#WomenInTech meet Rita Zonius, Enterprise Social Engineer, Oz

Microsoft Ignite Orlando 24–29 Sept 2017 — Key theme #WomenInTech

Rita Zonius based in Melbourne, is my enterprise social soul mate down under. We are both members of Change Agents Worldwide run by simon terry. This is an interview for my blog #WomenInTech — a key theme at Microsoft Ignite #MSignite Orlando next week. The blog spotlights outstanding #ESN #WomenInTech from around the world — and how we Work Out Loud #WOL. I’m presenting GlaxoSmithKline’s #GSK #Yammer story at #MSignite. Looking forward to meeting Rita in person, in London in a few weeks time at this novel CIPR event. Lesley Crook based in London.
Rita has extensive experience in corporate communications, including providing CEOs and their senior leadership teams with strategic advice and counsel spanning a wide range of communication practices, including employee communications, staff engagement, media relations and issues management. Most recently, Rita led the Internal Digital Communications team at ANZ to realise the business benefits of enterprise social technologies, including driving a collaborative and engaged culture across the bank’s workforce for around 60,000 staff globally. The change strategy led by Rita to introduce and embed an enterprise social network at ANZ was recognised as world class in 2017, winning bronze, silver and gold Quills from the International Association of Business Communicators and a Platinum award in the Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards from global intranet consultancy, Step Two. Rita was also accountable for ANZ’s global intranet. Rita has since established her own consultancy, The Enterprise Social Engineer, focused on supporting organisations to become social. 
You’re striking out on your own after several years of introducing an enterprise social network at one of Australia’s big banks. What are you up to? While I have a long history in corporate communications, in the past few years I was lucky enough to take the lead on introducing Australia and New Zealand Banking Group’s (ANZ) 60,000 staff to enterprise social. It was satisfying seeing people from right across the group transition from getting work done in their business silos or in their emails to a more open and transparent way of working. Enterprise social has been a bureaucracy-buster for so many of ANZ’s people, like nothing else. 
I enjoyed that experience so much, I’ve stepped out of the bank to go out and help other companies that want to take the plunge with enterprise social, but are just not sure how to go about it. So, life for me right now is all about getting my fledgling business moving. 
People can have very strong opinions when it comes to enterprise social — some love it, others hate it. Why is this technology so polarising? It’s a good question because you can have both the lovers and the haters working in the same organisation, using the same tool! In my experience, the people who love enterprise social are those who have actively gone about using it to do real work. It could be seeking input from others to aid the development of a new product or find the right person quickly to help solve a problem for a customer. The happy recipient of this help is then converted to the cause, because they were able to cut through the layers in their company and get the help they need quickly. As human beings, we also get a buzz out of being generous and helping others, so it’s great for staff engagement too. 
On business impact, you and the team at ANZ have been recognised globally for your work on MaxConnect, ANZ’s enterprise social network. How so?
It’s been a thrill for me to see ANZ’s enterprise social efforts win awards this year, in recognition of the real impact MaxConnect has had on the bank’s business. After a year of the tool in place globally, we had more than 70% of staff give enterprise social a go, because we helped people build a habit of using MaxConnect to solve business painpoints, crowdsource ideas, find subject matter experts and save time. MaxConnect has been particularly helpful for customer-facing staff, in terms of getting process and systems issues identified and fixed. The ESN has helped their voices to be heard. 
What holds back companies and people from succeeding with enterprise social? You have to consider whether your culture needs some work before you take the plunge with social, because culture plays a big part in the success or failure of an ESN. If people are too scared to speak out, or leaders don’t believe in open communication, then people may be unlikely to post what they really think, let alone post anything meaningful at all. On the other hand, in an open organisation, your ESN will be like rocket fuel — a catalyst for helping the company achieve its business goals faster. Go in with your eyes open and form a realistic view of how challenging the effort to go social will be. 
What’s the one piece of advice you’ve give to companies who want to give it a go or who have found themselves stuck with a failed enterprise social experiment? In resource constrained work environments where we all need to work smarter, enterprise social is a vital part of any progressive workplace. But introducing an ESN is not a job for technology alone. It’s a whole of business effort and takes time. Enterprise social efforts rarely succeed without careful planning, at both an organisational and individual level. Remember success in enterprise social is not just about adoption for adoption’s sake. It’s about helping your people use the tools to make a business impact. This means taking steps to embed the use of your ESN in the daily flow of work, supporting people to be confident users and mobilising leaders across your organisation to be active role models for new, more visible ways of working. When done effectively, you’ll not only have happier, better connected people, you’ll deliver real business value.