Enterprise Social is a new work culture – not a tool

What is the future of enterprise social in organisations and the future of Yammer in Office 365? Some people are saying Yammer is dying, but I have to disagree. Yammer is not only a tool, it is a powerful way to change the organisation’s culture to become more social.

One of the hot topics in Unity Connect conference in Amsterdam 12-13 October was the future of enterprise social and particularly what is Yammer’s role in the Microsoft’s evolving Office 365 vision. In both formal and informal discussions Office 365 experts suspected that there has been a battle between Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer divisions inside Microsoft about who owns the team collaboration in Office 365. If this rumor is true, Exchange team has won the battle with their new Office 365 Groups concept which Microsoft is marketing heavily – at the expense of both Yammer and SharePoint Team Sites.

ESN is just a waste of time?

Couple of weeks ago Wictor Wilen wrote a provocative and still insightful blog post where he more or less stated that Yammer is dead. In the Unity Connect Expert Talk he also advised customers not to start Yammer projects anymore. I agree on all other opinions with Wictor, but saying “standalone ESN is a waste of time” is rubbish. And I still advise to start using Yammer.

In my opinion, technical experts who are burying Yammer are missing the key point: Enterprise Social is not only a tool for team collaboration but a company-wide initiative to break down team and division silos to make scattered employees connected and agile to adapt to change. Yammer boosts openness and transparency, aligns people to shared vision and helps organizations to solve problems as one entity. Or at least as a much bigger entity than a small team. People desire to belong to a group and Yammer brings colleagues together 24/7.

How we use Yammer?

We at Blue Meteorite have been using Yammer for 5 years and we couldn’t live without it anymore. With approx 100 employees, our engagement rate is 100%. Every single one of us is using Yammer daily to get their job done. We are helping others for example with technical issues in our Q&A Yammer group, sharing our information about customers and projects, developing transparently our processes and products, sharing industry news, planning together a Christmas party, use the polling feature to ask peoples opinions and sometimes we tell funny jokes to make people laugh and make the most of our workday.

What our customers have achieved with Yammer?

Many of our customers are Yammer heavy-users. One them has many offices around the country, with both knowledge workers and also field workers. We trained and gave tips to help them manage a successful launch and they made their launch planning really well. Ever since, Yammer has shaped their work culture: it’s a channel to share the information and have informal conversations. Yammer is a great way to get to know your coworkers in a distributed workplace, and now everyone has an opportunity to know what is happening in their company from the ground up and ask questions if they don’t understand. All this have made the company’s processes more transparent. Now they set their goals together and people are part of a community, not just a company. This motivates employees and has made them more engaged and empowered.

Other customer is a traditional company who has focused lately heavily on their organisational culture. After the Yammer implementation, the company has moved towards modern work culture. With Yammer people can easily collaborate with their colleagues and innovate easily. They say that the company’s organisation structure seems flatter and work culture is more flexible and inspiring. Besides employees can nowadays take more social and active part inside the company, this have also improved their (external) social media skills. Most users have realized the benefits the company can achieve with a positive and strong social media presence in Twitter, Facebook, etc. This has made it possible to encourage employees to tell the company’s story in their personal networks. What a great lesson to learn!

What is the real challenge with Yammer?

In my opinion the real challenge with Yammer adoption is not how well it integrates with other systems. Of course I’d expect a lot better job from Microsoft integrating Yammer to Office 365, but even as a standalone product Yammer (like any other ESN) can bring huge benefits to businesses.

And, what could replace Yammer in Office 365? Groups and SharePoint Team Sites are for team collaboration only. SharePoint Newsfeed has been dead from its birth. If Microsoft decides to get rid of Yammer, companies I mentioned before are forced to start using Chatter, Jive, Slack or some other ESN tool instead. I don’t understand why Microsoft would do something like that.

The real challenge with Yammer and the reason that Enterprise Social as a way of working is really hard to adopt is that it’s not just a tool. Yammer requires a clear vision, crystal clear use cases that everyone in the organisation understands, and a rigorous execution. Once you’ve overcome those hurdles, Yammer is an extremely powerful tool to make organizations responsive and transparent. And remember to be patient, culture change doesn’t happen overnight.

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