserving, scroungers v safety net, and coercion to take any job at any price, how likely is it that we will have a reasoned discussion around profound changes such as universal basic income?

I’d love it if someone could point me to a UK politician, of any party, who is articulating any of these issues.

Or are we lost in a morass of protectionism and xenophobia?


I see that the Science and Technology Select Committee reported in October on this topic:

Advances in robotics and AI also hold the potential to reshape, fundamentally, the way we live and work. Improvements in productivity and efficiency, driven by the spread of these technologies, were widely predicted, yet there is no consensus about what this will mean for the UK workforce. Some expect rising unemployment as labour is substituted for AI-enabled robots and machines. Others foresee a transformation in the type of employment available—with the creation of new jobs compensating for those that were lost—and the prospect of robotics and AI augmenting existing roles, and enabling humans to achieve more than they could on their own.

Despite these differing views, there is general agreement that a much greater focus is needed on adjusting our education and training systems to deliver the skills that will enable people to adapt, and thrive, as new technology comes on stream. Government leadership in this area, however, has been lacking. It is disappointing that the Government still has not published its Digital Strategy nor set out its plans for equipping the future workforce with the digital skills it needs to flourish. The Government must commit to addressing the digital skills crisis through a Digital Strategy, published without delay.

One for my reading list!

Comment on “Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails”

Another “down the rabbit hole” post and comment stream from Luis Suarez with a great contribution in the comments from Martin White

There are some interesting papers to follow up in the comments (as an aside, shame how much of academic publishing is still locked behind paywalls)

Martin comments:

I think it is more about a view that academic research is not of value together with an inability or unwillingness to find the research. It’s certainly out there. A search for collaboration in Google Scholar comes up with 4 million references, albeit many are more about scientific collaboration than business collaboration. Because academic research is almost always technology-neutral the outcomes can be translated into current practice.

Luis responds

it’s always been said how far apart from each other both the academic and the business worlds have been all along, to the point where they remain irreconcilable, it’s going to become an on-going challenge unless either one of them, or both!, would concede, give in and decides to get closer. I think it’s very much needed, because I certainly agree with you there are tons of superb research done out there around sociology and it would have a tremendous impact if it were injected, applied, adapted and iterated in a business context.

On the other hand, the academic world also needs to get closer to the business world vs. continuing to live in a bubble (if they ever have). I think it’s down to us, practitioners, to bridge both worlds and get them to understand each other

From personal experience I would suggest some of those barriers to deeper adoption of academic insight in the business world (apart from simple prejudice) are:

  • access to the material (see comment about paywalls above)
  • accessiblity of the material – reading formal academic material effectively and efficiently is an acquired skill
  • the mismatch between the narrowly specialized nature of most academic research and the broader nature of most people’s skills in the commercial world

Of these, in many ways I think the biggest is that last mismatch. I’m not convinced that we have ‘T-shaped‘ professionals any more, or if we have the ‘T’ has several legs, and the cross-bar is of quite varying thicknesses, with some very long tails (mixed metaphor alert!!))

(Aside, I did leave this as a comment, but for some reason my comments are not appearing – perhaps I’ve been moderated!)

Tools updates

I realised that I wasn’t going to have the time to both write my own theme that I liked and update the site content, and the ugliness of the part-built theme was putting me off using the site – so I’ve grabbed the new Twenty Seventeen theme, and will run with that…

Notwithstanding what I wrote about Breaking the Ubiquity of Stream Mode  I pretty much gave up on Smallest Federated Wiki  when I realised that Yahoo! Passport was going away. Now the software has been updated to use social logins I have revived it, and my copy is here.

I was hugely pleased when Mike Caulfield released his work on the Wikity theme to github, and I’m running an instance here.

Let’s see which of the two personal wiki tools gets most use!

Lastly, although I still have an instance of Fargo.io that gets  syndicated into the Work Notes section here, Dave Winer has given clear notice that it will cease to work in June due to Dropbox API deprecations. He does have a migration path for a self-hosted outliner using a combination of S3 storage via an API and the Little Outliner 2 tool, so a future project will be to set up a storage backend for that.




Gripping Twitter gently by the throat

In Breaking the Ubiquity of Stream Mode I wrote that, inspired by “Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment”,  I would start taking overt control of my Twitter use.

I shall use this post to both plan and report progress

Updated 12 Feb 2016

First part is to decide on the lists I want. I can’t disagree with the initial triumvirate described by Luis –  “Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From

I also think I need a couple more public lists that reflect my other uses of Twitter – probably one for local / London accounts.

I also think I need some private lists – certainly for friends/family.

And during the migration process I will probably put up a temporary public list for “People I used to follow” – this will be a good place to link to this post to explain what is happening.

