Making Microsoft a Connected Enterprise with Yammer and SharePoint

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.
If you read my April 2012 blogs about “Making Microsoft Social” (read part 1 and part 2), then you know that my IT colleagues and I are focused on connecting Microsoft employees, their insights, and information. We’ve seen that enterprise social tools can have a positive impact. So you can imagine how this focus became more complex on June 25, 2012. I think this Tweet of mine summarizes it best.
When the announcement was made that Microsoft was acquiring Yammer, my colleagues and I were in the midst of “dogfooding” SharePoint 2013. Little did I know that “complicated” would become such a thrill ride, one of those work experiences that’s challenging every week and a rush to be part of every day.
The acquisition of Yammer has influenced how we, as an IT department, think about our social enterprise strategy and execute on it. I’ll share updates with you in this blog. I’ll also let you know that our learnings and experience with more than 90,000 Microsoft users worldwide feeds directly into the product teams that are developing the products that we - and you - use for social enterprise.
Strategy for social at Microsoft
The “dogfood” process that is owned by Microsoft IT is much more than a rinse-and-repeat process of test, deploy, run and manage new products. We get involved in the envisioning phase of product development to help influence designs and use cases. You can read about our product roadmap and vision at the SharePoint team blog [here].
Thanks to our earlier experiences with MY sites, we learned a lot about how Microsoft employees want to connect. We observed that social is becoming an enterprise communication tool similar to how other tools, such as email or IM, entered the enterprise. The pace of innovation has increased over the last decade, making agility a requirement to survive and thrive as a business. We’ve seen that open conversations and personal connections drive personal and team productivity, agility and engagement.
Microsoft IT is working with our product teams so that Microsoft users are provided the connected experiences they want and the connected platform that IT needs. Right now there’s overlap between Yammer and SharePoint, such as file sharing, team notes, and conversations, and Yammer and SharePoint have basic integration via Web Parts and Open Graph capabilities. We’re working with the product teams to demonstrate the importance of deeper connections that will involve integrated document management and feed aggregation, plus unified identity.
You might be asking yourself, “How and why are Microsoft’s employees using social inside the company? Isn’t email, Lync and file share on SharePoint good enough?”
As we analyzed the use of social within the company, and how the Yammer employees collaborated, and compared notes with the product teams and others in the industry, we saw scenarios develop. We identified 4 scenarios through which we and other companies are able to drive value from enterprise social. I’ll summarize these 4 scenarios.
Increasing employee engagement. Social collaboration tools, such as microblogs, wikis and video sharing, can accelerate employee training and supplement in-person classes and conferences to help employees quickly familiarize themselves on subjects they need to master. Learning has always been somewhat social, with real-time learner interaction being one of the most valuable takeaways, but as we take more of our learning experience to Yammer, that interaction now has a longer shelf-life, being available long after the event.
How are we doing this? We have several communities of interest on Yammer, be it topical groups like social computing or product-oriented groups like Windows Phone. We’ve seen Yammer serve as a forum for employees to work out loud, and for employees to find others interested in the same topics.
We’re also increasingly using Yammer as a back-channel for team events, not just the Company Meeting. Whether it’s a sales team gathering on Yammer for a competitor’s earnings call, or remote employees participating online in a departmental all-hands meeting, what used to be simple one-to-many events are now many-to-many interactions that produce valuable conversations.
Improving team collaboration. Microsoft has offices in more than 100 countries, and R&D centers around the world. Not only do we have product groups that need to be productive with each other, but we have managers that manage globally-dispersed teams. These teams need to collaborate beyond email.
What we’re providing with a combination of SharePoint Online and Yammer is a set of options that vary a little in complexity, depending on their needs. If they’re working largely on their own deliverable and just need to share it with just a few individuals or broadly, we’ve encouraged employees to think of “share as the new save” and to store their docs in SkyDrive Pro, a new feature of SharePoint 2013. Since broad availability in October 2012, we’ve seen growth in SkyDrive Pro usage to 95,000 personal sites.
