Story Telling


I’m a great fan of clarifying use cases by rendering them as a short story.  This page collects examples of stories I’ve used over the years to hopefully inspire the creation of new compelling use case descriptions.

Charity Chain - Alice’s Story[1]

Although she’s saving hard to buy her first apartment, Alice loves to donate to charity.  But she has been increasingly concerned that her donations may not find their way to the intended recipient, recalling a recent press story that in Sierra Leone, a global vaccine provider suspended $530,000 of pledged aid after it was uncovered that the funds had been misappropriated [2].  Alice has recently discovered  This revolutionary new donation platform gives Alice total confidence that the money she donates finds its way to the intended good causes, wherever they are located.  

Alice has rapidly become a big fan of  Just last week she donated $80 to help fund a school for teenage girls in Africa and through their smartphone app, she can see that $75 are now being used by an accredited local building company to build a new science classroom.  Alice is even able to access a photograph of the work as it progresses, encouraging her to donate further to help with completion before the new school year starts.

Whilst not at all technically minded, Alice has heard that uses new distributed ledger technology to drive complete transparency into the end to end donation process[3].  This gives her total trust in the charities, good causes and local agents because they are registered on and Alicia can access feedback from other donors.  Key members of the network must agree to all transactions involving Alice’s donation are valid through a process known as consensus.  And she can see a complete audit trail of all the donations she has made and how they have been used to help her preferred good causes.

At a recent social event Alice met Peter.  Peter works for the Charities Commission, the national charities regulator.  It turned out that Peter is also a big fan of, but for different reasons.  Peter is amazed that has virtually eliminated disputes in the donation process.  Since his employer is also part of the network they can see the complete flow of donations and their usage, hence being much more efficient in their regulatory oversight role.  Peter also told Alice about the Commissions’ recent discussion with a leading charity.  The charity also loves as a new, trusted channel for raising much needed funds for key projects in Africa & Asia whilst providing total clarity on how funds are being spent - from the donor to the recipient.  The Commission are also looking forward to seeing growing over time to bring the benefits of a corruption free charities, good causes and local agents to an ever increasing global network.

Alice is delighted that she has discovered! It gives her the confidence and trust she needs and makes her feel so much better about her continued, passionate support of her favourite charity.

[1] This story - including - is fictitious;  the intention is to illustrate the practical benefits of distributed ledger technology to a non-technical audience.



Hyperledger Composer - Dan’s Story

Following the launch of Hyperledger Composer (a tool to reduce blockchain time to value) I wrote this story, illustraing the power of the tool.

Dan is feeling particularly elated and it’s all thanks to Hyperledger Composer. This is his third blockchain project as scrum master and it’s always a thrill to deliver the end of project demonstration but this one has been special! It’s the first project Dan has delivered using Hyperledger Composer and he’s amazed at how quickly his team was able to show the true value of blockchain to his customer stakeholders.

Dan recalls how blockchain is a trusted, distributed ledger with business processes shared across a business network. Transactions are agreed to by the network participants and blockchain provides total clarity of who’s done what when, and who owns it. Because blockchain provides one view of truth that is resilient to fraud and cyberattacks, it can be a powerful solution for resolving and even preventing disputes among participants in a business network.

Dan was introduced to Hyperledger Composer at a conference a few weeks before the start of the most recent project. For his first two blockchain projects, his development team built the customer solution in another, less common programming language. This meant the team members always needed a few weeks of hands-on education before they could start the development, and it usually led to frustration. They also needed time to get to grips with the fundamentals of blockchain — particularly network participants, assets and transactions — so they could authentically implement the customer use case.

At the conference, Dan learned that Hyperledger Composer aims to accelerate time to value, allowing customers to focus on building their blockchain awareness and deferring business case discussions to the appropriate time in the agile process. As a founding member of the Hyperledger Project, IBM promoted the use of Hyperledger Fabric as a technical foundation for customer projects.

When Dan returned from the conference, he got his team to check out Hyperledger Composer in more detail. They found that the set of open-source development tools running on top of Hyperledger Fabric was designed for quick solution creation through a business-centric vocabulary. It allows developers to start at the business level, modelling network assets, participants and transactions. Applications can use standard interfaces to invoke transactions that create, delete and update assets, and then transfer them between network participants. Hyperledger Composer also makes it easy to integrate the new blockchain solution with existing business systems of record, again accelerating time to value. Dan was impressed, and sponsored the usage of Fabric Composer for his latest customer project.