Updated 15 Feb 2016

Moving people to lists and unfollowing through a normal Twitter client is SLOW – I estimated about 6 weeks work.

There doesn’t seem to be a tool that will do it all in one go, so I have split the task:

for updating list membership TwitListManager seems to do the trick, with a simple tabular display:


Update 16 Feb 2016

From a couple of comments it’s clear that some people didn’t get beyond the title of the list “People I used to follow”, so I’ve renamed it to the (perhaps) clearer “Moving from follow to lists”.

Interesting as well to see the people for whom Twitter is only about the follower count. I’ve even been accused of being “passive aggressive” by a follower of one of the people I unfollowed 🙂  I suppose I shouoldn’t be surprised that a change which is designed to emphasise Twitter as conversation will seem odd to those who think of it as a broadcast channel.

To be continued…..

Breaking the ubiquity of Stream Mode

A blog post by Luis Suarez has served nicely as a catalyst to start crystallizing some thoughts from the last couple of weeks.


I’ve become increasingly aware of tensions I feel when I think about how I manage my personal sense-making. In hindsight the seeds were sown when taking Harold Jarche’s PKM in 40 days course. During that study I realised that although I “talk the talk” around PKM, mostly what I do is the “Seek” part of Seek-Sense-Share, with sharing only at the level of filtering a set of public bookmarks. My approach to sense-making is opportunistic, driven by the needs of the moment, and often quite ephemeral – knowledge is cast away to the depths of memory when not needed for the task in hand.

I’ve noticed a number of things, which I now suspect are related:

  • I become more and more convinced that email is toxic, yet find myself dragged back into using it by the unhealthy habits of those I work with. Although I find the collaboration in Luis’s #no-email Slack group to be a great support, I spent much of last year not participating
  • I’m increasingly aware of tensions whenever I think about long-form writing and thinking – a whole blog post feels like a lot of pressure! 🙂
    As an aside, I wonder if in fact my long-form thinking is being expressed in a different medium – code – although the job title might mislead you, I write quite a bit of code these days  – and “code is poetry” after all!
  • I find myself attracted to Federated Wiki – the combined timelessness of wiki ( = “no pressure”) with it being “my site”. The ability to quickly bang together related thoughts on pages which are never “finished” feels more accessible than the blank page, dated post, tyranny of the blog
  • I like the speed of Fargo (although the default blog style with dates is a bit reminiscent of timelines). Publishing via smallpict.com is baked in, if I plan to use this tool more I want my own server, and not just syndicate it.
  • Regardless of anything I say in this post, I’m still quite attracted by the immediacy of a Twitter timeline, the frequent updates on Facebook, the serendipitous comments that arise when I post the name of the film I am about to watch – I’ve realised that acknowledging that attraction is a key step in starting to build something else into my practice


Part of recognising an issue is to be aware of the feelings of discomfort, and part is having the right concepts to categorise what is happening.

I came across Mike Caulfield‘s multifarious online presences when I started looking into Federated Wiki. The ones that have seemed most useful in this context are where he has drawn out the definition of StreamMode, contrasted with StateMode  (bloghighlighted version). In his words,

“You know that you are in StreamMode if you never return to edit the things you are posting on the web”
(context, src)

Mike recognises that StreamMode may have some advantages, and Bill Seitz makes an interesting contrast link to Tim Kastelle  on Managing Knowledge Flow, not Knowledge Stocks


“We end up hitting Twitter refresh like sad Skinner-boxed lab rats looking for the next pellet instead of collaborating to extend and enhance the scope of human knowledge.”
(context, src)

Or in the words of Jack Dorsey – “Twitter is live, Twitter is real-time” – both its strength and its weakness.

The Firehose is addictive – it makes us feel “in touch with the pulse” at the same time as it weakens our ability to pause and take stock – it is the refined white sugar of the knowledge world.

What’s Next

Change relies on motivation and a plan.

So you have an addiction – do you really want to fix it?

Why would I want to reduce the hold that StreamMode has over my online interactions?

Put very simply, if I’m going to spend time online, I want it to be useful in some way – personally, professionally.

And the plan? Reinforce positive behaviours, and manage those which are inefficient, unhelpful or not-fun.

Although I complained above about being dragged back into the toxicity of email I have had some success with “Working Out Loud“:

  • Using a product management toolset that within the scope of a single user licence allows me to make my planning work visible across the company, and for colleagues to comment, and create their own ideas for change (sorry for the plug, but I really like the tool)
  • With internal and external technical teams, reinforcing the use of DVCS repositories, and using comments and pull requests as a way of documenting our design discussions
  • Wherever I can, moving more general internal discussions to a combination of Yammer and internal blogs

So a big part of my strategy is to keep using these, and move more and more of my “inside the firewall” conversations to them.

