Like me, Luz Rodrigo started out as a #womanintech in what felt like a long time ago. No Google or Bing back then, instead AltaVista displaying nothing much of interest. Websites developed in Cold Fusion (cold what?) or HTML. This was the Stone Age of the World Wide Web.
Luz worked on numerous digital projects from publishing houses, educational institutions and international organisations including the European Union. 1.0 web was not enough for her so co-founded a crowdfunding start-up as wanted hands-on experience of 2.0 web.
In 2013, Telco, a large corporate were looking for a social media and multi-culturally experienced (Telefónica) community manager as planning their biggest collaboration effort ever. Facilitating a global strategy for 1300 senior leaders using an Enterprise Social Network which turned out to be Yammer. It was no mean feat. They were transforming their Executive Summit from an exclusive, closed door, two-day event into an inclusive, digital, experimental and innovative three-month collaboration programme. Here’s Luz full story from when she took up this new role, which in part reminds me of my own background.
So, you jumped directly to a Yammer Community Management and Strategy role without previous experience?
Yes! It was easy. Having discovered collaborative ways of working never had I felt so happy in a role. I found the speed of Yammer and all the things change agents can do for their team and organizations astonishing. I did not want to do anything else from that moment on! I think technology is a mindset and has nothing to do with software, programmes or applications.
Viktor Frankle author, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ tells us whatever you consider your vocation, it can change and will change along your life. He is right. I always thought I wanted to develop a career in Corporate Communications until I ended up working as an ESN strategist. Nurturing the digital transformation of people, organizations with collaboration technologies are my focus. I will always be grateful to Telefónica for the chance the company offered me to discover my passion.
What happened after the 2013 Executive Summit concluded? How did your role evolve?
Again, a huge turning point for my career in only 3 months of joining. Following the conclusion of the 2013 Executive Summit, I started to operate more as a Yammer customer success manager without realising it. We were just 1.4 people assigned to manage c. 120,000 potential users in c. 20 different countries, with hundreds of external networks running parallel, c. 500 active groups.
We did have some luck on our side. Telefónica’s Yammer Network had grown organically. We did not need to convince or force users onto the network. We always had a base of active members. We supported communities with real strategic and cultural values. For instance, functions dealing with retail and customer support. It was a huge effort but worth it as I was nurturing our company culture towards digital transformation.
At the 2015 Executive Summit, Telefónica opened strategy discussions to the entire company on Yammer. In just two years, this increased the number of people invited to engage from 1300 to 125,000. When you create a collaboration platform and people understand its true value, it has a snowball effect. Transparency and two-way conversations become the cultural rule, not the exception. This ripple effect is not only in the on-line world. It permeates everything else.
What would you do differently? Who is responsible for change management? Difficult to say. It is not a comms task, however comms must be involved. It is also HR, but not only them. It is also about technology with IT, and the CEO Office. So, who should be leading the way?
In our case, the comms department was managing Yammer. HR was the business owner of the project, and IT the technical lead. Other functions were also involved. At the end of the day it’s about trusted partnerships. This is a more than acceptable governance model
However, I truly believe that change agents must operate outside these functions and act independently. Perhaps a small satellite team of consultants hovering in the corporate space. I also like the elevator metaphor. You go from one floor to the next in the organisation and connect all of them, but you do not belong to any. You must find a new way to fit in and, at the same time, change what is old. You need to be able to act as a connector in a hierarchy – a small independent team would serve this purpose perfectly.
What are you doing now? Our objectives were met. We realised employees had stopped frowning when we said: “Your comms plan is great, but what are you going to share on Yammer?” Instead, they asked: “Hmmm the comms plan you prepared for us is great, but what about conversations?” We even stated in a public manifesto we were no longer Internal Comms - more the “Interesting Conversations Team“.
In 2017 my role evolved again. I now lead some Global Internal Comms content projects. I am exploring numerous things, like the reach of internal podcasting. We turned a very complex strategic issue into a “rap” where people can sing and dance, pruning the messages into its true essence.
So, as I mentioned earlier transformation is the common thread in my career and life. As Heraclitus said, “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change”.