EPASCtools Employees that need to collaborate now have two options: a SharePoint Online site (which already number 18,000 and growing) or a Yammer group. Teams that rely primarily on document management features favor SharePoint sites, and those teams that are more focused on the conversations lean toward Yammer groups. Increasingly, we are providing options of embedding Yammer feeds into SharePoint sites for people that want a mixture of the two.
As we teach our employees about these options, it’s helpful to explain that more established technologies aren’t going away, but perhaps can be targeted for scenarios that are more optimal for the medium. For example, the diagram at right shows that email is optimal for smaller audience sizes, and newsfeeds for larger audiences.
Building a connected organization. Every day, a Microsoft employee receives approximately 100 emails. Most of those emails would be more useful to the company if they were accessible, searchable and available to a broader group of people. We see almost 3,000 new public posts per day on our Yammer network. These posts are accessible, searchable and available to the company, increasing our knowledge base.
For example, we have tens of thousands of employees outside of corporate headquarters competing for customers’ business. Groups have formed in Yammer to address specific competitive areas, and its members are finding that crowdsourcing answers in these groups is faster and more efficient than the strategies they’ve used before, while being easier and more available at the same time.
In other instances, we’ve seen SharePoint Online community sites serve the needs of the team better than Yammer. The best examples here are moderated support communities. When reputation and moderation or authoritative answers are vital, such as in the case of human resources or legal affairs communities, we’ve found that SharePoint Online community sites are more effective. The teams can lock-down the communities to full-time employees if needed, and promote certain Q&As to FAQs.
Enhancing business agility. CIO Tony Scott has talked about the mission of Microsoft IT to make Microsoft a real-time enterprise by streamlining business processes. Enterprise social will play a role, but only if enterprise social enables employees to learn faster, to make better decisions faster, and to provide solutions to our customers and partners more quickly.
In this regard, we’re doing three things.
  • First, we’re encouraging mobile employees to use the Yammer application for Windows Phone 8 so they can check their main feed, then just swipe over to view and interact with their groups.
  • Second, we’re enabling Yammer external networks so that employees can collaborate with people outside the Microsoft Yammer network. Microsoft sponsors a number of these networks to use in collaborating with customers and partners.
  • Third, we plan to enable external sharing via SharePoint Online, primarily for project teams with heavy document management needs. Our goal is to balance collaboration and IT control, which SharePoint Online does for us. It helps reduce the risk of employees posting high-business impact and medium-business impact materials on consumer online services like SkyDrive and DropBox.
Business value
Now that you understand the user scenarios within Microsoft, let’s discuss the value to our business. As I discussed in last year’s blog, the business case of our first foray into enterprise social was focused on total cost of ownership, reducing the time to business outcomes, and increasing employee engagement. After the jump from MY (v1 of our internal enterprise social strategy) to Yammer + SharePoint, we’ve seen continued growth and engagement.
Inside and outside the company, we’ve seen that social collaboration can increase employee engagement and connect employees across the organization. A Gallup Consulting study [2008 report here] showed that organizations that have engaged employees experience 18% higher productivity, 16% higher profitability, and 51% lower employee turnover than companies that have disengaged employees. The McKinsey Global Institute found that “by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25%.” [2012 study here].
In addition to industry input, we’re evaluating our user scenarios against the initial business value outcomes: TCO, get work done faster, employee engagement. We believe there’s more to it than those three. We’re also investigating business value drivers around our core business processes. How can enterprise social aid in product development processes amongst teams in different buildings, geographies and different native languages? As our product teams develop devices and services that help customers integrate their personal and professional lives, can enterprise social aid in higher quality solutions or streamlining the idea-to-creation process?
I’ll close with an example of our most recent Microsoft company meeting, which is our Seattle-based internal meeting. We used this event to evaluate if our Yammer network would indeed better connect Microsoft employees worldwide. No big surprise … it did. We had a 300% increase in employees joining Yammer, messages posted and mobile application use during the day of the company meeting. We saw more than 9,000 posts by 2,700 unique individuals during the 6-hour event. This event helped kick-start Yammer groups and collaboration on the network. Now we have 94,000 Yammer accounts, and we average 17,000 engaged users and about 25,000 messages posted per week. In the end, it was one of the highest rated company meetings in history. A great business outcome, but really just a glimpse of what’s to come.