Outside the firewall, in many ways I feel I have been going backwards, not least because outside the firewall is where the stream is so pervasive.

I think the first step is to take back some control, and of all the things I have read, Luis’s approach to gripping Twitter by the throat and bending it to his will is the most appealing.

So I’m planning my own version of the “Great Unfollowing

That will do for a start. There will be more on evolving practices, but another secret to making a change is not to try too many things at once.

And change often needs a public commitment – here it is!


PKM40 – what have I learned so far?

I’m currently following Harold Jarche‘s “Personal Knowledge Management in 40 days” course. We’re just over half way through, and Harold recently challenged us to reflect on what we have learned so far, and what we would like to achieve.

At the start of the course I thought that I was fairly familiar with the material, and that this was really just a refresher. Much of what has been presented is familiar, but looking at it again, with specific exercises, has made me look closer. I’m recognising (perhaps not for the first time) that my particular challenge is that professionally I tend to need to know “quite a lot about quite a lot”, and this seems to fit my learning preferences. (aka “butterfly brain”!)

In practice this means that I tend to have fairly broad nets for the “Seek” part of PKM, but my sense-making tends to be fairly limited in the public arena – usually limited to annotations in Diigo. Certainly in professional terms sense-making seems to be something that takes place in the production of specific work products, and then discarded as we move on. Although I have had a blog since 2002, little sharing happens here at the moment – in fact the bulk of my sharing is implicit (via Diigo), combined with some rather “noise like” retweeting from time to time.

So what do I want to do differently?

In common with at least one other person on the course, I’ve started to see that my knowledge-seeking has become a bit too unfocused, a bit too broad. I’m starting to refine Twitter lists, and hone the collection structure in my feed.ly. I’ve experimented a bit with converting Twitter searches to RSS feeds (using this technique), although at the moment I don’t think I’ve found the right combination of search terms to give me usable filtered streams.

In terms of overt sense-making and sharing, I’ve started being more attentive to “working out loud“, especially the combination of “Narrating your work + Observable work”, although that takes different forms depending on the work. I’m paying more attention to blogging inside the firewall, and I’m looking for more opportunities to write about what I am doing for work in a non-compromising way on my public blog. The main challenge is the amount of time a blog post can take, so again trying to make that part of my process rather than an addition.

I’m very interested in the concept of roles in PKM, not just in terms of seeking out those people for my network, but in terms of identifying and filling the gaps, and the overlap with roles in action-based networks.

Starting the Journey to a Social Business

What benefit are companies getting from social?

A recent McKinsey survey found that use and integration of social tools have had most impact, perhaps unsurprisingly, on customer-facing activities. Based on the responses of the companies that were most committed to the use of social technology, there are also large benefits to be found in the more operational and back-office functions, but that to get there, companies “must become better at engaging more employees, customers, and external partners through social tools, then capturing new benefits and measuring them in a systematic way“.

It was noticeable across their survey that the companies which were “fully networked” saw significantly greater gains from internal and external social interactions across all processes:


What’s behind this?

Walter Adamson, writing at Kinship Enterprise commented on these McKinsey results, and his opinion, the reason fully networked companies get better ROI from social technologies is fundamentally about the way they view the world – “Companies that are using social technologies just internally have a different mindset about the value of social technologies than those using them internally and externally

As Walter says, mindset is hard to change, but by embracing communities of purpose that transcend the organisation boundary in the service of collaboration towards a shared vision, then there is possibility to co-create social good. On a more cautionary note he says that before companies can reach for that goal, they have to make sure that the processes that are built around social technologies are the way the work is done, and not something glued on the side

Dion Hinchcliffe has a not-dissimilar stance on the strategic value of social business , classifying the benefits into:

  • Tactical improvements on ways of working
  • Supporting tacit interactions
  • Re-imagining institutional practices


Looking across these ideas, there’s a common starting point, in terms of changing basic business processes to make full use of social technology – Hinchcliffe classifies the likely benefits as “finding needed information faster, lowering operational expenditures, higher customer satisfaction/retention, increased productivity, more successful innovation, and reduced travel/communications costs“.

However both Hinchcliffe and Stowe Boyd (Understanding the failed promise of ‘social collaboration’) warn that the real benefit will come from processes and tools that support “deep work” – “Cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve“. It may be that this is the area where Harold Jarche‘s approach to Personal Knowledge Management has most to offer in an organisational context.

The third level of benefit, the transformation of a business into something that transcends the organisation boundary, is clearly the furthest target of all. Hinchcliffe offers some clues though – using social as the starting point for digital transformation, understanding the 22 power laws underneath social business, and letting go and letting the network do the work


Links to annotated versions of the sources via my Diigo library: