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Yammer, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! (Or maybe....)

Published on: 2014-05-18

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Microsoft has its work cut out for it in selling Yammer. I've attended several conferences about Yammer, and in each one several people ask what good Yammer can do for a business. In each presentation, the presenter gave some examples that highlight some marginal uses for the technology. The naysayers, then smelling blood, repeat even more forcefully that they simply don't see an ROI for the technology. In one presentation, I had the Edwin Starr song "War" running through my head, with slightly different lyrics:

Yammer! Hooh!
What is it good for?
Absolutely NOTHING!

I do see value in Yammer, but as I wrote last month, its value lies in areas that aren't at the top of most managers' priority lists. Where I see Yammer's real value as a tool increase group communication on a small scale. Or to use buzzwords, to increase collaboration among self-organizing groups. To clarify, here are some use-cases:

  • A project lead wants to share information about the status of a project. Every week he or she sends a status email, but frequently someone asks to receive or not to receive these messages. Yammer would allow the project lead to create a group for the announcements, post the updates to the group, and let everyone join or leave the group as they wish.
  • An employee has a question about how to handle a particular issue, but his or her boss isn't quite sure how to handle the issue either. Instead of calling a meeting to discuss it, the employee can post a question to the department group and let everyone post their opinions and come to a consensus.
  • A new employee has a question about the location of one particular bit of documentation. Instead of bothering the person next to him or her every time a question arises, the employee can post a question to the topic-specific group and let whoever has time address the question.
  • An executive wants to share information about news in the industry, but doesn't want to send mass emails several times a week. That executive could create an "Industry News" group and let whoever is interested in the topic join the group to see the news.

In all of these cases, you can accomplish the same goal with creating email groups or organizing documents. In fact, I'd argue that most business leaders who are trying to solve the problems above aren't thinking about social media as a solution - they're either thinking about more mundane solutions (such as organizing emails) or focused on more pressing problems. But Yammer is a more natural solution to these types of issues. And unless your company is made up of 2-3 people or is made exclusively of superior communicators, it probably is worth implementing for your organization.

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