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Why Yammer is such a tough sell

Published on: 2014-04-13

I've been to several user group meetings about Yammer, and inevitably each meeting is dominated by people who don't see the need for this technology. (If you're wondering what Yammer is, you may want to start elsewhere to get an overview.) With success stories fairly common, why is Yammer such a tough sell? I think the answer lies with these issues:

  1. Yammer is best good at increasing collaboration, which only indirectly meets most managers' goals.
  2. As summed up in this (possibly apocryphal) Henry Ford quote: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." When managers do want to tackle issues that Yammer can solve, they think of managing e-mail or managing documents, not choosing a brand new type of tool.
  3. Yammer is a tool that encourages openness and collaboration, when some organizations still operate in the communication dark ages dominated by process and control.

So if you're trying to persuade members of an organization to use Yammer more, what can you do to make Yammer an easier sell?

First, focus on how real-time collaboration helps teams solve problems more quickly and prevent miscommunication more effectively. Do NOT focus on any particular feature of Yammer, no matter how "cool" you think it is.

Try to get buy-in from managers to start a pilot program with a limited group. Have a specific reason to use Yammer in that program, such as discussing changes or replacing status documents. Don't just throw Yammer towards a group of users and hope that the software catches on.

Be prepared to monitor the use of the software, including making suggestions for improvement or nudging users away from undesirable behaviors. The line between control freak and allowing chaos can be fuzzy, so be prepared to make a few mistakes early on here.

If you have the misfortune of working in an environment where item #3 is a problem, then tread slowly, and be prepared for some backlash. Feel free to create some closed groups to start to get people used to the idea of (somewhat) open communication, then expand from there. If done correctly, implementing Yammer can begin the process to change the organization to a more collaborative one.

Finally, if you're still having issues, attend a Yammer user group meeting. Many of the user group meetings here in the Chicago area do a surprisingly good job covering the cultural aspects of incorporating Yammer into company communications.

This article was originally posted here and may have been edited for clarity.