This is my most epic presentation to date on “Innovation In Professional Services”. I was invited to present it to an international professional services firm to their management team. It was a talk I was really looking forward to because I have previously worked in professional services at Deloitte and I could also apply my technology/startup lens to what has happened in that industry.
At work, I’ve been given a new responsibility – Yammer Evangelist. Yes, I know you are thinking, what is Yammer? And what the heck is an evangelist.
In short, Yammer is a text messaging application similar to Twitter or Facebook status updates. I’ve spoken about Yammer previously on this blog. It is geared more towards organisations / corporates because it allows for closed networks. Whereas Twitter is open to the world.
Much like Twitter, it allows you to write a short message and have a profile page. But the advantages of Yammer is that it is a closed group only open to those you invite or on your company’s email domain. For example, our Yammer is only open to Sydney employees of Next Digital. The advantage of Yammer is that you can broadcast to the group and get responses immediately. You can obviously do this over email as well but often there are too many emails flying around and some people are included and some are not. Also, its hard to keep track of conversations. Yammer groups the conversations together, and you can see the replies in a threaded view.
Yammer kicks ass because it reduces email clutter. It enables conversations to develop and it keeps responses short (KISS principle in full effect). While twitter only allows for 140 characters, Yammer has no limitation. You can also add attachments to Yammer posts, using browse function or you can drag and drop.
Other cool advantages of Yammer:
- Ability to create subgroups: We have a group for basketball team, and this is where the real action happens. We discuss practice discussions, admin, jerseys, who’s playing, etc..It allows for collaboration and dynamic discussion.
- Follow and unfollow people: Yammer actually will suggest to you who you should follow. You don’t have to follow everyone in your company’s network. By following certain people, those conversations will be prominent and reduces all the clutter/ spam out there in the Yammesphere. The suggestions from Yammer will get smarter over time, but they are supposedly based on the organisational hierarchy and reporting relationships, and who your colleagues are following.
- Create a profile: similar to a company intranet, you can fill out your bio like education, career history, who you report to and who you work with. Not many people in my company have filled it out, but hopefully that will change.
- Desktop app: Yammer is web service (like Twitter or facebook you can login). But those cool cats out there like myself have downloaded the desktop app and I keep it open all day. I guess its similar to Tweetdeck for Twitter or MSN browser. It uses Adobe Air, which is very slick.
- The conversations are searchable and taggable. If you use a hashtag before a word e.g. #basketball , it will recognise that as a keyword and will tag that conversation. I can choose to follow all conversations that have #basketball. This is quite useful if you have a bunch of people talking about a specific client or an activity. Conversations are easily searchable using Yammer’s search engine.
- Sync it with google chat in gmail. So if I’m using gmail, and I want to post something, I open the Yammer chat box and post from there.
- Send posts & recieve posts via SMS – I have set it up but I don’t want to pay for it and I’m not sure if I want work stuff sent to my phone. But the option is there.
- Creating a more open and collaborative culture within the workplace. People are posting one to many conversation points, and getting more opinions. I think its less inhibiting than sending out a group email. A lot of times, if I’m sending out an email to the whole office, I ‘ll look at it several times, edit and think will this be ok? Whereas a post on Yammer is a microblogging service, 140 characters is not going to kill me. I’m going to get a lot more useful suggestions asking an office of 30 people in the open then a small select group of people.
I believe that Yammer has taken Twitter’s model and corporatised it. It could be one of the few Twitter type services that actually can make money. I don’t see how Twitter itself can make money off the service it provides. But Yammer charges for customisation, secure domain access using https (hypertext transfer protocol over secure socket layer) thus encrypting it like a bank website, full admin access, etc…. It charges something like $1 per user, but larger groups are offered as a discount.
I think Yammer will work effectively in our office because its not that big. We have roughly 25-30 employees and only a 1/3 are active users. Once more people start getting more active, it will be even better. It will be interesting to see how it run in a much larger environment like say our Melbourne office which as 150 people. In general, experiments like this work better on a smaller scale and there is inherently less clutter to begin with and you know everyone on the network relatively well.
The role of the Yammer Evangelist
I’m still yet to get a really good definition of an evangelist that sticks in my mind. But I believe the purpose as described to me, is to encourage adoption of Yammer, become the guru/troubleshooter and answer people’s question, and lead in it use. I also have started sending out posts on how to optimise its use as well and to stay up to date with what’s happening by reading the blog/website/other sources and participating in external discussions.
I’ve actually read everything on the Yammer website as well as all the blog posts, so that part shouldn’t be hard. I’ve also commented on TechCrunch’s article on Yammer’s $5m capital raising as well as an article in the NY Times blog. You get a lot of interesting feedback from other users in external companies. For example, someone said you should encourage staff to post 2-3 times a day, and its a good way to see what everyone is up to. I might see someone working on a particular project which I read about last week, and then if I have a question I will shoot them a yammer post or IM (instant message them).
I’ll post another update in a month or so and discuss further developments.
I’m out like email clutter,
p.s. Yammer also won TechCrunch top prize in 2008