E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

Freelancing

#Movistar – Who Owns Your Customers Problems?

Movistar's ADSL Connection Speed TestAnd after 69 rather long, frustrating and somewhat infuriating days of a much anticipated wait … HABEMUS INTERNET! Yes!! You are reading it right. After nearly 2.5 months of waiting for Movistar to, finally, get their act together, I am now, at long last, properly online through my regular landline and its corresponding ADSL connection. I know this may sound a bit silly and everything, but, boy, I am just such a happy camper. Excited, even, to no end like a young kid in a candy store for the first time not knowing exactly where to start just yet, as I get to witness how 2015 can now begin for yours truly with today as my first official day back at work.

Relief. Much relief.

That was my initial feeling last Friday afternoon, when the local technician came along to patch things together one final time before I was back in business. And what a journey it has been all along! I am not too sure I will be very willing to go through it again at some point in time, specially, since it has been everything but pleasant. Everything but delightful. Nonetheless, if there is anything that this whole experience has taught me over the course of weeks is to embrace the opportunity of highlighting how key and fundamental for an overall excelling client experience would be the whole notion of ownership. Allow me to explain …

Once upon a time, on November 7th 2014, to be more precise, I moved out to a new place, right in the city centre of Playa del Inglés, (Gran Canaria) 3rd largest city in the Canary Islands during high season, thinking that I’d be much better connected to the Internet in order to be able to carry on with my knowledge Web work. Wishful thinking, I suppose. I mean, how naïve can someone be to expect that if you go to a much larger city you are bound to assume to have better, faster, cheaper Internet connection. No, not going to happen. Not likely if the ISP is Movistar.

During the course of the following 67 days (Yes! 67 days!) a lot of things happened in the mean time that, if anything, only helped increase my frustration and rage to levels I have never experienced over the course of the last 18 years I have been online and in multiple cities and countries, as I witness how every day that I was not online I kept losing an opportunity to generate some more revenue, resulting, in the long run, to having lost three (potential) clients along the way. If you have been reading this blog for a little while now you may have read already the couple of blog posts I have put together on the topic. This entry is the follow-up one to them all as on the 67th day something happened.

I got to talk to a human. For the first time. And it was weird, because he wasn’t even a Movistar employee but a sub-contractor from Montelnor who was basically just as surprised as I was for being the first person I talked to face to face and who pretty much showed up where I live as his boss told him they were running out of time on the complaint I apparently raised (I don’t recall having made such claim in the first place, so probably someone did it for me, after nothing happening for 67 days in a row, who knows…) and therefore they needed to act. And pronto! I was in trouble. Big trouble as he kept explaining how the place where I now live was not wired at all and the telephone box was a complete mess. And it certainly was! I saw it and too bad I didn’t think of taking a picture to see the messy situation of how this particular telco looks into the whole concept around maintenance of infrastructure. Or the lack of, better said. What a real mess!

According to this technician’s words I was in trouble, because the place where I now live was not wired and that was beyond his control. Nothing he could do or influence to make the necessary adjustments. The local technical service from the complex where I live needed to patch me up instead, apparently, according to his colourful commentary.

Meet Frank. Although not his real name, he is the guy from the technical service. A quick short visit, an explanation of the problem I have, a fast and rather thorough look here and there at where the problem was and off he goes! Bang! On to solving the problem.

Next morning, while I was working at a friend’s home stealing, once again, their wifi, so I could meet up a couple of clients I will be visiting this week in Madrid, he shows up with one other technician from the same subcontractor company and before I could blink on my way back home the whole house is fully wired and ready to go! Whoahhh! What a difference owning your customer’s problem makes!

The next day, the subcontractor technician who was there the day before worked out the final piece of magic and after a couple of hours fiddling here and there the landline gets installed, and I FINALLY have got an Internet connection. And the nightmare is, at long last, over! 69 long days are now a thing of the past! Yay!! No, wait, DOUBLE yay!!

Needless to say that Frank did a superb piece of job (and got a lovely tip as a result of that!) in showing and demonstrating first hand to both the Movistar and Montelnor (the subcontractor company) technicians and customer service / support teams one of the fundamental traits of delivering a delightful client experience, regardless of whom the client may well be: no matter what, as the service provider, you always own your customer’s problem. No exceptions.

And that is essentially where both Movistar and Montelnor failed big time to deliver. They never even attempted a single time to own my problem (i.e. the transfer of a landline and ADSL from my old home to my new one, never mind the additional services contracted and already paid for, like Fusión, which I am still waiting for it to be completed, by the way!). Yes, I know, I am one of the 22 million customers Movistar has, but it is of no excuse really to make a single customer wait for nearly 2.5 months before having their needs or business problem(s) solved. And that’s what total ownership of your customer’s problems is all about: becoming responsible and accountable for your client’s needs and wants, something that Frank understood really well right from the beginning and who within the course of a single day got everything sorted out. Flawlessly and in a heartbeat and always keeping me in the loop of what was happening so I would know the due progress just as it happened.

Why can’t companies that claim to be customer centric get this? Why can’t companies that keep claiming they work really hard on providing excelling client experiences, but fail to deliver, become more accountable and responsible for putting actions behind the (useless) marketing words they utter all over the place time and time again? Plenty of people out there keep saying how we are entering the age of the most personalised, individualised and customised client experiences than ever before, yet it’s got to be Frank, who has been working as technical service for over 35 years, the one who keeps demonstrating on a day to day basis what owning your customer’s problems is all about becoming more customer centric, more accountable and responsible for your work and eventually more human.

