Boye & Company Digital Leadership Conference Notes

Skyline view of Paris with Eiffel Tower in background.
Pile of Boye & Co lanyards on desk.

I attended the Boye & Company Digital Leadership conference in Aarhus Denmark this 7-9 November. I attended two years ago, when I gave a presentation on managing the noise in your content and met so many fascinating and future-thinking leaders in our industry, that of course I wanted to come back!

This year, I attended the Digital Leadership and Digital Communications tracks, among many, many tracks. It’s always hard to choose. The key concept that binds these disparate topics at a digital leadership conference is managing change in our online lives. For techcommers, this means both the AI content and the new world of working processes that will come with it.

So… change management, user experience, employee experience, digital leadership skills don’t seem just for another department anymore. We need to break out of our individual roles and develop this thing as a system together. Strategy (instead of just planning) came out as a strong thread woven through all of it.

Creating a synergy between people in these different disciplines is a powerful exercise in silo busting and a force for the future of content in our field too.

To give you a flavour of what I mean, let me give you a quick summary of a few of the sessions I attended.

Keynote: Rasmus Skjolden

Chief Evangelist at Magnolia (Denmark)

Lessons from the Canvas: Dodging the Digital Wasteland

Magnolia is a well-known agency in Scandinavia I’ve been following for years. Rasmus spoke about optimising digital experiences from his experience as a creative. He underlined that we are not trying to make every website interaction a stunning experience at the equivalent of an opera, but digital experiences today are pretty homogenized and mundane, even after 30 years of the web.

What do we do about that? He suggests that incremental changes are still the way forward to get a better general experience. He suggested the following for consideration when considering what incremental changes to explore:

  1. Originality
  2. Tolerate discomfort
  3. Personal vision
  4. Discipline and flow

Noz Urbina

Content and customer experience consultant (Spain)

The Next Ten Years: AI-powered Content Value Design

Noz has a strong understanding of both structured content modelling and the semantic web. He’s a long-time Firehead Friend and an inspiration with his vision. He’s got a deep connection to the world of Technical Communication and, I think, where it can go. If Noz says something is coming in our profession, I would stand up and listen.

He talks a lot about Omnichannel, and he did here too. Uniting all of the contact touchpoints coming together on a user journey is an important use case for AI. We need to reframe the way we think of it – it’s a tool for our strategy (the humans create the strategy – the AI executes). This is important as we’re moving customer engagement from an attention model to an intimacy model with more dialogue.

He gave us some real-world cases where this is happening. He gave examples of increased customer satisfaction through content and tech, and how we can use journey mapping to create valuable insights. I found his RAUX method of creating clickable prototypes and custom instructions particularly applicable to techcommers.

There will be plenty more of this coming on Firehead..

Mahesh Patel

Digital Strategist, UK

Digital Maturity Assessments and Models: How to Use Them and Why They’re Important

Mahesh is funny in a dry way that makes his presentation enjoyable, while you realise he’s throwing really dense insights at you. He spoke about creating, analysing, and applying digital maturity models from his experiences in the trenches.

User research is key to informing these models, and this is where the crossover with Technical Communication is most obvious to me.

There’s also an important leadership side to it, as techcommers take the initiatve in looking at users’ needs. Organisations need to be looking at their content as assets that fit into their higher strategy and user needs should be driving this.

Resource from Mahesh : Digial Maturity Model/Assessment – You can use this free download to assess a small organization, or even yourself, to see where you are in your journey to digital maturity.

Keynote: Steven Pemberton

World Wide Web pioneer
Researcher at CWI
Chair of the Forms Working Group and the Invisible Markup Working Group at W3C

There’s no I in AI (yet)

There is no true intelligence in AI. ChatGPT etc are parroting text using patterns, and don’t have any true understanding of what they are saying.

Humans are inclined to interpret things from a personal point of view. We all know the stories of “Faces in Things” – There’s a name for this: Pareidolia, which means you see things that aren’t actually there to complete the image for your perception.

There are some pretty amusing stories about how people are surprised when it makes enormous blunders – seeing it as intelligent is just our pareidolia at work.

Still, without real intelligence and human strategic capabilities, AI is going to make a big difference in our work lives as a tool. If it’s used with intelligence.

Other people I learned from

Paola Roccuzzo (UK)

Experience Director at Foolproof

Paola is in charge of their content services for clients, and comes to it with lots of experience formed in the trenches. I always like to hear her presentations, but I had to choose between tracks in her timeslot, so this is from a brief chat we had catching up over a drink.

I found her explanation of her approach to content delivery succinct and insightful.
She says her work falls into three big buckets:

  1. Content design.
    What do you need to work out for users?
  2. Content operations.
    What kind of processes what kind of skills are required to use them?
    What do you put in place so you can create and maintain that content?
  3. Architecture engineering.
    How do you need to structure the content in the backend, so it actually does what you want?

Nina Horstra (NL)

UX Research Manager at Booking.com

I watched her sketchnote Rahel Bailie’s session on Content Operations and I want to learn how to do this! They were beautiful in addition to being really helpful takeaways. (I bought Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook: the illustrated guide to visual note taking on Amazon right after the conference.)

General Takeaways

  • AI is a technology, not a strategy. It won’t even get you one.
  • AI will not replace you, a person using AI will.
  • It’s in the numbers: data-driven companies have outperformed the S&P Index by 219% over ten years.
  • AI enables us all to be programmers without being coders.
  • There’s a lot in existing change management principles that would be useful or AI adoption. 

Thank you, Janus Boye, for another great conference in the City of Smiles!

CJ Walker

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