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In part 1 of my blog about Office 365 we started talked about the plethora of products that Office 365 gives you out of the box! In that I gave a very quick summary of what Yammer is and how it can help your small to medium business. In this blog I want to fill out exactly what Yammer is and how you can take your first steps in using it to improve your business and productivity.

What is Yammer again?

Yammer is a business forum for your company where colleagues can collaborate, share information and ideas. Yammer is designed so that your staff can browse through this information a bit like Facebook does on a social level. The difference between email and Yammer is that email is tied a particular person’s mailbox whereas Yammer brings all your company’s sharing and collaboration into one useful location, which is fully searchable! This is especially useful for staff who work remotely or for teams that work at different sites. In these situations colleagues can share information (and even documents) so that they can communicate ideas more effectively and quickly without the need for multiple emails and/or face to face meetings.

Yammer is an integrated part of Office 365 and has no added cost other than the one of getting people to use it… but more on that in a minute. Like Facebook, Yammer is accessed via a web browser by logging into your Office 365 account and then navigating to your Yammer site. 

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The other exciting thing about Yammer is that you can join (or be invited) to an external Yammer community. This can be helpful when wanting discuss things with vendors or partner companies who use Yammer. Or you could join other Yammer groups just to learn more about particular topics, products, etc. (such as the Yammer Customer Network YCN). The number of external networks you can join is limitless or even create your own!

How it has helped us at XCentral…

At XCentral, when we were a small company under ten employees, we suffered from the common business malady of ‘email-stress’. Not only were we receiving multiple emails from clients and vendors, but there was also a lot of email ‘chatter’ between colleagues. Often everyone was being cc’d in on every email. Often I was reading emails that I didn’t really need to read and what this did was effectively chew-up my valuable time just staying on-top of my inboxes. Each day the whole company would be spammed by various employees sending what they thought was an ‘important update’. And then each reply would re-SPAM us again! As a result, managing my mailbox was a real nightmare.

The solution was Yammer! Yammer has drastically reduced the amount of internal email that was flying through our mailboxes (up to 40% less email). Even now as we push over 20 employees, I am still receiving less email from internal staff than I was prior to the Yammer implementation.

Does that mean that we are not communicating as much internally? NO. In fact I would say that we are communicating much more, but the difference is that I can browse through multiple Yammer posts in far less time than reading through emails. And I can do it at a convenient time for myself rather than constantly being bombarded by emails, enticing me to open them, and effectively distracting me from what I am doing, making me much less efficient with my time.

The ability to Search on information has been invaluable for us. Often, information in emails are locked to a ‘person’ or ‘persons’ mailbox, whereas now, that information is in Yammer, and searchable by either the whole company, or locked down groups of users. The added benefit here has been that as new staff are hired, they are able to see old conversations, search out information, and even start contributing the on-going thoughts, ideas and innovation that takes place on our Yammer network.

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First Steps….

So how did we move from ‘email-stress’ to Yammer? 
The first step is, once Yammer is up and running (ask us about setting this up for you), then the first step is getting user ‘buy-in’!

a. Buy In!

We started with a creative and funny poster around the office (see pic). The purpose was to grab our staff’s attention to the fact that Yammer is now the way to communicate instead of email. Once Yammer roll-out is announced to all staff, it would be worthwhile doing a series of presentations to reinforce the benefits of Yammer to people as to why they should adopt it (maybe even refer them to this blog!). The bottom line is, you have to be convinced of Yammer’s benefits before you can convince others.

b. Set up some basic rules:

Let all staff know some general behaviour expectations for Yammer, e.g. no abusive language, no bullying etc. You will need to have at least one Yammer Admin. Your Yammer Admins can monitor all online behaviour/posts and delete any inappropriate posts or even block certain users.

c. Yammer Champions:

The next step is to appoint some champions. In our case it was informally me. But as your company moves forward, you may want to appoint someone/people to take on this role. The Yammer Champion needs to be like an evangelist, able to convince people of the benefits of Yammer and to do so tenaciously. For us, it was a matter of naming and shaming (in a light-hearted way) everyone who was ‘destroying’ the electronic rainforests of the internet with unnecessary emails. It seemed to work! As people slowly got the hang of posting ideas to Yammer rather than shooting off bulk emails to all staff. Now over a year later, it is rare to see a company-wide email sent out.

d. Groups:

You will want to start off with some basic groups and then let it morph as people take ownership. We started off with just one group per team (so that teams could communicate on team issues), a company-wide group and a Social Corner group (so people could post their funny videos!). The purpose of groups is to create virtual teams to collaborate across natural organisational and geographical boundaries. We found the company-wide group to be a very effective way of making company announcements such as new staff, new contracts and even a way of praising employees publically for a ‘job well done’! Yammer is very effective when it comes to acting as a community noticeboard.

e. Make it fun!

As with any adoption process, you need to make it as fun as possible and as simple as possible. For us, it was all about getting as many funny I.T. geeky videos and pictures on Yammer as possible. This meant that people started looking here and posting more regularly. Today we still have the nerdy I.T. stuff, but also Yammer has become the repository for Team meeting minutes, technical blog articles and Tips n’ Tricks for I.T. Professionals. All of which has grown from the grassroots of the staff outwards.

Moving forward with Yammer.

If you are going to move forward with Yammer, you need to do so with determination. Any sort of change may sometimes be met with disapproval from people. And since your business is made-up of people, they will naturally be inclined to stay the same. So stick to your guns and you will find that the results will have long lasting benefits.

Yammer is about creating connections where there aren’t any at the moment. It is about enabling open information that is accessible and transparent. It is about removing the interruption of email and placing information in a centralised place. And all these benefits will mean that your colleagues will be working more efficiently and with greater focus.

So there you have it. How to move forward with Yammer. It is a great tool for business that will take a bit of effort, but looking back, you will wonder how you used to do business without it. And of course, if you have any doubts or questions relating to Yammer or Office 365, we here at XCentral would be more than happy to talk to you about how we can help you move forward. 
For more info on Yammer you can look at the URLs below, or even join the Yammer Customer Network (YCN) to learn more about this product. 
https://about.yammer.com/yammer-blog/rolling-out-yammer-make-sure-to-build-team-for-success/
https://about.yammer.com/success/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/Guide-to-running-31-Days-of-Yammer-in-your-organization.pdf