The Buzz About Socialized Business

When Microsoft announced plans to buy social enterprise app maker Yammer recently I was a little stunned. The reported $1.2-million acquisition price tag seemed like a lot for replicating social networking functions in the business environment. So I decided to find out what all the buzz was about.

“Social is more than a trend, it is a revolution that is changing the way we work and collaborate. Powerful social tools, such as Chatter, help employees work faster and more efficiently—making it a strategic piece of the workforce.” — Dave King, Chatter Product Marketing Director

As it turns out, users have uncovered all sorts of efficiencies unique to these platforms. Not convinced? Here's seven ways companies have derived real value from Yammer, Chatter and Jive.

1. Streamline Project Management

Qubiz is a huge proponent of scrum agile software development and even offering training in the practice through its Academy program. Software developers at PerkStreet Financial use Yammer to facilitate such scrum meetings. Rather than hold their daily morning standup meetings in person, each member of the 37-person team posts “what I did yesterday,” “what I will do today” and “barriers to moving forward” using the hashtag #scrum.

The tag allows users to quickly see what everyone is working on and chime in when appropriate. The poster can also delegate tasks to others with the “@” symbol. With Jive, users can also employ shortcuts such as an “!” to pull information into the thread from CRM and other enterprise systems.

2. Improve Partner Communications

Qubiz knows first hand the challenges in partnership projects. They regular coordinate with clients for software implementation and system integrations. Many social enterprise platforms allow users to form partner portals so both groups can collaborate in the same space.

Since all conversations happen in the feed and in groups, rather than trapped in someone’s inbox, all parties have continuous insight into the team’s progress.This also prevents work duplication and redundancies because everyone is literally on the same page.

FlexJobs founder and CEO Sara Sutton Fell said Yammer drastically cut down on her need to email, call or schedule a meeting to check in. In fact, Salesforce surveys show Chatter reduces email 30 percent and meetings 27 percent.

In addition, users can respond as it fits in their workflow. “Instead of emails that feel like you have to respond immediately, putting it on Yammer ensures that only [staff] who have the time to check out the job will do so,” she says.

3. Find Experts Faster

Centerstance Inc. Managing Partner Greg Lueck says Chatter helps sales staff answer deal-specific questions expeditiously. He recalled one situation where a partner needed someone certified in Cast Iron software integration who spoke Mandarin. The resource manager working with the partner posted the query in Centerstance’s news feed.

“They had an answer within 30 seconds… in Mandarin,” Lueck remembers. In this and similar scenarios, the employee would have otherwise “relied on a central repository of all company’s experience that is located in one person’s head, or nowhere at all.”

4. Better Leverage Information and Insights

Social enterprise vendors have invested heavily in social and adaptive intelligence. These sophisticated algorithms suggest articles, files and experts based on the user’s position, connections, group memberships and resources they’ve previously accessed.

“Imagine you have 10,000 people in an enterprise. Sales materials, RFPs are constantly flowing through system… Jive makes the most of this information by channeling it to the right people,” according to Jive Product Marketing Director Tim Zonca.

5. Generate More, Better Ideas

Yammer provides several means for employees to contribute ideas–from responding to queries and surveys, to posting ideas in a group discussion threads. Users receive gratification when co-workers and leadership “like” their contribution. Then, they are continually rewarded as they watch project teams bring the idea to fruition. With one advertising campaign, for example, Deloitte CEO Peter Williams asked employees for their ideas for a tagline. More than 38 groups formed that submitted 1,184 original concepts.

6. Boost Employee Recognition and Engagement

In the four years since Deloitte AU implemented Yammer, the turnover rate for active users has fallen to two percent annually–about 10 times less than for employees who don’t use it. Leadership attribute change to employees feeling more engaged and recognized for their work.

“In a company with 180,000 people, most employees rarely interact with leadership,” says Frank Farrall, national leader for Deloitte Australia’s Online Consulting Practice. “Yammer breaks down those barriers.”

Deloitte leadership uses Yammer to pull reports that identify employees with high engagement and positive feedback. The more a user interacts with groups, downloads articles and responds to queries with the same keywords, the more they are distinguished as thought leaders on a subject.

A Work in Progress

These apps aren’t perfect–several companies responded to this story saying the platform was more “of a distraction” than a value driver. They cited issues with file sharing, inefficient search, lack of customization, and bugs with mobile functionality. Even so, interest continues to grow as technology improves. From what I’ve learned, the question is no longer if socialized business will become the norm, but when.

Research for this article was provided by software analyst Ashley Furness.

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