Why can’t companies become more like Frank? Why can’t companies become more human by showing more empathy and engagement when dealing with their customer’s problems? Why can’t Movistar be one of them?

Movistar, are you really listening? I hope you are, because otherwise I think you may have just lost another customer …

 


 

PS. Oh yes, the picture I have shared above, as part of this blog entry, is the actual speed test I did right after I got connected the Web through ADSL and, I know what you may be thinking… gosh, it’s awfully slow for today’s standards, I suppose! Well, yes, it certainly is! But I guess it’s better to have such speeds than having no Internet at all, like I have just gone through for nearly 2.5 months! But it gets better, because once again Movistar failed short on the expectations raised, because when I first moved to this new place I was advised I would be enjoying speeds of up to 10 Mbps download (Not lightning fast either, but a minor improvement!) and instead this is the current speed I’m getting and it won’t go any way further up at this point time at all. So I better get used to it, I was told. The alternative would be rather ugly.

Fibre. What about fibre?, you may say, right? Well, according to this very same technician from Montelnor I can just simply forget about it, because by the time it arrives right where I live, right in the city centre, I will probably be bored by then… Talking here of waiting times for over a year or much longer, IF we are lucky! Arrrggghhh

We will just have to wait and see…  I guess, in the mean time, I can get to enjoy the current speeds from my 3G / 4G mobile phone:

Movistar 3G Speed Test

I suppose this is the current rather appalling and extremely poor state of things of a telco / ISP infrastructure like Movistar’s, where the local 3G / 4G speeds of your mobile device are FOUR times faster than the regular fast ADSL line back at your home place. As Benjamin Zandler would probably say, “How fascinating!

Not!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. A well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

2 votes
Read More »

#Movistar Killed the Web Star

No Internet ConnectionImagine if all of a sudden you decide to embark on an experiment where you try to figure out what it would be like to live without access to the Internet over a certain period of time not only for your day to day work, but also for your personal life. Complete switch-off from everything online. Would you be able to do it? And, if so, for how long? Imagine if that experiment then turns out to be, eventually, the worst of nightmares as it becomes your new reality and for much longer than you anticipated and your work that depends on it (as a knowledge (Web) worker) goes into an unpleasant halt you just can’t get out of any time soon. Would you be able to hold it for any much longer? Well, don’t imagine, that’s the story I’ve been going through myself in the last few weeks as I got to experience, first hand, and in full force, how Movistar killed the Web Star.

There are times where one’s patience starts to run out. You know, you try really hard to be patient, you always aim for doing your very best at it, but you still run out of it nevertheless no matter what. Well, mine just did. And it is not pretty. Reality kicks in. After 52 days (Yes! 52 days exactly today!) of waiting for my local telco / ISP provider, Movistar (Telefónica), to, finally, get their act together and transfer the old existing landline and ADSL connection to my new home place in another town I can now confirm how Movistar itself treats over 10 years of customer loyalty: really sorry, but it looks like you are pretty much screwed and we just can’t care less for you nor your working needs. Tough luck. 

See? That’s what Queen Betweens do. Or, basically, what single monopolies tend to do over the course of time: squeeze their customers to no end charging them through the roof for their own profit for services you can’t use fully by constantly ignoring your needs while providing you with everything but a delightful experience. More of a horrifying experience, if I may add. Why? Because they can. Because they can’t care less about who you are, what you do, what your needs and wants may well be or what the potential consequences of their exponential incompetence at failing to provide what they themselves call “good” customer service may well be. They don’t. They can’t. They won’t. Ever. 52 days and counting…

This is the story of a 10 year long loyal customer of a local, nationwide, telco provider who has had just about enough of being treated like utter crap, mostly because, you know, I am just A customer. Like any other customer. So who cares, right? I am just incredibly easy to ignore and delight accordingly, apparently. Remember those good old times from over the course of last 2 to 3 years when plenty of businesses have been pouring down our throats their lovely marketing messages about how we are living in a hyper connected, always-on, digital mobile world where businesses can now provide individualised and incredibly customised excelling experiences to clients based on their needs and wants? Well, let me tell you something: what a bunch of bollocks! At least, for Movistar, as it’s taken them over 50 days (and still counting!) to accommodate the needs of one of their many customers. And the answer I keep getting back is that the issues will be sorted out really soon. 52 days later, *nothing* has happened other than being charged over 250€ for a set of services I just don’t have. Not even a single “We’re sorry for the inconvenience” coming through!

The thing is that I am not A customer. I mean, if I were a client who may not have had an urging need to use the Web and the telephone as his primary means of income and revenue, I would probably be ok without the phone nor the Internet for nearly 2 months. The thing though is that I *am* a knowledge Web worker and, as such, I pretty much *live* on the Web. I do have a constant need to be hyper connected, always online, so I can carry out work with clients, wherever and whenever they may well be, while collaborating and sharing our knowledge together over the (Social) Web. Yet, I can’t, because Movistar, apparently, after 10 years of being loyal to them, still doesn’t know me, nor my needs or requirements to conduct knowledge Web work. Yes, apparently, 10 years aren’t enough to get to know who your customers really are. Troubling, really. And frustrating to no end!

