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

Open Business

What’s Your Purpose?

Gran Canaria in the Winter

Apparently, ‘two thirds of digital transformation projects fail’. I know that headline may well be both a bit too provocative and rather pessimistic at best, but I guess we can’t deny there are far too many reasons out there as to why that may be happening, as Dion Hinchcliffe himself wrote, quite nicely, over 6 years ago, in a rather insightful article titled: ’14 Reasons Why Enterprise 2.0 Projects Fail’. Even today. When looking into it with a bit more detail though, one can find that perhaps, right at the heart of the matter, one of the most powerful reasons as to why that happens is because most organisations haven’t been able to answer properly the one question that matters: ‘What’s your purpose?’

When talking about Social Business Adaptation (not the same as Adoption, by the way), there are 5 different pillars, over the years, I have considered essential for any successful Digital Transformation programme (not a project either, by the way); and since I mentioned earlier on, in another blog post, that I’d start sharing plenty of the methodologies, strategies, processes and tools I use for my work as an independent adviser, I thought I would get things started with the one single question that, to me, triggers those transformation efforts: figure out the why first, before you dive in to the how.

Throughout all of these years of having been involved in Social Business Adaptation (both while at IBM and nowadays as a freelancer) I have been exposed to a good number of different purposes as to why both people AND organisations embark on that so-called Digital Transformation journey. And time and time again there have been a number of them that typically fall sort of the expectations towards the second year that they have been put in place. Three of them in particular come to the top of the list and I thought I would share them over here in the hopes that, if you bump into them, you may have an early warning, and some pointers, on what you may need to do to shift things a fair bit in a different direction perhaps. On the other hand, there are also plenty of other great purposes for which people/organisations have pretty much nailed their efforts into becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise. So we will talk about those other three as well in a few minutes (Yes, I know, I like to see things in threes and multiples of threes :-D).

Why Digital Transformation Projects Fail?

I am pretty sure that, by now, your head may be spinning around a fair bit coming up with a good number of different reasons as to why you think Digital Transformation programmes keep failing over and over again over the last few years. To me, it’s all down to figuring out what your purpose is. Why do you want to do what you are about to do? What is it that you expect to happen, once you get started with the Social Business journey? And what are, potentially, some of the expectations you would want to meet up at some point in time?

Now, this is not, at all, at this point in time, about trying to figure out the ROI of Social Business. We already had that conversation a while ago and it didn’t take us anywhere. Total waste of time, really. In fact, if you look around, today, you would hardly see anyone trying to question the return on investment from your digital transformation efforts anymore. It’s just not happening. It’s 2015, it’s considered a given. Why? Well, mainly, because we no longer have a choice (never had, actually!). I mean, look at the alternative(s) of not diving in to the Digital Transformation journey. It’s ugly and it will become uglier over the course of time even more so if we keep ignoring the inevitable: change. 

With all of that said, you may be wondering what are the main three purposes I bump into, every now and then, that are bound to create more trouble than help out with those transformation efforts. I am sure you all have your own favourites and I would love to read about them in the comments, but, for me, here are the Top 3 Reasons as to why digital transformation programmes fail, based on what their main purpose may well be: 

  • Cost savings: Bean counters, and everyone else, dealing with the financials of your organisation would love you lots if this is the main purpose of why you would want to start the Social Business journey. Yet, the reality would be quite different. Justifying the existence of a Digital Transformation programme within your organisation as an opportunity to cut / save costs and become more efficient as a result is bound to fail on the second year of life of the initiative. Why? Well, mainly, because there will always be something out there that would help you cut costs, specially, in the technology space, and that means the moment you find something else to help you cut costs there goes your Social Business effort. Down the drain. To no avail. Efficiency has never been a good friend of Change and Transformation programmes. What you are after is effectiveness. Big difference. 
  • Competitors driving your agenda: ‘My competitors are all going through this Digital Transformation programme already. We are late into the game!’. That’s typically another popular reason as to why people figure their purpose is just to play catch up with their competition. Don’t worry, you are already late, if you are just getting started now. Why worry then? What you may want to do is shake off that strong feeling that your competitors are driving your agenda, whatever that may will be, and perhaps re-focus on what you really want to do as a business, which, last time around we checked was no other endeavour than delighting your clients through an excelling employee experience. Focus on that. You will be much better off, believe me.

