Overheard at the water cooler — the topic is enterprise social networks (ESNs):
“What are you guys using?”
“We use Yammer.”
“I used that before Microsoft bought it. How is it now?”
“It does what we need it to do. What do you use?”
“Jive. It showed up one day and we started using it.”
“I hear Sales is using Chatter. It’s integrated with Salesforce.com.”
“Makes sense. Yammer’s integrated with Office 365 where our email is as well, so there’s good overlap.”
“Yeah. You should try Jive.”
“Yeah. You should try Yammer.”
Enterprise social network or enterprise social silo?
And so it goes. Which one should the guys in Sales try? Yammer? Jive?
You don’t need to eavesdrop on your co-workers at the water cooler to know two things very clearly:
- ESNs give a solid boost to productivity. Employees use them to micro-blog about the projects they’re working on, tools they’ve found, processes they don’t understand and help they need. They do it with less formality and overhead than in email or on a wiki, and with a smoother conversation path.
- ESNs spring up separately and take on a life of their own in Engineering, Tech Support, Sales and other functional groups. In fact, some users post to different platforms when their job involves more than one group.
So they are the proverbial double-edged sword: They encourage internal communication (which your company wants), but they result in silos (which your company doesn’t want).
Keep calm and Yammer on — if you can
If you don’t mind the silos, or if you don’t have the budget to consolidate them, then keep doing what you’re doing.
But some companies have a stickier wicket. They can’t afford to discourage the communication, nor can they afford to have separate collaboration platforms thriving in the enterprise, for several reasons:
- Content like document files ends up in multiple ESNs.
- Each ESN requires administration of hardware, software and licenses.
- Employees are posting content with value as intellectual property (IP) that needs to be retained.
- The content they are posting is subject to requirements for compliance and auditing.
You’ve always said that you want more communication, not less. Well, now you’ve got it. Each group benefits big-time from its ESN, but when you get the memo from upstairs about pulling the silos together, how are you going to do it?
If not, then stop supporting multiple ESNs
When you reach a decision point about supporting multiple ESNs and content silos, you need to pick social network software that’s going to satisfy as many employees as possible. Then you need to figure out how to migrate existing content from the discontinued platforms into the accepted platform.
Got a plan for that?
We’ve put together a paper called “Best Practices for Consolidating Multiple Enterprise Social Networks” (10-minute read). It covers the problems of having different platforms in the same organization, the ins and outs of consolidating them, creating a plan for migration and selecting a tool for it (you weren’t going to use scripts for all of those thousands of messages, were you?)
I’ll post next time about consolidating ESNs from the IT manager’s perspective. Meanwhile, if you really want to know how your co-workers feel about your enterprise social network, start visiting the water cooler more often.