Implementing Yammer in a Danish Software Company #fail

For the past year and a half, I have been working part-time at a Danish software company. In March this year, they implemented Yammer as a companywide news channel. Yammer is a private social network for internal use in organizations. According to Microsoft, it is used by more than 500,000 companies worldwide.

YammerYammer is like a mix between Facebook and Twitter for organizations. It is built around networks (usually a company is a network) and you can choose who you follow within your particular network. You can use hashtags and @replies, share files and create groups. Microsoft claims that Yammer is loved by 85% of the Fortune 500 – seems promising right?

Right, but only if you can actually get the people in your organization to use it. The software company I was working at consists mostly of people over the age of 40. Many of them have been with the company for more than 10 years and are somewhat stuck in the habit of “this is how we have always done”. Therefore, it was not surprising that most of the employees could not see the benefit of implementing social media in their daily work life. The majority saw Yammer as noise and yet another communication channel (they already use phone calls, email, Lync instant messaging and SharePoint to communicate and collaborate).

From my point of view, one of the key mistakes the top management group made, when they rolled out Yammer was that they did nothing to encourage people to participate on the platform. They introduced Yammer by having the CEO send the following email to all employees:

“New [Company name] news channel in Yammer, for knowledge sharing and communication of news. All information sharing is based on you as employees deciding which groups you want to follow. Yammer provides an easier way for everybody in [Company name] to communicate internally – and to:

  • Collaborate – use Yammer to make cross-team collaboration more dynamic
  • Involve – enable colleagues to follow and participate in the debate
  • Create relations – ask for help and find colleagues with the knowledge you need
  • Develop ideas – share ideas, contribute to ideas and create new thinking

I hope you will welcome and explore Yammer already today by sharing good news, joining relevant groups or ”Liking’ good posts.”

information-overloadIt has been about six months since the launch and while there has been a lot of talk between the coworkers, the use of Yammer has not been addressed by management since. What is worse is that only senior managers -are actually using it. Any management book will tell you that change does not happen just because you want it to. You need to build consensus and motivate people to participate. You need to understand the culture you are trying to change in order to be successful. To me it seems like top management had forgotten that people in general are resistant to change and that most of their employees belong to a generation that did not grow up with social media. They were already overwhelmed by massive amounts of emails, phone calls and instant messages, so adding another communication channel only increased their feeling of information overload.

So what could they have done differently? Well for starters, they could have held seminars where they taught people how to use Yammer, what they benefits are and how they could eliminate some of the existing noise by using Yammer. They could have analyzed the organizational culture and have found key influencers within the different departments and created an incentive for them to start using Yammer, which would enable them to slowing encourage their fellow coworkers to use it as well. At the very least, they could have addressed the use of Yammer throughout the last six months.

My main point is that social networks can have a million benefits to your organization simply implementing them will get you nowhere; you need to create an incentive for people to use it.

8 comments

  1. This is a great post for all of us to read before entering (or re-entering) the workforce. While Yammer had the potential to make a positive impact in the organization, it sounds like the lack of training and managerial follow-through eliminated any chance of success. Even the best technology stands no chance without proper planning and implementation, so we need to think through every technology purchase we make!

  2. This sounds like a perfect business school case study! You really highlighted some of the core problems with Yammer’s introduction. In addition to what @erincollinsmba mentioned with regards to comprehensive training and adequate follow up, we learned in service operations the importance of implementing any new technology or service on a smaller scale to gain buy in. I wonder if there is a team at your company that would have been best to have try Yammer first, and then have that team work with upper management to introduce its benefits gradually to the rest of the organization. Also, your point about all the other technology your company is already using is such a key point. I know in some of my prior roles at companies, too many options to communicate and collaborate with employees only caused more personal stress!. Glad to know its not just a problem at some US companies :)

  3. Great post. A textbook example of a solution without a problem combined with the lack of a clear strategy. The fact that a particular tool has a particular capability does not mean that capability is one the organization needs or is capable of making use of. While there’s no doubt that there are situations where Yammer can be useful, a wishy-washy email announcing it without a strategy or even a goal is never going to encourage people to use it.

    Pretty much every #fail in technology is driven by this same problem: the lack of a defined strategy to make use of the technology to further the organization’s business goals. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  4. Good post and I agree with Jonah on the strategy part. If the organization is consisted mostly of 40+ year olds, then Yammer might not be the good platform to start with. If top management does believe in the value and necessity of it, then like you said towards the end, the implementation can not end at the email from the CEO – that should only be the start. Initial training(s) and motivation is definitely necessary, and constant supervision and support is a must. Any rule breaking needs to be addressed right away and good behaviors should exemplified. Implementing major change within an organization is an on-going process. What I have observed from my experience is that while their intentions are all good, many organizations lack the determination and discipline to follow through the new initiative consistently. It requires constant monitoring , communication and intervention from managers of all levels, and instead of sending one email and move on to the next to-do item, the CEO needs to make sure that happens.

  5. Nice blog. I think Prof Kane will really enjoy this one.

    1. this is probably a situation similar to offices that try and implement slack. it seems like yet another tool to be layered upon the dozen that already exist in the office, but its goal is to eliminate some of those channels. you made the nice point that the company should have had spent some time to explain the benefits and the actual reduction in clutter that this can produce. there are also the hidden benefits of sharing ideas and enabling others in the company to become involved in projects they normally wouldn’t. there are some great articles further into this semester that talk about this.

  6. Interesting. I’d be interested to see if you could develop a “revised” implementation plan based on what you’ve learned in this class. I am a bit surprised, however, that if senior managers are using it that some people don’t gravitate there. Would seem to be in their best self-interest to be noticed by senior management.

    1. rasmusca · ·

      Maybe I’ll work on that for a blog in the future.
      I think one of the main reasons that people aren’t gravitating toward using it, even though senior managers are, is that the relationship between the management and employees was very tense. There was this general distrust between them and a feeling among the employees that management was full of fluff and not a lot of action.

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