Employee portals can shift culture, bring people closer together, and ultimately help empower and engage employees. We’ve had a SharePoint-based employee portal called “H” at Habanero for a number of years. It's an important part of our company and we use it to share learnings, give recognition, ask questions, and collaborate on projects. H also contains a number of workflows that support onboarding new employees, expense approval, and more.

We like to try out new technologies on ourselves before using them in a client scenario. For example, when we determined that Sitecore would be a good fit for certain website and customer portals, we built the new version of HabaneroConsulting.com on the platform. Being a guinea pig gives us the freedom to make mistakes and learn before creating a solution for our clients. 

We implemented Yammer in August of last year. It was adopted quickly by a number of different virtual teams at Habanero. For example, our business development team started using it to record conversations with clients and partners, note market trends, and share competitive intelligence. Project teams started to use Yammer and its mobile apps to collaborate across our three offices, ask questions, and praise each other for good work. 

When we adopted a new tool internally for timesheet entry and expenses, we used a Yammer group to support the rollout. We chose to do this instead of increasing investment in formal training. This gave everyone an immediate support system and an easy way to ask questions, see changes happening, and get a sense of the issues or progress being made. Adoption of Yammer was rapid and we are getting a lot of value out of it.

You might be saying to yourself: “This sounds fantastic, what’s the problem?” Although we have an incredibly successful Yammer implementation, there are a few challenges we have seen. Interestingly enough, these are also concerns we have heard from clients who are considering Yammer for their enterprise social needs:

  • Employees need to go to two places: our intranet and Yammer. We ended up shutting down the social features on our intranet and are using Yammer for all our enterprise social needs. This has dramatically reduced the traffic to our portal, where a number of important things still live.

  • Yammer is a bit overwhelming for some people. It doesn’t necessarily do the best job of filtering items or groups that you should be looking at. People are still using emails to communicate essential information.

  • Yammer is cloud based, which can be a challenge. A few of our clients do not allow any client-related information to be stored in the cloud so we can’t use Yammer in these scenarios.

  • A lot of people still love and heavily use email. Yammer doesn’t integrate that well with email and turns forwarded emails into PDFs, which is a clunky and time-consuming experience.

  • We still use SharePoint's collaborative communities/team sites for collaborative document editing and other tasks. Yammer doesn’t replace having a place where people can work together on documents. The challenge right now is that if you only look at Yammer, you miss following updates in SharePoint or vice-versa. The benefit of using SharePoint social is that the social community is integrated into the same group where work is done.

Over the last few months I have learned first-hand that Yammer is a phenomenal enterprise social network, but it needs a better SharePoint integration story. I’m in Las Vegas this week for the SharePoint Conference. I’m really hoping we will hear a more cohesive SharePoint + Yammer story. If done right it would be a killer combination for creating social employee portals.