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On the road to becoming a Google Guru

  I’m currently on secondment as part of the Change Management team at United Biscuits. My job title is Google Technologies Advocate and I am currently part of a team rolling out Google Applications across our business. It feels a long way from who I have been for the past six years as the PA for the Sales Director at the same company.

So what brought about this change?

About a year ago the Information Services team presented a taster of Google Applications to the PA community, the applications looked modern, intuitive and user friendly! By the end of the session I was hooked and I knew I wanted to play a part. Google offered something so different to the ways we were currently working yet made complete sense. So six months ago I started my dream job and whilst you might be wondering why this was my dream job I think my experiences as a PA have provided a unique insight in to how Google applications can help us work smarter. Let me explain:

One of my pet hates used to be managing the life cycle of a customer presentation.  I found it hugely frustrating that only one person was able to be in a document at one time and it was part of my role to monitor who was updating it, to track when they had finished, checking if it was right AND if it flowed correctly.  I then had the privilege of letting the next person know they could do their bit.  As you can imagine it was a laborious task and not the best use of time and resource for all parties involved. However Google Docs changes this by allowing up to 50 people in a document at one time!  The link to any spreadsheet, document or presentation can be shared amongst the people who are going to work on it and they access it through the cloud and can make their changes at the same time.  This means there is one version of the truth and a complete shift from document tracking and monitoring to open and real time collaboration.

My other pet hate was the lack of internal storage space and the incessant demands to keep our inboxes clear. Using Google Mail has changed this completely as there is never the need to delete anything as we now get 250 times more storage than before! An excellent feature is the powerful search engine. You can search your emails like you would search the web eliminating the requirement of carefully filing everything away. These two things mean I have not ‘lost’ an email in over 6 months.  

So these are two benefits from a PA’s perspective (my old world) that made the implementation of Google Applications so appealing and made we want to be involved. Take these benefits across a whole organisation and not only does it improve efficiency but it opens the door to completely new way of working. This is where my role comes in as the focus is less about the technology and more around managing change.

My role is to be an early adopter and to help build momentum; it’s not a hard job in some respects as I rave about it all the time (this bit comes naturally) but as we know people do not always embrace change.  95% of what we do is habit; we like the way things are now because that is how we have always done it but if you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got. How can organisations progress and innovate with this attitude and culture?

This isn’t about implementing a few new systems and tools this is about transforming our business and the way we work. It’s a very exciting time and I’m so pleased to be playing a key role. The journey has begun, stay tuned for more on how we get on.


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  • Visda thanks for sharing. This is a great story for so many reasons and it sounds like it's only just starting. I love how through your role as a PA you have identified the inefficiencies that 'old' ways of working bring to individuals, teams and indeed organisations. Imagine putting a cost to the time that has been spent on working together with one central document without any real time collaboration or way of being more connected with your fellow colleagues.

    Imagine the cost attached to the time spent looking for things that aren't easily found, documented or just aren't their. We don't often think of our day-to-day time when just doing our job as a cost but if everyone spends just 20 minutes a day 'looking for things' or 'waiting for things' that's 1hr 40mins per week or over 6 hrs a month. That's nearly a day a month 'wasted' now multiply that by a year and your talking 12 days a year and if you have 1000 employees (for ease of my maths skills) at an average cost of £100 per day the cost of this to a business is £1.2 million - this is a cost from people just looking for things for 20 minutes a day.

    Businesses that move to a more collaborative and agile infrastructure (like google apps, collaborative tools, social intranets and other social technologies dramatically speed up workflow and by using tools that allow real time work and intelligent knowledge management by connecting their people will become more productive and responsive and profitable.

    It sounds like UB are at the start of this journey and you've rightly identified technology is just a small part of this, the hardest thing is re-learning how to work in this more collaborative and open environment. Fundamentally this is about behaviours and this is where the biggest change needs to come from.

    I can't wait for the next installment and it's great to find a well known organisation opting for Google - early adopters or what!

  • Love this! Think more organisations should do the same and look at Google as way of working. Since buying a Google Chrome laptop I've been converted Vista and I can certainly see the benefits that you mention. I'm sure Google hangouts will be then next thing that starts to replace that standard webinars/conference calls. 

    You've certainly got loads of passion for Google, so I'm sure the change will be very successful.

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