smilelondon 2019: Yammer Q&A with Steve Nguyen and Pete Johns

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Microsoft’s Product Evangelist Steve Nguyen joined his fellow team onstage at smilelondon 2019 to discuss the latest developments and updates on Yammer. 

Released in 2008, the enterprise social network, Yammer, has been on the scene for over a decade and is used by organisations all over the world. In 2014 it was added to Microsoft’s 365 office suite and has continued to be an integral part of the digital workplace. Now with a sleek new look and exciting features, our smilelondon audience were keen to find out more on the updated network.

Pete Johns, digital employee experience manager at NMRA, a company that provides roadside assistance and motor related services in Australia, knows first hand what Yammer can do. Speaking at smilelondon, he explains the problems the product has helped solved for his organisation and how it can help you.

After their successful presentations at smilelondon, we asked Steve from Microsoft and NRMA’s Pete Johns to answer our audiences questions that didn’t make it to the stage.

Steve Nguyen, Product Evangelist from Microsoft

Steve Nguyen
Steve Nguyen at smilelondon

 Where does the information get stored on Yammer?

You have the option of having Yammer message data stored in the US or in the EU. For more on our data residency options, check out this support article.

 What are the data retention capabilities in yammer?

We’ll be working on native data retention capabilities in Yammer as we enter 2020. For now, customers have leveraged the Yammer API to develop their own data retention capabilities. 

Are you able to measure whether people are viewing posts in Outlook or Yammer?

Yes, views of messages in the new Outlook integration will count towards the overall thread view count.

How is the new Yammer being positioned against Teams? and will any of these features be coming to Teams in the future?

We continue to believe that Teams is a great place for people to collaborate with those that they work with closely. Teams is great for day-to-day project work, chat, and meetings. Yammer is best suited for company wide community, organisation wide communications and knowledge sharing. Our new integration with Teams allows users to experience the full breadth of Yammer without having to leave Teams.

Great that the content of the feed will be more relevant due to new algorithm. But what does this mean for discoverability so employees have opportunities to collaborate with communities they haven’t joined yet?

One of the great benefits of Yammer is the ability to discover a new bit of information from someone you don’t know or to make a new connection. Those types of serendipitous connections usually take place through the feed experience. A big part of the new feed experience will be on helping people discover content from across your network. The new feed experience is informed by signals about who you interact with, messages you’ve liked, communities you’re a part of and more. We’ll continue to improve the discovery feed so that people get the benefit of discovery from it.

Is this the same type of live event you can schedule through Teams? Are those being pulled through or totally separate?

Yes, this is the same Live Event that you can schedule through Teams. When schedule through Yammer, however, the Live Event gets powered by Teams and you can stream it to the Yammer Community.

When do the updates on Yammer go live? I just checked and it’s not active on my Yammer account

We’ll be rolling out the new Yammer experience over the first half of 2020. If you’d like an opportunity to experience it early, you can sign up for access to the preview at aka.ms/thenewyammer.

Pete Johns, Digital Employee Experience Manager at NMRA

Pete Johns shares his yammer experience

How do you ensure good governance on your platforms when people don’t work in the same location?

The mention of working in the same location baffles me I must say. A cornerstone of our drive to digital is that location gets removed from the equation. If you’re working digitally then you are working in the same place. As for governance, at the stage we’re at we haven’t got hung up on governance to be honest. Our mission right now is to create an environment of experimentation and exploration in our yammer platform and in the yammer community.

We’re playing and having fun, seeing what develops and largely letting the community decide on the culture and constraints it wants to operate under.
We have a very high level, principle driven set of community guidelines and we can provide guidance to community leaders around how they might like to set up and manage their community. Beyond that we’re trying not to get in the way of the people trying to make work better. Anyone can create a group, they can call it what they want, they can invite whoever they want. What we are doing in the background is running regular reports on activity in groups and using the data to help nudge behaviours – I guess it’s a kind of retrospective governance of sorts – e.g. if any group has had no activity for over 3 months then it’ll be deleted. Before we delete though, we post into the group saying “we’re gonna kill this group, speak up if you need it”.

How do you balance group/community structures on Yammer with trying to also break down those existing silos for encouraging wider cross-company collaboration?