The end result? Me losing customers (and revenue!!) every single day gone by so far! With the move to the new home, and as some kind of cruel punishment by Movistar inflicted upon myself for wanting to start a new life (You can probably sense now how frustrating things can get when you are excited about moving to a new home, but yet you can’t work at it as I’ve done over the last 12 years as a remote worker!), I have lost the opportunity to constantly keep working on the pipeline for 2015 for new work, which was the original plan for this month, December, for yours truly. I have also lost the opportunity to continue working with current clients because we just can’t hold up any kind of knowledge work like collaborating remotely through digital tools, video conferencing, conference calls, etc. etc. Everything is on a stand still, except for paying bills, of course. Even those to Movistar itself for a service they keep failing to provide across for nearly two months now. 

The thing is that in terms of remote customer support through Twitter, SMS messages, phone calls and what not, the client experience has been incredibly delightful. The fire extinguishing activities keep mounting up by the day and the folks behind @Movistar_es keep doing a good job in taming and containing my patience from turning into rage, although lately, the responses and keeping me up in the loop is starting to fall behind, probably because they are getting just as tired and frustrated as I am right now as we speak for not seeing the issues getting sorted out any time soon. Bless them for the superb piece of work they are doing in camouflaging the utterly crappy service Movistar is providing to this customer at the moment. Bless them for totally understanding my problem, or so they tell me, of not being connected and losing revenue day in day out, and doing their best, which, apparently, hasn’t resulted in much happening anyway, as I am still without a landline nor ADSL, after a few weeks gone by, but I am still paying for that lack of service. Oh, the many joys of the Community Management Team. See why that whole system is broken? Bless them for trying though, they have just been eaten alive by the system along with yours truly. 

It all started on November 7th, 2014, when I requested the transfer of the landline and ADSL to my new home place and I was told the whole process would take between 5 to 20 days. I told myself, perfect timing, as I will be travelling for the remainder of November to 3 different countries to do work for clients, and upon my return it would all be installed and ready for me to carry on with my job. Wishful thinking. On the same week I got back I got a phone call from one of the local technicians telling me that the place where I now live doesn’t have any more free physical telephone line connections, so they would need to put a new box, which may require another 5 to 20 days for it to be processed. Panic mode kicks in as December starts and I can’t do any work any more from my home office.

Yes, I know, I have been stealing the wi-fi at friends’ homes for pretty much any kind of urgent work, but it’s been incredibly embarrassing to admit to them how much money I get to spend for a service I’m not getting while I’m using theirs. Frustrating to no end that here we are, last day of 2014, and we still have got these connectivity issues in a more hyper connected and always-on world that ever. But is it really? Apparently, it isn’t!

Weeks go by and I get another phone call where I am advised that things are going to be a bit tough because to get a new box is going to be challenging as they are no longer investing in copper, by in fibre (which will take still a few more months to come where I currently live, so not a choice), and the whole process of funding, just for that box, would need to kick in. There aren’t any guarantees, I got told and at that point the first glimpses of desperation and rage kick in as I keep telling them they just can’t cut me off the Internet grid, because of a box. What am I supposed to do with my job as a knowledge (Web) worker?!?!?! Please! Can we get a sense of reality kicking in on the kind of impact such decision would be having not only upon myself, but the family I’m trying really hard to sustain without falling apart into pieces?

Apparently, not! A few days more go by and I got another phone call where I’m told they finally got the confirmation the box funding went through, the request was processed and it’s just a matter of a day or two for a local technician to come along, install it all, and we are back in track. No, we aren’t. I was advised that on December 29th, the local technician would be coming along and do the magic. Alas, no magic happened, I am afraid, only a steady increase of being ticked off about what’s happening. I just can’t believe it. I’m still disconnected and not a chance to know when exactly it would all be fixed, specially, during this Festive Season where everything seems to go on a pause till after January 7th. My goodness! Can I wait for another 2 to 3 weeks?!?!?! No, I can’t! I need to start working again and pronto!

But you have got the 3G / 4G on your mobile plan, right? Yes, I do, but that’s not been very helpful, either, as I currently have got a 6GB quota allowance per month that, given the kind of work I do, I pretty much basically burn it all out in about 2 to 3 days and, once again, here  I am, back to stealing friends’ wifi connections at their own homes. The level of embarrassment and apologising keeps increasing by the minute. Desperation increases a notch or two when you realise it may well be about mid-January next year when it all may be fixed, if at all (as I was wrongly? advised on another phone call not long ago, where I thought it would be mid-December… No, mid-January, apparently).

Unreal! You can now see why I have pretty much run out of patience already, right? Well, it gets much worse! Because the mobile telco is the same ISP that’s supposed to fix the issues (i.e. Movistar) and I am only getting charged more and more money by extending the mobile quota of data. But “what about public wi-fi spaces where you live in the south of Gran Canaria that you could use?”, you may be wondering, right? Well, once again, no good news, I am afraid, as Wi-Fi Finder tells me there aren’t any around me within a close distance and I can only go into a hotel to pay for a daily fee speeds that would take me back to the late 90s. Yes, I’ve tried it already and it’s not even a mild option to consider. 

“Of course, you know, that happens to you because you live in paradise island and people are on holidays over there!!!”, you may be thinking as well right? Really? Here we are, once again, coming close to 2015 and we still think that way? Let me share with you all the incredibly huge missed opportunity by that same telco / ISP provider AND the various local government organisms AND perhaps also the European Union in their so-called efforts to digitised Europe on what they are missing by not working the magic of free public wifi spaces across the board. Go back 10 to 15 years ago, when you use to go on holidays to sunny paradise islands in the middle of nowhere. How did you get in touch with your family and loved ones back then? A long distance phone call, reverse charge, perhaps? A postcard? Complete silence till you got back?

