The featured tool in this article is Yammer, but the tactics and principles described are valid for whatever intranet collaboration tool you are rolling out. Three critical tactics according to Hanesbrands: Gain leadership support, Partner early with IT, Help employees use the platform & see value.
There’s been an increasing interest in internal corporate communications tool Yammer, but in more recent times that interest has jumped. Having noticed this spike in interest Per Axbom decided to investigate. Per created a survey using Wufoo and asked people in his network who used Yammer to take a few minutes to complete it.
Although there are a number of products that occupy a similar space in the market (Present.ly and Socialtext to mention just two), Per chose to investigate Yammer as it was the tool he is most familiar with, and because he wanted the answers from each company to be comparable – which wouldn’t be possible if several tools were surveyed simultaneously.
After 9 days, and just over 30 responses, Per has published his initial findings.
- Yammer seems to be most popular in organisations of up to 50 people (over 75% of those who answered)
- Management are often aware that Yammer is being used, but the network is not being used so much for spreading information from the management team.
- By far the most common type of use was sharing information between colleagues.
- Very few search the history. Information is “here and now”.
- Generally respondents were not worried about the security of Yammer.
- Answers were divided regarding whether Yammer saves organisations money or not. Presumably few companies have a way of measuring this.
Per concluded that Yammer is potentially a revolutionary tool for intranets, in a similar way to how WordPress has been revolutionary for public web publishing. Especially if it (or another similar product) opened itself up better to third-party adaptions.
I agree with Per. Yammer is wonderfully disruptive, and despite some flaws (such as it’s poor API, and potential security problems with the free version), it can help trigger a genuine shift in the way companies collaborate and communicate internally – both directly and indirectly.
The survey is still open. Per has decided to keep it open for a further 1-2 months. This gives more people at more companies chance to answer whilst still restricting the time-frame to keep the analysis relevant. Let’s see what the full survey says towards the end of the year.
The concept of choosing to follow someone is very familiar to those of us active on twitter. As is the concept of not following someone.
In small organisations, my experience has shown that normally everyone would follow everyone. This is largely because small organisations are likely to be cohesive as a team, especially at the smaller end of the scale.
In large organisations (over 250 employees), my experience has shown that it is accepted and understood that you don’t follow everyone. Why would you? Following 20,000 people would ruin your micro-blogging experience (or at the very least force you into needing some kind of Tweetdeck-like application to filter and sort it all!)
In medium sized organisations (50-250 employees), I’d generally expect employees to follow everyone in their team, or department, and then a sprinkling of other colleagues from a range of other teams and functions – plus senior management.
We all know (or should know) that the move to a social intranet involves a cultural shift in how an organisation works. A social intranet is not achieved by the availability of a particular tool. The cultural changes required will be unique from organisation to organisation, and some will be more ready than others to adopt the way or working that a social intranet enables.
One particular aspect of that cultural shift I hadn’t considered is that of exclusion. Deliberately avoiding certain collegues on your social intranet. Groups of employees deliberately freezing out other employees by not following them.
Now it’s easy to initially react in the classic control manner. Let’s ban Facebook! Let’s ban Yammer! That, I’m afraid to say, is not a solution. The problem isn’t Yammer and it’s ability to let you choose who you follow and unfollow. The problem is that a culture of exclusion and bullying behaviour exists within the organisation.
Address the issue, not ban the tool
Your focus needs to be on how to address that issue internally, not how to “fix” Yammer (or whichever tool your organisation uses). A “solution” such as forcing everyone to follow everyone else is impractical and not really a solution. It will drive down adoption, reduce the business gain from microblogging, and almost certainly force the bullying that exist in your organisation into another forum.
Microblogging needs to be open (a “company wide” feed, available to all) to make people feel included (even if they aren’t active within the microblogging tool). It also needs to be searchable (to allow employees to utilise the digital assets stored in the status updates and shared links). It doesn’t need to be forced (follow everyone) or banned (driving the conversation elsewhere).
What problems have you encountered with rolling out social features on your intranet?
if we do our change management correctly all we need is micro-blogging, a document management system that gives URL’s and maybe a link-trimmer
Over the past 18 months I’ve been overseeing the implementation of Yammer (intranet social networking tool) in a small business. The goal was to reduce the amount of ideas, discussions and knowledge circulating in emails sent to a limited audience and increase knowledge sharing and learning.
It’s taken over a year for a majority of employees (and close partners) to find a place for micro-blogging in their daily communications. At first it was just myself and two other early adopters who jumped in and started talking. Then, as time passed, real-life conversations started to bring up Yammer conversations and shared links – increasing the curiosity and interest of non-active colleagues in joining our social network.
As Nielsen have pointed out, growing a social network internally isn’t something you do overnight. You have to have the patience to let it develop organically.
Everyone currently follows everyone else. It’s a small enough company to cope with that, but as the network grows, I’d expect people to begin being selective about which collegues they actively follow and for more groups (or side-discussions) to appear.
With Yammer, this small business now has a searchable database of ideas, links, conversations – company assets that would normally be lost in email. They also have the ability to do all this in real time; asking questions and sharing experience. For a small company with consultants who are often working across a number of client sites; Yammer has become an active hub, leaving the formal, structured intranet as a reference library.