My boss walked in and just started laughing.
Not a condescending laugh, but a contagious chuckle at my expense.
In a company of 5000 people, I had emailed all of them in search of a team or individual that had handled a similar challenge as the one I was facing at a large retailer.
It was out of frustration that I launched the missive pleading for help on an initiative I knew had been done before by scores of our consultants. But the crowd’s reaction was swift and negative.
After calculating that I wasted at 500 hours of our employees’ time, she course corrected me by giving me the names of three people whom she thought could help track down the information I was seeking.
But it still took me two days to find the team that had the answers. Two days I could have spent on site with my client. There had to be a better way.
There is a better way
Steve Apfelberg of Yammer believes their 100% focus on real time, searchable communication will make us more productive. I tend to agree.
Yammer provides a more practical method to enterprise-wide communication versus the mass “boil the ocean” email approach that in the past have failed. Especially in large organizations where information silos exist.
Even if I had been emailed back the information by a sympathetic coworker, that information is not searchable by anyone but me. So the next person that has the same issue, will need to duplicate my effort to get the same answer.
And that’s not working for anyone.
Yammer at a glance
What value does Yammer provide?
Think of Yammer as the communication circulatory system of the enterprise. Except this system extends beyond a single body or location (insert Matrix or Borg reference). In fact it can securely extend to partners and customers with Yammer Communities.
Better, employees using a Yammer communication network can tune in to the information they are most interested in. Like Twitter, users can add a hashtag before a search term to see a more narrow activity stream of relevant information.
Then, Yammer makes it easy to create a custom set of radio stations tuned to exactly the information you want to see. Oh and they’re archived and searchable too. Metcalf’s law applies here, but the benefits of a widely used, filtered corporate communication system are numerous. I’ll list a few:
- Salespeople can tune into customer opportunities, feedback or complaints and take immediate action.
- Since the activity streams of all employees are saved, searching and mining information can help unlock information silos.
- Use Yammer as an extended R&D tool especially around a project with a short duration. Capture information from employees, customers and suppliers prior to investing in a creating a new product
- Expert search: Just ask the community.
- Customer support: set up a secure connection with your best customers and allow them to directly interact with your support staff.
- Employee engagement: I’ve used the term psychological currency to describe the impact that tools like Yammer have on the psyche of the individual. In short, everyone can be important and get rewarded for contributing. The effect leads to even more discovery and sharing which equals greater corporate value.
There are many other use cases that Luis Suarez has put together that you can review. The point is that Yammer is one of the easiest Enterprise 2.0 solutions to justify in most companies. It’s a simple solution with a high return in value. But it needs to go much further.
The future benefits of Yammer
According to Apfelberg, Yammer’s mission is to become an organization’s primary communications platform. They plan to do it by slowly replacing email and instant messenger over time. They also plan to provide communication connectors to all of your enterprise systems.
Apfelberg claims the company is exploring vertical applications for specific departments like Yammer for Sales, Marketing and Finance. Focused solutions to address the specific needs of each department. Smart idea, but hard to execute on more than a couple. Expect Yammer to partner with OEM’s or VAR’s to help bring some of them to market.
I’d also expect Yammer to tie into ERP and CRM systems in order to create alerts and reports for those responsible. For example, if a customer is 90 days delinquent on paying a large invoice, the ERP system will start a Yammer thread to which the right people can act on it. I see a lot of high value application in this area.
According to Apfelberg, SharePoint 2007 integration is just a few short weeks away, while SharePoint 2010 integration is around the corner. Smart move, as the SharePoint customer base is large and ready for an application that drives adoption. I suspect Yammer also has intentions of cozying up to Microsoft for a potential exit option.
With all of that content being created by thousands of employees, Yammer will need to provide much more powerful reports and dashboards to effectively mine the data and capitalize on it. Outlook 2010 will be doing this with email, but Yammer has a higher value play here because the data can be made public. Outlook 2010 will be reporting on anonymous data.
What decision makers need to know
Expect to have a solid business case before recommending an organization use Yammer. I’ve listed some above, but find the pain points in your organization and tailor the messaging.
It’s critical that you define the business goals for your micro-blogging initiative and how it will be measured. Try using productivity metrics around reducing email usage or how many questions have been answered in a prescribed period of time.
Since Yammer operates on a Freemium model, try it out for free with a large team. Remember however Metcalf’s law and that you’ll see real value once the network increases in size. This is important to note as you set internal expectations.
As Yammer continues to enhance the discipline of solving real business problems by providing a rich conversation layer to your mission critical data, using their solution will help place you ahead of the curve and make you more competitive.
Remember though that introducing any new solution puts you at risk. Read my past articles on Enterprise 2.0 adoption or visit the Adoption 2.0 Council (now part of Dachis) for further implementation strategies.
But whatever you do – don’t sit on your hands. The do nothing strategy leads to nothing.
(Cross-posted @ Seek Omega )