Perhaps as part of this new-year-new-ideas frenzy, I am starting a new type of posts, next to the series of shoot-posts, the ‘Tinkering with tools’ (TwT) series will not be so much technical as oriented towards the user experience of tools: how we use and adapt social tools to fit our practice.
In this first TwT, the case of Yammer is under the magnifier.
Yammer is the new rage – the corporate social network has been gaining a lot of recognition and users in 2011 and seems stronger than ever. In my new organisation – the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is part of a broader network of research centres called the Collaborative Group on International Agricultural Centre (CGIAR), we are also using Yammer. Time to zoom in on the theory and practice behind Yammer.
At first sight, Yammer has the look and feel of Facebook (same blue and white scheme and definitely more feature options than on Twitter + the ubiquitous ‘Like’ option) and some of the functioning logic of Twitter (a lot of micro-blogging, use of @ to link to a person and of # to relate to a topic). It is not yet very clear to me to what extent the CGIAR as a whole is pushing for Yammer as an enterprise-wide social network or whether Yammer has just evolved organically to the discretion of each CG centre. In any case on the CGIAR network (let alone related project networks) there are over 1300 members (out of an estimated 15.000?), over 80 groups and over 10.000 messages have been posted since the adoption of the social network some three years ago I believe. It is not insignificant. And it makes the practice all the more important.
What to make of the tool?
I never used Yammer before joining ILRI and frankly, being a Twitter and Facebook user, I found Yammer super easy to grow into – although I can totally imagine that this is not the case for everyone, particularly if they don’t work on knowledge management and social media ha ha. Then again every tool should be explored by every user to find out if it suits their style and practices. And there is nothing wrong with deciding – after careful exploration – that a tool doesn’t work for us. From my experience, here are some useful and not so useful features of Yammer…
What’s good about Yammer
What’s not so helpful on Yammer
So where are we now? There is still a lot of potential for Yammer to grow within the CGIAR and that means a lot of awareness-raising, coaching, training to make sure people feel comfortable with the tool. It also means a lot of feedback (see this post on the power of feedback) to ensure good practices. And, sure, not everyone is on it, not everyone is a super active user but we hear that many silent users actually enjoy reading their newsfeed and digests. At any rate, Yammer at ILRI is way more effective for sharing information than any intranet I’ve been given to check or use in the past 10 years. In addition, ILRI and the wider CG system have implemented a few useful practices to make the Yammer experience richer to all:
- Developing a tailored page on ‘Yammer essentials’ which helps any newcomer find some good practices and useful settings (e.g. turning off a lot of email notifications, updating profile, indicating what centre they are part of etc.);
- Offering ongoing training and coaching for individuals and teams, to avoid letting people in the dark and giving up early on;
- Making extensive use of @ to alert concerned people when they are mentioned in the network – to stimulate them to at least follow the buzz on the network, if not update regularly;
- Connecting Yammer to all the blogs and wikis and websites around our CG centres as and when relevant to make Yammer the ‘reflector/connector of choice’;
- And recently developing a bespoke application (it is possible when asking Yammer) to integrate blog feeds into the ILRInet group, without affecting design – this option was available before but messed up the layouts really badly and made the blog posts’ text practically unreadable. This has been fixed by my colleague Zerihun Sewunet and it looks wonderful.
We are still learning with the tool but there seems to be some momentum. That said, of course there is room for improvement and the buzz on the internet around Yammer indicates that there is a lot to learn about Yammer and about how people might want to use it or not…
What of the buzz around the tool?
There’s been quite a few articles about Yammer in the past couple of years – here is a selection to find out what you think and to find better ways to use Yammer. First, why Deloitte staff love Yammer:
- A more critical view about Yammer (January 2012) – Why Yammer and other virtual work spaces have real problems.
- Lessons from Ian Thorpe (UNICEF) about using Yammer, a post from March 2011 which is a useful testimony about how one power user has perceived relative benefits and challenges of using Yammer.
- Yammer vs. email and IM: a very useful comparison from 2010 between these three tools.
- A blog post from Petr Kosina (CIMMYT) from April 2012 on trends affecting Yammer’s industry, new and promising upcoming features of Yammer and some tips to promote its use in the work place.
- Yammer on tour in San Francisco - blog post (April 2012) and presentation from YoT in SF explaining new features.
- How to use Yammer and why you should be using it at your business (useful guidelines for Yammer).
- 43 ways to use Yammer (requires prior ‘like it’ on Facebook) is a great resource of tips and tricks for beginners and advanced Yammer users.
- Using Yammer for crisis communication (April 2011): This is an example of how Yammer can prove a very useful tool to communicate in delicate situations.
Related blog posts: