Let me first start by describing my problem: I don’t need more communications, or even more formats. What I need is focus. As a part operational and part knowledge worker, I want to know the issues and questions that matter operationally, and the information updates on the topics that matter. That’s why after only a week or two, I think I am getting converted to Yammer, and its messages known as ‘Yams’. I need to tell you a bit about Yammer first as the background for the real point I want to make.
What is Yammer? Well you can find all the details, even set up your own enterprise Yammer group, by going to their home site www.yammer.com and watching the handy video introduction. Yammer is designed to be a corporate tool, so at this stage a Yammer community is based on a common email root such as …..@capgemini.com, and anyone without a valid email address root can’t join your enterprise Yammer group. Somewhere in the opening part it says ‘yes you could do this by email but do you want to spam everyone?’ Well that’s one tick in the box! Then it carries on and explains the way it links people, topics, searches together, and that’s impressive. I also can choose to follow topics, i.e. cloud computing, or people, such as Ron Tolido (fellow CTO and blogger here), or even a set up a temporary group for a project team to stay in real-time contact as they work. If you do this carefully and with colleagues doing the same, then yes those copy to all, or group, emails are not necessary.

There is another huge plus: though Yammer is a Web-based service, it also integrates with email as well. I am usually working from an overloaded smart phone and don’t want to keep moving between my email account on Exchange and Internet access, so this is really useful. I can arrange for certain types of Yams to appear as emails, and I can either reply through email and it will post back to the Yammer thread, or I can move away from Yammer by picking up the shift into email and emailing to people who are not part of the Yammer community. So now I have a Social networking tool, with real time micro Blogging and current-topic searching, and it’s all integrated with email as well as being a Web Service. At last!
This piece is not meant to be an advert for Yammer, though so far it seems to be. It is really meant to comment on the way I think we are trying to work, as well as pick up on some of my recent blogs around accepting wireless-based tools to improve real time connectivity for operational people. As I have said before, those sitting at permanent desks with structured work just don’t get any of this because they simply don’t have the problem!
Web 1.0 gave us access to content, and we pretty quickly learnt how to use search engines to find the content we were looking for, and if we wanted to keep up to date with some specific site/page then we set up an RSS feed. Web 2.0 gives us access to people, and we are learning how to use social networking to find the people with the interests or experience we need to know about. When we do find them, we would like to find a way of establishing an equivalent to RSS, and that’s Micro Blogging.
The real challenge is that the two aspects are seldom totally separated, and in addition, we have the legacy of how we work with current tools, such as email, as well as our accepted cultural and procedural aspects within the enterprise. That’s the reason I have found Yammer so useful, and yet have resisted other popular tools such as Twitter, which for me solves one part of the problem, but in so doing actually add to the difficulty of separate activity domains.
Back to the challenge of bringing Web 2.0 into the enterprise, effectively. Unfortunately those last few words I used above about our ‘accepted cultural and procedural aspects’ are constraints for the hard pressed ‘operational’ workers who are trying to deal with an event driven and chaotic daily workload. What I often refer to as the ‘front office staff’, who have been experimenting with various forms of Web 2.0 tools usually in defiance of any corporate policy. However, this same pressure is not there for many back office staff (management?) whose job by definition is to ensure that the enterprise works in a structured manner to meet its structured targets, budget, goals and strategy.
No wonder I see tension around the deployment of Web 2.0 tools and social networks everywhere I go, for as a broad definition the management hasn’t got the problem, and moreover doesn’t want the answer of event-based reactivity, which it sees as compounding, or challenging the way they want to work! It’s not true everywhere of course, and for a really good explanation of why as an enterprise strategy it is necessary to adopt Web 2.0 and social networking, I recommend the following work in which Intel explains why it is a corporate strategic move that they must make work.
It would seem to be the ‘structured’ answer that our colleagues in the back office managing the business need to see!