    Take a look, for instance, into IT vendors, specially, in the Social Software / Collaboration space. There are plenty of them that will always tell you that they are doing much much better than the competition, so they will flood you with all sorts of information, brochures and marketing speak on features and capabilities on a certain product, etc. etc., almost as if it were a whitewash of sorts, to then match themselves against their competitors for you to see how good they are, when, eventually, they keep failing on meeting up with a clear premise: what business problems are they trying to solve for you? Then there are other vendors that just focus on helping the competitioncompeting accordingly, and they are doing just fine, because that’s their main focus, both the employee AND the customer. Seriously, if the products you are trying to sell your customers are wonderful and meet their needs, you don’t need to worry about the competition. There isn’t any. Go the extra mile. 

  • Change for the sake of changing: It’s not a good idea. It’s never been. On the contrary, it would just show that you are not ready for the change itself, nor the (digital) transformation process. Whether we like it or not, we just can’t change organisations, nor can we change people, for that matter; we can only provide the (right) conditions for knowledge workers to be self-empowered to come forward and change themselves leaving it all up to them. So thinking that we need to change because we don’t have a choice anymore will only create even more trouble. If only, it would work out as adding another layer of (social) tools and think we have changed. When we have only put but more lipstick on the pig. Still a pig. 

    Yes, I can see the urge from most organisations to want to hang out with the cool kids who have already gotten started with their own transformation journey. I realise how plenty of businesses would want to jump the shark and join those very same cool kids on the open Social Web, interacting with their customers, business partners, even their competitors, but then again still operating, pretty much, as v1.0 on the inside. Frankly, to be 2.0 on the outside, requires that you may well be 2.0 on the inside, because otherwise you are off to a massive wake-up call when things go messy. And they will. 

The Journey of Becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise 

Like I said earlier on, I am pretty sure there are tons of other reasons as to why organisations have decided to embark on the so-called Digital Transformation journey, that may well not have worked out as planned, while trying to answer as well the key question ’What’s your purpose?’ I bet you all know, or have, quite a few and I would certainly love to hear them in the comments, if you would have a minute to share them with the rest of us, but for now, let’s go ahead and focus on the Top 3 Reasons as to why digital transformation programmes are a wonderful success within (some) organisations: 

  • Transform how the entire organisation works: Through a co-creative process, where no-one and everyone owns it, the social business and digital transformation journey is mostly focused on transforming how the entire business works. The focus moves on from being on either technology and business processes and, instead, it’s all about the people, about self-empowering them to become more accountable and responsible for what they do, how they work, connect, collaborate, share their knowledge more in the open, transparently, and, eventually, get work done in a much more democratic, egalitarian, wirearchical, engaged manner. The change process begins when the organisation realises they need to relinquish control, become less risk averse, more open and transparent, to then re-gain it back through how they nurture and build healthy networks and communities as the new operating model. The wake-up call? That these conditions of operating through social networks are not going to go away any time soon, so we better adapt to them and act accordingly. Or we are in trouble. Big trouble.
  • Address business pain points: Perhaps the toughest of reasons. I mean, no-one wants to air out, even internally, what doesn’t work, whether it’s related to technology, processes or people. We all want to keep drinking the kool-aid, to control the message, to continue distrusting our peers, because, after all, we never did, so why start now, right? Alas, it doesn’t work out that well in reality, so if you take those business pain points and turn them into business opportunities through both some bravery and courage admitting not all things are working all right, there is a great chance you will find the right purpose to correct your due course.

    And if you are brave, again, one more time, to involve your entire workforce to help you not only surface what doesn’t work, but also try to provide different solutions to each and everyone of those issues, there is a great chance that you will be on the mend sooner than you think. Both the change and transformation processes will kick off by themselves, without even needing to have a certain strategy. Biggest leap of faith to come across? Understand we are not the experts we all think we are; we are all weak, vulnerable, constantly making mistakes (and learning from them!), and it’s our relying on building those strong networks across the organisation that will only help us, collectively, address those pain points and venture to suggest some potential solutions. And initiate that process of self-healing that’s so very much needed in each and every single business today, in each and every single individual knowledge (Web) worker. 

  • Finally, identify new business opportunities: Indeed, create new markets. I know, I know, easier said than done, but what’s stopping us? What’s stopping us from thinking we can, collectively, change the (business) world for the better? The realisation that it’s going to be impossible? Or perhaps the itch that we can’t attempt to realise the impossible, because, you know, it’s the impossible, after all. How could we? That’s exactly why we need to venture into creating those new markets. New frontiers and I’m not necessarily just talking about technology in general. Think about the world we would all want to live in, say, 15 to 30 years from now. 2030 and 2045. What’s the world going to look like? Most importantly, what’s your dent in this universe for which you would want to be remembered when you are gone. How would you like your offspring to remember you? As those folks who had the chance to change the world and failed because they were not courageous enough to explore and create new markets? Or those folks who didn’t have a clue about what they wanted to do down the line, but there was a very clear premise in the air: leave behind a better (business) world than they themselves experienced throughout their (working) lifetime. And perhaps start working towards achieving that goal. Why not?

