Tell us a little bit about where you work and your role in the organisation.
I work for an organisation called Atkins, a global design, engineering and project management consultancy. We work on major transformation projects all over the world, so never short of something interesting going on somewhere!
Around two years ago I moved from marketing and business development to work in a newly formed Knowledge Management, Collaboration & Innovation Team to look at how we can help the business change, adapt and transform to better utilise what makes our company great, it's people.
My role is focused on the concept of digital communities. How, as a global business, can we better connect our digital communities and knowledge centres across the world to better share knowledge, collaborate with each other, and think innovatively.
Over the past two years, we've been rolling out Yammer, Office 365, our "Global Innovation Network" and our Digital Playbook. It's involved a lot of change for individuals and teams -- but something that's thankfully been well received, especially by our leadership.
Can you elaborate on your transition into business change and digital transformation? What skill set shifts did it require?
My roles previously have been heavily focused on marketing, business development and information systems. I have always been rooted in marketing so the transition into business change, digital transformation and IT was a bit of a shift for me.
However, even before this shift, I've always been focused on how we can use digital thinking and digital services to better improve what we deliver and make better use of the information and knowledge our people and our systems hold. I'm hugely passionate about technology and love to see how it changes the way we work and live so this has always had a big influence on my approach to things.
When I transitioned to my new role, as it was based within our IT division. I went from being the person in the room who understood IT the most, to probably the least! We have some incredibly clever technology experts who over the last 2 years I've been lucky enough to work with and learn an incredible amount from.
What would you say is your most valuable skill? Why?
My knowledge and skills have always been focused on marketing and business development but with a strong side focus on technology. I think my most valuable skill has been to merge the two together, to help others understand the new digital world we're entering.
This has helped staff with limited IT knowledge to better understand new digital products and the digital change facing them by relating it to their business practices and strategies. Ultimately from the end user perspective, they need to understand where these services will add value for them and by relating the benefits to the individual this helps them embrace the change quickly.
A key focus for me is to create a pull for a product rather than pushing it on to individuals. How can we embed the product into our culture and ways of working so that not a burden, but seen as a benefit and an improvement to existing methods.
When were you first introduced to Yammer and Office 365? When did you realise just how powerful the tools could be?
I was introduced to Yammer and Office 365 around two years ago. There were a couple of times for me early on when I realised just how powerful these tools could be in transforming the way we work but also in changing the culture of a business.
When we first introduced Yammer to the business we started off with a pilot which quickly ramped up to around 5,000 members of staff who were all eager and keen to share knowledge. For me one of the things during this pilot was seeing the way people were connecting and how traditional silos were immediately being broken down. I recall seeing an architect in Dubai asking for advice on a project and getting responses from people in the US, the UK and Asia. Instantly it dawned on me that historically, it would have been very unlikely that these individuals would have been connecting, let alone sharing such useful knowledge!
Yammer has continued to connect our staff together globally, whether it's been through crowdsourcing ideas, sharing best practice/good news stories or connecting people with a related interest together. It's really helped to build a collaborative open culture within Atkins.
A big problem most businesses often face is getting the right information to the right people, at the right time, and it was apparent straight away how the collaborative benefits of Office 365 can help to address this. Office 365 has helped us to share updates and information in real time whether it's through OneNote or the co-authoring benefits of Office Online. Being kept in the loop instantly as things are updated and changed is incredibly powerful in ensuring we're working with the latest information available.
What's the most rewarding part of rolling out digital services to your organisation?
I think the most rewarding part for me is seeing how genuinely excited people are to embrace these new services and probably even more so is when someone is initially uninterested in a service but then finally see's the benefit and the positive impact it can bring.
This kind of change to our working practices doesn't always come easy to people, which is completely understandable, it's not easy to change the way we are used to working for a substantial amount of time. However, once you've made the change relevant to an individual and you can see the light bulb moment where they can see the benefits, that is extremely satisfying!
Given the rapid pace of change in cloud technologies and product updates, how do you stay up to date? What resources do you lean on most?
The rapid pace of change in cloud technologies and product updates is incredibly difficult to keep up with, even as someone who is living and breathing it every day, let alone the normal end user. However, it's something that we need to get used to and invest time in to understand. These services bring new efficiencies that help save time, but equally some of that time needs to be reinvested into updating your own skill set. In my mind, being up to speed on your digital skills is just as important as making sure your professional development is up to date, it's something everyone should be focusing on as part of their career development.
In terms of resources, I use Twitter and LinkedIn a lot. I follow some brilliant people with their finger on the pulse who help communicate changes and updates effectively. The great thing about these networks is that you can follow product team members directly to ensure you hear the latest updates. Steve Nguyen, Microsoft Yammer Product Team evangelist, is a great example of someone from the product team who is out there communicating openly with users.
I also try to get out to events and meet people in similar roles to me when I can. The goal is to compare our strategies and opinions to see where we can share lessons learned and ideas. That's how I connected with several MVPs, incredibly knowledgeable in their areas, such as Lesley Crook who always has insightful views on Yammer (and encouraged me to Work Out Loud*, and write this as part of #WOLweek!) and even with our competitors, looking at you, Simon Denton!
We all recently met at a WM Reply event in London that focussed on getting the best out of Yammer, and then another good event on Microsoft Teams. Great thing about these meet up's is everyone is on the same page. Excited about change, enthusiastic about digital transformation, and trying to figure out the best way to nurture adoption change management with their colleagues!
*Work Out Loud. Sharing your work in progress with a relevant community so that you can learn and collaborate together!