Is it time for Yammer Governance?

At the NSW KM Forum the other day I mentioned that Yammer has its sights on dominating the social intranet space, even trying to dislodge the strangle hold of email. Their product has certainly come a long way and the new feature releases this week continue to extend its focus beyond their Twitter-for-the-Enterprise origins.

I’m pretty sure I heard some dismissive noises in the room when I said that. If you haven’t been closely watching Yammer and the broader vendor space they are part of then its easy to ignore the growth of platforms like them either because you might think:

  • They don’t have the publishing capabilities of a traditional intranet; or
  • They can’t deal with records and document management.

To be honest, I suspect the response from many business users of Yammer is that they simply don’t care. In reality the ability of ‘pure’ social intranets to manage content varies considerably, although they are typically stronger at publishing than heavy duty document management (as you might expect). But overall the situation is probably one where even tools like Yammer are becoming good enough in the minds of many (and I’d agree).

This is a subtle shift away from social intranet tools being ad hoc, lightweight layers to being core, business critical systems. Its going to be interesting to see what happens next in organisations where enterprise social software has been approached in a fully emergent fashion (or if you prefer, ‘completely random’). In this case, the reality of implementing social intranets is about to get slightly more complicated.

Certainly, using Yammer this way is actually no more a risk than using a vanilla, un-configured SharePoint installation to manage information. In fact, SharePoint and Yammer actually start to look very similar.

If this is the case, will we also need (dare I say it)… Yammer governance?

Governance in this context isn’t just about having policies that tell staff if they can talk about what they had for lunch or share pictures of their dogs on Yammer. Governance is about the management of the platform to ensure:

  1. It meets the requirements of the organisation (which could mean record keeping);
  2. Its technical fit (the technology and information management architectures); and
  3. That it is supported in a way to keep it sustainable (succession planning for champions is particularly critical in a social intranet), including making sure training happens.

If Yammer becomes your intranet and core messaging platform it is no longer an optional, discretionary system. Yammer might be changing everything, but Yammer’s own context is also changing. Are you ready for it?

Please get in touch if you are looking for help with Yammer governance or managing the other Social Business tools being used in your organisation.

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