My goodness! Talking about having a meaningful and rather impactful purpose for us all! How does that sound to you folks in the long run? Please do tell me you are, with me, in the second group. Please do tell me that, when you are pondering to embark on this so-called Digital Transformation journey within your own business you are thinking about potentially answering ‘What’s your purpose’ with this particular mindset: what kind of world do I want to leave behind me / us when we are all long gone? Something tells me that if we shift focus on that short term purpose, gains, and think more into the near future, into the long run, we would all be so much better of, collectively. Not just for our own mere survival, but for all of those who come after us pushing harder, stronger, higher than whatever we all attempted to do in the past.

Yes, exactly, ‘What’s Your Purpose?’ starts with you asking yourself every single morning, when you come to work, what you would want to achieve that day to make this world a better place. After all, it’s our chance to make a dent in this universe while we change and transform not only the way we work, but also the way we live our lives. Not just for ourselves, but for them, whomever they may well be …

Signing off, sincerely, your #hippie2.0.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Freelance Work

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the Winter

Ever since I went independent, nearly two years ago, a recurring theme has been coming up in plenty of conversations I have been having, whether offline or online, with a good number of people going from former colleagues, to family members and friends, to several acquaintances. It’s a topic I have been interested in myself for a good while, although I never thought I would be experiencing it first hand, but, since I have been doing it for a while, I guess it’s time to start talking, more in length, about freelance work and how it is shaping up the nature of today’s work. After all, you know, people keep claiming it’s the future of work itself.


After having worked at IBM for over 17 years, and deciding it was time to move on into the next big adventure, whatever that may well be, little did I know I would end up doing what I am currently working on today. Like with everyone else, potentially, it crossed my mind a few times to become a freelancer, why not, right?, but I was never too sure. I guess that was the toll I had to pay for having an extensive corporate life, according to today’s standards. I gave it a lot of thought though whether I wanted to work for another major corporation, or just stick around with a small, nationwide business (even within the IT industry), or perhaps even work at a startup (You are never too old for that, right?). I, eventually, decided to go from one extreme to the other and see what it would feel like. See whether I would be able to make it in the long run. Or not.

After all, switching from the largest, most complex, IT firm in the world to running your own business as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation can be quite something and, now that I am nearly two years down the road with it, I can surely confirm that it can be a lifetime changing experience. For the better, of course. And since I keep getting asked about it time and time again I guess it’s now a good time to start blogging about it and share some first hand experiences on what it is like having a new single boss to respond to: your customers.

I know, and fully realise, that this new series of blog posts I am kicking off today perhaps doesn’t have much to do with the usual themes and topics I have blogged over here for nearly 10 years, but I suppose I’m also getting a bit weary of having to answer the very same questions from multiple people over and over again with the same information, so I figured it may actually work out all right. We shall see. Either way, if you, faithful reader, feel like the time for you to move on has arrived, as I introduce this new series of articles around freelance work, please do go ahead and do so. No hard feelings. Life changes, constantly, and so do we, whether we like it or not. Best we can do is to adapt accordingly and where possible. The choice is ours. Always has and it will always be. Thank you for spending your precious time sticking around for that long… 

This is also part of the reason why I decided to open up this new series of blog entries around what it is like the trials and tribulations of a freelancer, more than anything else in the hope that some of those experiences, insights, know-how, hints & tips and practical advice may help out other freelancers, as well as others who may have already started hearing the internal voice that their time in big corporate life is now, finally, coming to an end (hopefully, a happy one, too!) and it’s time to move on to something else, whatever it may well be. 

Oh, in case you are wondering, this doesn’t necessarily mean I will stop writing over here about subjects that are pretty dear to my heart, like Social / Open Business, Digital Transformation, Knowledge Management, Online Communities, Learning, Productivity, social networks, social networking and social software in general. Quite the contrary. I am hoping to be able to add further up into each and everyone of those not only from that corporate point of view of 17 years at IBM having worked with hundreds of customers over time, but also add on a fresh new perspective of what it is like being an Open / Social Business as a freelancer and describe in full length how work has shifted into networks and (online) communities to a point of no return any time soon.

