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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0 Comment
  • author avatar
    Alan Lepofsky
    6 years ago

    Great post, but I think we need to ask at an even broader level, something like:

    “Are all the adminstration tools organizations have put in place for email/chat now required for social business software? This includes governance, archiving, backup, performance monitoring, keyword tracking, domain/recipient whitelists/blacklists, attachment virus scanning, etc.”

    Reply

    • author avatar
      Steve Milagros
      6 years ago

      Absolutely! The regulatory bodies make no distinction between email, IM or social media, they are all electronic communications and should be treated the same.

      Reply

  • author avatar
    Laurie Lock Lee
    6 years ago

    I personally would not want to see something like Yammer burdened by typical IM governance procedures to the extent that it loses its original appeal. While I’m not a regular Yammer user I have spent a lot of time around IT users and its rare to find software that people tend to praise rather than criticise … so whatever magic Yammer has around end-user engagement, one shouldn’t mess around with it.

    In terms of the whole record keeping and compliance requirements, I believe in many IM situations we are catering to the 1% and often crippling the very software that brings real value to the organisation. Sure, if we get a compliance call we may need to spend days or even weeks trawling through Yammer posts or the equivalent to build a compliance satisfying response. But so what! It happens so rarely its certainly not worth crippling an organisation’s vitality through the introduction of overbearing governance procedures.

    Reply

  • author avatar
    James Dellow
    6 years ago

    Laurie – Governance in this context goes beyond just information management, but I agree that we don’t want to cripple these systems of engagement, like Yammer, with over bearing compliance tasks for individual users. However, the challenge is quite clear in some situations – like email and traditional intranets, Yammer may form part of the corporate record. The interesting thing about these tools (I think) is that it also challenges the concept of a record of just being the thing (what & when), but that context should be captured too (the whos, whats and whens). Maybe we also need to challenge traditional record keeping practices at the same time?

    Reply

  • author avatar
    Greg Lowe
    6 years ago

    I work for Yammer and am actually doing work around Social Governance. As you mentioned, it’s more than just telling people what they should not discuss on a social platform, but also includes making sure you educate people to use the right tools for the right job (e.g. a records management tool for documents that require archiving and retention.) One of the shifts that I’ve seen over the years is that if you try to make tools so that people can’t screw up, all you do is make it so nobody wants to use it. Yammer does in part rely on the users to ensure that their contributions are compliant with corporate governance policies and that if someone posts something that isn’t compliant that a process is in place to resolve the issue.

    We have introduced features that support some of these capabilities (such as multi-tier delete, Official content, keyword monitoring, etc) and will continue to develop features that support the needs of our users as the requirements of our customers come into scope.

    Reply

    • author avatar
      James Dellow
      6 years ago

      Thanks, Greg. I think its great that Yammer is thinking about governance and the technical features needed. However, as you point out more technology controls aren’t necessarily the solution. I think understanding that is critical when the use of Yammer transitions from being discretionary to essential.

      Reply

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