On the frontline of social media inside O2 Telefónica

24 August, 2012 - 09:17
Managing disparate communities, language barriers and multiple log-ins: just a few of the issues that Mark Allotey is facing as 33,000 staff log on to new ways of communicating.

The trouble about dipping your toe into using social media inside any enterprise is that there is no user manual and the implementation of such platforms as SharePoint 2010, Yammer, Chatter and Jive is a whole new ball game from running a conventional intranet. Throw in mobile devices and an international user base and suddenly you are up to your waist in unknown waters. So we decided to catch up with a communicator who is waving not drowning in the strong currents of employee social networks.

Mark Allotey started off as the Intranet Manager at mobile phone giant Telefónica O2, but now his designation is Manager of Internal Digital Platforms to reflect how his role is growing.

"At Telefónica O2 we are on an evolutionary journey. We had already started a social network back in 2009 with Fanclub, which is our online peer-to-peer recognition system, but the big turning point was SharePoint 2010. When we turned on its tangible features like allowing people to comment on news stories, the implementation was a roaring success. People see this ability to post comments as the most important development. Sure the amount of reaction we get varies from post to post; we either try to encourage it through the issues and the writing or it just comes out of nowhere. Someone starts a thread and loads of people are using it, reading it, sharing it."

Getting the bosses to join the conversation

SharePoint 2010 changed Allotey's daily work considerably. Much time is spent encouraging senior leaders to get involved in online debates or start their own. But he has found that responding online is not something senior leaders will do off their own bat.

"We have to help them to respond quickly. You can totally understand why they want to make sure that what they say is right before it goes out. But sometimes I think it would be more effective if they could talk right now and get involved with the debate as and when it happens.

"Our CEO blogs each week and we highlight it on the homepage. Blogs from senior people are popular but we have had to play a big part in encouraging them to blog effectively. We have an Internal Comms Business Partner for each of the business units at O2 and they help identify and respond to hot topics. We have also put guides and videos on the intranet on how and what to write."

One of the big problems with getting senior staff using these platforms is that they rarely get to their laptops. Most of the time they are working from iPads and iPhones, so mobile optimising our intranet is the next big step for us. Some of our senior leadership team are fine at getting on and either blogging or commenting, but some others have to find work-arounds such as emailing blogs or comments to their PAs who then post them on their behalf. So getting mobile is a high priority for Allotey and the team at IT that support the platforms.

"Another thing we have learnt is that we have too many places where you can have a profile. There is the mysite page, the Fanclub profile and now there's Yammer. That's three places where I have to log in and update."

"We did a whistle-stop tour of some of our senior leadership teams at Telefónica O2 UK, explaining what our new platform Yammer is and crucially, what’s in it for them and their teams. Some people initially think it's a form of Facebook or Twitter and can’t quite see the benefits of using it for work purposes. We got reactions from the very cautious to those who were completely native to it."

The Yammer effect

The uptake of Yammer across Telefónica has been phenomenal. On the O2 Yammer platform - which is dedicated to O2 in the UK and Europe - there are 8,500 members out of a total population of around 12,000 employees. 42% of those are active. If you look at Telefónica globally 32,000 are members of Yammer and 11,000 of those are active. This makes the mobile operator one of the largest user groups of Yammer in the world.

"Yammer is wildly successful. It just grew from the free version and now we have an enterprise licence. It has evolved very fast and gone through different levels of ownership. It started being owned by no one. I am now responsible for the UK when my role expanded from managing the intranet. Intranet is my bread and butter, but we have to make enterprise social networking a success. It is the glue; the social layer across Telefónica.

"My role is now to shape how Yammer will work in the UK and Europe. It is a real game changer. The potential is huge; as an induction tool; as a help function for our staff in retail and customer service; as an ideation tool. If I had a magic wand I would have the intranet, recognition and social media all working together in harmony in one place and accessible by mobile – with one user profile for everything. We really want to make the user experience more streamlined."

Fanclub is a peer-to-peer recognition site where you can ‘applaud’ people who have done something noteworthy and where you can receive applause for your own work. It is very popular in the contact centres but is less used by managers in Head Office and our support functions - and this is something that a more integrated offering will help encourage. Certainly instant recognition has been a big driver of people onto online platforms and comments from Fanclub are used in staff appraisals.

But where are the success stories with Yammer?

"We quickly created a group for our retail business unit. It is our biggest community and the most used. Typically staff working in shops had to rely on the knowledge of the 4 or 5 other people in that store. With the Yammer retail community they are now connected to thousands of other people doing the same job, at the touch of a smartphone. Yammer has allowed us to get valuable responses from people in minutes and seconds rather than hours and days. People share their experiences, how to sell products better. It also highlights broken processes so we can get them fixed more quickly and improve the customer experience."

"But what we are learning is that you have to set up and manage communities well from the outset. Someone in a store will yammer on their mobile about a particular technical problem, but the people in Finance do not want to have those messages clogging up their feeds. Yammer can be a big open and noisy place if we don’t use groups properly. Proper use of groups is essential and this is an area I am very concentrated on."

Challenges of being at the leading edge

Allotey is a unit of one, so his schedule is pretty full implementing these changes. To help him to keep on top of Yammer he went to the heaviest users and asked them to become Yammer champions. He is also looking at ways that gamification can be used to get more people online and active on the platform.

"I have to make Yammer work. But I need people to improve it and keep it a nice, clean and happy place. It's all about having a light touch and little official regulation. We have recruited eight Yammer Champions at the moment and I want to increase that number for when we roll out the platform globally on a single platform. The right decisions need to be made to create that unified user experience. It costs time and money to sit down and put things together. We have got the basics right with our social media guidelines and policy but now we have to grow organically understanding where we do need to regulate and where we can just trust our members to do the right thing."

On the agenda is a formal launch of Yammer to the whole enterprise. Allotey has plans to help user adoption, online guidance and support, more videos and innovative campaigns that encourage the right behaviours. One problem is that although Microsoft have bought Yammer recently the two platforms do not talk to each other and it will be some time before they are integrated.

"We can’t wait for Microsoft to sort this out. At Telefónica we tend to work in an agile way. By the time Microsoft show us what they have to integrate Yammer and SharePoint I imagine it will be 1 or 2 years away and I’m sure there will be a cost."

"Another challenge is language. When we have a worldwide network we need to avoid becoming siloed by our different market languages. How do we get the true benefit from comments say from Brazil that are in Portuguese?"

Other problems involve the number of desktop PCs that still need to run Internet Explorer 6 which cannot cope with Yammer, but Allotey is confident that these are problems that will soon pass into history. What excites him most is optimising the technology to allow his colleagues to have more fun in their working days.

"Look at Apple products, how they have made the user-experience seamless and simple. I want to make sure the intranet has the stuff in it to help you do your job better. When you log on it should know who you are and what you need. But I want to make the experience fun as well. That's part of our role that is too often forgotten."

"During the Olympics we stole the Google doodle idea and branded the intranet daily with images of people like Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis on the days they were competing, as well as celebrating some of the more unknown sports. We got great feedback on the pictures and the facts that accompanied them. It was a light touch, but it put a smile on people's faces."