It’s a fascinating journey, it already has been for certain, seeing how there are plenty of differences, but also lots of similarities, in terms of how we, knowledge (Web) workers, operate whether working as salaried employees or just by ourselves, going solo. The thing I am hoping will be an immediate outcome from this new series as well, and that may also benefit others, is how I’ll keep walking the talk on what I have preached for a good number of years now about the many benefits from working out loud, even as a freelancer, as I plan to write about how I work by exposing plenty of my work routines, tools and processes I use, etc. etc. 

It’s bound to be good fun altogether, I am sure, as, if anything, it will help me get my act together as well on something that’s been in my mind for a good while now on whether one can thrive at work as an independent knowledge (Web) worker and still have a life. Yes!, work / life integration is also going to be one of the main topics I will be talking about in terms of being able to rediscover something I may have thought I lost at one point in time: productivity, or better said, effectiveness, without having to clock in 80+ hours per week. I think I may have just had enough pretending to be a workaholic. Why should we? There must be a better way out there, don’t you think? I suppose it’s time to explore, learn and co-create together, play and iterate accordingly, and where appropriate, and keep moving on…

All in all, and to wrap up this blog post, I thought I would put together over here a list of topics I will be covering over the course of time in terms of what it is like doing freelance work and whether it is worth while doing or not through sharing plenty of first hand experiences. Here it goes: 

  • Why freelance work? What’s in it for me?
  • Practical hints & tips on how to get started, what to watch out for, initial first steps, etc.
  • What social / productivity / business tools may well be a must-have for freelancers (according to my own experience)
  • What are my daily work routines and business processes? How does client prospecting work out?
  • How do the finances of a freelancer work eventually? How to cope best with the uncertainty creeping in every now and then?
  • Is freelance work the panacea of the so-called future of work?  Why or why not?
  • What role do social networks and communities play in helping freelancers thrive? Are we really all alone by ourselves?
  • What other additional resources do I have available to freelancers we should all be aware of?
  • And, finally, work / life integration: do freelancers have a life, after all? 

I am pretty sure there are tons of other topics that will come up over time I may be able to include over here as well, accordingly, but, for now, I think this will do. I’ll be counting on you all as well to share in the comments, and your own blog posts!, what it is like for you being a freelancer or having worked with a freelancer (why not?). I am not sure about you, but I am excited about the opportunity to start writing about what it is like both life & work from the other side of the fence, and to explore together whether freelancing really is the future of work, or perhaps a new fancy, hyped, buzzword we have been told it will save us all from our current miseries (and there are far too many!), if at all.

Ready for this new, exciting journey? I surely am! 

Let’s go! Let’s do it!

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Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes (Playa del Inglés)

When I first got things started with #elsuahackstwitter, the experiment where I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter and instead move on to using, exclusively, Public Lists, I knew, right from the start, that I’d have a bit of a challenge in terms of not necessarily grouping people together, but what names would I pick up for each of those lists, so that a) they’d be rather representative and meaningful, and b) would not offend the people included in them (for whatever the reason). It wasn’t easy. It took me, eventually, a good few days to figure it out what I would go for in the long run. I knew I didn’t want to pick something vague, overhyped or just simply buzzwords du jour along the lines of gurus, ninjas, #SocBiz experts, influencers, future-of-work, digital-transformation, etc. etc. So I decided to look deeper, in retrospect, and try to define for myself the kinds of relationships I have built over the years with the people who I used to follow on Twitter and see how I would be able to group them accordingly. Finally, after a good few days of tinkering Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From were born. 

Ever since I was first exposed to Twitter Lists a good few years back, I knew they were going to be something rather special. It’s, by far, my favourite feature from Twitter from all along. An opportunity for the end-user to be, at long last, in full control of the flow of tweets going by, according to your own criteria in terms of people added to them, timelines (no longer a limit in there!), conversations, insights shared, etc. etc. vs. having to rely on the system to do it for you. I have been a huge fan of Lists. Currently, I have got 25 of them I, usually, check on a more or less regular basis. All along, though, most of them have always been, and still remain today, private, just for me. And for a good reason: I didn’t want to expose them, nor the folks grouped in each of them. 

The whole thing changed though, when I decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter, and somehow I started to feel the urge of exposing, openly, where I usually spend my time on nowadays while tweeting away. Somehow I felt I needed to show the world a little bit of my Twitter world. The time of hiding is over and while the private lists are there I decided not to pay much attention to them anymore and instead focus on the public ones I created a few weeks back. Those new lists would become my new timeline(s) and, contrary to what was happening before, they are now exposed to everyone out there who may be interested, since they are publicly listed and people can subscribe to them, if they so wish to.

