Exploiting Enterprise Social Inside Microsoft

This is a guest blog post by Chris Slemp, principal solutions manager and Certified Yammer Administrator, in the strategic enterprise services IT organization of Microsoft IT. Chris works on the discovery and collaboration team that is focused on improving content and people discovery and collaboration within Microsoft.
When the researchers at the Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) in the MIT Sloan School of Management talk about the IT unit of the future, their research shows that IT must go beyond the traditional plan-build-run cycle and to a cycle in which IT focuses more on exploit and commit capabilities. That is to say, IT must generate ongoing business value from existing internal and external capabilities (exploit) and allocate resources to ensure innovations address strategic priorities (commit).
The same MIT researchers polled enterprise CIOs to identify important exploit responsibilities. In addition to business architecture, stewardship of master data, and BI/analytics, the CIOs identified effective use of social media, which may include both external and internal social media. The MIT researchers concluded that these last three responsibilities group neatly into a common domain called, “information-based innovation” and will be exploited by CIOs who want their organization’s value proposition to focus on information. See diagram below.
Give ‘Em What They Want
Enterprise social has a growing role in information innovation within Microsoft these days. Business processes, from sales and marketing to human resources and operations, are seeing greater collaboration amongst teams, higher levels of employee engagement and more agile decision making.
The Microsoft culture is one that feeds on data and information. We know that approximately half worldwide employees are under the age of 40 years old, and a large majority use social media personally, so Microsoft IT is fortunate to work with motivated internal partners around enterprise social. An assessment of your organization’s appetite for social collaboration tools would be an important early step in defining your rollout plan.
To understand our internal user scenarios, read my March 2013 blog [here]. Enabling enterprise social scenarios requires integrating social technologies consistently throughout the Microsoft product stack, so that those technologies are available to employees whenever and wherever they can benefit from them. For example, we’re working on integrating social with our own Microsoft Dynamics deployment, also taking into consideration social analytics and social marketing capabilities, to allow sales teams to harvest customer insights and new leads.
For the employees of Microsoft-Switzerland, who are in various customer-facing roles, they have embraced social collaboration to increase business agility and deepen employee engagement. Their challenge was internal productivity amongst employees – too many emails, too many meetings. The various customer-facing roles created silos, which lead to duplication of work. A management directive to increase face-time with customers and partners required new communications methods.
Enter Yammer. The Yammer external network capability allowed local employees to connect with external stakeholders, such as customers, partners and new hires in a more agile and effective manner. Yammer also empowered Microsoft employees to organize by internal groups so that information could be shared broadly and ideas debated across teams. For example, a sales team group was formed on Yammer, with a focus on sales pipeline and forecast reports, industry news and insights, and management updates. After the first 4 weeks, more than 60% reported seeing personal (business) value, and most said the value was in saving time and increasing customer responsiveness.
In a different area of our business, a product engineering team realized the benefits of embracing a new “social” way of working. This video tells their story from the perspective of two program managers on the team.
Microsoft IT is exploiting existing capabilities to innovate using information. This includes enterprise social networking with Yammer, content collaboration and management with SharePoint, productivity apps with Office 365, and communications and presence with Lync. All combine to create increasingly integrated experiences that help employees get things done. Our efforts to get employees re-thinking the way that they work has shone more light on how these products need to be even further integrated. We still have a long way to go to reach collaborative nirvana, but the product team is well on their way. Read the latest roadmap update.
Help ‘Em Get There
According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB) research with its CIO Leadership Council, “enhancing collaboration and knowledge sharing in the enterprise” was the second-most requested topic in CEB’s 2014 research agenda survey. CEB noted that “large enterprises still haven’t quite gotten collaboration at scale right.” CEB reported that collaboration and social media initiatives disrupt conventional IT management approaches in five unique ways.
  1. Unclear ROI: unclear nature of how and where social will deliver value
  2. Speed of innovation: business units identify and exploit social before IT
  3. Magnified risk: may diminish corporate perimeters and controls of information sharing
  4. Consumer technology options: users turn to consumer alternatives instead of corporate
  5. Rapid change: velocity and complexity of social outpaces IT’s roadmaps
My IT colleagues and I have certainly seen all of the above, and hear a similar list from our enterprise customers. For example, our plan to exploit Yammer external networks included regular and detailed review meetings with our chief information security officer, and Microsoft security governance committee. In the end, like all IT projects, we accepted some risk and have mitigated that risk with policy and governance. As a result of this “empower, trust, and monitor” approach, we’ve seen the number of executive-sponsored Yammer external networks grow from 75 to 350 in 12 months.
There are two other lessons we’ve learned on our road to adoption. First, exploiting enterprise social requires IT and business partners to be committed to the same goals and desired outcomes. By now this item shouldn’t be a lesson for us or any enterprise IT organization, but the results of focusing on alignment are undeniable. For example, we have some internal Yammer groups that are interest-focused (e.g. cloud computing) and they tend to grow slowly. On the other hand, we have other groups that are sponsored by an organization to achieve a business goal, and have community management resources dedicated to driving engagement. These latter groups are the ones setting our 300% year-over-year growth rate for Yammer usage at Microsoft.
This video tells the story of Microsoft-Australia employees, who have realized widespread adoption of social for their communications and collaboration, in large part because of the commitment and sponsorship of their forward-thinking executive, Pip Marlow.
Our second lesson was a realization of the size of investment required in change management. Even with our fast-paced, tech-hungry culture, it’s difficult to change work habits and practices. We had to restructure my IT Collaboration team from a technology solutions focus to build a solid change management muscle. We built stronger customer engagement and community management capabilities. For example, we created one program that would recognize early adopters as “Yammer Champions” to help us train employees and evangelize the benefits of enterprise social. We now have more than 100 champions in the program worldwide, and expect that to double this year.
Since social media is already part of the fabric of our daily lives, introducing it into the enterprise isn’t simply a matter of adopting a new technology. It’s a cultural shift that adapts business communications and processes to the way people already work and communicate. Enterprise social simply reflects evolving work styles.
"The social enterprise is implemented 80% through the organization's culture, and 20% through its technology" (Source: Gartner, The Nexus Effect and How the Nexus of Forces Alters Established Architecture Models, Sept. 2012)
This video shows how Microsoft employees around the world jumped in early on a wave that’s now washing over most of the company. We now have over half the company interacting with Yammer in any given month, and 15,000 employees using it every day. As Microsoft continues to exploit existing systems and commit resources to further infusing social into every service we offer, we only expect this wave to build into a tsunami.
My advice to IT organizations is to have a look at the Yammer network for your organization. Since they’re free to try, there’s a good chance you already have one that you can exploit. See how your employees already may be using it to see what gaps they think Yammer fills for them and then commit the resources needed to plan and deliver your social strategy. Finally, start your organization’s social journey with the tools that the Yammer team recently provided and we use internally.