Putting the work into Enterprise Social Network

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Enterprise Social Networking is an interesting concept and has the power to change an organisation significantly.  One of the best known is Yammer, started in 2008 as a freemium service and later purchased by Microsoft $1.2bn.   Subsequently this has been integrated into the Office 365 service so is sitting there ready as a challenge for the organisation … how do you make the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) work?

It is important to break down the barriers to adoption to allow people to participate in the network.   These are sometimes cultural, organisational or personal and you make need to take a dual strategy of winning hearts AND minds.   Yammer and Microsoft talk about classifying people as dots of different colours depending on their attitudes towards Yammer

  • Green dots – this group just “get it” and don’t need much encouragement to participate in the network
  • Yellow dots – this group have no strong feelings either way and could be converted to be green with little effort
  • Red dots – this group are fundamentally “anti” working like a network and are a lot of work to convert.

When it comes to driving adoption, concentrate effort on the greens and yellows.   The greens need to trail blaze, show best practice and help convert the yellows.

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Barriers to adoption

In many cases, the barriers are based around fear and lack of understanding

  • Fear of loss of control – the ESN allows people to reply, comment, like and share but to people who are used to a high level of control this causes them worry.  What will people comment?  What if they don’t agree with me?  What if they say I am wrong?   What if people believe them (even if THEY are wrong … not me!)?    What if users post an incorrect or inappropriate message?
  • Fear of breaking the hierarchy – the ESN puts everyone on a level.  A new starter can post comments on the CEO’s posts and can question him.  What if I am missed out of the conversation or it doesn’t go through the stepped hierarchy?
  • Fear of social – What if people drop the Enterprise from the ESN and it just becomes Facebook for work?  How will I ensure my employees remain on task and aren’t sharing funny pics and videos on the ESN?
  • Fear of being too busy – “I am too busy and important to go on Yammer.   I need one place for my information; I can’t go to Outlook AND Yammer!”

Ways to move your ESN forward

It’s important to keep chipping away and keep the faith.   Rome wasn’t built in a day, and an Enterprise Social Network won’t be built in a week.   It will take time and persistence to push it within the organisation.   Some steps to take include

  • Identifying ESN champions – make sure they are friendly, knowledgeable experts who participate and guide on the ESN
  • Concentrate on the green dots and the yellow dots.   Cultivate the ‘critical mass’ that can sustain the network and make it become common practice within the organisation
  • Don’t force it – People should want to share, discover and praise on the ESN.  If you schedule updates on a rota or force people to participate it sends the wrong message
  • Get the top brass involved – the hierarchy was mentioned above but breaking the hierarchy is the power of the ESN.   If your CEO ‘likes’ an employee’s post then that’s really encouraging
  • Highlight the business value – a good way to move some of the yellow dots is to be able to present the business value and WIIFM factor.

More information

The Yaminade website and podcast is a fantastic resource about the ESN journey.   If you’re on Yammer and want to be better or find out more information about pretty much any Microsoft product (but especially Yammer and Office 365), the Microsoft Office 365 network is a great place to start.