To Yammer or not to Yammer – can we guarantee success with enterprise social tools?

I’m very keen on the idea of the enterprise social network Yammer and what it could mean for internal business communication.

I visualise a time when our interstate frontline staff are discussing the pros and cons of a new business initiative with our senior managers at Head Office. When the CEO spots a game-changing idea from a new employee during his daily check of the site. When our sales teams are reporting back from the field, creating excitement about wins as they happen.

But enterprise social tools like Yammer are not like our traditional internal communication tools:

– We don’t control the message.

– We can’t force people to get involved – and success relies on interaction.

– We can’t guarantee success.

It’s actually pretty scary. I know of plenty of organisations that have experimented with Yammer and it failed. People didn’t see the value, they didn’t find the time and it fizzled out.

At this moment in time, the success of Yammer within my own organisation is at make or break point. Over one-sixth of our workforce signed up within the first few weeks of my soft launch, simply via word of mouth. I invited those people I could rely on to join first. That worked well. A key group of about half a dozen people from across the business were very keen and began posting updates, asking questions, replying to threads and creating groups.

Next, with a good proportion of staff onboard I sent an email to our Senior Management Team, outlining the benefits and asking for their commitment to the network – just five minutes a day, twice a week to begin with.

I also spoke face-to-face with a number of staff: if they were working on an interesting project I suggested a Yammer post. If I was writing an intranet news story on behalf of a business unit, I suggested that they could also promote their work in a status update.

I’ve nudged conversations along, introduced talking points, asked questions and tried to encourage the lurkers.

Now, we’re six weeks in. The initial excitement has died off. There are other business priorities. Less people are joining. Those who signed-up haven’t revisited the site. The goodwill of our Senior Managers is there, but they just haven’t found the time.

So, I’m asking myself some key questions and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts:

– do we just ‘experiment’ with enterprise social tools such as Yammer, or do we strategise the roll-out as we do with all other internal comms channels?

– by creating a strategy for success, can we ever guarantee a social tool like Yammer is a success?

– what does success look like on these tools anyway?

– finally, what can we learn about our employee engagement if there is low interaction through Yammer. How can we use this to influence the rest of our internal communications strategy?

These are the questions I’ll be working through over the coming months…..I’ll keep you updated.

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8 Responses to To Yammer or not to Yammer – can we guarantee success with enterprise social tools?

  1. Donnacha murphy says:

    Hey Anna really good blog and just shows the limitations of yammer. Employee colloration should make things easy and cut out unwanted emails cluttering your inbox. A good solution would be chatter which is an Salesforce.com product that allows you to collaborate on files but more importantly on key accounts and contacts. Might be worth a look! Let me know it you want to know m

    • Donnacha murphy says:

      More!!

      • Very good point Donnacha. Not only is it deciding whether or not to use an internal networking tool, it’s important to consider the right one for the specific business too – that could be yammer, chatter or something else entirely. Thanks!

  2. Donna says:

    Any new initiative with the right advertising will tend to generate some degree of excitement down to novelty factor, something different from the day-to-day slog. Maintaining and building interest without the input and support from top management will likely be impossible. People want help, want to be interested but will always be too busy. To achieve a full integration of Yammer, or any other social networking tool, management must agree it will form part of their comms strategy – not seen as an experimental new initative but as a BAU function which must be reported on. Yammer could prove an invaluable tool in increasing employee engagement. It could lead to interest in secondments, shared ideas increasing revenue, hearing good news stories, employees simply getting to know one another, the benefits are plentiful. Whether it is indeed proving a success can be monitored by monthly/bi-annual/annual assessments on usage but mainly through employee surveys. Survey Monkey is a brilliant tool and charges a one-off fee, enabling you to generate short, sharp surveys or longer, throrough ones (my opinion is that short works best). The surveys should be mandatory. But it all comes back to the input from the top and unless you have that support and investment, I’d bargain that Yammer will become a dead horse to flog.

    • Totally agree with the points you make about management endorsement and also being able to prove the worth of the new initiative and genuine value to the business. I think a good strategy for this (which I’ll be doing) is working on showing smaller groups of staff who are finding value and using these as examples to the rest of the business.
      I’m going to keep the horse alive!!!

  3. Hi Anna – thanks for the blog post. It’s exciting to see your journey play out. A quick disclosure before I continue: I’m a Customer Success Manager for Yammer based in Sydney, Australia.

    I’d like to point you to some research that’s been carried out by Kai Riemer, from the University of Sydney. Kai has published some excellent research where he has actually looked at how Yammer networks are adopted. He has mapped the various life cycle stages that an organisation will go through during that adoption. It’s here: http://byresearch.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/snep/

    I also posted about how you can get people to adopt new software on my own blog, here: http://thesquigglyline.com/blog/innovation/how-to-get-people-to-adopt-new-software-help-them-make-sense-of-it/, where I delve into what Kai’s research has meant for me in my work with Yammer and how I try to apply it.

    Finally, what you’re describing matches Kai’s model pretty well. I’d advise that you continue to develop support from your leadership and also seek to build a team of Yammer Champions you can work alongside to help your colleagues to make sense of how they can use the platform to get their work done.

    Let me know if you have any questions or want to discuss any of this more.

  4. anna lowman says:

    Thanks Steve, will certainly take a closer look at the infomation you’ve suggested. Building a team of champions is undoubtedly my next step here.
    The good news is that we’re now nearly four months into Yammer and there are signs the network is beginning to embed within the business. By following your advice I hope this will happen even more.

  5. Hi Anna! Thanks for liking my review of Argo. Am slowly trying to build my blog up. Will happily follow your blog; would be fantastic if you could do the same back. Hope you’re ok and life is treating you well in Sydney. Take care. X

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