Episode 3: Tech Maven - Erica Toelle

Episode 3 of the Mavens Do It Better Podcast features  Erica Toelle, an internationally recognized speaker on SharePoint, Office 365, productivity and end user adoption.

Listen in as Heather Newman talks with Erica about:

  • The importance of end user adoption to a successful SharePoint deployment

  • Tips on getting the most out of your travel rewards programs whether for business or pleasure

  • The importance of her work as a mentor to college students

@EricaToelle

Transcript

Heather Newman: Okay, so this is Heather Newman and today we're talking with Erica Toelle, good friend, colleague in the SharePoint Office 365 world and I, wanted to talk to her about being an expert in user adoption because she brings that to the table and lots of other good things. So Erica, hello!

Erica Toelle: Hey Heather. Thanks for having me.

Heather Newman: Absolutely. So where are you working? What are you doing now? What's going on with you these days?

Erica Toelle: Yeah. So, I'm the Product Evangelist at Recordpoint focused on records management, compliance and information management. I'm very excited by the end user adoption opportunities in that area because it's so important to have companies have a solution in those areas and in order for it to work, people have to use it.

Heather Newman: Absolutely. Yeah. I know you and I kind of share love of that. We both speak on that topic in different wonderful ways I think at events. I love the word Maven, obviously that's the name of my company. It's the sort of self-proclaimed expert is the actual definition of the word, but I love talking to friends who have been working in the industry a long time and really become experts at what they do. So how long have you been working on sort of the end user adoption angle?

Erica Toelle: Well, I started out in management consulting focused on organizational change management, which is kind of the means, whereas end user adoption is the end you're trying to get to and actually ended up focusing on SharePoint because of the interesting end user adoption challenges it presented.

Heather Newman: Right. Or the dilemma I guess sometimes to some people.

Erica Toelle: Very much a dilemma.

Heather Newman: Absolutely. So as far as end user adoption, is there a methodology that you stick to or that you've created or things that you really like out there in the universe that you pluck either from Microsoft or other places that you recommend to people?

Erica Toelle: Yeah, certainly. I mean one of the things that's great about this space is you can get a doctorate degree in organizational design or other aspects of organizational change management. So there's a lot of research out there and things that people have discovered to work. I think the challenge in our space is that a lot of the methodologies are overkill for what we can do in our space. People don't have a six figure end user adoption budget on our projects.

Heather Newman: What? Really?

Erica Toelle: So, we're looking at what can we do with what we have that'll make the greatest impact and while you know, I don't think it's ever been the perfect solution on a project, we are able to add value if you will, and get more people to use it then if we had done nothing.

Heather Newman: Sure. Do you have, I mean not naming clients or anything like that necessarily, but is there somebody in the late past that you've felt like has done a really good job rolling out, say SharePoint or Office 365 or both or all of that that you can talk to a little bit like how they did it?

Erica Toelle: Yeah. I mean, I can say that they were in oil and gas and what they did is had about a four-person project team rolling out the SharePoint intranet and they were really focused on document management and collaboration and functionality offered above file shares, which is what they had previously. They had one of those four people dedicated to understanding and feeling the pain of the end users, if you will. And so, you know, they were the business analyst and the end user adoption person, but they were empowered with listening to people, understanding how they felt about it from week to week and the project team would actually have conversations about that and troubleshoot and respond and mitigate risks that were presented by basically people's feelings, which sounds really like, hippie, if you will, but

Heather Newman: Human.

Erica Toelle: It is, it's human. And I think just the fact that they were able to have a place in their project, in their conversations, for that type of a dialogue really helped. And then also, I was involved because I would meet with this person for about an hour every week or two and we would talk about how to solve and mitigate the risks that she had been identifying. So, I think that having somebody who had done this a bunch of times and could bring the experience and learnings from those projects, but not having to pay that expert full time was a really good choice.

Heather Newman: Sure. Absolutely. Yeah. That's cool. With executive buy in I know that's usually a really key factor and it's kind of one that's at the top. Do you have suggestions for people about that? Like how to get that executive buy in if it wasn't their idea?

Erica Toelle: Yeah, I mean, I think first of all, you need to identify the right executive. Depending on what you're building, you might not need the CEO of the company to be endorsing it. A better choice might be, you know, the VP of Sales if it’s a group or if it's a solution for the sales group. So first of all, pick the right person. Second of all, have very clear and specific things that you want them to do. Whether it's clicking send on an email communication or advocating for the project at a higher level to get more budget, whatever it is, just be very specific with them because they're more likely to do it and actually follow through then if you're vaguely asking them to support the project.