What do you do nowadays when you go on holidays? How do you keep up with your loved ones and share with them what a wonderful holiday you are having and find out how they are doing as well instead? I bet it’s not a phone call, or a postcard, or just complete silence. I bet it’s all pictures, video clips, snippets you feel inspired to create and then share them across the Web by costing you an arm and a leg in hugely expensive roaming charges or countless hours of hunting down a decent Internet connection somewhere. Over the weekend, as an example, I was eating lunch at a restaurant when a guest, an older lady, asked the owner whether he had free wifi or not and when he said he didn’t she humphed and left the place (lost another customer right there!) reminding me, once again, about the huge opportunity of not thinking that the Web should start to become as pervasive as electricity is nowadays… Even a right!

No, it’s probably better to remain a monopoly by some telco providers as I am currently stuck in this situation. Unless Movistar transfers that phone line I won’t be connected through ADSL / wifi any time soon. I can’t go to any other telco providers as they hold the physical line work themselves. I can’t go to Internet satellite providers as they are even pricier and for rather poor connectivity coming along. I just can’t live on 3G / 4G unless I drastically change my working habits, or perhaps even find another kind of job, which has crossed my mind over the course of last few days as I keep contemplating Plan B & C that I have written about in a former blog post. See? This is how screwed up the whole situation is that I have to contemplate the prospect of changing my entire career and look for other job opportunities where being connected is not very much needed, but just a nice-have thing to have for when you come back home from work. And all of that due to the sheer incompetence of a telco / ISP that just doesn’t care much about the potential impact of their non-service to their customers even though they are paying loads of money for services they are just not using! 

That’s the main reason why I have been offline for vast majority of the time since I shared my previous blog post and while I thought I would be coming back to the social grid shortly, it looks like it’s not going to happen any time soon. Even worse, I don’t think I’d ever get a single response to this blog post, never mind getting the issues sorted out in a timely manner (Remember, 52 days and still counting…). It probably even won’t be noticed, because, you know, after 10 years of being their customer, they just don’t know me much. They don’t seem to have enough data of myself, throughout all of this time, to make an educated decision of fixing the issues as soon as possible, as they have now screwed this customer for good. 

A couple of years ago I blogged on how Social Business is all about People to People Business and, ironically, featuring Movistar themselves as a success story. Oh, my goodness!, how naïve I was back then! I guess I can now withdraw those words from here onwards and confirm, sadly, that Movistar is everything but a people to people business. It’s more of a Queen Between with an urging need to die a slow and painful death pretty soon IF they keep on working this hard to disservice their loyal customers! Yes, I’m an optimist and I know there is hope, but will they, finally, get their act together and help me before I move on? The clock is ticking… Time is the new currency. They have already lost 52 days and counting …  

 


Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. A well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.


[PS. If you happen to have read this article, currently live in Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria, and can offer a coworking space with a decent Internet connection where I can start working right away or if you think you can help out with my current connectivity issues, please do get in touch. I would love to talk with you!]

0 votes
Read More »

Active Listening – When Shutting Up Matters

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the SpringThere is a lot that the business world can learn from NGOs in general. And vice versa, I am sure. We all know that. But if there is anything that I have learned just recently that certainly has stroked a chord with me in terms of what would be rather critical and paramount for enterprises (whatever the size) to, finally, understand and embrace in equal terms, is to stop being both rather patronising or paternalistic and, instead, just shut up and listen. After all,  “[…] In economic development, if people do not wish to be helped, leave them alone”. Why? Well, it’s all about respect, really. 

Servant Leadership can take you, and will take you!, very far, if done correctly; that is, when it’s done around the passion of local people (i.e. employees, knowledge workers, citizens and what not), who have got a dream to become a better person. That’s why empowerment, as a concept, in the business world, is just such a fully loaded word and so very broken, as my good friend, John Wenger, wrote, not long ago, over at “Why you can’t empower someone”.

What we can do, instead, is go ahead and help people find the knowledge, so that they are capable of pursuing their own goals and outcomes based on their own passion(s). That’s why enablement trumps empowerment time and time again. After all, it’s pretty simple I suppose, if you look into it. You just can’t empower people per se and get away with it, as if nothing happened. Eventually, and perhaps without realising about it too much, that’s when you become rather patronising and paternalistic altogether showcasing you know way better than everyone else, when that may well not be the case, and therefore you think you can still retain that position of power, status, decision making and entitlement, and, therefore, respect, even if you never had it in the first place, because you never show it for others for that matter. See? There is a lot to learn from NGOs. At least, from some of them

What we can do, essentially, is to enable them (knowledge workers) to empower themselves to be the leaders of change they want to become. And become yourself, in the process, a facilitator, understanding that they won’t succeed alone and that they would need to find partners to be able to strike for the magic. And you are their partner.

Apparently, “planning is the kiss of death for entrepreneurship”, so what you would want to do, instead, is perhaps invest in the community aspect of getting work done together, as partnerships driven by openness, transparency, collaboration, knowledge sharing, respect, passion, common purpose, etc. etc. away from the traditional hierarchical silos, where applicable, and start working together towards that notion that work happens around communities and networks versus the traditional top down (now obsolete) hierarchy and that

“The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, energy and imagination of its own people”. 

