Why Yammer? - Basics 101

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We're all overwhelmed with our choices of collaboration solutions, both inside and outside Office 365. MVPs like Richard Harbridge have offered "Which Tool When" strategies that I recommend reading. Meanwhile, I offer this, which may help to think through what elements are unique about Yammer's offering to a company.

 

I hope others will add their own thoughts, so that community managers will have a repository to draw on the next time they have to clarify this for senior stakeholders or teams weighing their choices. Sorry in advance for length, every editor needs an editor!

 

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Think of your company as an untapped knowledge base, chock full of unknown connections. People who don't know others at the company with the information they need. And, people who don't know others at the company who need the information they know.

Plus, the connection potential is even greater when viewed over time, as new people enter the company, and as existing colleagues learn new information and gain fresh insight. As the knowledge that former colleagues contributed to the system remains accessible and gets reapplied.

How will you get at this knowledge, to realize value through reapplication and innovative sparks? Not through Groups or email or Skype... those are always addressed channels; targeted to people we know, or people we know that care about this information. Remember, the challenge is all the people we don't know, or didn't know they care!

Enter Yammer. It's the place where information need not be addressed to a particular person in order to facilitate those connections. My analytics have a special "responded not mentioned" measure that finds exactly those conversations... Posts that drew replies even though, like yours, you just put them out there unaddressed.

Yammer is a place where information can reach people for many reasons. Group membership, followership, algorithmic functionality, shares, at-mentions, announcements. It's fueled by people who know other people and know things (and you didn't know!) helping, connecting, creating value. 

Not even Delve will be able to provide what Yammer can; simply because humans will always have more dimensions to them than systems can catalog and serve up. They'll complement each other, for sure; but I believe that companies with robust Yammer networks on top of Delve (and integrated with Delve!) will continue to have a competitive advantage in Microsoft's new ecosystem.

Yammer is a place where communities of interest and practice can form. You know, teams that aren't teams, because they don't share any deliverables or deadlines, and they're made of people from different parts of the company that probably operate on different P&Ls. Yet these groups share and develop knowledge, and make experts and expertise more accessible.

Yammer is also a place for your company's leaders to engage directly with people. Look up information on "YamJams" and you'll find that many companies, like mine, have made a practice of holding them for everything from idea generation to open discussion about culture challenges during strategic transformation and RIFs.

But... Yammer doesn't come cheap, in terms of time and energy. Unlike any other Microsoft tool, it requires critical mass of people, content and activity. It has a "cold start" challenge to build that critical mass; and it takes regular feeding and integration with company channels and activity to maintain it. 

No collaborative magic happens when people drop posts into a ghost town. Anyone doing this hears nothing back, assumes the channel is dead, and doesn't return. This is why network owners and champions are so important, and why Yammer simply can't win on its own, even if it someday became the "simple, easy" tool that it wants to be (and isn't). 

I believe "you get what you pay for" with Yammer, and that it's worth the time and the mess. It's intrinsically connected to greater corporate transparency, to people "working out loud" and communicating in more direct ways even in complex, hierarchical, global organizations.

 

It's about using more of what more people know, and transforming your culture to get it.