Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Writing on the Wall, A Good Thing After All?

It’s no secret that humans are social beings and have long developed communication systems to exchange ideas and information. Along with cave paintings and hieroglyphs came the roots of telecommunications, the transmission of messages and signals over a distance, in smoke, drums and pigeon post. After a few upgrades, we’ve arrived in the age of social media with myriad methods of contact across locales.  Are the latest tools a help or hindrance? Improvement or impediment? Worthwhile or worthless?

I recently caught up with Lyle Estanislao, a creative professional using an internal social network for colleagues to converse and collaborate. Here's how he weighed in on the clamor over Yammer.
How is Yammer implemented in your office? What is the objective in using it?
Similar to most small start-ups, each one of our employees needs to wear a number of hats and be responsible for a large portion of the company's operation. Since most of our day-to-day activites are worked on independently, Yammer was brought in to provide a central location to find out what everyone was working on at any point of the day. Posting to and reviewing the live feed allows all employees to quickly see full company daily progress.

What is the general sentiment among staff using Yammer?
As a technology design firm, we are constantly testing out and using numerous communication tools to see what fits. Since all the employees personally use and are comfortable with social networking tools, the transition to using a 'company Twitter' came naturally.
Yammer's website states that it "reduces the need for meetings, increases communication across silos, surfaces pockets of expertise and connects remote workers". Do you find this to be true?
Our primary use of Yammer is to update the rest of the company on our daily to-dos, rather than be a central repository for information, so we find that we still need to have meetings. Yammer is just part of our company's communication tool set, which includes email, Skype, Google docs, CRM, etc.
Yammer Time is a reminder prompt to use Yammer at designated intervals during the workday.

Does Yammer help or hurt your productivity during the work day?
While it does take time out of my day to constantly post information, it has saved time in having to answer multiple questions from co-workers.
In your opinion, is Yammer a better medium of communication than email or face-to-face interaction?
Yammer, email, and face-to-face interaction all have their place in company communication. The strength that Yammer has is the ability to reach everyone quickly without cluttering up or getting lost in someone's inbox. Also, within Yammer, each user can subscribe to whichever group or topic he/she is interested in, filtering out information overload. For example, I can subscribe to a certain project feed, so if anyone in the company posts a status update regarding that particular project, I can be updated in real-time.
Do you think the effectiveness of Yammer depends on the size of a company? Would it be more useful in a large firm where staff worked more remotely?
Yammer seems to be tailored to a larger company. As a small company, I would like to see Yammer be better integrated into other tools, such as CRM, similar to what Chatter is to Salesforce.


  1. Interesting post, thanks for sharing! I heard Yammer mentioned in class yesterday and knew very little about it; your post helped me to understand it a bit more. Having had worked for a large and a small agency I can see the advantages of Yammer for both. It seems to organize a smaller group while keeping a larger group abreast of everyone's progress. The project feed seems to be a sweet tool for anyone looking for quick updates. Thanks for introducing this clamor on Yammer (cute!).

  2. Thank you for your post! I also didn't know much about Yammer and this is really helpful. I think an important point to stress is that Yammer doesn't and shouldn't take away from face-to-face interaction. Although it should be used as a time saving, collaborative tool, meetings and face-to-face are necessary - especially to engage employees emotionally and physically. "Reading" people online is oftentimes difficult.

  3. Great post! I've heard of Yammer before and know of colleagues whose agencies try to use it across offices, but haven't had much success with employees participating. It sounds like it's a successful tool in Lyle's office. I also agree with what Nicole mentioned. Face-to-face interaction is more important than ever when we have all these "tools" because the technology doesn't always allow for context clues or for appropriate displays of emotion when necessary.

  4. Thanks J, this is very informative. I'd never heard of Yammer. Love their logo and play on "Hammer Time!" It does sound like an interesting way to keep people posted on what you're doing, if you want help and buy in. But it also sounds like it could feel oppressive if you have to constantly update it and make it seem like your every move should be watched. Also people probably need to worry how they sound on Yammer, there's a fine line between updating your coworkers and bragging. When she said it means less meetings I cringed, since I think meetings and face-to-face equal fun parts of work.