The use of Hyperledger Composer allows Dan’s team to have a focused conversation with the customer’s business sponsors to quickly define:

The business network and its participants

Assets and transactions plus their relationship with the business network participants

Rules for sharing and privacy across the business network, to control who can see what

The shared business processes, or smart contracts embedding rules for asset transfer

By allowing Dan’s team members to work at a level that makes sense to the business user, Hyperledger Composer shortened the time between the design thinking process and creating a working solution. This allows his customers to demonstrate the true value of a new blockchain solution to key internal and external stakeholders. They found that this could also speed up the blockchain business network formation and allow organizations to realize the full transformational value of their new solution as soon as possible.

Dan is delighted at how Hyperledger Composer has accelerated the time to value on his customer project and is looking forward to using it on future projects.

Keeping Safe with Social Business - Ian’s Story

Military and civilian intelligence organisations analyse of social media interactions to understand the motivations, intent and activities of hostile groups and individuals who are a threat to public safety and / or national security.

In this – the final in my blog series on Social Business Patterns for Government – I illustrate this with the story of Ian, who uses a powerful combination of social business and analytics software to help keep his country safe.

Captain Ian Rencomb has run the intelligence cell of a major European military for 18 months. During this time, he has seen the bad guys increasing their use of social media technologies to plan and execute their missions. Thankfully, his unit has been able to respond in kind, get ahead of this threat and keep his colleagues safe.

Their fight back started with Ian and his boss attending an IBM conference about how social media, big data and analytics technologies could help combat this evolving threat and make his department more efficient at intelligence production.

Too good to be true? They thought so until IBM ran a pilot project for them.

Ian was not an expert in social media. He has seen his kids glued to Facebook twenty-four hours a day and was an occasional user of LinkedIn to keep track of his highly mobile professional network. Until the pilot started, he was unaware that commercial- grade equivalent technologies were available; ones that could be run behind a firewall to make it easier for him to form ad hoc teams to work on intelligence product creation. Ian thought of these teams as akin to rugby scrums.

Ian could assemble a team to solve a problem based on each individual’s knowledge and expertise. The person’s division, organizational department, or physical location did not matter. Being able to set up these ad hoc teams made a difference in the unit’s ability to support the vast number of mission types they faced, ranging from cyber attacks to peacekeeping activities.

The second phase of the IBM pilot project focused on collecting social media activity and using this to augment their open source intelligence (OSINT) analysis capability. IBM built a collection and analysis system from standard software building blocks. It worked in parallel to the existing systems, and IBM worked with the in-house experts to encode their working methods into the rules-based analysis process. They used the IBM i2® Analyst’s Notebook® to allow the staff to visualize and analyze the network of bad guys.

The real breakthrough came when IBM put the two parts of the pilot project together. Ian and his team were surprised to find that the “scrum-based” analyses of social media interactions were as good as their traditional collection sources, but produced results much more quickly.

Using lessons learned from this experience, Ian and his team demonstrated the system to their General just before a head of state visit to Asia Pacific. They queried the social media source system and found of the 50,000 records analyzed, 15,000 warranted deeper analysis, resulting in 14 credible threats. The threats correlated well with the results from the existing systems, which took longer to compile.

Ian is looking forward to his next 18 months in post. He has no idea what missions his team will be required to support, but he has total confidence in their ability to deliver quality and timely intelligence information to his commanders. 

What benefits can accrue?

Excellent correlation with traditional collection methods

Improved time to intelligence product production

Improved team effectiveness in solving complex intelligence challenges

What are the components involved in attaining this type of capability?

IBM Connections handles the eCollaboration elements of this solution, enabling Ian’s team to form “scrums” to analyse Intelligence material;

a collection of IBM and partner products (including IBM Content Analyser, i2 Analyst Notebook, InfoSphere Streams, SPSS & Cognos) form the Social Media Analytics engine.

Stig’s Story - Smarter, Social Employment

Governments want to identify, hire and retain the best available talent. They must also increase the effectiveness of their on-boarding activities to quickly get new hires acclimated and productive.

While almost three quarters of organisations say that employees are their number one source of economic value, some 90% of employees do not have skills to be successful!  Social Networks can form the foundation for finding talent; Social networking is the number one way to attract talent, offering new employees faster time-to-value;  Social business speeds on-boarding and boosts effectiveness in new role.

Stig is celebrating his first anniversary in two new jobs!  During the past year he has spent 20% of his time working as a trainee Weapons Officer on a new class of Frigate and 80% developing leading edge software applications for Government customers.

