Got something to say? Yammer it!

Maroš Šefčovič

European Commission Vice President, Maroš Šefčovič, chatting online with staff.

If you need to share information inside the European Commission, where do you go?

Increasingly, the answer is the online network set up in 2009 using the Yammer enterprise microblogging platform.  The Commission’s Yammer network now connects over 5000 staff across the organisation.  It has grown organically, mainly by word of mouth rather than an official promotion campaign. Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič has used the platform to chat live with staff about organisational reforms.

I met recently with Julie Guégan, who is responsible for internal communication in the Commission’s HR department.  She explained the main reasons why the institution is investing in collaborative tools, including Microsoft Sharepoint and Yammer.

The European Commission is a knowledge organisation.  Its staff need tools to help them share experiences, deal with information overload and work more efficiently.  The organisation is also spread over many different locations across Europe and staff need to have a way to keep in touch with colleagues, including when they are on the go.

The introduction of digital tools for online collaboration has not been plain sailing.  Although some 350 collaborative sites have been created using Sharepoint, adoption is still relatively slow.  Yammer has helped to attract people to digital collaboration, by allowing immediate discussions in a very easy way.  But the use of this cloud-based platform has raised other issues relating to data protection and security.  And, as Julie points out, the organisation cannot hope to make the best use of digital tools unless it trains all staff to be digitally competent and develops a truly collaborative working culture.

But these challenges are gradually being overcome.  Action has been taken to make sure that Yammer complies with EU data protection rules and in-house security standards. Better integration between Sharepoint and Yammer should help to combine the best elements of both platforms.  Yammer will only be used for discussions, whereas Sharepoint will be the place for document sharing and co-authoring. There is also a project with the Learning & Development Unit to “grow staff’s digital competence”.

Julie Guégan

Julie Guégan, from the Commission’s Human Resources Directorate General.

And, more generally, Julie argues that the introduction of collaborative tools is reinforcing the values of the web (openness, meritocracy, flexibility …) in the organisation. “Some colleagues told me how pleased they were to realise that their colleagues cared about them. They start to see the benefits of digital collaboration from idea generation to content distribution”.

When I asked Julie what experiences in the US she thought we could learn from, she mentioned Microsoft IT’s experience with over 10,000 active collaborative sites within the company. I hope to have a chance to find out more about this first-hand when I am in Seattle next year!

I’m also excited to have made contact with the US State Department’s Office of eDiplomacy.  it will be interesting to look into their use of digital media for knowledge sharing and collaboration, including the “Diplopedia” wiki.

Do you know other good examples of organisations using digital media for internal knowledge sharing and collaboration?  If so, I’d love to hear from you!

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5 Comments

Filed under Digital media, EU, USA

5 responses to “Got something to say? Yammer it!

  1. My own experience on Yammer in the EC (I was present since the first times with just a couple of colleagues) confirms what you and Julie say. Yammer is a wonderful platform for discussions, and for “meta-discussions” on discussions. Saying that, IMHO it is not the best platform for collaboration (even if Yammer added interesting features last times); and it is certainly not a platform for knowledge management and consolidation. Even if people can browse the history or search for a topic in old discussions, it is clear that a majority use it “à la” Facebook or Twitter: if something isn’t visible in a time window of some hours, or some days for the bravest, they consider that content “don’t exist” or too hard to retreive. As a result, the same questions or the same topics bounce from time to time, and of course receive similar answers or comments through the different threads. Consolidation of information is also quite impossible in Yammer, at least in our EC infrastructure and culture. A solution would be to consolidate interesting discussions that happen on Yammer in a Wiki, which is de facto designed to manage knowledge. But this requires resources and some expertise to do it correctly.
    Maybe, the easiest thing is to be clear with all users about the purpose of Yammer, and avoid false promises about what it is not. It is ideal for discussions, and through that it can dramatically improve, in real time, the general awareness on specific topics among connected colleagues, which is far to be useless! To manage efficiently knowledge of the organisation… other tools should be considered.

  2. IBM has a great track record of using collaborative tools and Wikis internally – be sure to check them out. They launched one of the first company wikis called Bluepedia – remember they have over 270,000 staff worldwide? Quite a feat to collect knowledge in that context.

  3. Pingback: All Things IC | Who’s using what for internal social media?

  4. Pingback: All Things IC | It’s Yammer time…

  5. Pingback: Leserbrief zum FAS Interview mit Bundestagspräsident Norbert Lammert: Social Parlament statt Papierstau! - MicrosoftPresse - Site Home - TechNet Blogs

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