In a way, it’s some kind of brutal exercise around working out loud and openness, because, all of a sudden, everyone can now peek into my daily flows of tweets going back and forth and get a glimpse of what I’m exposed to, without having to even ask me, if they would want to. Yes, it’s both exciting and rather intriguing not knowing anymore what may well happen next, because one of the unexpected highlights from having run this experiment was that even though the lists are my lists some people have decided to subscribe to them as well. So, all of a sudden, I have transformed into a curator of connections, relationships, triangles to close, and good, relevant content on what matters to me. And share it with the world. 

You may be wondering by now then why did I pick up those names for my main three public lists, right? CollaboratorsCooperators and People I Learn From. Well, initially, there is the reason of proximity, just like when I blogged back in the day how I work through Google Plus’ Circles with One50, Two50 and TheRest. However, that proximity nowadays is mostly down to how I view people I used to follow on Twitter in terms of working together or learning together. Long time ago I decided to stop following people just for the sake of following if it meant I didn’t learn anything in the first place. Life is just too short to have a cluttered timeline, I am afraid.

Working together, for me, can be seen in terms of two different types of interactions: collaboration and / or cooperation. My good friend, Harold Jarche, put together, just recently, as he has been blogging about this very same topic for a good while now, a new superb article explaining the main differences between one and the other. ‘Cooperation for the network era’ is a highly recommended read, for certain, as it will make you think twice about the kinds of business relationships, contacts and networks each and everyone of us has been nurturing over time. At the end of the day though, to me, it’s also all about commitment, what differentiates one from the other, that is. 

When you collaborate (closely) with someone (or a group of people), there is a commitment to get something done in a timely manner, to get a deliverable out the door, finish off that task, activity or a project and move on the next one. The proximity and closeness is a notch tighter than when you cooperate with someone, which seems to be a lot less about commitment and more about sharing, connecting and learning. To quote Harold from that same article shared above: 

Cooperation is a foundational behaviour for effectively working in networks, and it’s in networks where most of us, and our children, will be working. Cooperation presumes the freedom of individuals to join and participate.

To then finish up with this other really nice quote that clearly differentiates what collaboration and cooperation are, and what they are not: 

Cooperation is not the same as collaboration, though they are complementary. Teams, groups, and markets collaborate. Online social networks and communities of practice cooperate. Working cooperatively requires a different mindset than merely collaborating on a defined project.

Organizations need to extend the notion of work beyond collaboration, beyond teams, and beyond the corporate fire wall. They need to make social networks, communities of practice, and narrative part of the work

Here’s something that Harold mentions on the last quote shared above that I think is rather interesting and pretty much nails it for me: ‘[…] they are complimentary […]’. Indeed, in the rather polarised world we currently live in, where it looks like we can only have a winner, a one single choice, a simple choice, yet, time and time again, reality tells us otherwise. Why can’t we have both? – I keep wondering about. Why can’t we have, in a work environment, where both collaboration and cooperation are working together nicely to achieve a certain goal, i.e. getting work done on their own terms (versus ruthlessly competing with one another)? What’s stopping us from doing that? The company firewall and bureaucratic business practices? A business and management system that haven’t changed much fundamentally in the last 150 years or perhaps even more so our very own mindset and behaviours and our inability to change even more so, if for the better?

This is, exactly, what I wanted to do in the first place when I put together these two Twitter Lists, to see if I could combine both collaboration, cooperation and mix them a bit to the point where they would become blurry and, eventually, perhaps a porous, intertwined duality. And then see what would happen next. As a result, and rather unexpectedly, I came up with a third one for another very specific activity altogether: learning. And this is how these public lists came along: 

  • Collaborators: The original description I used for this list was the following one: ’[Some] People I’ve collaborated with in the past, the present & hopefully in the near future as well’. Remember, this list was built up from the list of people I used to follow on Twitter, not the hundreds of people I have collaborated with over last couple of decades, and the criteria was essentially to figure out who would I be able to move over here and feel comfortable about it when talking about collaboration: some of the folks I have collaborated with in the past, or now in the present, or have the gut feeling I will be in the near future. That was the exercise to be done. How close did I feel to those folks in order to collaborate with them all, where needed and accordingly, in a heartbeat. It’s my primary list, the one I check every single day and read every single tweet from and the one where I progressively move people away on to from the other lists to keep it growing over time with folks I do committed work with. 