Over a beer, Stig thinks back to where this journey began some two years ago.  He had always been interested in career in the Navy, but remembers unsettled feelings when the military announced their move to a part time, professional armed forces. 

But then things got interesting.  During his final year at College Stig was delighted to be offered a “virtual mentor” in response to “liking” the Navy’s Facebook page.   Stig quickly developed a good rapport with Julie – a junior officer in the Navy – and they chatted about how he may be able to join the military AND IBM under a new Smart Employment initiative.

Through his online chats with Julie, Stig felt well prepared for the Assessment Center – organized jointly by IBM and the military. The folks that he met were well informed about his interests and aspirations, and seemed genuinely interested in training him for a dual path career in information technology and weapons systems engineering.   Stig was quick to accept the offer of TWO jobs that arrived be e-mail a few days later!  No other offer of employment could possibly combine the excitement, professional challenge and opportunity to serve his Country.

Thinking back over the previous year, if anything Stig’s experience got even better!  On day one, he was given instant access to training material, experts, “how to” guides etc. via the e-Collaboration system.   He was surprised to find that this was accessible from his Smartphone and Tablet Computer, allowing him to progress rapidly in his training at a time and place convenient to him.  

Stig built different networks to meet his various needs.  It was natural to connect via the e-Collaboration system with the other members of his intake, but he was encouraged to actively participate in communities of Weapons Systems engineers and application software developers. 

Stig was quick to do this, seeing this as a professional analogy to his Facebook usage.  He realized enormous value from these network interactions, and they supplemented his classroom based and “on the job” training.  

After a year in the job, Stig is more passionate that ever about adding most value to both his employers as soon as possible, and was sure this comprehensive, social and integrated approach to his recruiting, onboarding and career development has enabled him to do so up to now, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.  Stig is very satisfied about his career choice – both of them!

What benefits can accrue?  Social business report

30% more candidate searches completed annually

25% reduction in time needed to fill open positions

30% faster new hire time-to-value

At least 20% increase in employee retention

Interested in following in the steps of Stig’s employers?  Here are some suggestions

Use externally- and internally-facing social capabilities to connect HR staff, hiring managers and candidates in the recruiting process

Employ social capabilities to connect new hires with HR staff, direct supervisors and other new hires in the on-boarding process

Leverage internal social capabilities to connect new hires with team members and needed expertise to quickly develop productivity

Nicola’s Story - Mergers that work with Social Business

Governments are increasingly looking to department mergers and sharing of services in response to continued budgetary pressures and to improve efficiencies through economies of scale.  But failure rates on (commercial) merger activities are incredibly high, often because the vision for, and culture of, the combined entity is neither adequately considered, nor clearly communicated.

The majority of merger risks are “about people” yet 44% have leadership & communications gap and 27% lose focus on the customer / end goal.  Social business transforms Leadership’s ability to communicate,  connecting all resources to drive towards success.

Captain Nicola Verdi took up his position as Major Incident Coordinator of the Northern Police District some nine months ago when the new district was formed from four smaller units.  The goal was to reduce costs, increase quality of policing and improve their ability to deal with major incidents.  His team needed to deal with a variety of incidents over the past four months and Nicola is grateful for the power and flexibility of their modern crisis response system.

But it used to be so very different . . . Nicola recalls that before the merger, each district had a slightly different way of responding to a crisis.    When three districts came together to tackle an unusual chemical spillage occurring on the border, their response was far from optimal and the national press at the time had a ‘field day’ at the Police’s expense.   Thankfully, at the time of the police district merger the chiefs thought this through, and took advantage of the latest social media technologies to streamline the merger process and enhance their ability to respond to a crisis.

Many of Nicola’s colleagues were skeptical about the merger, stating that the majority of mergers failed to deliver the desired benefits.  They were – however – pleasantly surprised with the new social intranet that was unveiled on day one by their chief, Commander Black.  This gave all department members, at all levels across all physical locations easy and intuitive access to a consistent information base, ranging from a divisional contact directory through e-Learning material,  to changes in procedure and legislation.  Everyone could quickly buy into the Commander’s priorities for the new organization, and could familiarize themselves with the new operational procedures.  There were the inevitable “teething problems” but even the most cynical of officers agreed that the merger had gone much smoother than expected.