Heather Newman: Gotcha. Yeah. And I think that's great. And then sort of, you know, I think you and I both sort of reference different checklists that are fairly the same, you know, in talking about this and I feel like, I guess is there one piece of it that, it's always so different, right? But is there one piece of it that is consistently the outlier that people just either don't do, won't, do, you know what I mean? Out of sort of all the things in the adoption, sort of what you should do kind of thing.

Erica Toelle: Well, I'm going to maybe answer that in two parts. So, first of all people are getting really good about doing this, but it still is by far the most important, which is having a change champion program. Having people who are embedded working in the business, in the groups that you're trying to, where you're trying to effect the change because they're the ones that are going to tell you if there's a risk that needs to be mitigated. So number one, but people are getting pretty good at that. So, the second one that maybe we should do better is seeing is believing. I think we're still sometimes asking people to provide requirements when they don't even understand the tool.

Heather Newman: Okay. Yeah.

Erica Toelle: So, you know, if they don't understand the tool, they can't provide good requirements and so it's kind of a chicken and the egg problem. So just looking for those success stories, documenting them well through video and screenshots or even being able to show it live to other people so that they can have that Aha moment. So the whole goal is to create Aha moments

Heather Newman: Aha, like it.

Erica Toelle: Yeah. And then maybe have them use the more baseline solution for a bit before they start giving a lot of customization requirements because the customizations are what drive up the cost of the project really fast and if it's something that's so nice to have or isn't that important that they're kind of grasping at straws because they don't really understand the baseline yet, then why are, it's just a waste of money.

Heather Newman: Yeah, no, I completely agree with you. Those are great. So, with adoption and campaigns and stuff like that. So there's sort of the, you know, brand new Office 365 installation or installation of something brand new, it doesn't even have to be, you know, Microsoft or all of that. And then there's the ongoing sort of new hire or people coming into a department. I think. Do you see those all as sort of the same adoption path for the most part? Or do you think that, I mean they have some nuances obviously, but anything sort of big and striking between those, between sort of a new or a migration or that new hire? Anything there that sticks out?

Erica Toelle: Yeah, I mean I think they're a bit different in this situation, so if you're just moving brand new from on premise SharePoint, file shares or something to Office 365 I'm actually a big proponent of just get the content in there and don't change the business processes or enhance them too much until after the content is moved so they're kind of doing the same thing but with the new user interface. Let them get used to that just a little bit. And then in the second project, do the transformation of the content and changing of the information architecture or building solutions to make it more optimized and to be more productive because again, that way people are understanding the baseline functionality before they're now given requirements to customize it. And then for the new hire, I think it's less about maybe training them on here's how you use the software and more about here's how we've implemented it and here's the specific solutions we have, here's our team’s solution for sharing and collaborating on files. So, it's more step by step business process oriented instead of training on general functionality.

Heather Newman: Yeah, that makes sense.

Erica Toelle: Yeah. For training on general functionality, you know, I'm a big believer in, in-context training tools and I wasn't paid to say that.

Heather Newman: Not yet.

Erica Toelle: But I really think that they make the most sense for that general education because then what that means is people are right there when they're trying to upload a document, clicking on the help button and it tells them how to upload the document.

Heather Newman: Right? Yeah, absolutely. Cool. I want to switch gears a little bit because as well as being a maven, an expert on end user adoption. I know personally that you are also a travel maven and someone that, you know, you and I have traveled together a bit and, you know, shared some wonderful experiences together. Do you have for the road warrior for, you know, just in general, sort of some tips and tricks that you might want to share with people? I know you have so many. Maybe I should be a little bit more specific, but maybe about, we've got shows coming up. We're actually sitting here at a SharePoint Saturday having a conversation, so just sort of maybe tips and tricks for conferences, things that come to mind for you.

Erica Toelle: Okay. Well maybe not specific to conferences, but as soon as you said that a conversation I actually had on the plane with the guy sitting next to me on the way over here came to mind and there were two things that I see people confused about quite a bit. Number one, you're spending all of this time and money traveling, research the mileage programs and the credit card programs to get points and miles and value from those investments you're making so you can take your family on a cool vacation or take a dream trip. Like without even trying I can take about two fully luxurious vacations a year, like first class business class, five-star hotels, that I'm not paying for. It's just money I'm spending anyway on conferences and business travel being leveraged. And to that point, the second tip is you get most of that from credit card spend, and credit, a lot of people, there's this association that credit cards equal debt and that's not true at all. You can have a credit card and you can pay it off in full every single month and not be charged any interest and be earning the points and miles from it.

