“What bothers you about Yammer?”

1392455199811As a means of evaluating ongoing communications efforts, a leadership group at my organization was recently surveyed, and the lead question was “What bothers you about Yammer?”

Had I been given an opportunity for input on the the questions our leaders were asked, and knowing what I know about their Yammer experience, I would have suggested that different questions were asked, such as…

“Would you like to stay connected to conversations and resources related to the important issues being discussed?”

“How would you like to regularly interact with your colleagues?”

“Would it help to have an easy to access legacy of information and conversations of our work?”

This leadership group was brought to Yammer after working together for years using a hodgepodge system of emails and websites. Rather than trying to provide a next  generation collaboration tool, the Yammer network was launched in a strict attempt to replace what was already being used.

Whenever information is shared with the group, it is always shared as a group announcement, which ensures that everyone receives an email. Sometimes, posts are made as announcements, and then the same exact information is shared as an email as well.

When the leadership group meets, all related documents are carefully collected and distributed at the meeting. It is only after the meeting that the information is shared to the Yammer network, without much thought put into how files are named or curated.

Many wonderful opportunities have been lost. There has been no real effort to compel users to use the new platform. It is as if we threw up our hands even before the network was launched, admitted defeat and never explored ways to encourage our users to discover information and connections on the Yammer network, making use of the unique power and features of the platform.

But it’s not too late! By making just a few changes over time, I know that our leadership group can realize the benefits of our Yammer network, and be more productive, transparent and collaborative in the work they do.

We first have to move away from overuse of the Announcement functionality. When there is very important information to share that everyone needs to read immediately, Yammer Announcements is a wonderful tool. An Announcement is pinned to the top of the group page, and an email alert is pushed out to all group members. An Announcement is used for the most important information we have to share.

However, when every post is made as an Announcement, we are now telling our users that every single thing we have to share is the most important thing we have to say. And if every single thing is the most important thing…then nothing is important, and the posts all become “noise.”

Most information should be shared as regular posts, and to help reinforce the behavior of checking the Yammer network, a weekly email can be sent out to the leadership highlighting key conversations (with links to those conversations) they should be aware of.

When preparing for a meeting, Yammer provides opportunities for strategic thinking and planning about how information will be shared. What are the documents people will need to review? What are the collections of information people would like to have easy access to? What may be the ongoing needs of the leaders to access and use the information? Providing time to consider these issues will result in easier access to the information, and a longer lifespan for the information.

Understand that users need to get accustomed to a new platform, and provide time and space for people to get used to a new way of working. Avoid using emails. Connect users to collections of information using topics. Encourage users to turn off email notifications. Tag certain users in posts so they will be connected to the conversations. Take time to ramp up to full adoption.

If we ask users what they don’t like about a platform, they will tell us. Instead, we should be asking our users how they would like to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues. In most cases, a solution will be readily available in our existing platforms, and everyone can be a hero.

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