#WomenInTech meet Sarah Parry, Chaucer UK - Yammer, Teams & Communications Sites expert

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This is my interview with Sarah Parry, Knowledge Manager at Chaucer (UK), a management consultancy that delivers technology and data driven change. This is for my collective blog Super #Yammer #WomenInTech a key theme at Microsoft Ignite  next week. My blog spotlights outstanding #Yammer #WomenInTech from around the world. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah about a year ago, in my first Working Out Loud Circle that proved to be an extremely rewarding experience and we have become firm friends. Sarah beautifully articulates the principles of Working Out Loud and neatly explains why I am working on this collective blog. Sarah is an expert in Yammer, MS Teams and Communication Sites. I will be presenting GlaxoSmithKline's #GSK #Yammer story at #MSignite. Looking forward to catching up with Sarah when I return and swapping notes! Lesley Crook, Yammer adoption consultant, Perspicuity Microsoft Gold Partner (UK). 


As Knowledge Manager, my objective is to ensure that the organisation identifies, shares and applies our collective knowledge, so that our knowledge adds value to every assignment we take on. A part of my role involves working with our consultants and leadership team to evaluate and adopt the most suitable technologies to improve how we connect, collaborate, curate and create knowledge.


Experience shows time and time again, that you can give people new technology to play with, be it Yammer, Teams, Communication Sites, etc. You can communicate the reason for introducing it, you can provide training, you can lead by example, but people simply will not take to it unless they have a reason to. Without that motivation, something is missing. That's the gap that Working Out Loud fills in.

I first heard about WOL from a colleague, whose client team had been using it. I started by reading John Stepper's book "Working Out Loud". This was enough to convince me I was in. John worked at Deutsche Bank where he was responsible for improving how people communicate and collaborate across the organisation, making use of their enterprise social network.


WOL gives you a reason to connect with others because you are motivated to do so: you want to, you need to, because that is how you will fulfil your goal. That is a goal of your own choosing, which you work towards by taking simple steps to develop the mindset and techniques over a 12-week programme, at the end of which you should have got into the habit and you will work that way because it feels natural. Anything else would feel sub-optimal.


The book encourages you to join others who are taking up WOL and form a circle, meeting to coach each other through the programme. The break-through for me was the third circle I participated in with four others outside my company. You can read about that circle here. (This is where I met Lesley).

After this resounding success, I felt brave enough to try a circle with colleagues in Chaucer. We started with a pilot, using Teams to meet and keep the dialogue going between sessions. The participants were all positive about the experience, describing benefits not just in terms of getting to know each other better, but also the value add to our clients by taking time out for reflection, hearing different perspectives and sharing ideas on how to overcome challenges. We now want to roll out circles to more groups within the organisation and the pilot participants are keen to facilitate the next ripple of circles. We have found so far in experimenting with both Teams and Yammer, that Teams is perfect for focused collaboration towards a specific goal with a defined team of people, whereas Yammer offers the ability to connect with people you did not even know you wanted to connect with.

Reviewing our own use of Yammer, many people are regular visitors, but we have lots of lurkers: people who are reading, but not actively participating. Some are happy to like posts, but have not yet taken the step to write posts. Now that is ok in my view, because lurkers are still learners, but you must admit it is an incredible waste of an opportunity. As people learn to work out loud on platforms like Yammer, they benefit in so many ways:

  • Yammer as a platform allows people to connect across the organisation, regardless of the team and location where they work. For a dispersed, remote working team like ours, it is great for keeping in touch.
  • Our consultants find help with their work, whether directly asking for input or tapping into the corporate memory of what has gone before. My out of office message refers explicitly to an advantage of Yammer: Or why not ask our Chaucer network on Yammer? Search through posts or ask your question - you never know who might have the answers you're looking for!
  • Subject matter experts post interesting external articles and provide signposts to our own resources.
  • We also welcome groups for shared interests not directly related to work, e.g. for keen runners, amateur photographers and book-lovers. In these groups, the members create bonds with people they are not immediately working with, so when they do need to work with them, the relationship is ready-made.

Having set myself successive knowledge management related goals, I have become fascinated by knowledge management as a discipline and I actively seek inspiration from the latest books and articles, webinars, networking events and conferences with others working in this field. One reliable source of information is the Microsoft Tech Community, which I consult frequently to keep up to date on all things Office 365 (SharePoint, Yammer, Teams, and much more), or just to see if someone has already posted an answer on an issue I am trying to resolve. I'm also inspired by the other experts and MVPs who I've met through working out loud, such as Lesley Crook, who can be guaranteed to push me further into the learning zone and try things out.

You could say this whole interview is a process of working out loud. I was motivated to do this, because I am genuinely interested in how enterprise social networks can be used for knowledge management. I am leading with generosity by sharing my experience and suggesting some resources. Working out loud makes me happy as an individual and that is reason for me to do it.


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