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Yammer time: Collaboration from the heart

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Yammer screen shot

For a three year-old enterprise social network, Yammer has a sophisticated understanding of how customers come to value their tools. Brian Murray, head of implementation strategy, walked me through a few customer stories, describing a common implementation pattern. A freemium product like Yammer often enters an organization through individual employees who have started using the free version as an informal part of their work. But while the consumerization and groundswell support of these tools is important, it isn’t the biggest lever for implementation. Likewise, while executive leadership is crucial for an overall vision, financial support, and a model of ideal behavior, it isn’t the biggest lever either. The big lever is in the heart of the company.

Brian Murray Head Shot

“To most effectively build a thriving enterprise social network, the existing groundswell community, forward-thinking leaders, and use case influencers must be directly involved and feel a personal connection to the success of the network,” said Murray. He noted that although all three of these user groups are important, they each play different roles.

Marketing, sales, information technology, and formal communities of practice are all tangible units at the heart of an organization. Yammer’s implementation experts have found that great things happen when these segments identify use cases for the product. Groundswell adoption and executive attention are both valuable for awareness, but the heart is best able to combat the “what’s in it for me” questions that push back against any new collaboration tool. The heart has identifiable work to get done that can often benefit in a visible way by having faster or broader access to knowledge across the organization.

Value From Sharing Across Similar Stores & Regions

Supervalu [s SVU] (a nationwide grocery and pharmacy company, which owns Albertsons, Lucky, and Jewel-Osco) provides an especially good example of how Yammer can help facilitate collaboration. When Supervalu’s CEO Craig Herkert started in 2009, he aimed to transform the company through “radical transparency” and give the stores a hyperlocal focus to better meet their customers’ needs.

With a history that goes back to 1870, Supervalu was a conservative company where social media use was rare. There had been informal use of Yammer at Supervalu for years, but things didn’t take off until the business units began developing ways to support the hyperlocal efforts in the stores.

In one particularly effective project, store directors photographed product displays, posted the pictures on Yammer, and linked the images to local demographics and outcomes. Directors in similar situations (e.g., a college town during spring break) were able to use that information to decide which displays were likely to generate the most sales.

Herkert’s executive vision gave collaboration and transparency greater credibility and budget, but it was the business goal at the heart of the company that gave the collaboration efforts the energy to spread.

As Herkert says in this video, “Yammer has made my life easier, but what it has really done is made my life as a CEO better. Better because I’m able to listen and converse with all of our associates. Real time. All the time.”

7-Eleven convenience stores provide another example. Similar to Supervalu, Yammer was adopted by a groundswell community, and the executives were on-board, but it was in the heart where the value grew.

The company is built on a very distributed model with stores spread around the globe. David Sacks, Yammer’s CEO, said 7-Eleven aimed to use Yammer to “unify its distributed workforce, drive consistency across franchise locations, and foster better communication among employees and leadership.”

7-Eleven’s information technology group was the first to use Yammer, but now the dominant use case is of directors tracking regional trends and sharing that information. They also appreciate how easy it is to quickly share examples of employees supporting their guest services culture. For instance, a story about an employee who helped a customer change a tire in a 7-Eleven parking lot might not be something that would be emailed to all, but it’s perfect for a short post.

Sharing with a Purpose

Sharing is a crucial part of collaboration, and tools such as Yammer provide us with low friction ways to share our knowledge, activities, and results. Yammer’s experience with their clients suggests that while broad, groundswell support and executive attention are important for creating a viable network, business success comes from sharing at the heart of the organization’s work.

How are these three levels (groundswell, heart, executive) of importance in your own collaborations?

Images courtesy of Yammer