Launching Yammer in enterprise organizations the right way

We've written an updated version of this post! Check it out here.

Although Yammer is a turnkey social network, launching it in large companies takes a decent amount of planning and effort. Here are ten considerations when launching a Yammer network that will help drive adoption and ensure there aren’t any nasty surprises that derail your launch.

Start with why

It’s essential that people in your organization understand what you will and will not use Yammer for. Microsoft Teams and SharePoint have some capability overlap with Yammer, so you’ll want to (as clearly as you can) communicate the purpose and role of each.

Create a vision that details why your company is launching a Yammer network, principles for your network, and your initial use cases. For example: "Yammer is our place to discover people and ideas, engage and connect with colleagues, and strengthen our community." 

You’ll also want to detail scenarios where Yammer shouldn’t be used like sharing sensitive or confidential information. We also recommend outlining future use cases you expect to address as your workforce becomes more familiar with the platform.

Engage internal comms early

Workshops with your communicators can be a great way to introduce them to Yammer and help you determine the communities and use cases that would be a good fit.

Typically, we start with an introduction to Yammer and explore the vision, principles, initial use cases, and scenarios where Yammer shouldn’t be used in your organization. Once your communicators have a good idea of how Yammer can be used, conduct a workshop where they explore the various communities in the organization, additional scenarios for Yammer use, and who may be the biggest advocates for the network (our Champions).

Prepare your leaders

Executive participation is the single most important factor in creating a thriving Yammer network—you can’t spend enough time getting your leaders ready! Involve your leaders early, share the vision and principles for your Yammer network along with how Yammer will help the organization achieve its strategic objectives.

Yammer can be challenging for leaders, especially for those that are used to communicating through traditional channels or those that often work closely with a communications team when creating employee-focused messaging.

It’s important to provide your leaders with concrete examples of how they can easily leverage Yammer to help them get comfortable with the tool and become active participants. Examples such as

  • providing recognition and praise to individuals or teams
  • posting photos with employees during site visits or community events
  • participating in groups that they are interested
  • regularly commenting on content created by others

You’ll also want to help them with some of the gotchas of a more conversational public forum. For example: do they have to respond to every post that mentions them? What do they do if someone is disrespectful to them on the network? Although negative scenarios are rare, you’ll want your leaders and your communicators to be prepared!

Review your current Yammer network

Due to Yammer’s freemium model, you might already have an existing Yammer network! If you do, you’ll want to take a peek. Several organizations have an abandoned Yammer network where people in the company tried it out, but it failed to get any significant traction.

If you have an existing network, you’ll have to make a call. Do you want to start fresh or do you want to launch your network from its current state. The right answer depends on how engaged employees are currently and how much value there is in your current network.

Explore the Yammer administrator settings

Yammer isn’t like most enterprise technology, which allows your IT department to rule with an iron fist:

  • Want to restrict the ability for people to update their name or picture? Can’t.
  • Want to restrict animated GIFs? Can’t.
  • Want to stop people from creating groups? Can’t.
  • Want to prevent people from creating closed/private groups? Can’t.

If you want a little light reading check out the Yammer forum on UserVoice. There are a lot of posts by IT folks not understanding why Yammer does not provide the ability to restrict a feature. You have to give the Yammer team credit for standing their ground and sticking to what they believe is the best experience for employees. That said, it’s useful to review all of the configuration settings with your business and IT stakeholders. There aren’t a lot of settings, and they will provide insight into what you can and can’t restrict in Yammer.

Ensure your enterprise mobility and BYOD strategy is complete

Many organizations have restrictions in place that block signing into Office 365 on non-corporate-issued devices. Your organization might also require a VPN or use a legacy multifactor authentication technology that might not play nicely with Office 365 and/or Yammer on mobile devices. If so, you will likely have to address your mobility and/or BYOD strategy if you want employees to be able to use Yammer on their mobile devices (hint: you do!).

The launch

There are a lot of different ideas out there of how to make your Yammer launch stand out. Everything from posters, to videos, to one-page guides are all effective in introducing your employees to Yammer. Other ideas we’ve seen include a photo booth (so employees can have a professional photo of themselves taken), surfacing interesting Yammer conversations on your intranet, or even good old-fashioned cupcakes or donuts!

It’s important that you understand the biggest areas of friction for employees and provide a special incentive for overcoming these roadblocks. For example: if you believe downloading the Yammer app on a mobile device and signing-in to Yammer for the first time might be a barrier for employees, you might consider a draw where employees are entered when they post for the first time from a mobile device.

Guidelines and policies

Make sure that your existing policies align with how you expect your employees to use Yammer. These include your internal social media policies but also policies around employee privacy. You’ll want to draft usage guidelines, which we recommend keeping light and fun.

In organizations with strict enterprise information management policies you will also want to check to see if there are any records retention policies that may apply to your Yammer network.

Light-up your champion network

Once your Yammer network launches your leaders and your Yammer Champions will be the most important ingredient in creating a thriving Yammer network. You’ll want to identify your initial champions early. These folks will help employees better understand how to use Yammer, help identify individuals that should participate, and will also look for opportunities across the organization to use Yammer instead of other tools (like email). When creating your list of Yammer Champions ask yourself who will be your biggest advocates? Who will be excited to participate and contribute? Who is passionate about this topic?

Measure and support

To better understand the health of your Yammer network and how your leaders and Yammer Champions are doing you will want to consider leveraging a third-party tool such as Swoop Analytics. Products such as Swoop provide detailed metrics on your Yammer network, insights on how you can foster a high performing network, and even a dashboard for your employees (including your Yammer Champions) to understand how they can increase Yammer’s value to them.

The most important thing to remember when adopting Yammer is that an enterprise social network is not a project with a start date and end date, but rather a journey. You aren’t simply building a communications channel, but rather a home for conversations and communities in your organization.

If you want help launching your enterprise Yammer network feel free to reach out. We’d love to chat!

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