If you feel like you are under full-scale assault from the marketing militia in Redmond, just you wait – with the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC13) just weeks away, what we’re experiencing now will feel like light summer rain compared to the tsunami approaching. And to be honest, I don’t mind the rain. at. all. I’ve pretty much decided to wear a swimsuit all the time, metaphorically speaking.
While attending SharePoint Saturday Chicago Suburbs (#SPSChicagoBurbs) on June 1st, my good friend Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny), CTO of SharePoint ISV ManyWorlds, gave a presentation that outlined reasons for using Yammer -- and enterprise social, in general. While I was not the target audience for her session, I was hoping to learn something new about the platform that maybe I had missed in the past year of heavy usage. Nope, nothing new from a technical standpoint. But she did present some useful info on why we’re seeing the sudden increase of focus on social collaboration in the enterprise (aside from Microsoft’s $1.2B acquisition of Yammer last year) and why its a good thing for internal communication.
As Naomi pointed out, enterprises are huge social systems, with vast personal and project or data-driven networks, where “innovation comes from serendipitous connections, or "happy accidents" which you want to create more of” between people, teams, and projects. Only so much of this can be planned – the goal of a company should be to provide opportunities for these “serendipitous connections” to occur and then get out of the way, according to Naomi. But what complicates this effort are the many data silos – some due to limitations of technology and collaborations platforms, others because of individuals who hoard data (because knowledge is power!), making location of expertise and the findability of relevant content difficult, at best.
Social collaboration, using platforms like Yammer, Tibbr, IBM Connections, and Chatter, is about removing these silos and allowing everyone to participate in the corporate dialog, creating more of these opportunities for “happy accidents’ where innovation occurs. While I am a big believer in this model, I also believe unstructured collaboration (social) goes hand-in-hand with structured collaboration (using platforms such as SharePoint) – the two are more effective when running side-by-side, with clearly defined boundaries.
Naomi then went on to summarize the purpose of social networking in the enterprise down into four main points:
- Decentralizing decision-making (to the people closest to the problem)
- Aligning employees along higher-level motivations, beyond process
- Creating a culture of transparency, with constant improvements
- Engaging employees for ideas
I like the simplicity of this model. For many of us, trying to articulate the benefits of enterprise social can be difficult. We are being asked to put quantitative measurements and benefits on something that, for the most part, bring qualitative improvements to the organization – but with the definitions above, you can begin to get creative on how you might begin to track and measure the benefits within the unique nuances of your own corporate culture and operational framework. For example, “creating a culture of transparency” might be interpreted as feedback forums. You might look at the number of product or organizational suggestions that are submitted through Yammer rather than traditional methods, and then – because of the visibility of the suggestions, and the ability for everyone to provide feedback and improve upon that idea – also track the financial impact of those suggestions. Both the number of suggestions (we had 47 submitted in April, but 75 submitted in May) and financial impact of those that are implemented are quantitative measurements against those qualitative activities.
Naomi also briefly covered the latest incarnation of Yammer certifications. While these programs have not yet become part of the partner competencies, I can see this step right around the corner. In the meantime, the real benefit of these certification programs is to help ensure that you are getting all of the benefits out of the platform within your own organization. Whether you direct end users toward the power user certification or not is up to you – personally, I don’t see much value in it versus just using the platform. It’s not THAT complex of a product. However, I can see huge value in the three other certifications to ensure that you are maximizing your time and dollar investment in the Yammer platform:
Yammer Certified Community Managers (YCCMs) are the organizational leaders who build engagement within their enterprise’s network. YCCMs demonstrate effective leadership in building an enterprise social networking culture by:
- Developing a community strategy and improving engagement
- Leading productive discussions by creating and managing Groups and Notes
- Promoting greater transparency and collaboration across the company
This certification is designed for organizations in the early stages of developing a community; newcomers to community management; those who need to understand community management to develop policies or procedures; and community managers who need to revitalize a stalled community.
Yammer Certified Trainers (YCTs) use their network to design and implement Yammer training programs and incorporate Yammer into existing training programs. Beyond assisting users with Yammer technical features, Yammer Certified Trainers develop and facilitate courses that increase effective network use within a business context to maximize training engagement across the organization.
Yammer Certified Adminstrators (YCAs) assist an organization in the administration and configuration of Yammer networks. This certification focuses on demonstrating advanced technical skills with intergrations and creating external networks; managing information through monitoring and data exporting tools; and leading effective information sharing by nurturing a culture of proper use.
Enrollees can choose from a full certification program that includes training, testing, and support, or a test only option, which provides access to the pre-certification network and offers certification testing.
For more details on these programs (and the power user course, if you’re brand new to the platform) you can find info here.
I’m really looking forward to #WPC13 in Houston next month (the WPC part, not the Houston-in-July part), hopefully learning more about Microsoft’s integration roadmap for Yammer and SharePoint / Office365, and announcements of further expansion of social across Microsoft product families (akin to the Dynamics CRM announcement).