  • Cooperators: Again, reusing Harold’s definition for cooperation, this is the list of folks I cooperate with at times in different initiatives, and where the commitment may well be there some times, or not. This was the original description I used for it: ‘[Some] People I’ve cooperated with in the past, the present & hopefully in the near future as well’. Again, following pretty much the same flow as Collaborators, except that for this one the proximity is not as close as the one for collaborators. In a way, it’s like my second tier of interactions, the networks, the communities of practice, the weak ties that sooner or later I know I will eventually be doing work together with. It’s also the list I check and read every single tweet from daily as an opportunity to help build my social capital skills with them so I can provoke committed work with at some point in time. I’ll wait for when I feel things are ready.  
  • People I Learn From: While both Collaborators and Cooperators make my primary network of contacts and business relationships (and, of course, friendships!), all along I knew there would be a third one coming, one with people I keep learning from on a daily basis from our mutual tweet exchange and that, sooner or later, I know they will all end up being either in Collaborators or Cooperators. It’s the largest of all three lists and by a large margin. It’s also the one where most of my learning happens, although it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t learn much from the other two. I still do, it’s just on a different level (i.e. I know them relatively well already…). The People I Learn From is essentially the list where I curate, nurture and foster relationships that I will then move on to one of the other two lists and become more involved with over the course of time. Mind you, I still get to read every single tweet that gets shared across. I use each and everyone of them as an opportunity to evaluate whether we are both ready to be moved up and, if so, make the move and carry on with the conversation on a higher level of involvement and intent. 

And from there onwards, I rely entirely on the magic of serendipity, that always seems to know more and way better than yours truly, to do its thing and keep redefining each and everyone of those lists. Helping me as well shaping them up accordingly over time by constantly building a trustworthy personal learning network where not only will I be able to continue learning from in the multiple areas we are all really passionate about, but also work with, whether collaboratively or cooperatively, or both!

It’s all about building the commitment, the intent, the context, and the ability to transform our daily work routines into the networked economy, because, for as long as social networks, communities and teams exist out there, we are no longer talking about the future of work, but the present of work. The continuous today. The one we can all collectively influence each and every time, because, after all, it still is our choice.

It always has been.

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Enterprise 2.0, Where Art Thou?

Gran Canaria - Risco Blanco in the Winter

While I was putting together yesterday’s blog post I kept thinking about something that’s been on my mind for a while and which I think is also going to help redefine, or reassure, depends on how you look into it, the next stage of my blogging mojo over here. Essentially, what will I continue to blog about? Over the course of the years, if you have been a long time reader, you may remember how there were a number of themes I kept coming back to from Knowledge Management, to Collaboration, (Social) Learning, Online Communities and, specially, Social / Open Business. Somehow I don’t think any of those would go away any time soon, but thinking it may well be as well a good time to up the game and introduce other topics like Org. Design, Change Management, Social Network Analysis, Wirearchy, and, specially, Employee Engagement, which I realise won’t be a new subject per se, since I have blogged about it for a good while already, but I still feel there is a lot more to share across and talk about. Pretty much like for Enterprise 2.0, since I still feel we are only now just getting started with it and its role in transforming organisations from the inside out. 

Almost 10 years ago, Andy McAfee coined the term Enterprise 2.0, as most of you folks out there would probably still remember. However, nearly 10 years later, no-one, or hardly anyone, seems to be talking, writing, tweeting, blogging, etc. anymore about that topic, as if it was left behind and gone with the wind. Remember Web 2.0 as well? 

Well, not exactly, perhaps. Let’s have a look into Andy’s original definition for Enterprise 2.0 to see what I mean: 

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

A key word, to me, from that short, but rather thoughtful definition is no other than within. You would probably agree with me that there are tons of articles, publications, video clips and what not, about the so-called Enterprise 2.0 between companies and their partners or customers. Social Business has been in full swing for a good while as well and while the former focuses pretty much on a new kind of digital, more collaborative and social tools that have been made available for a good while (as far back as 1994, for example, for the first instances of either blogs or wikis), the latter probably just focuses on the overall transformation of how businesses operate as a whole. Pretty much like the so-called notion of Digital Transformation. But what keeps bugging me is how, despite the abundance of content around the external impact of both Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business, never mind Digital Transformation, there is very very little information available about what’s happening on the inside. Of organisations, that is.

If you notice, even when you get to attend conference events around these topics, we always pretty much bump into the very same case studies from companies, vendors and so forth that we keep talking about over and over again for a good few years. Yet, there is hardly any information about newcomers, about their own internal digital transformation through a combination of both Enterprise 2.0 (Tools) and Social Business (Processes AND People). There aren’t just enough new examples of digital transformation journeys, from the inside, available out there. And, I must confess, that nearly 10 years later, it bugs me. And big time. 

