Driving Business Value Through Enterprise Social Networking
I am attending Forrester's Content & Collaboration Forum 2011. Forrester notes that in five years, almost half of US workers — about 63 million people — will work virtually. I am already one of them. This will change everything in workplace IT support from designing workplace information strategies for collaboration, to delivering content experiences to people across channels, to engaging the next-generation workforce to serve customers better.
The Forum explores what the “current demand for more portable, social workplace experiences means for your workplace strategy.” It “shares the latest trends in technology adoption and how firms forge better business outcomes from a more mobile, social, and virtual workforce.” I attended the session, Driving Business Value Through Enterprise Social Networking, led by Dee Anna McPherson, Vice President of Customer Engagement, Yammer. Yammer won a collaboration award that was presented at the morning session for their work with Deloitte Australia. I had a nice chat with Greg Lowe who now works for Yammer helping customers develop their collaboration strategies. We use Yammer here at Darwin Ecosystems. I have also covered them on the AppGap blog (see Yammer Adds Communities to Its Enterprise Microblogging Offering). Here is the session description:
“There is a lot of buzz about enterprise social networking, but many organizations are unclear about how it can deliver real business value. This session will outline real-world use cases and best practices from companies using Yammer, a leading enterprise social networking solution. Attendees will learn proven strategies for planning, implementing, and measuring value from enterprise social networking and will hear firsthand from a customer about their experience.”
Dee discussed ways that collaboration can help with key business issues such as mergers and acquisitions. One client, a top entertainment company, is making a lot of acquisitions. Yammer is the one tool that they can get everyone on in the first year. This allows new employees to connect with the acquiring firm and see what is happening right way. Another manufacturing firm found significant increases in productivity for acquired firms after implementing an enterprise collaboration tool
Lawrence De Voe, Chief Technology Catalyst at Initiative, joined Dee. His firm is a media, marketing and digital company that helps clients with media buys and other related initiatives. Employees found the existing intranet lacking and not engaging. Their Yammer pilot found 400 people on it after 3 weeks with only 10 of them getting a formal invite. So they are moving to a full implementation. Lawrence said that there were different cultures in the firm within different groups. The US digital media group was an early adopter. They got these groups on board first to establish value and then are bringing the others in.
The leaders across the different company groups got involved soon. They have described positive efforts in one country and gotten adoption across other countries much sooner through Yammer. Another key use is expertise and answer location. Questions posted Yammer get answered quickly such as responding to a customer’s question. Yammer groups allow for more focused conversations among a subgroups. They even use private groups for such things as early stage product development and HR issues were privacy is a concern. One of their lessons learned was the critical need to have executive sponsors. Their CEO was an early adopter who encourages others to participate.
So far about 60% of employees have voluntarily joined. They are now going to encourage and enable the rest to join but will make sure there is useful content for them to engage with. One of the issues is working with regional teams to handle language barriers, as well as addressing local content issues.
It was asked if there are any abuses. Lawrence said none so far but they have planned for it. There are rules for engagement. He also monitors and would delete unacceptable content. He noted that since senior management looks at it, people are not likely to do anything abusive. He noted that private groups will always remain private. If someone did a screen shot of a conversation in a private group and shared it that would be an HR violation.
It was asked if experts are now getting hounded by questions. Lawrence said that they were already getting hounded. Now they can store and reuse common answers to cut down the demand on them. It was also asked about distractions or people spending too much time on Yammer. Lawrence said that this has not been a problem. The topics are business issues that they want discussed. However, they do not want anyone spending more than an hour and half a day on Yammer unless that was their dedicated job.
It is interesting how the same concerns about bad behaviors come up in many sessions in many events on social media. These are likely to always come up whenever there is a new medium. However, these abuses seem to rarely actually occur within the enterprise, unlike on the Web. Think of it this way. No one is likely to do bad things in a well-lighted parking lot with multiple security cameras monitoring what is going on when they are wearing nametags. However, in the dark alleyways of email such behavior is more likely to occur. Greg Lowe mentioned to me the idea that if social media had come first and then email, we would be far more concerned with abuses in a system that cannot be monitored such as email.