It’s vital to bear in mind that structure does not equal silo. A silo is a behavioural choice, not a structural one. You can have a very clearly defined structure with specific, separate communities but also with a hugely collaborative mentality where people can move between the communities at will. Workplace silo’s are formed when PEOPLE choose not to collaborate and share, not because structure prevents collaborative behaviour.

With Yammer we don’t try and be too clever. We accept that people already belong to certain communities in the workplace, and have a core Yammer community structure that reflects this. Then we invest energy and effort into encouraging and creating opportunities for people to connect across those structural boundaries. We also encourage all community leaders to default to ‘public’ communities so anyone interested can dip in and out and play a part if they wish. We talk about being open and transparent, and challenge people who default to private. By defaulting to open, public sharing there’s an implicit expectation that people don’t choose to be siloed in our business.

Have you seen Yammer get rolled out to different types of employee groups and depts in the business? Is it a common tool now or do you still manage multiple tools for the different audiences?

We’ve seen Yammer in use across a range of different teams and different business areas with varying levels of adoption and business value being unlocked. It’s increasingly understood as the best tool for engaging people at scale, but it’s fair to say that a few leaders are still not comfortable or confident with how to use the tool effectively. Those leaders who have a clear business objective around the use of yammer (such as “I want to enable peer-to-peer sharing of customer success stories, increasing knowledge sharing and improving NPS”) are getting the best results. I think the key is when people realise its about ‘engagement’ not ‘communication’. We’re taking a rolling approach, solving for business objectives on a case-by-case basis rather than trying to force use across the whole organisation.

What kind of content do you think has contributed the most to the increased overall engagement scores?

I actually don’t think there’s any particular content type that stands out but rather the simple fact that people have been given a voice and they feel they are being listened to. A content related example of that, and one which certainly got a lot of people into the platform, was the opportunity Yammer provides to solve customer problems faster. Many of our frontline sales team were easily able to see ‘what’s in it for me’ when they saw peers sharing a customer problem and leadership engaging rapidly to resolve it. On the whole though, just the simple fact that anyone could post instantly and get a response from anyone else was the game changer I think. As usage matures we’re starting to see increasing use of video for leader communication and that is getting decent traction – people like to be able to see the human side of their leaders so they are loving less email and more video via Yammer. Humans engage with humans, so be more human and you get more engagement.

Have you enabled access to SWOOP to all employees? And if yes, how do you drive understanding/usage of all analytics?

Any employee can access Swoop but we’ve not done a big campaign or push to the masses. In our monthly reporting we use Swoop data and direct people to Swoop, and definitely encourage community leaders to use swoop regularly but it’s all very organic at this stage as we continue to experiment and grow Yammer usage gradually. We refer to swoop personas and I regularly share swoop articles, but at this stage we largely leave it up to individuals to discover the power of swoop when they are ready to.

How did you make actionable analytics KPIs?

As part of the community canvas session we run with community leaders, we work with them to come up with KPIs specific to their objectives and timeframes. Rather than dictating overarching network KPIs, we tightly align KPIs to business use cases. With Swoop Analytics we’re able to jump into the data at any time and draw out actionable insights in a few clicks. This is immensely helpful with community leaders and influencers as we can easily jump to the best performing content, the most influential people and much much more – this makes it really easy to learn through observing first-hand the types of behaviours, posts and interactions that work best in our communities.

How did you come around the challenge of numerous end-user groups now having access to a Yammer device (PC, mobile, tablet, other)?

Making it easy for people to connect across a range of businesses and through a range of devices has always been a big challenge – Yammer solves that. It’s an easily accessible app that everyone can relatively quickly understand – they mostly just need some ‘cultural guidance’ around what’s acceptable in Yammer versus other channels. For us that essentially just boils down to saying ‘just give it a go, behave the same on yammer as you would at a work lunch or informal meeting’. We give very high level guidelines (shared through yammer itself) and then largely rely on action speaking louder than words. People learn what’s acceptable and what’s not by observing the behaviour of others in the community. It’s absolutely the same as in the analogue work world – we trust our people to behave like adults, to be respectful, be themselves and have a bit of fun.

 

With thanks to Steve Nguyen & Peter Johns.