Why choose Yammer as your outer loop?
I am honored to speak at Microsoft Ignite conference in September 2018 about why to choose Yammer as your outer loop communication. In this session, you learn (From the Field) how Yammer and Microsoft Teams can bring more to the enterprise in terms of compliance, integration and security than other products in the market.
Having a clear vision and good business scenarios are key to a successful adoption of the modern workplace and unlocking creativity within your organization. In this session, I am going to share with you my experience on how to think of these business scenarios and what makes sense when it comes to the inner loop and outer loop. Finally, I will end up by sharing my personal thoughts about why Yammer is a good choice for your organization.
Hello everyone, my name is Ammar Hasayen, I am a Microsoft MVP in Office Apps and Services. I am from Jordan, and I have over 14 years of experience working on collaboration projects over the world. I helped a big enterprise recently to move to the modern workplace using Microsoft 365 products and services, and I know how challenging it can be for some organizations to think about good scenarios for the inner and outer loop, and this is what I want to talk about today.
First, I am going to talk about business scenarios for the Inner loop communication and how Microsoft Teams can help in this area, and then I am going to show you why it is important to have an outer loop communication platform in your company. Finally, I am going to argue why yammer is a good choice for your organization?
One of the things I like to do when planning a collaboration experience is to start with a clear vision that is communicated with the management. A clear vision for the modern workplace can be simple like (create a safe environment that unlock the creativity of employees). After having the vision in place, I would start looking for business scenarios that helps people be more productive at work. Once I have couple of business scenarios, I start looking at technologies that can help achieve these business scenarios. Vision, Business Scenarios and Technologies are the proper order when you start thinking of implementing the modern workplace as it gives you context and focus along the way.
Inner Loop & Microsoft Teams
Let us take this example. One of my previous roles was to lead the modern workplace project in a multi-national enterprise with thousands of employees across more than 50 countries. The company was trying to optimize the efficiency of their operation across their offices. They have a team called Business Improvement Team located in the head office. This team is working with operation managers in every office across the globe and they are trying to automate one of the processes to increase efficiency and reduce operations cost.
They were using email for their communication and it was a nightmare as they were generating a lot of documents without proper version control, and it was really hard to keep track of what is happening in each remote office when it comes to this process improvement initiative. This is a typical scenario for the inner loop, a group of people coming together to perform a task, with a common purpose.
Implementing Microsoft Teams in this case, not only solved the communication problem they had, but speed up the whole project, as now they have proper version control because documents are stored in SharePoint. We end up creating one team inside Microsoft Teams, with a channel for each remote office to group conversation per geographic location.
We had a channel called (Announcements) to keep everyone informed about what is happening in this process automation initiative. Each office or location has its own channel that the operation manager at that office follows to keep track of the progress of his office. For each iteration of the process automation, the process details documents are updated with proper version in the (General) channel so that everyone see the latest updated proposed process and give feedback.
After working closely with the operation managers across all offices and with the business improvement team in the head office and giving them extensive training on how Microsoft Teams works, we could get our first success story working with Microsoft Team. We used Yammer to publish that success story and look for another business scenario that works well for the inner loop.
You can think of the Inner Loop like walking into to a room, and you know most people in that room. You are all in this room for a common purpose and to archive certain deliverable.
Yammer as an Outer Loop
As you can see from the previous business scenario, the business improvement team and the operation managers in each office are now working together inside Microsoft Teams. One thing is missing though, which is how we can help the business improvement team and operation managers to take feedback from people in the ground who are affected by the new process automation, and whether they want to report any issues with the new automation?
We pushed changes from the business improvement team that affects the whole operation across our global offices, and now we need to take feedback and capture communication from the operation teams and report them back to the business improvement team. We could not use Microsoft Teams for that purpose as there are huge number of employees who are affected by this new automation, and we might not know everyone who might be affected.
This is a great example of how the outer loop communication can help. By creating a Yammer group so that people across the organization can share their feedback that can be fed back to the business improvement team and operation managers, so that they can work again inside their inner loop (Microsoft Teams) to do further improvements to the process accordingly.
This is huge and so powerful if you think about it. While Microsoft Teams (Inner Loop) is like walking into a room where you know almost everyone in the room, Yammer (Outer Loop) is like walking into an open space with a lot of people, and you just do not know everyone out there. You can think of inner loop like your neighbors, while the outer loop like the universe.
The outer loop is a powerful tool that can help employees express themselves, create interest groups, learn about the culture of the organization, and to have a voice. It helps the whole organization to move as one towards its goals and objectives with this widely opened communication channels. Some employees might not have emails, but they can access Yammer and learn what is happening in their organization.
Moreover, with some multi-national organizations, employees can use Yammer to learn more about what is happening in other offices, and trending news across the whole company, shaping by that the culture of the organization.
Business Scenarios of Yammer
Let me share with you couple of real scenarios from my experience that can help you think about some good business scenarios when it comes to Yammer and when it can be used as an outer loop communication tool.
Communicating C-Level Announcements
One of the most powerful business scenarios for using Yammer is to communicate executive messages from the management to everyone in your organization. Think about this for a minute, when the CEO wants to communicate an important message to all employees, he would send an email to do that. Not only that email can be gone unnoticed by many employees due to the huge amount of emails they receive every day, no one can dare to reply back to that email and speak out his thoughts. Such management announcements become one-way communication that are pushed to everyone, period.
