A few weeks ago I spoke with Samuel Driessen, Information Architect at Océ, about their enterprise micro-messaging experiences. Océ is a leading international provider of digital document management technology and services. Samuel is located in the Netherlands and his responsibilities include both the information architecture for structured data in applications such as PLMS and SAP and the unstructured content in places such as email and knowledge management programs.
I really like this dual role. It makes so much sense to have these two information sources under the same architectural leadership. Usually knowledge management and IT data management are siloed, limiting the effectiveness of both. This is the first time I have seen this and I commend the vision of Océ. This excellent concept could be a separate blog post but the story today is about their micro-messaging experiences.
Samuel said that part of his role is looking for opportunities for taking Web 2.0 social media inside the organization. They have tried a number of formal pilot programs. Some succeeded and others were dropped. He decided with micro-messaging that he would not try a pilot program but simply start and lead by example. This is similar to what I learn from John Hovell at ManTech.
Samuel looked at several programs and selected Yammer. He was already on Twitter and spoke with several colleagues who were also tweeting about his choice. They were the first to join him on Yammer.
One Yammer feature that helped spread usage is their profile feature. As you fill in the profile with your email and the email of those who are over and under you in the organizational structure, invites are automatically sent out. If these people sign up then invites go to those who are connected directly to them. Samuel said he got more compliance with the profile completion in Yammer than in knowledge management systems because of the simplicity of the form.
The low barrier to entry helped expand the number of users. The intuitive and attractive interface also helped. Samuel said that there were only about 15 to 20 people using Twitter in the company when he introduced Yammer. Now there are over 250 Yammer users. This usage has also increased the number of Twitter users. Some people had been reluctant to use Twitter because of its public nature. After they saw the value from Yammer, they extended their micro-messaging to the Web with Twitter. Yammer gave them a secure and walled place to first try micro-messaging and see its value. Samuel said he has seen the same migration with blogging, as people have started a blog inside Océ and then added an external facing one.
Samuel welcomes all new Yammer users and follows them. He sends them a PowerPoint introduction to Yammer that describes what it is, why use it, and how to use it. I think this is an excellent move. Samuel also engages with their messaging. He finds several types of users. There are active ones and those who start, stop, and then come back. Here are also those who mainly read messages. This is typical in all social media but even the readers can see better what is happening in the organization. Yammer’s email alert feature for messages that address them often lures back people in the conversation. It is also a feature you can turn off if you get too many of these messages.
The most active users have integrated micro-messaging into their daily work routine. They write about what they are doing and ask questions about their work while they work. Samuel has found that everyone who participates is very helpful and polite. There has been no bashing. He is collecting examples of where micro-messaging helped the organization.
For example, someone Yammer-ed she was setting up a wiki somewhere. She worked in a separate building from Samuel and he asked her through Yammer if she was using the corporate platform. She didn't know it existed and went on to use that platform. She said it saved her two weeks. He has also received regular calls on things he micro-messages about and he calls others based on their messaging. Participants often find people working on the same issues and help each other.
In another example, someone wanted to share files with a colleague working in South East Asia. Some one in IT saw their Yammer message and responded with useful solutions. In another instance, someone was researching a topic that Samuel and several colleagues had already explored. He was able to send documents that reduced the research time. There is a common theme about the benefits of simply being more aware of the activities in an organization.
We discussed the ambient awareness that Yammer brings. People are able to extend their understanding of the daily work efforts with in the firm. They can start to see patterns, as I recently discussed with Tim Young, CEO at Socialcast, another enterprise micro-messaging provider.
Now Samuel is looking to find a short term project within the firm, such as an upcoming technology week, and encourage the organizers to use Yammer as the tool for conversations around the event. I think this will be a great way to showcase the benefits of a focused discussion in a collaborative tool, rather than the usual email.
I asked about any obstacles and Samuel said there are two primary ones. First, many people do not understand why you would want to share what you are doing. They see micro-messaging as a toy and a waste of time. I can understand as it took me a while to really see the value and this occurred only after I starting using it after the prolonged encouragement and nagging of many virtual colleagues.
Second, there are security concerns. They are using the free, hosted version of Yammer as part of their initial micro-blogging experiment. While it is much more secure and private than Twitter, someone could hack into it in the same way they could get into Gmail. Samuel reminds people that they send somewhat private messages through Gmail. He asks people not to share really sensitive company secrets and he monitors usage to make sure this does not happen. He advises people that when they want to provide the details of their ideas, point to a blog or wiki that is behind the firewall. Even without the security concerns, I think this is a good practice to use micro-messaging for alerts and blogs or wikis for details.
There are options to get more security as Océ can move to a more secure paid version of Yammer and/or bring it inside the firewall. Samuel has been monitoring the Web to see if there are any reported security issues with Yammer and has found none so far.
To address the understanding issue, Samuel often gives presentation to the firm on his information architecture efforts and includes micro-messaging in them. He also works with the company Communications group. This group is really interested in social media and has a number of Yammer users. The Communications group is helping to promote and explain Yammer to the company.
Samuel has written two blog posts himself on this topic (see Implementing Enterprise Microblogging with Yammer and Why Microblog in the Enterprise?) In the second one, Samuel made the observation that it would be nice to have one platform for internal and external (micro)-blogging. Now, they have to constantly switch between the two, cross-post, etc. He hopes the number of platform will be reduced to one in the coming years. This is a good wish.
I really appreciate Samuel’s sharing of his experience. It is an excellent example of micro-messaging adoption practices. I look forward to hearing more about how their efforts progress.