Yammer Benchmarking Insights #3 – Collaboration at the Personal Level

 In this episode we drill down to the most detailed level. That’s you, the individual collaborator.

At SWOOP we have designed behavioural personas to characterise individual collaboration patterns based on your pattern of activity.For example, if you are a Catalyst, you are good at getting responses to your posts. Catalysts are important for energizing a community and driving the engagement of others. If you are a Responder, you are good at responding to other people’s posts. Responders are important for sustaining a community and extending the discussions. An Engager is able to balance their Catalyst and Responder behaviour and is seen as the Persona to aspire to, as the Engager effectively balances what they give to others in the form of posts, replies, likes etc. and those that they receive from others. Therefore they are well placed to broker new relationships. Broadcasters tend to post without engaging in conversations. Observers are simply not very active, with less than a single activity every 2 weeks. We see Broadcasting and Observing as negative personas.

behavioural-personasWhat does an organisation’s portfolio of Personas typically look like? The results below are generated from our benchmarking results from close to 40 organisations. The lines indicate the minimum-maximum range and the blue square is the average score.

persona-proportions

The large range of % Observers, between less than 10% to over 70%, may reflect the large variation in maturity amongst the organisations we have benchmarked. It may not only be the case of maturity though, as it is fair to say that the smaller organisations have an easier time engaging a higher proportion of their staff with the Enterprise Social network (ESN).  We show the break-up of the active (non-observer) Personas, which shows that Catalysts lead the way with just over 40%, followed by Responders at just under 30%, Engagers just over 20% and Broadcasters at 10%. This would indicate that in general, ESNs are relying on Catalysts to continue to drive participation and then Responders to sustain it.

Personas within Groups

Given that groups are the space where most of the intense collaboration is likely to happen, we were interested in what the Persona patterns were for the leaders of the best performing groups. We used a combination of two-way connection scores and activity scores to identify the strongest groups. We then applied the same measures to the group members to identify the group leaders. In other words, a group leader is someone who has a high number of two-way connections with other group members, and meets a threshold level of overall activity.

Firstly, we plotted all members on a graph, locating them by the size of their network (y-axis) within the group and the number of 2-way connections they have in the group (x-axis). The bubble is sized by their relative levels of interactions (activity). As you can see, the group leaders are clearly identified in the top right hand corner of the graph as different coloured nodes.

persona-tracking

Secondly, we then plotted the top 5 leader’s Persona movements in 1 week intervals, over a 6-month period. In the example above you can see that the leaders played the Catalyst, Engager and Responder roles primarily. The size of the bubbles reflects their relative number of connections made (breadth of influence), for that week. Not all leaders were active every week. What becomes interesting is that we find some leaders have preferred Personas that are sustained over time. Leaders 1 and 4 in this case have a preference for Catalysing and Engaging. Leader 5 prefers Responding. Leaders 2 and 3 appear to be comfortable switching between Personas.

What appears to be important here is that high performing groups need leaders that can cover the spectrum of positive Personas i.e. Catalyst, Engager, Responder. While it’s fine to have leaders who have a preference for a certain behavioural Persona, it is useful to have leaders who can adapt their Persona to the situation or context at hand.

Personal Networking Performance

At SWOOP we use a fundamental network performance framework, which measures performance against the complementary dimensions of cohesion and diversity. We have indicated that individuals with a large number of two-way connections are likely to have more closed and cohesive networks. Cohesive networks are good for getting things done (executing/implementing). From an innovation perspective however, closed networks can be impervious to new ideas. The best ideas come from more open and diverse networks. In our view therefore, maximum network performance occurs by optimising diversity and cohesion. In other words, it’s good to be part of a strong cohesive network, but this should not be at the expense of maintaining a healthy suite of more diverse connections.

In the graphic below we have plotted the members of one large group on the Network Performance graph. In this case the diversity is measured by the number of different groups that an individual has participated in. The size of the bubbles reflects the size of the individual’s network (breadth of influence).

personal-network

We have labelled regions in the graph according to our Explore/Engage/Exploit model of innovation through networks. We can see that the majority of group members exist in the ‘High Diversity/Low Cohesion’ Explore region. This is consistent with what many people give for their reasons for joining a group. The ‘Engage’ region shows those members who are optimising their diversity/cohesion balance. These are the most important leaders in the group. In an innovation context, these people are best placed to broker the connections required to take a good idea into implementation. The bottom right corner is the Exploit region, which for this group is fairly vacant. This might suggest that this group would have difficulty organically deploying an innovation. They would need to take explicit steps to engage an implementation team to execute on the new products, services or practices that they initiate.