Again, there is a whole lot the business world (And everyone else, in general, for that matter) can learn from NGOs and earlier on this week I myself had that very same wonderful opportunity while bumping into this particular TEDx Talk by Dr. Ernesto Sirolli (Special thanks to Roxanna Samii for sharing it along!) under a rather evocative and suggestive title (“Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!”), where he comes to present with lots of charisma, humour, wit and plenty of drama, an overall incredibly passionate speech about the advantages of working in small local groups or local communities for maximum impact, through facilitators who help inspire entrepreneurship where it matters, as partnerships with different people who may well have different skills and talents, but with one key aspect in mind: that is, instead of you or me or us doing the talk we just keep quiet, shut up, and listen to those folks who we may need to help, eventually, find the knowledge as well as the resources they need for them to pursue their own passion(s) further along: 

 

There is a whole lot more than I could say and write about regarding this absolutely stunning presentation by Ernesto (roughly about 17 minutes long and very much worth while watching altogether!) with lots more to learn and reflect upon, but there is one thing that has stuck with me big time so far and that I am surely going to embark on from here onwards: you know what they say about doing plenty of research beforehand about your potential clients or new prospects, specially, with the emergence of all of these digital tools, so that you are as well prepared as you should, right? Well, to me, while I continue to do that, I am now also scheduling some time off to watch Ernesto’s presentation to remind myself, over and over again, how there is a great chance for me to help those potential customers succeed big time by just shutting up and listening with intent first to what they would want to do, what business problems to address or what new business opportunities to explore, than just myself doing all the talk, thinking that I know better than them.

The big ah-ha moment for me, after watching this talk, is that I don’t. I am just a helper. An enabler. A people enabler. One of the many out there who can, hopefully, help find the knowledge you may need through relevant networks and communities with a specific single mission and common purpose: to help you change your world with not only the knowledge and resources you may have available, but also through the communities and networks we are all part of. 

After all, you are your (social) networks, and the networks are you, so we better start paying more attention to them, keep quiet and listen both actively and carefully. Remember, “Hierarchies are only as smart as the smartest gatekeepers. Networks are smarter than the sum of their nodes”. 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. A well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

0 votes
Read More »

The Magic of That First Client Engagement

Gran Canaria - El Monje (The Monk)A little while ago I mentioned over here how I would be starting to work out loud more often, through making extensive use of Google Plus, to share additional thoughts and insights on what it is like being an independent trusted advisor on Social Business & Digital Transformation, specially, with the induced massive learning curve, now that the so-called transition period was almost over and I was about to get down to business, i.e. doing client work. Well, I guess G+ is not going to be the only place where I will be working out loud, since I know I will be using this blog as well to pause and reflect on what is going on, and although the frequency may well be rather different, I am excited about the opportunity to perhaps share lengthier reflections on what I learn along the way. Like, for instance, a couple of months ago, when I (re-)discovered the thrill of that first client engagement.

Yes, that is right, if you, too, are an independent freelancer, I am sure you know very well what I am referring to. When 6 months ago I decided to go solo, after having worked at IBM for 17 years, one couldn’t help wonder about what would be happening next. Both the uncertainty and the excitement have been present all along trying to figure out whether the world would have a space out there for someone called Luis Suarez (Remember, the one who doesn’t bite!) vs. that other Luis Suarez who happened to work for IBM as a Social Computing Evangelist and then Lead Social Business Enabler for a good while (Remember, still, that one who doesn’t bite either!). An opportunity to validate not only what you know, but also who you are, and perhaps a confirmation of whether the decision made was a good one. Or not.

Earlier on during the late spring, while I embarked on a short business trip to Madrid, I had the opportunity to meet up, face to face, with my first client for the first time. And what a thrilling experience it was. I am not going to deny I was a bit apprehensive at best at the beginning, since I didn’t know whether I’d be able to sustain a 2 hour meeting with them (as planned and scheduled) to kick things off around their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. 4.5 hours later I came out of the meeting excited and validated. Magic had just started to happen.

You know that moment when you engage in a conversation face to face with your first client and you are nervous, almost on the edge, because you really want things to work out just right and get on with the flow and all of a sudden there is that instant connection where you get carried away with thought after thought in a very passionate exchange, conversation after conversation, one step at a time, on the huge potential of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise and things just click? Yes, I know! Well, I had one of those moments back then! :)

And it felt great and for a good number of reasons. Perhaps the main one being the realisation of what role I may well be playing out there as an independent freelancer: helping enable other people to become better and more effective at what they already do by making the most of their own social business journey(s). Then it hit me why, right from the beginning, I decided to have that so-called title of a People Enabler. Right in front of me I was witnessing, first hand, what I wanted to do from there onwards: helping other fellow practitioners out there become more comfortable, knowledgeable, passionate and overall more interested and engaged in making extensive use of these social technologies to help them get their work done much more effectively and help them re-engage back to the workplace they once built and were very proud of. 

