Yammer: It’s A Group Thing

YammerI first started using Yammer back in 2009 after hearing about it winning TechCrunch50, and was user number 1 on our company domain (now we have thousands of users). Its been interesting to see the organic growth from the first time I used it (I had nobody to talk to), to a community of early adopters (who treated it like a corporate Twitter) to its usage now as an important communication channel and groupware solution.

My colleague and friend Teale Shapcott arranged the guys at Yammer to come into our organisation last week to give a bunch of people an informal train the trainer session on “Yammer – Getting Started with Groups”. Steve Hopkins and Ross Hill conducted the session, and here are my notes:

  • Metcalfe’s Law essentially confirms that things get more useful the more people you have in the group
  • the problem with email is that if you send an email to 12 people, you get 12 responses!
  • a Yammer group is an way to replace email in a team (basically an easy way to setup a distribution list)
  • Yammer are currently launching new things to the site every week

Yammer recently acquired oneDrum. Essentially what this will do is put a Yammer folder on your desktop for Office integration, as well as being able to follow files and get updates when things change.

The point of the training was to help get people using Yammer for collaboration. A good exercise to start is get people to log into Yammer (set up a private group for training) and get people to say hi. Next get people to enter what they are currently working on and then get everybody to respond on others posts to get people familiar with the value of the tool.

Pages are a new feature:

  • pages are a good way to collaborate and brainstorm on ideas
  • pages can have 10 editors maximum at the same time. It will auto save. When you publish it will notify all the followers that there is a new draft. You can revert back to old versions
  • pages are useful for meetings, use an iPad and throw the notes or actions up on a page, you can link actions to people or files as well
  • coming soon is the ability to mark a page as official
  • documents don’t need to be run by any person specifically, they are now crowd sourced
  • groups are like rooms in a house

One thing that is new that I did not know about is that you can now use the share feature to share a message across groups (you used to have to duplicate the message).

In the session, one of the other participants shared their approach to getting their team to use Yammer:

  • they created a new private collaboration group
  • it took a conscious effort to use yammer by getting the leader to share things on Yammer, this took a few months
  • they have seen a massive reduction in email but communicating a lot more
  • they also created a larger department group as well
  • gains comfort for people using a team group rather than the All Company feed or a public group
  • takes time to get the comfort up and you have to make enemies
  • people for the most part are learning something new
  • you need leadership and you need to take a hard line about just using Yammer
  • use followed conversations mode, set their preferences to only follow groups that I follow as it removes the noise – everything you see should be relevant, you also need to clean up the feed and email notifications settings for them
  • update the information tab and use it for information and quick links
  • needed to be hardcore and had to keep asking “are you logged into Yammer” in order to cement the habit
  • direct people to engage with your content, rather than just posting something
  • use announcements to get everybody in the group
  • get people to follow a hash tag for things like events
  • Generation Y folks are good advocates to get on side

To illustrate this, the Yammer guys introduced us to the SNEP model by Kai Reimer.

As a second exercise, we then created a page and collaborated on out own checklist of an approach and tips to setting up a group. Many of the participants (who I assume were not familiar with wikis or collaborative tools like Google Docs were in awe of seeing people collaborating at the same time).

When introducing groups, you are bound to get resistance, so the Yammer has a bunch of great case studies that cover lots of different team types.

Another use, relating this back to Agile, is one team were using it for showcases by doing a live webcast and getting people to comment on Yammer (also the posting the video to Yammer so people could talk about it later as well). In the vain of standup, another organisation would, on a Monday, start a post on what are you working on this week. There are lots of potential usages for the features of Yammer for distributed teams. Another suggestion was to organise in everyones calendar a YamJam to discuss something on Yammer a a certain time.

Finally, there are a lot of Australian companies using Yammer, and the following videos are worth a look.


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