As part of our effort to get management sponsorship when deploying the modern workplace, we could get a buy-in from the CEO so that he will use Yammer for any new company-wide announcements and never use the email for this purpose. The CEO sent email to everyone in the company introducing Yammer as a way to communicate company-wide communication and encourage other C-level leaders to do the same.
Now everyone goes to Yammer to see management announcements, and they can interact with these announcements (by clicking Like or Dislike), or even leave a comment as comments in Yammer are less formal than emails. People now can see such announcements and read through all comments to see how the whole organization feedback, which encourage them to leave a comment also. Not only this is a more interactive way of communication, the CEO also gets to see how employees are interacting with his messages and can reply back to address key issues employees are reporting right from within Yammer.
One of the most powerful use of Yammer that we see in a big enterprise with thousands of people across hundreds of offices across the globe, is the use of interest groups.
It was surprising to see how employees go to Yammer to join interest groups and express their habits, ideas and interests.
Let me paint the scene for you. We have a team called (Communication Team) that has one clear purpose, which is drive adoption to Yammer and encourage people to use Yammer more and teach them how to do so.
They started by creating couple of interest open groups that anyone can join. One of these interest groups is the (I Have a Pet) open group. Anyone that owns a pet can join the group and post photos of his/her pets. We got huge contributions from all people sharing photos of pets. You might be wondering what this has to do with productivity? Well, remember that Yammer is all about employees expressing themselves and engage with other employees. They are now opening Yammer every day, and this is, by itself, a big win.
We also had a group called (I have a talent), where employees with talents can share videos about what they are good at. We end up having a corporate competition and employees electing the best talent in the organization. The three winners were invited to the corporate annual conference for leaders and awarded there. Why this was important? Because people are expressing themselves and they get to know about other people from other offices, which they might be working with over email for years, without knowing anything about them but their names. This create stronger connections between employees over time.
We also have a group for each office called (The Social Hub), where each office shares social activities like (Movie Night), (Discounts available in these places), or even (Hiking activity next week end).
Your company might have programs that your employees know nothing about. A good example is the sustainability program we had, and it is challenging to educate all employees about this program. By creating a Yammer group and posting about our sustainability program updates, employees know about this program and they can even interact and share their thoughts.
Also, as part of the company’s commitment to help the community in each location we have offices in, we have this program where we help poor people by denoting clothes, painting houses, distributing food, or even teaching kids in public schools. By creating a Yammer group for this program and posting photos about how employees is helping the community in each location, other employees start to interact, and this encourage them to ask if they can help and participate in the next activity. This is something that cannot be achieved by an email message! You need an outer loop that engages employees by sharing photos of the community work we are doing, touch their feelings, make them willing to participate by themselves.
Office 365 Enrollment
As we started to enroll Office 365 across the enterprise, we used Yammer in different ways to help us move forward with this huge deployment and the change management that comes with introducing it.
As part of our enrollment strategy, we created a champions program to help us evangelize Office 365 across our offices, as by training our champions, they can help us train other people. We had a closed Yammer group for Office 365 Champions, where all champions are added as members, and we share with them new things coming in Office 365 and hear their feedback. This helped us be in sync with our champions across our offices, as we hear their feedback, problems and concerns if any.
We also had an open Yammer group called Office 365 Tips and Tricks, where we have daily posts about how to use Office 365. One post could be (Do you know you can share files from your OneDrive? Here is how…). As employees are finding these tips useful as they help them be more productive, they started to follow this group and post questions about some challenges they are facing in their work. We had a team from IT that will answer their concerns in Yammer, which creates a perfect two-way informal communication channel for prompting Office 365 and listening to user’s feedback.
There are couple of products in the market that can be used for the outer loop communication. I did a research once to evaluate different products and see which product should be used. If you are already using Office 365, I believe Yammer is a good choice for your social network for different reasons.
First, Yammer is not a standalone product, but part of a universal toolkit for teamwork in Office 365. Its deeply integrated with other products in Office 365, so in Microsoft Teams, you can have a tab that links back to Yammer, and in SharePoint Online you have an interactive web part for Yammer. This means that you can engage employees in Yammer even if they are using Microsoft Teams or SharePoint, which is so powerful. Think about the example we talked about here, where the business improvement team is using Microsoft Teams to develop a new process automation, as now they can add a tab that pulls Yammer feeds directly inside their MS Teams channel without the need to leave Microsoft Teams.
Yammer, as part of this universal toolkit for teamwork, uses three major components in Office 365 that I think is one of the major differentiater. These components are Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Graph and the Security and Compliance Center in Office 365. These components are shared across all other Office 365 services, and it means that Yammer offers better integration with Office 365. If you are using Office 365 groups already, then you can create an Office 365 connected groups in Yammer now. Yammer will also offer deep search experience powered by Microsoft Graph, the same service that serve other Office 365 products.
One of the biggest concerns also is the file experience. In other products, you can have people on-board other storage services like Box, Dropbox or even personal OneDrive. While this might be considered a great feature, many organizations might not like the idea of having employees putting corporate files on external storage services, and these files are not searchable from outside. Yammer on the other side as announced recently, is going to use SharePoint Online as the back-end file experience. So, the same investment your company did to configure and secure SharePoint Online will not be wasted.
Yammer also comes without any extra cost if you already have Office 365, while you need to purchase per user license if you are using other outer loop products. This is a major factor when deciding which outer loop, you want to use.
Watch the session online