Installing social network software does not make you a social business.

Yesterday I attended Yammer on Tour in San Francisco. The company's going gangbusters. 5,000,000 users and growing exponentially. Just hired another 45 people. New features galore, including a Dropboxy file store than reads Office formats, an awesome federated search, and the ability to embed Yammer windows in all sorts of applications.

Reading between the lines, I don't think many businesses are embracing social business whole hog. They refer to Yammer as an "overlay" on existing systems. The "systems of record" are still chugging away underneath the social network. People are using Yammer in lieu of the intranet, but in many cases, that intranet is still in place. Going social takes more than shared feeds.

Also, adoption rates are a concern. Is a business "social" if only 10% of the workforce participates? Deloitte has 50,000 people Yammer users; they made 8,500 posts last month. They're in start-up mode, but still, that's not much participation.

Yammer's president described a shift in IT decision-making. IT looked for security, reliability, and compliance. Lines of business were more concerned with ROI and needs. Yammer thinks end users are now controlling the shots; they value usability. Software is following hardware, as freemium apps are riding the bring-your-own-device movement.

"Enterprise social networks are growing at 'social speed,' not network speed." Four factors driving this are: benefits of the cloud, mobility (62% of U.S. workforce works from multiple locations), social (sharing), and viral (voluntary adoption).

No one addressed using social networks to support learning, my current hot button.


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12 thoughts on “Installing social network software does not make you a social business.

  1. John Tropea

    For me the issue is that Yammer and the like are not as good as email to get work done…they still need to mature. Email let's me do more than a Yammer text box (eg formatting, unlimited space, paste images), and email allows me to filter and sort content, and even organise it into folders.

    The day Yammer and the like are on par with the productivity features of email, then I think we will see more adoption

  2. Monica Butler

    We use Yammer at work and it started out great..until IT got into the game and it turned into an "Android vs Apple" war and "don't post anything that could in the least bit breach our IT security policies". I once posted about the cool app for teams to work on projects..and immediately they jumped down my throat that "I had to run any use of outside programs by IT". The post was for personal use of the app. I was forever turned off using the service anymore except for posting trivial stuff….

  3. Blair Rorani

    +Mark Oehlert Well yes it could be used to foster learning. What if I have a question and I ask it on Yammer. And someone is another branch answers it for me. Then I tag it so it's easy for someone to find if they have the same answer in the future. Nothing to do with an LMS but that is 80% of the learning that takes place in most businesses. It could have happened by phone or email but making that answer discoverable for others in the future is a lot harder using those technologies vs. a collaboration platform like Yammer.

  4. Jay Post author

    Blair, Mark was talking tongue-in-cheek. He and I both believe in the power of collaborative learning.

    At Internet Time Alliance, we’re working with corporations to integrate social learning into the workflow. Yammer’s a good platform for collaboration. The tough part is convincing people who are accustomed to top-down training to give up control.

    At the Yammer event, speaker after speaker described the value of shared thinking and great ideas bubbling up from the field.

    That said, no one mentioned a use case for corporate learning.

    John, by the way, Yammer’s OneDrum feature set enables you to use MS Office formats, but I think the larger issue is giving up email in favor of a more transparent medium like a social network. See Luis Suarez’s experiment, A World Without Email.

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