My good friend Euan Semple quoted, at one point, and I’m paraphrasing, I am sure, something along these lines: 

“You just can’t be 2.0 on the outside, if you are still operating 1.0 on the inside”

Well, I would probably even go one step further and add that in most cases most businesses out there are still, pretty much, operating as 0.5 organisations, yet, while pretending to be 2.0 on the outside when interacting with their customers and business partners, or even their competitors. I am really sorry, but it just doesn’t work like that. There needs to be first an internal (r)evolution before you can even start thinking about what’s going to happen on the outside. And for multiple reasons that I’m hoping to unpack over the course of time in this renewed vow to resume my blogging mojo.

Almost a year ago Andy himself was also questioning (Over at ‘Enterprise 2.0, Finally?’) whether we were starting to see glimpses of that so-called digital (r)evolution through Enterprise 2.0 and while there are tons of signs out there that confirm we have gotten started with that journey I sense we are not even there just yet. Just few glimpses. In fact, we are, only now, just getting things started, more than anything else because almost every single 2.0 practitioner out there who keeps advocating for Social Business and Digital Transformation (yes, there is a new buzzword in town and it’s been there for a good while now!) is realising that the magic needs to happen internally first, before you may venture out there on the open Social Web. Yet, there isn’t enough information, nor content, nor idea exchange, about those internal experiences. 

I think I know why that’s happening, and it would probably be a topic for another blog post coming up soon, although my good friend, Thomas van der Wal had a go at it, a while ago, and he pretty much nailed it with this absolutely stunning article titled ‘Getting Good Case Studies in Today’s Competitive World’.

Either way, I suspect that resuming my blogging mojo will give me an excellent opportunity to talk plenty more about that internal transformation that I have been working on with several of my clients after I went independent, now almost two years ago, as I have been accumulating tops of additional insights, experiences, know-how, methodologies, and what not, not only from when I used to work at IBM, but also as a freelance adviser. Both diversity and variety of clients over time have given me, probably, a unique opportunity in terms of what’s happening with multiple industries in their so-called digital transformation journeys. It’s now a good time to start sharing them across, don’t you think?  It’s now a good time as well to reconcile Enterprise 2.0 not just with the extenuating external focus we seem to have been enjoying last few years, but perhaps also focus on the inside, which, to me, is where the real magic happens as we get a wonderful opportunity to transform the business world as we know it right from inside the core: the employee experience. Because, you know, after all, ‘happy employees produce happy customers’.

Always, no exceptions.

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#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!



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.

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#Movistar – The Only Boss You Need to Pay Attention To

No Internet ConnectionHere I am, once again, incredibly frustrated and very irritated I got disconnected from the Internet last week Friday, as I blew up my monthly data allowance on my mobile phone for the zillionth time over the course of last few weeks. I got a bit tired of asking friends to use their wifi again and again, so I could continue with my day to day work routines, never mind as well embarrassing myself showing up at a local coffee shop time and time again while the monthly bill keeps getting more and more expensive with all of the additional beverages. Oh well, one more week to go… Indeed, one more week to go before Movistar finally shares some mercy upon myself and decides to treat this customer with some decency by hooking up both my landline and ADSL connection after nearly 2.5 months of much anticipated wait. I just can’t count the days anymore… 

Indeed, I just can’t count the days after having endured such level of sheer incompetence and utterly appalling customer service while earlier on today I had a chance to reflect and muse on a conversation I had with a very good friend of mine, back at the beginning of 2014, as I was just getting started with my new adventure as an independent advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation where we talked, rather extensively, about what it is like being a freelancer in today’s more complex than ever working environment. 

I trust his judgement quite a bit, since he has been a freelancer himself in the IT industry for over 35 years and still going strong, so when we, finally, had a chance to talk through Skype, I knew it was going to be a rather intense, massively entertaining, hugely enlightening and incredibly helpful learning experience. And, boy, it surely was! We talked about lots of things about what to expect and what not, about what may work and what may not. We talked extensively of what it is like living in this brave new world of uncertainty and make the most out of it, but if there was a single point of discussion I truly cherished (even to today) as one of my key learning highlights from 2014 was the subject of who my new boss would be from there onwards, now I was no longer a salaried employee at a large big corporation. 

We had a good laugh when, as we got started with that conversation, I mentioned to him how in my last project with my former employer at one point I had up to 11 different management lines before I could reach out to the top, that is, the CEO of the company. And of those 11 different bosses I often found myself having to report to several chains of command to keep them in the loop of what I was doing for my day to day work. Never mind how things would have been much much different if they themselves would have been working out loud,  narrating their work (just as I was!), instead of being stuck in their own email Inboxes. Oh well, that’s a story for another blog post coming up on the incredibly inspiring and rather refreshing egalitarian power of social networking tools in helping knowledge workers ignore the hierarchy, flatten the organisation in order to get work done more effectively. 

