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Enterprise Social Networks: Yammering, Chatting, Jabbering, Yapping

Yapmo, Jabber, Chatter, Yammer – such names might just encourage the impression of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) as “Facebook for Enterprise.” And without successful implementation, they are.

Don’t just implement another social network. Employees are already keeping up with Facebook status updates, pinning, linking, tweeting, tumbling. Learning another platform to virtually chat with co-workers seems redundant.

Solid implementation should convince them otherwise. This involves utilizing ESNs to harness that craving to be socially connected while making workplace collaboration easier and more effective, thus mitigating the risk of wasted company resources such as a lack of communication that leads to duplication.

Enterprise Social Networks: Yammering, Chatting, Jabbering, Yapping image screen shot 2012 04 27 at 10 38 01 am

Just “Facebook for Enterprise”?

An Enterprise Social Network is an online service, platform or site that focuses on building and reflecting social networks or social relations among people within an enterprise.

According to a Pew Internet Survey, 50% of adults use social networking sites. That jumps to 65% among adults who use the internet (such as most – if not all – of us in the business world).

In Making the Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks, Charlene Li of Altimeter writes:

In 2011, we reached a milestone when over half of all US adults regularly used social networking sites. This means the majority of American adults are not only familiar with social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but also understand the value of being connected with the people in their lives.

But then they go to work, where people are traditionally siloed from each other… Organizations have seen the rise of ‘enterprise social networks’ where employees take the best elements of public social networks and apply them to the special needs of an organization…. ESNs are not simply Facebook behind a firewall.

Li concludes that the problem with most ESN implementations is that they are treated as technology deployments focused on adoption and usage. If organizations instead think about ESNs as a new method of communication and an opportunity to form relationships, they can effectively utilize ESNs to bridge existing gaps in the information-sharing and decision-making processes. Additionally, those interviewed reported that they don’t measure the impact ESNs have on their business. In the chart below, Li outlines four ways ESNs drive value. According to her research:

Enterprise Social Networks: Yammering, Chatting, Jabbering, Yapping image screen shot 2012 04 30 at 1 35 25 pm

Additionally, if ESNs were simply “Facebook for Enterprise,” the following use-case would not be possible.

Messages > Emails

A recent vacation from work prompted Yammer Senior Engineer and Technical Lead, Marco Rogers, to write about his appreciation for being able to Say Goodbye to the Full Email Inbox upon his return.

“Yammer messages beat a full email inbox any day.” Rogers said.

Why?

  1. Visibility: As Rogers points out, no one can help reduce your email workload because they can’t see your expanding inbox. Yammer messages are visible to your coworkers, allowing others to intercede on time-sensitive issues while you’re away. When you get back, check the history of the interaction to decide if you need to follow-up or if that issue can be checked off your to-do list thanks to your great co-workers.
  2. Relevance: Yammer allows you to see unread message counts for each group, enabling you to focus on the messages most relevant to you. Additionally, messages can be sent to entire groups, allowing anyone in the group to respond.

“We took the pile of unread email and turned it into groups of unread messages that already have markers of importance and relevance,” Rogers said. “This is a powerful workflow and a shift from the usual way people interact with email.”

Use-cases like this are only possible, however, with strong user adoption.

Results to Avoid when Implementing a user-adopted ESN solution

As we mentioned in a previous post on the empowered employee, these networks have user-driven adoption. Without widespread support and adoption, even the best solution will be ineffective.

Most of the organizations (13 technology providers, 185 end users and 81 ESN decision makers from companies with more than 250 employees) interviewed for Li’s report saw failed expectations upon implementation:

  1. Initial enthusiasm followed by a slow decline in usage. (See an example in this Ombud user review.)
  2. Widespread adoption from only one department (IT, Marketing, Sales, Corporate Communications or Support).
  3. Lack of executive engagement/support immediately hindered adoption.
  4. A lack of social business maturity led to an inability to understand, appreciate or leverage an ESN.

Knowing the common, unsuccessful results we want to avoid. Let’s turn to the following tips for successful implementation.

Tips for Successfully Implementing Enterprise Social Networks

Aryl Kohrs of Tibbr shares 5 tips for implementing an Enterprise Social Network.

  1. Ease of use and quick implementation is key when deciding among solutions.
  2. Put collaboration in context wherever your employees connect. Include a link to your ESN solution or a gadget with the relevant social feed.
  3. Integrate with existing technology and networks (single sign-on).
  4. Integrate data from apps, facts and feedback in context in conversations to resolve problems faster.
  5. Utilize executive sponsorship to get the conversations going. According to Kohrs, “Nothing is more powerful than the CEO, CIO, CFO, COO providing their opinion and direction on a social network.”

Additional tips:

  1. Don’t forget to measure the ROI as you would with any other business technology decision. Measure the impact your implementation of an ESN solution has on bridging current gaps in your information-sharing and decision-making processes.
  2. Don’t restrict discussions to strictly work-related topics. A unified team and mobile access not only increase communication in the office, but also with out-of-the-office coworkers for this user (pictured below).

Enterprise Social Networks: Yammering, Chatting, Jabbering, Yapping image screen shot 2012 04 27 at 1 20 46 pm

Without a solid implementation, workplace collaboration via an ESN is going to Spark… and then fizzle. To employees, it’s just another Facebook, a distraction – not a resource. Besides, they’re already on Facebook.

Agree? Has your business failed or succeeded with Enterprise Social Network implementation? Join today to share your experience and help others implement successfully.

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  1. Mike says:

    Good read Stephanie, very nice summary at the end of why ESN’s fail and succeed. Another way to generate buzz and acceleration adoption around an ESN roll out is to have embedded collaboration data pre-populated inside the platform. This will save employees time from manually adding it themselves, shortening the time-to-value for the technology. I blogged about this (follow the link) in case you’re interested.

    • Thanks, Mike.

      Great advice on how to shorten the time-to-value for ESNs! I’d love to read your post, but the link in your comment appears to be broken. Would you mind reposting? You could also tweet it to @Ombud.

      Thanks!

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