The Innovation Cycle – Create New Value for Your Organisation

We conclude this third edition of Yammer Benchmarking insights be reinforcing the role that individuals can play in creating new value for their organisations. For many organisations, the ESNs like Yammer are seen as a means for accelerating the level of innovation that is often stagnating within the formal lines of business.

As individual’s we may have a preference for a given style of working, as characterised by our Personas. Your personal networks may be large, open and diverse; or smaller, closed and cohesive; or indeed somewhere in between. It is important however to see how your collaboration behaviours contribute to the innovation performance of your organisation. Innovation is a collaborative activity, and therefore we recommend that in your groups you:

  1. Avoid lone work (Observing/Broadcasting) and look to explore new ideas and opportunities collaboratively, online (Catalysing/Engaging/Responding).
  2. Recognise that implementing good ideas needs resources, and those resources are owned by the formal lines of business. Use your network to engage with the resource holders. Make the connections. Influence on-line and off-line.
  3. When you have organisational resources behind you, it’s time to go into exploit mode. Build the cohesive focussed teams to execute/implement, avoiding distractions until the job is done.

 

We’ve Disrupted the Formal Organisation: But what does it look like now?

Digital disruption, Holocracies, Wirearchies are attacking the formal hierarchy as we had come to know it. While we might accept that the formal hierarchy is becoming less reflective of how work is getting done, it still reflects how senior executives are designing for work to be done. For most organisations, senior executives still agonise over appropriate formal hierarchical structures. And the published organisational chart is usually the first port of call for those wanting to understand the inner workings of an organisation. Is it distributed or centralised?; Sales driven or product driven? Operations, Technology centric or Financial centric?

If the formal organisation chart were to truly disappear, what could we replace it with? Where would the external stakeholders go to understand how the Holocracy, Wirearchy or Networked Organisation is operating? Where are the core capabilities in such environments? What about the disconnected workgroups? 

The good news is that formal methods for mapping informal organisational structure have been around for some time. Social Network Analysis (SNA) has provided us with a means for mapping the connections between individuals based on their relationships. With the advent of informal organisational groups, be they part of an Organisational Social Networking platform like Yammer or Jive, an email group or a team site in Slack or Skype, there is a need to understand how these informally created entities are connected to each other. Without this facility it can be hard to see the ‘big picture’ of what may be really happening, leaving the organisational executive flying blind. 

One of the easiest methods for creating an organisational wide map is to use a simple ‘shared membership’ approach. Commonly called ‘affinity mapping’, it is the same technique that has been used to uncover board of director interlocks, which have provided insights into largely invisible connections between publicly listed companies. It also happens to be the way that Amazon promotes new books to you, by inferring that you have an affinity relationship with those that have read the same books. 

Here is an example map we have created using an organisation’s Yammer group membership (group names have been changed to protect privacy): 

At the start of this clip we can see that all the groups are formed into one large cluster, as invariably most groups are inter-connected to some degree with other groups. But you will see as we increase the relationship ‘strength’ filter to only include overlapping memberships of a certain size, the informal group structure starts to materialise in front of our eyes. When taken to the extreme, we are left with the two groups with the greatest level of overlap, being Enterprise Communications and Customer Delivery. The number of common members is shown next to the strength filter. As we move the strength filter back from this point we gradually see other connected groups become exposed. We see the regional stores cluster emerge, suggesting perhaps some common regional issues. We also see a number of non-work groups emerge, interestingly connected to a sponsored diversity group, with all being strongly connected to the enterprise communications hub. This is good news, as these groups are doing their job of connecting staff who would normally not be connected in other ways.  

By using this simple relationship strength filter, we can start to explore the emerging structures formed from the voluntary, ‘bottom up’ actions of mainstream staff. The highly connected groups could be seen larger nodes representing the core interest/capability areas that are developing. The enterprise leaders that ‘own’ the formal organisation chart can now ask questions like ‘how well is our informal structure reinforcing our formal structures, or not?’; ‘Are there key capability areas that are not developing and may need more nurturing?’; ‘Are we encouraging a diversity of interests in our staff and if so, how are they helping to reinforce our mainstream businesses?”. 

We regularly see analytics provided for activity levels inside groups, but rarely between them. The power for the enterprise now comes from being able to overlay the formal and the informal, as the formal hierarchy starts to give way to the more adaptive and flexible informal structures, being increasingly exposed by Enterprise Social Networking platforms and the like. 