The thing is this good friend of mine mentioned how, despite the uncertainty that will be now part of my daily life, plenty of things will become a lot simpler in terms of figuring out who my new boss may well be from there onwards. The only one I would need to pay attention to. A surprising and rather refreshing change even, because, in his words, my new boss as a freelancer and independent advisor is no longer my organisation, whatever that may well be, as the traditional hierarchy disappears into thin air since that artificial construct is no longer needed, nor relevant. My new boss is not going to be my fellow peers / colleagues / social networks or what not, not even perhaps the so-called influencers in the market, vendors, analysts, business partners and whatever other groupings, but, eventually, and right to the heart of the matter, my boss would be the one and only to care for and delight to no end: my customer(s).

Wise words, indeed. Who would have thought about that, right? I mean, if you go out there and ask a few people to tell you who their boss is I bet “My customer(s)” is probably going to be the very last answer you are most likely going to hear. And yet it’s the only one that we should be caring about. The only one that matters. The one we all keep coming back to work for every morning doing what we love doing: serving our clients with a delightful experience and, of course, in a timely manner. 

Right at that moment, while we were still conversing and enjoying very much the ongoing dialogue, I realised that sentiment of my customer(s) as my new boss(es) will become my new mantra ever since I went independent and I have never gone back. As a result, and almost after a year going by, I have had the enormous privilege and true honour of having worked with some pretty amazing and rather smart clients who throughout our interactions in 2014 (and beginning of this year already!) have helped me grow not only in a professional level, but also on a personal level. Who knew? 

Who knew that bosses / managers could have that effect on you? Who knew that perhaps in the traditional big corporate world we may have had the wrong end of the stick all along? I mean, how many of you folks out there would consider your immediate boss today your customer and not the individual you are directly, or indirectly, reporting to? I am certain not many. The thing is that you may be thinking that since you don’t have an external job to focus on, specially if you are not in sales or marketing, you really don’t have any customers to worry about, as you may be working in internal projects. But how about if we got it all wrong right from the beginning? You see? We are all providing a service, whether internal and / or external, and as service providers everyone that we are serving then becomes our customer and therefore our new boss. Imagine if we could all get to ignore everything else and just focus on the customer as your new manager. 

Well, here I am thinking what that may have been like over the course of the last 2.5 months when I first requested a service from Movistar where I wanted to transfer my already existing landline and ADSL I got contracted with them and move it to my new home place, 10 minutes away from the old one. As a service provider you would expect they would go the extra mile for their new boss to provide him with a delightful experience, don’t you think? Yet, apparently, they have been looking elsewhere, inwards, stuck in their paperwork, without resources, providing everything but a delightful client experience. More of a nightmare, if I may add. And perhaps that’s been part my fault as well for not stressing out deep enough the impact I have been suffering from their disservice, as I have no longer been able to carry on with my day to day knowledge Web work activities, losing several opportunities already of incoming revenue in the last two months and still counting…

Last week Friday I cancelled one of the many services I had contracted with Movistar for a good few years. Perhaps that’s how I should have made myself heard right from the start vs. patiently awaiting for them to look outside vs. inwards. It won’t be the last one. Currently, I am compiling the various different services I have got contracted with them and over the course of the next few days / weeks / months I will be terminating each and every one of them. I guess I will be firing them all away! I have been saying for a good while now how employee disengagement is a rather serious business problem to tackle in today’s corporate world. Mostly induced by disengaged managers, if you look deep enough into it beyond the initial marketing hype currently going on. 

So when your loyal customer, i.e. your new boss, actively disengages away from you by cancelling service after service, due to your rather poor and devastating skills about proper customer service, I guess it’s time now for you to figure out what’s happening, look around, go outside, engage in a meaningful conversation where you can work harder to solve their business problem(s) and see how you may be able, perhaps, to re-engage them back. If ever. If you still care, that is. 

The clock is ticking… It has been already for a good few weeks and this customer, yours truly, is just about to have enough of being your boss really, my dear Movistar. Thus, what do you think? Time for us to depart ways and move on? Well, it’s up to you… Like I said, the clock is ticking and I just might be waiting for your response to re-engage me back. You know what needs to be done and, this time around, in case you may not have noticed it, there is a deadline.

Friday, January 16th, 2015. 


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.

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