It was magic. Exciting, thrilling and altogether energising. There is probably nothing more comforting than realising you are connecting with your client on a common mission you are both very passionate about and that it is just about to unleash. Right there, all of the remaining fears I may have had with me still just vanished into thin air. You know, after 17 long years working in big corporate world, then deciding to build you own business, is one of those giant leaps you are not really certain about till you bump into experiences like the one I had earlier on in the spring, when I met my first client. You are probably never sure whether your skills, expertise, know-how, etc. could be helpful to others working in another organisation and while I have been working with hundreds of clients over the years, while at IBM, I guess it is a whole lot different when it is just you AND your client in the same room. It surely puts things into perspective… In fact, a really good friend of mine mentioned to me, on a Skype conversation, shortly after I moved on from IBM, how, now that I am an independent freelancer, there is only one boss you would need to attend to and be accountable for: your client(s)! And forget about everything and everyone else. It all just takes a secondary role. Boy, was he right! [Thanks ever so much, David!] 

I never realised I would get this silly just thinking about the excitement of being validated oneself when a client decides to finally work with you on their own Adaptation & Enablement journey around Social Business. But the reality is that I was. I still am! As a first time experience, it’s helped me understand the role of persevering, of resilience, or being patient enough to continue constantly working on the pipeline of potential prospects understanding that magic will eventually happen and that the only thing you would need to worry about is being ready for it. Be there. Be yourself, authentic, honest, trustworthy on what you could deliver and help with and then from there onwards let the client start building their own journey with a final destination that neither them, nor myself, know just yet, but that we both know will be worth while the time, effort and energy well spent on.

Yes, a few weeks have gone by and I am still feeling like a kid at a candy store, specially, after all the joint work we executed on over the course of time not knowing exactly where it would take us all, but understanding it’s a needed step forward in terms of attempting to redefine the workplace of the future for them in this Social Era. It’s kind of an interesting challenge, I suppose, to try to summarise in just a few weeks 15 years of big corporate experience to help a client with their own digital transformation, but that is the main reason why I am certain working out loud is going to become rather helpful, not only to the client, but to myself, in not only understanding where we may be going, but also how as a result of that work together we may be able to help others, who may be on the brink of starting off their own journey(s). 

Do you still remember your first client engagement and how it made you feel? I bet you do. I know for myself it’s going to take me a long while to forget… Remember when I mentioned in previous blog entries how excitement would be trumping uncertainty time and time again? Well, this is just one example of what’s to come and while I have totally embraced the notion of the unknown, as mentioned on yesterday’s blog entry, and adjusted to it accordingly, it’s client work like the one I continue to do nowadays on a daily basis that keeps me going. I guess that was also the whole point behind being a Chief Emergineer in the first place, don’t you think?

Let’s do it! Let’s get down to business then and let the working out loud journey continue!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

0 votes
Read More »

The Soothing Effect of Blogging

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIt’s hard to believe, even for myself, how the last time I wrote a blog post over here was a bit over two months ago. However, it doesn’t even feel totally awkward, as it used to be in the past, whenever I embarked on a longish blogging hiatus of sorts. Not even embarrassing anymore. I know, I am still trying to find an answer for that one, too. Go figure. I guess that’s what happens when a frenzy of activities both personal life and work related take over the daily blogging routines to the point they fall off to the bottom of the list of priorities and at some point they drop out altogether. To never come back though? I doubt it. Seriously. My fingers have been itching for a good while wanting to come back to the blog and keep up with the writing in the long form. Somehow it wasn’t the right time for me to come back just yet. But now that things seem to have settled down a bit, here I am, once again, bringing back my blogging mojo to life and this time around I guess it’s for good. Why? Well, for a good number of reasons, as you are about to see shortly, but, mainly, because I have been missing it all along more than I thought I would and it’s time to get busy writing again! There is just too much going on inside my head that wants to come out and I guess it’s now a good time to stop being the bottleneck and share along … 

Where shall I start then? How can I summarise plenty of the things that I have gone through in the last couple of months into a single blog entry without boring you all to death with my chaotic ramblings and still provide some helpful insights of what I have been exposed to so far? It’s going to be a challenge, I know, so I guess I better get down to it and see where it will take me. And what a better way of kicking things off than instead of writing long paragraphs to keep it short with some quick entry points that I can then develop into additional blog posts over the course of time, specially, for those key areas I’d want to develop further thoughts on as we move along.

Think of it as snacking around into my brain for bits and pieces here and there on what I have been going through in the last couple of months, of what’s been in my mind, what I have been learning, and overall how things are moving along for yours truly, as an independent trusted advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation. So, let’s go ahead and do it! 

  • I can’t believe it’s been 6 months already since I left IBM and decided to go independent as a trusted advisor around Social / Open Business & Digital Transformation. And you know what? It is already starting to feel like it’s been ages ago, to the point where I’m beginning to question why didn’t I go independent 10 years ago when I had the first opportunity and, instead, I let it go? 
  • Yes, life as a freelancer on the subject matter(s) you are truly passionate about has just been wonderful all along, even more so when it all turns into paid client work. Clients who are just as passionate, committed and determined as you are, if not even more so!, in inspiring their own digital transformation and you are capable of bringing to life the “job title” you decided to embrace right from the start: Chief Emergineer & People Enabler. 