Nicola is most impressed with how the social intranet has revolutionized his team’s ability to respond to a crisis.  In reaction to a recent unusual terrorist incident combined with a cyber attack, his Incident Manager was quickly able to pull together a team of experts who understood the specific dangers of the combined attack and provide the most effective containment measures.  This was as easy as querying the social intranet with keywords defining the incident type, and contacting the most appropriate and qualified experts using the system. 

Standard Operating Guidelines and Procedures were available on a tablet computer, enabling the on-site incident commander to ensure that his teams were able to follow proper procedures and interact directly with the experts using a combination of text and video chat.  Hence, effectively containing and recovering from both the physical and virtual attacks.

Between incidents, Nicola noticed that his team members utilize the social intranet to form virtual communities with employees of similar interest.  Nicola recently joined a Counter e-Crime community, and was surprised how much he can learn from his colleagues about the new types of threat and how best to counter them.

What benefits can accrue?  Social business report:

Lower integration costs attributable to reduction of task duplication

At least 20% increase in employee retention

Higher productivity and lower costs due to increased employee retention and 
engagement stemming from cultural alignment

Interested in following in the steps of Nicola’s employers?  Here are some suggestions:

Create and leverage social network comprised of senior leadership and HR of both departments to engage on and communicate a vision for the combined entity

Use multiple social channels and tools to discuss, make decisions on and communicate specific merger actions

Leverage communities to connect the cultures and expertise of the two departments being combined.

Jill’s Story - Reinventing Citizen Engagement

Social businesses can better serve their external stakeholders by using listening and analytics technologies to uncover insights  gleaned from multiple channels and sources.  They then feed those insights into internal social systems and processes, enabling employees to collaboratively respond to citizens with appropriate solutions.

I illustrate this with the story of Jill – who’s trying to balance the needs of looking after her ageing mother with an active career:

Since her mum’s health has taken a turn for the worse, Jill is really pleased to be living where she is.  Illness is to be expected when Rosie (Jill’s mum) approaches her ninetieth birthday, and as an independent lady living at home, having Jill living close by comforts Rosie.

Jill has the interesting challenge of balancing work with looking after Rosie, so she was quick to join a local caregivers support group advertised on her Facebook page.  Since her local Government organizations are so committed to allowing the elderly to stay at home for as long as possible, Jill was not surprised to find that the Facebook page for caregivers was run by the local social care department.  Jill noticed that she knew several other members of the Facebook Group and was quick to add these people as Facebook friends.

When Jill saw a link on the Facebook group to a Social Media application for caregiver support she was quick to download this to her iPhone.  With a few clicks, this app gave Jill instant access to some very useful “how to” guides for part time caregivers, allowed her to post questions to experts and engage in discussions with other care givers in her local area. 

When her mum had to make a routine visit to the hospital at a time when Jill was at work, she was pleased to see that she could book the transport through the app.  On the day of the hospital trip, Jill got alert messages via the app advising that Rosie had been collected, arrived safely at hospital, was collected for the return journey and arrived back safely at home.  These messages allowed Jill to focus on her work, rather than worry about Rosie’s hospital trip!

Jill was also impressed with how the local social care department was engaged in the discussions on both the Facebook group and via her mobile caregivers app.  By monitoring the discussion threads, medical experts were able to engage in the conversations, giving reassurance that the care gives were doing the right thing and specialist advice when needed. 

Jill was particularly grateful for advice about how to enroll Rosie for a remote telemedicine trial, as she felt this would ensure a quicker response if Rosie needed medical intervention.  She was even able to enroll for the trial via the caregiver’s app on her phone.

Although balancing caregiving with work will always be hard, Jill is pleased with her local social services department and is impressed with how they have embraced new technologies to support her in this challenging role.

What benefits can accrue?  Social businesses report

Nearly 50% reduction in customer/agent service costs

>50% decrease in time required to develop new services

20% reduction in man hours needed to create new product release information

Interested in following in the steps of Jill’s local government?  Here are some suggestions

Deploy social monitoring tools to ‘listen’ to and understand citizen sentiment

Use data and social analysis tools to gain insight into citizen’s needs, wants and preferences

Leverage social communication tools to dialog with key citizen groups

Discuss insights about citizens using internally-facing social systems to collaboratively identify, prioritize and develop government services

Kristin’s Big Idea - Knowledge Relationships through Social Business

Pioneering social businesses are shifting their focus from discrete knowledge transactions to on-going knowledge relationships. Governments can create value by sharing knowledge across internal barriers created by organisational structure, and traditional borders between themselves and their stakeholders / citizens.

