KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — The line between social and professional used to be firmly defined at the workplace but this is slowly but surely undergoing a paradigm shift, thanks to the arrival of Enterprise Social.
A cloud based solution, Enterprise Social is a productivity tool that is changing the way employees communicate and operate within a company.
Such was the potential of Enterprise Social that Microsoft bought Yammer, a pioneer in this category, for a whopping US$1.2 billion (RM5.266 billion) price tag in 2012.
Yammer looks and feels like well, Facebook.
The difference is that instead of the last thing you ate somewhere or a cute cat video, Yammer is a place to discuss, chat and collaborate for work purposes.
While Microsoft meant to stay ahead of the game with the purchase, Yammer has had an interestingly significant impact on the very culture within Microsoft itself.
While there was some resistance at first, people who were so used to working in silos began to realise they could communicate better and get more constructive with Yammer.
As a large corporation with many brains, hands and legs that sometimes find it hard to just come together effectively to build the next category-defining product, Yammer acted as a bridge. Constructive conversations were happening in real time and decisions were being made quicker than ever.
Example: Code being made available internally and teams just jumping in to build, out in the open. This change in work processes is what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella now coins as internal open source. Pre-Yammer, this scenario would have been highly unlikely.
“It is really about changing the way companies work,” says Vincent Choy, Senior Consultant at Fedelis Sdn Bhd, an award-winning systems integrator outfit focused on niche and emerging IT technologies.
“Something like Yammer can be used in so many different ways by so many companies in all sorts of industries. It’s a whole environment and not just the chat. Better yet is its affordability.”
The way American burger chain Red Robin used Yammer to put out a new menu item in four weeks compared to the previous 12 months pre-Yammer is a known example of how Yammer has done its job.
The way RSA Insurance Group (formerly known as Royal & Sun Alliance) has used Yammer to connect 7,000 UK colleagues to achieve business objectives is another outstanding example.
RSA found that hierarchy and geography was making it hard to tap onto internal knowledge. Mobilisation was slow and insight sharing was difficult. To bring teams closer together, RSA turned to Yammer.
After Yammer was introduced, RSA found that employee engagement was taking off. People felt that their voices were heard and that they were part of the solution. Leaders jumping into the conversation also gave staff and teams a feeling of recognition and appreciation.
In effect, Yammer helped RSA in several areas: improving customer service; crowdsourcing ideas; increasing team collaboration; reducing costs; finding internal expertise and help; sharing industry news and insight; and giving recognition for good work.
In one example, an employee shares a personal story of how he was impressed by how another company did customer service. A team leader saw the post and looped in key people to the conversation to help push this idea into an RSA’s customer service practices. Things were being done more quickly and effectively than ever, giving RSA a new edge in competitiveness.
As it turned out, the investment in Yammer also began to reduce internal costs. In one instance, an annual internal operations roadshow covering six sites was turned into a virtual roadshow. The co-ordination of which happened almost entirely on Yammer.
Teams involved were happy as not only did team engagement increase, significant time travel was saved and people were happy with more work life balance in the equation. Through Yammer, other teams not involved in the roadshow could also see it happening and straight away, there was knowledge sharing.
Management level leaders jumped into the conversation to congratulate everyone on a job well done, further reiterating the cost saving and bolstering employee engagement.
Choy emphasizes that these examples are the success stories. He cautions that just jumping on the bandwagon will not automatically lead to success.
“There are factors that need to be at play for Yammer to work,” he stresses. “From what we have seen, it works best when there is a clear purpose, when the management and bosses are completely on board, and there are champions to lead the way in adopting and navigating this new platform effectively.”
“How the community is managed is important. There needs to be a community manager or leader showing the way. Ground rules need to be put in place too,” says Choy. “Positive reinforcement and repetition, constantly reminding staff to use the platform even from CEO level, is also key.”
As an Enterprise Social Consultant, Choy’s job is to help companies navigate this new and exciting landscape.
“We can show you how versatile Enterprise Social is for all kinds of businesses in different industries. We will also tell you when it will not work,” he adds.
“IT is a powerful enabler that just needs to be customized differently for businesses with different needs.”
* Vincent Choy can be contacted at [email protected] for more practical advice.
He is among only 966 of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional (MVPs) in the world, for his active participation giving guidance in forums and running monthly educational seminars. MVP status is awarded to individuals, rather than vendors, who have contributed to the Microsoft ecosystem.