  • Back when I was still at IBM I thought I had it just right  in terms of striking that so-called work life integration, only to learn how wrong I was now that I’m fully experiencing what it is like being less busy and hectic, but more effective and creative on what I do, while I get to experience, fully, what it is like living in paradise island.
  • It’s been rather interesting, and somewhat intriguing, to be frank, to finally adjust and embrace the notion that what you thought were going to become work streams and potential revenue opportunities didn’t bring a single euro cent into your bank account after I left IBM. And other activities I thought would never have a chance with me have now become my second, most prolific, revenue stream. Yes, I’m doing a lot less business travelling for public speaking opportunities, I’m doing a lot more business travelling for client meetings to conduct face to face workshops around Adoption & Enablement techniques, regardless of the digital tool(s) in place. 
  • Less business travelling means I’m spending a whole lot more time getting stranded back at home, which is not a bad problem to have per se, contrary to what some people have mentioned when they found out I was moving on and thought I would get bored to death as a result. Not likely.
  • Life works in mysterious ways but always keen to remind you when you are spreading too thin and how it’s time to regroup, refocus on what you really want to do with your work and personal life and stick around with it, getting rid of all of the unnecessary baggage. Yes, family health scares (second one in a year!) will have such an impact that they would manage to make you re-prioritise how you spend your time online engaging with total strangers while you keep neglecting what you have got at home. Always. Never forget that. 
  • Summer months will always be relatively quiet, giving you plenty of offline time to think what you would want to do when people come back to work after the summer break. And, for me, this time around it’s meant coming up with tons of wonderful business travelling opportunities starting off by mid-September and till year end. Eventually, ending up in some kind of European Tour of sorts! Yes, I know, embrace the opportunities themselves, because you never know when they will come up again. Live the moment… 
  • The excitement and flexibility of being an independent advisor still trump the uncertainty of no longer having a fixed monthly pay check. Your brain adjusts, your lifestyle does as well and you manage to learn to live with more intent with less and still have a blast altogether. 
  • Somehow someone decided it was a good idea to pack up all of the different face to face conference events I’m interested in in 2 or 3 months and leave out the rest of the year. So June till mid-July have been somewhat buzzing as will be October – November. Enjoying quite a bit those peaks of activity, because right after I know things will go back to normal, vs. the continuous frenzy from my previous work life. 
  • It took me quite a bit of self-convincing, but after giving it plenty of thought over the course of the last three months, I have finally decided to turn Life Without eMail into another work stream for yours truly. Main reason being? Well, mostly, because after the 6 months that have gone by I can now confirm that even freelancers / independent advisors can, too!, live without email as an effective collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. I will be writing plenty more about this one from now onwards, but, as an example, if last year I was averaging around 35 incoming emails per week (More on that soon!), I’m 6 months into this new life of a freelancer and I’m down to 5.5 emails per week. If you’d remember, the lowest number of incoming email I managed to get while at IBM was in 2011 with 16 emails per week. Yes!!, it’s now time to show the rest of the business world how it works and how everyone can make it happen for themselves. And beyond!
  • It looks like I still have got running through my veins plenty of my teaching, educating, enabling from over the years, as I have been confirming lately with a number of different face to face workshops, so the interest towards Learning in a Connected World is back for yours truly and I suspect it will be back for a good while as I’m getting more and more interested in rather innovative learning approaches like heutagogy. 
  • I still don’t miss Facebook much after having deleted my account over 4 years ago, and specially, given some recent rather disturbing events. And, for that matter, I don’t miss a single bit my LinkedIn account either, that I deleted a couple of months back (as I wrote over in this article). That means, indeed, I am growing thicker, once again, around Twitter, Google Plus, this blog, my Flickr & Instagram IDs (for photoblogging), eventually, abandoning walled gardens to their own fate and trying to enjoy the Open Social Web, while it lasts… If it does … That is why you will see plenty more blogging over here coming along from now onwards, as I have also decided to take an extended break from closed spaces / groups. The legacy from all of them is dead right from the moment you hit the publish / post buttons.
  • There has been a one single event that has reminded me, quite fondly, why I have missed writing on this blog for far too long and that was writing a series of blog posts for a client. That blogging exercise alone reminded me how much I enjoy writing overall and why I’m back for a good while now. I fully understand I am a bit rusty, chaotic and messy at times, like with this blog entry of ramblings…, but, indeed, never underestimate the soothing and enticing power of sharing your ideas out there in the open for others to comment, improve and collaborate around them. It just can’t get better than that. Oh, wait, it certainly can: when the final product is better than the original idea. Collectively. 
  • And talking about writing, there is, finally!, a book in the making by yours truly. Yes, I know, it should have been done a long long time ago, but, hey, it’s never too late if the cause is a good one, right? hehe Stay tuned for more details on it, please. I will be writing about it some more in-depth shortly…
  • Ohhh, one more thing, I am currently toying with the idea of putting together as well an ebook around the Top 101 blog posts that have seen the light over here in this blog over the years around KM, Social / Open Business and Digital Transformation, as it’s approaching its 10th year anniversary in the Internet Blogosphere in memoriam to its predecessor, my corporate Intranet blog, that I got started back in 2003, but that, alas, is now sadly defunct. So long, my dear friend. Thank you for all of the rather good and fond memories from over the years! 

Now, talking about legacy, and an unforgettable footprint left behind, as I am about to wrap up this post for today, I just couldn’t help remembering and celebrating the one from someone who marked my youth (And I am sure that one from hundreds of millions of people out there!), and early years into adulthood, by teaching far too many key learnings and life lessons through the amazingly inspiring power of storytelling than the brilliant, rather witty, humorous, vast majority of times utterly hilarious and comforting Robin Williams. Laughter is a healthy thing. Making people laugh their hearts out is a gift. Quite a special human being, indeed, who always had a kind word for everyone and who knew how to channel through his immense talent to make this world a slightly better place. And now that he is gone, “we just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again”. 