Early on a Saturday morning is the time in the week when Kristin is at her most creative.  She get’s up early, enjoys a quick swim, a light breakfast and has an hour’s thinking time before family life takes over.   She’s particularly pleased with herself this Saturday as she thinks she’s conceived a big idea . . .

Kirstin works for major Government department on the Asia Pacific rim.  Her team is at the start of a major project to build systems and processes needed to cope with the aging local population.  This is the biggest challenge they have faced for some time, and her department is using their new e-Collaboration Solution to manage all aspects of the project.

So when Kristin came up with her (potential) big idea, she grabbed her iPad and immediately entered an overview into the project “Ideation Blog”.  She sketched out her idea and invited fellow project team members to comment on it.  She knew that this would help refine the idea, or kill it dead!    She then forgot about work and concentrated on her family and the weekend.

Kristin was delighted when she got into work on Monday morning.  Her “idea” had been read 23 times over the weekend, and nine of her colleagues had left comments and suggestions.  Feeling motivated, she set about refining her idea, updated the overview in the ideation blog and created a wiki page to capture a more thorough explanation with supporting materials.

One of the team members had submitted a radical suggestion about integrating new telemedicine technology into their systems.  Kirstin was not very familiar telemedicine, but with a couple of quick key word searched established that there was an Interest Group Community within another Government department focusing on this topic.  She posted a comment to the Interest Group blog, inviting them to comment on the feasibility of augmenting her idea with telemedicine technology.  She also joined the Interest Group to find out more herself.

Throughout the week, Kristin was able to incrementally refine her idea based on expert input from across her Department and beyond.  By Friday her “Big Idea” was pretty concrete and  – with the help of a colleague in the Finance Department – she started to quantify the potential return on investment.  Kristin is able to look forward to the weekend, and next weeks voting session – when everyone in the department could have their say on all ideas – again via the “Ideation Blog”.

What benefits can accrue :

Productivity increases of 20-25% attributable to reduced need for status meetings

Accelerated problem resolution due to more effective use of communication tools

Improved employee engagement and satisfaction

Interested in following in the steps of Kirstin’s employer?  Here are some suggestions

Add social communication functionality to other, existing government applications to foster open conversations.

Make people-based knowledge as accessible as document-based knowledge through expert recommendation and always-available social communication tools.

Ana’s Story - Finding Expertise with Social Business

Employees waste on average one day per week finding information and almost one quarter of customers / citizens disengage through not finding information.

But experts have this information;  the challenge is how to find them?  And how do we know that they are real experts?  All organisations are looking to make the shift from what you know to what you share.

It’s Anna’s ninth month with a major European customs office and she still thinks of herself as the “new girl”.   But already she’s learnt so much from this job – and not just about customs inspection!

Anna joined at the same time as a new Customs Collaboration System came online.  She was surprised about how intuitive the system was to use and immediately noticed similarities with the Social Media apps she used at home.  

Over her morning coffee on Tuesday, Anna thinks back to her first inspection task of the week.  She logged into the system from her tablet computer and picked up a task to inspect a new consignment of cargo.  She walked to where the consignment was located whilst opening up the customs manifest, again on her tablet computer.

The cargo was a pallet of large boxes of medicine labeled in a language that Anna could not read, with markings that she had never seen before destined for a famine stuck Central African region.  Anna photographed the labels and markings using the camera in the tablet and attached these to her inspection task record.  Anna saved the record, making the information available her colleagues in the Customs organization.

Unsure how to proceed, Anna pauses for thought.   Her first reaction was to send the consignment to the lab for further analysis, but she then remembered the “Locate an Expert” facility on the Customs Collaboration System, and uses this feature from her tablet computer to locate a colleague Vince, who is experienced in medicine inspection.  Although Vince is based at the other end of the country, Anna notices that he is on line and immediately starts up an online chat session with him. 

Once Anna has explained the problem, and pointed him at the labels and symbols on the packaging (which he can also access via the System) Vince is able to assure Anna that this is a valid – if slightly obscure – medicine and it’s OK to clear the consignment.

As Anna finished off her coffee, she feels pleased that she was able to clear the consignment of medicine quickly so it could get to the refugees in Africa whist avoiding the week delay of a lab research. In other words, she has fulfilled her department’s goal of trade facilitation.

How is this achieved in practice?  The Customs Collaboration System integrates the customs inspection workflow with IBM’s Connections platform.  Connections provides the ability to find experts, upload photos (via the mobile app on an iPad or Android device), remotely collaborate (via chat or video conference). | @JohnP261