Heather Newman: Absolutely.

Erica Toelle: So yeah, that's how, that's how you do it.

Heather Newman: Right. So it's connecting sort of what you get sort of double points for. So say if you have a Chase and it's United and you're buying a United ticket or whatever for the example, like what's connected to what, what gives you double the bang for the buck, a free bag, entrance into a club, like all that kind of stuff.

Erica Toelle: Yeah, I mean it's really about what you want to get out of it. A trip for your family. Do you want to have more comfort on your existing business trips? All of that's possible and even if you just want to keep it super simple and get one well rounded credit card and keep it simple or you can be more complicated. Like I think this is fun and so I have one credit card that gives me the most points for airline tickets and one that they use for hotels and, because of the bonus categories, but that's just because I find it fun and interesting and I like the math of it.

Heather Newman: Yeah, absolutely. No, that you do. I mean, you definitely do that really, really well. Is there, I mean just besides sort of looking it up and, you know, reading about the different programs, do you think, is there any besides, you know, sort of the things you write because you write great things about that on your Facebook and different places where you're always sharing information about, “Hey, if you want to know about this, check it out”, you know, are there other people that you look to as far as like travel kind of tips or anybody instagrammy or, you know?

Erica Toelle: Yeah, so I mean there's two blogs that I think are really the best. My favorite favorite blog is called One Mile at a Time and he travels around reviewing lounges and business and first class products. But he also has things like, he's determined what he considers to be a value of points, so you can use it to check like, oh, I'm gonna, maybe get this redemption, like I'm going to use my Alaska miles to fly on Cathay Pacific for First Class. You can do the math and say, “Oh, I'm getting, you know, five cents a mile value from that”. And I go and check his evaluations. He values Alaska points at 1.8 cents. Since five cents is higher than 1.8 cents, it's a good deal.

Heather Newman: Sure.

Erica Toelle: So, I use it as kind of a sanity check. And then the other one is probably the most famous blog out there. He's the one who's always on Good Morning America and stuff, the Points Guy. So, he also has an app that's super useful on your phone you can put in the credit cards that you have, and it'll tell you what credit card do to use for what category. So use this credit card for airlines, use this for groceries, use this one to pay your gas. So you don't have to like remember it all, you can just check the app.

Heather Newman: If it's easy, we'll do it. Right?

Erica Toelle: Yeah, absolutely.

Heather Newman: Where are you, if you don't mind sharing, are there any places you're excited about going this year that you've kind of made out of points and that kind of thing.

Erica Toelle: Well, I haven't exactly decided yet.

Heather Newman: Well, you just got back from seeing the pandas. Oh my god, we haven't even talked about that. I was like, "You're hugging pandas, I'm so jealous".

Erica Toelle: Oh yeah. It was great. I really recommend you go to Chengdu, China and visit the giant panda breeding center. I didn't go to the actual Chengdu Breeding Center because it's very touristy and pop, there's a lot of people there. There's about five in the area. So, I went to one of the other ones that I actually can't pronounce to this day. And you can, you know, pay $100 and be a panda volunteer for the day where you actually get to, well, "get to" clean their cages, hand feed them, and really get up and close with the pandas as well as learn a lot about them. Yeah. So I recommend doing that. You can any, I think you have to be 12 years old to do it, so it's great to do with teenagers as well.

Heather Newman: That's cool. How did you find the pandas? I mean.

Erica Toelle: You know, it's funny, One Mile at a Time, that blog I like. He went there in maybe October and was like, you know, did all the research, documented the car service he used, how he booked it to get the lowest price and I literally just copied his itinerary.

Heather Newman: Really?

Erica Toelle: Yeah. I stayed at the same hotel because I was really busy and I didn't have time to plan the trip and so I was like, I know I trust this guy, so I just took his trip.

Heather Newman: That's fantastic. Hey, if it works, if it ain't broke, that's awesome. Very cool. So yeah. So, any future things you're looking into?

Erica Toelle: I mean this year I'm trying to finish visiting all the US states, I think, so I'm going to use up some of my Alaska miles. I'm checking those off and I want to see our whole country maybe before I start seeing the rest of the countries that I want to see.

Heather Newman: I road tripped a lot as a kid, so I've seen a lot of it, I think Alaska and Maine are some of the outliers for me.

Erica Toelle: Yeah Maine, I need to go to Maine.

Heather Newman: Yeah, it’s so far, I guess.

Erica Toelle: And Alabama.

Heather Newman: Oh, Alabama, awesome. Very cool. Well, right on. Yeah, thanks for the chat.