Thank you, O Captain, My Captain!

Get out there and “make your life spectacular!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

0 votes
Read More »

This Is *Your* Ninth Day – Humanise Work #CAWW

I can hardly believe it’s been almost 3 months now since I became independent and, yet, it feels like it’s been like that for ages. Somehow I’m starting to feel like the transition period is coming to an end or, perhaps, even, it never started in the first place. Things have been moving along so fast that there hasn’t been a dull moment whatsoever. The learning experience has been par to none. The massive, and rather drastic, change from having worked for the last 17 years in one of the largest IT corporations out there (IBM) to running your own business, on your own, can be quite something. All along, I knew the uncertainty would be here to stay with me for a good while, yet, the excitement keeps trumping that very same uncertainty, specially, when all of the current work around constantly building the pipeline for new work is starting to pay off as well. But if there is anything that I have been grateful about all along, since I made the move, was joining a very special group of rather talented and very smart folks who have made it worth while for me, all along, coming to work every morning: Change Agents Worldwide. Why? Well, because we may be on the brink of witnessing our collective ninth day. And we need to be ready. Are you?

Yes, that’s right. I thought, in today’s blog entry, I would take the chance to share with you folks one, of the many!, reasons as to why, a few months back, I decided to go and join Change Agents Worldwide as a Solo Change Agent. It’s all about our common vision of humanising work, of living through, day in day out in our daily work routines, how we feel the future of work would be like, except that instead of waiting for 3 to 5 years to see it coming along, we all, collectively, gathered around to make it happen today as we continue to build an uncompany.

Essentially, it’s been about having us explore, first hand, what it would be like what we preach and talk about with much passion and dedication. In a way, we feel we are tasting our very own waters to perhaps show and demonstrate everyone, starting with ourselves!, that it is possible to define the future of work today, after all, making it more human, networked, hyperconnected, smarter, collaborative, open, transparent, engaged. That it is something that begins with each and everyone of us, knowledge (Web) workers and change agents. And that it is a journey we all decided to begin as a group effort where we may not know exactly what the final destination may well be, but we all feel that what really matters is not necessarily that very same final destination, but the journey itself.

That’s what my good friend, and fellow Change Agent, Kevin Jones, did recently when he put together this incredibly inspiring and thought provoking video clip (that lasts for a little bit over 3 minutes) under the rather suggestive heading “Humanise Work: The Ninth Day”, where he comes to reflect, and pretty accurately, too!, on the current poor (literally) state of things within the corporate world and the realisation of what the future of work should be like, and, exactly, relating, pretty well, what motivates and inspires us, Change Agents, to come to work for every day. Take a look into the embedded video clip below and see what you think. Is that the kind of world we would want to live in, the industrial world, that is, or is it time to put a stand on things, think AND do different:

 

So why am I posting about this today, you may be wondering, right? Well, it’s as a result of a good number of conversations I have been having with people, mostly face to face, when they bring up an issue I am pretty sure vast majority of independent freelancers / consultants / advisors / coaches / facilitators, etc. etc. may bump into, if not already, when they start to potentially do client work and the killer question comes up: How are you planning to scale?

It’s a question that doesn’t have a straight forward answer. Or maybe it does. Context and the ever growing complexity of work would probably matter now more than ever. Things are changing quite a bit. Disruption is happening all over the place at a more rampant pace that perhaps anyone out there could have had anticipated all along. Yet, the reality is that question on scalability will have to find a pretty good answer, and very soon, as we are progressing and moving forward, relentlessly and with no turning point, to that so-called Freelance Economy.

Like any economy out there though, specially, nowadays, we all know there will be a number of different issues and problems coming up over the course of time that would put the Freelance Economy to the test, yet, the potential and the opportunity for redefining the whole concept behind meaningful and purposeful work are very real and are here to stay. Never mind re-introducing a whole bunch of concepts that looked like we may have forgotten them over the course of last few decades, but that Kevin graciously reminded us all about on the second part of the video clip shared above.

Thus, again, how are we going to scale in today’s ever growing Freelance Economy then, you may be wondering, and escape that tumultuous uncertainty everyone keeps talking about? Easy. Through our networks. In my own personal case, through Change Agents Worldwide. My primary, core network to get work done in an open, collaborative and transparent manner through a common set of core values we all believe in and share dearly. We know and understand fully we can then scale even further beyond, any which way, through our very own extended networks across the world, co-building, nurturing and cultivating a whole bunch of various different partnerships, as my good friend, and fellow Change Agent, Rob Paterson, blogged about beautifully a little while ago when he explained why he joined CAWW as well.

And best part of it all? It is that for all of us, fellow Change Agents, it’s a continuous learning experience, where we have embraced and live through, day in day out, that good old mantra Harold Jarche blogged about a while ago on “Work is learning, learning is the work”. But you know what is an even better part of this whole new experience and exploration of what the future of work could look like? That you, too, could come along, today, and join us, hire us, play with us, or even start a new adventure with us and eventually help us help you humanise the way we work.

The Ninth Day is coming … Are you ready for it?

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus


 

[Oh, before I let you all go, and if you can, come and join us on May 29th at noon EDT on a webinar that fellow Change Agents Joachim Stroh, Simon Terry and Kevin Jones will be hosting around this very exciting topic: “Creating a Vibrant Social Network Employees Will Love”. Check out this link for more information and registration details and we certainly look forward to seeing you all there!]

0 votes
Read More »