The beginning of my Yammer journey

I knew at some point this year I was going to need to spend some time getting to know Yammer again. I think once Microsoft purchased Yammer, it made it inevitable for many to look closer at enterprise social. The question was no longer about “if”; instead, it was “when?”

I’ll admit I was very reluctant to begin exploring Yammer. I have spent more than 10 years working with SharePoint and believed Microsoft was maturing nicely with SharePoint’s out-of-the-box social capabilities. Believing that there was something else out there I needed, made me feel somewhat, unfaithful.

Also, the thought of introducing a separate collaboration tool that people had to get their head wrapped around seemed to break a golden rule of simplification.

I knew Yammer was a good tool, but I thought Microsoft didn’t need Yammer to be social. More importantly, I felt organizations face more complexity within their information management domain than what Yammer could realistically support.

I soon discovered that I was very wrong.

Yammer and SharePoint are better together

I realized fairly quickly that Yammer doesn’t need SharePoint. It alone is a compelling tool and can serve a very important role in an organization. That said, I can also see a world where Yammer and SharePoint are better together.

Yammer brings a whole new way of thinking about collaboration, communication, and people. This is allowing Microsoft to unite the productivity suite and pivot SharePoint at one of the most important times in its life. My observation and belief now is that the new SharePoint and Yammer team are redefining collaboration, communication and are targeting Office 365, through Exchange, SharePoint and Lync as the new connected playground.

Enough platitudes, what the hell is Yammer and what is it good for?

My advice is not to get lost in the buzzwords and jargon or get anxious when someone asks, “what’s your perspective on social” or “how’s your social going.” It seems the word ‘social’ is now being bandied about as if the term refers to a verb, a concept, and/or an actual person.

You will hear a lot of people talk about how ‘social’ allows organizations to change culture and transform for the better. While this may be true, I suggest you remember that Yammer is just a tool. It happens to be a great tool, but organizations must keep the rationale simple when describing situations to use Yammer.

A great way to think about Yammer is to think about it as a space for conversations. Using a university analogy, traditional SharePoint intranet is like a library with structured content, perhaps a touch hard to find. Yammer, instead is like the campus cafeteria. While SharePoint handles documents extremely well, Yammer is for bringing people together and encouraging a more open exchange of ideas and information.

Top use cases for Yammer

As I’ve hinted at above, there are a variety of scenarios where Yammer is heads above the competition. As an enterprise social tool, it’s worth implementing for these purposes:

Generating ideas among groups of people trying to solve a particular problem
I think what I like best about Yammer is that it allows groups of people to continue to discuss ideas or initiatives after they’ve met face-to-face. Yammer makes it easy to brainstorm ideas outside of a meeting and keep everyone on the same page.

Collecting feedback
Assuming your network spans throughout your organization, Yammer allows employees to ask questions and collect feedback instantly. You don’t have to guess anymore when wondering how to fix an issue or to learn more about how something is being perceived. I believe this is really powerful for organizations that are disconnected from their frontline or field workers and want to maintain a connection to those who are closest to customers or the problem at hand.

Finding expertise quickly
Yammer helps you find answers to questions as you can post questions to targeted groups or to all employees and benefit from the wisdom of the crowd. This means the time it takes to resolve a question can be significantly shortened because people can direct a question to someone who may know exactly where to find the solution. Power users also find searching for questions can actually help to solve problems right away without having to wait because the answers to previous questions are searchable.

Communicating what’s going on, sharing experiences, and staying connected

Yammer allows people to post updates on what they are doing, which breaks down silos, organizational hierarchy, or regional divides that hold people back from chatting and sharing. This not only encourages people to meet each other, but it helps individuals understand one another and find commonalities.

Showing recognition or giving praise

Yammer makes it easy to tell someone you like what they are doing or publically give them props for a job well done. Everyone seeks feedback, consciously or not, and appreciates when their efforts are noticed.

Tying it all together

Yammer has many uses and benefits for organizations looking to improve internal communication, idea sharing and team collaboration. My advice, don’t wait to tie it all together but start developing your internal communities and build a vision for how your intranet will evolve as the integration strengthens. We are already seeing the benefit of embedding your Yammer feeds and document collaboration into a more traditional intranet and expect the broader worlds to get more seamless as the teams pick up momentum.


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