Erica Toelle: Always a pleasure.

Heather Newman: Aww, I know. Such a great colleague and a friend so it's always awesome to talk to folks who really are experts at what they do and that's what I'm really interested in sharing and Erica definitely has such a great background and is such a great community person in SharePoint and Office 365 and is always sharing really cool travel tips and she's a world traveler and she's really experienced with doing all this fun stuff. I always learn things from you all the time and

Erica Toelle: Oh, thank you.

Heather Newman: Yeah, it's super fun. And lastly, Erica is also very passionate, as am I, about women in technology and so we work on that kind of stuff a lot together and we're, you know, a lot of the shows that are coming up, there's a lot of that, you know, women in SharePoint, women in tech and all of that stuff. Have you been doing anything around that recently? And I know we've sort of talked about some things. I don't know. Is there anything coming up for you in that realm?

Erica Toelle: Well, I mean, something I do ongoing is just mentor college students. And, well I know I do it equally between men and women.

Heather Newman: Perfect and wonderful. Yay. Absolutely.

Erica Toelle: So, I'm just like kind of helping the young people get ready for a real job in the real world outside of like the Ivory Tower of academia. But I do find myself having a little bit different conversations with the women about, you know, how to properly assert yourself in the workplace or you know, stand up for your ideas or present them because I find they haven't been taught the skills yet for some reason. Whereas the men have that come to them a little more naturally. I don't know if it's PC to say that, but it's just what I observed.

Heather Newman: No, I think that's not wrong. Yeah, I do. And I think hopefully we're changing that all the time. But I do, I think there's just something about that growing up in our education system, you know, and our country

Erica Toelle: Well, even when at the beginning of this podcast when you were like, oh, you're describing me as an expert, it made me feel very uncomfortable.

Heather Newman: See. I think you, I think you are though, I mean it.

Erica Toelle: Right, but it's like hard to do, still to this day it's hard to do the self-promotion.

Heather Newman: Yeah, I get it. Well, I talk a lot about with, with folks when I do personal brand stuff, is that we talk a lot about the imposter theory, you know, that we have this idea that, you know, like we don't know what we're talking about and, some of life and business is smoke and mirrors, you know, from the theater if you will. But I do feel like I do feel like women tend to not give themselves enough credit and not realize that they are truly experts in our fields. And I do it sometimes too, for a long time I said, “Oh, I'm just a theater major”. Well, being a theater major in the technology world and what I'm doing gives me an edge and makes me different. And I had my, some friends and some people very close to me point that out to me and they were like, don't sell yourself short that way. You know,

Erica Toelle: It also makes you an excellent presenter. Entertaining and informative.

Heather Newman: It does bring the jazz hands to the table, that's for sure. So anyway, well cool. I'm so thankful for you for doing that with the young people. I knew you did that, but I'd forgotten about it. That's super cool.

Erica Toelle: It's honestly my favorite thing to do.

Heather Newman: Yeah, that's Rad. That's very awesome. And Erica has like this huge awesome background in music too, producing festivals. You are an expert in lots of things, so yay, that's why you're on here. So. Awesome. All right, well thank you for joining me on the podcast.

Erica Toelle: Yeah, thanks for having me. This is great.

Heather Newman: Yeah, you're very welcome hun. All right, signing off. Thanks everybody. Always learning. Have a good day.

Heather Newman

Creative Maven, 8710 Graton Road, Sebastopol. CA 95472, United States

Heather Newman is an award-winning marketing maven, technology entrepreneur and an epic connector that brings many worlds together. She has extensive experience marketing products and services for Enterprise businesses, startups and emerging markets. Heather builds plans and processes that are nimble, human and different. She is an adept storyteller and is passionate about growth for both employees and the corporate bottom-line. Heather hails from the arts and the bulk of her career has been working with the largest technology companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, NetApp, Hewlett Packard, and Dell). Her nineteen years of experience working at technology companies and building global high-tech marketing strategy has driven millions of dollars of revenue and multiple award-winning campaigns. She has led global marketing teams for many technology companies including AvePoint, IT Unity & KnowledgeLake. Heather was a part of the original Microsoft SharePoint Marketing team. During her tenure, she helped launch multiple versions of the product, build the SharePoint Partner Ecosystem and conceived of and produced the first three Microsoft SharePoint Conferences. Creative Maven has produced thousands of global marketing campaigns and events. Currently CM is focusing on go to market strategies for Microsoft and its partners as well as a new site sister site launching in 2015 called Marketingfixer.com. Heather also serves as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Panda, an innovative technology startup looking to actively disrupt how content is delivered inside software.