SWOOP Video Blog 2 – Yammer Groups

The second in our SWOOP Video Blog Series:

Slide 1

Hi there, I’m Laurence Lock Lee, the co-founder and chief scientist at Swoop Analytics

In this second episode of Swoop Benchmarking insights we are drilling down to the Yammer Group level. Groups are where the real collaborative action happens.

As Yammer Groups can be started by anyone in the organisation, they quickly build up to hundreds, if not thousands in some organisations. Looking at activity levels alone we will see that the majority of groups do not sustain consistent activity, while a much smaller proportion look to be really thriving.

As useful as activity levels and membership size are, as we have suggested before, they are crude measures which can mask true relationship centred collaboration performance being achieved.

In this session we provide insights into how organisations can compare and benchmark their internal groups.

Slide 2

There is no shortage of literature and advice on how to build a successful on-line community or group. The universal advice for the first step is to identify the purpose. A well articulated purpose statement will identify what success would look like for this group or community.

What we do know from our experience to date is that there are a variety of purposes that online groups are formed. IBM has conducted a detailed analysis of their internal enterprise social networking system, looking to see if the usage logs could delineate the different types of groups being formed. What they found was five well delineated types of groups. {IBM classification from years of IBM experience  http://perer.org/papers/adamPerer-CHI2012.pdf }

The identified groups types were:

  1. Communities of Practice. CoPs are the centerpiece of knowledge sharing programs. Their purpose is to build capability in selected disciplines. They will usually be public groups. For example, a retail enterprise may form a CoP for all aspects of establishing and running a new retail outlet. The community would be used to share experiences on the way to converging to a suite of ‘best practices, that they would aim to implement across the organisation.
  2. Team/Process. This category covers task specific project teams or alternatively providing a shared space for a business process or function. In most cases these groups will be closed or private.
  3. Groups formed for sharing ideas and hopefully generating new value from innovations. It is best to think about such groups in two stages, being exploration and exploitation. The network needs to be large and diverse, to uncover the most opportunities. However, the exploit stage requires smaller, more focused teams to ensure a successful innovation
  4. The Expert / Help type group is what many of us see as the technical forums we might go to externally to get technical help. For novices, the answers are more than likely available in previously answered questions. In essence, they would be characterised by many questions posted, for a selected few to answer.
  5. Finally, the social (non-work) groups are sometimes frowned on; but in practice they are risk free places for staff to learn and experience online networking, so they do play an important part in the groups portfolio.

 Slide 3

This table summarizes the purposes and therefore value that can accrue from the different group types. Some important points that can be taken from this are:

  • Formally managed documents are important for some group types like CoPs and Teams, but less so for others, where archival search may be sufficient
  • Likewise with cohesive relationships, which are critical for teams say, but less so for Expert/Help groups for instance.
  • Large isn’t always good. For idea sharing the bigger and more diverse, the better. For teams, research has show that once we get past about 20 members, productivity decreases (https://www.getflow.com/blog/optimal-team-size-workplace-productivity)

 Slide 4

More than 80 years of academic research on performance of networks could be reduced to an argument between the value of Open and diverse networks versus closed, cohesive networks. This graphic was developed by Professor Ron Burt from the University of Chicago Business School, who is best known for his research on brokerage in open networks. However, Burt now concedes in his book on Brokerage and Closure in 2005, that value is maximised when diversity and closure are balanced.

It is therefore this framework that we are using for assessing and benchmarking Yammer Groups.

Slide 5

For pragmatic reasons we are using group size as a proxy for diversity, with the assumption that the larger the group, the more likely the more diverse the membership will be. For cohesion, we measure the average 2-way connections/member, using the assumption that if members have many reciprocated relationships inside the group, then the group is likely to be more cohesive.

This plot shows a typical pattern we find. The bubble size is based on group activities, so as you can see, activity is an important measure. But the positioning on the network performance chart can be quite differentiated by their respective diversity and cohesion measures.

The pattern shown is also consistent with what we see in our prior network survey results, which essentially shows that it is difficult not to see diversity and cohesion as a trade-off; so the ideal maximum performance in the top right corner, is in fact just that, an ideal.

Side 6

Now if we overlay what we see as ideal ‘goal states’ for the different types of groups that can be formed, it is possible to assess more accurately how a group is performing.

For example, a community of practice should have moderate to high cohesion and a group size commensurate with the ‘practice’ being developed.

The red region is showing where high performing teams would be located. High performing teams are differentiated by their levels of cohesion. Group size and even relative activity levels are poor indicators for a group formed as a team. If your group aims to be a shared ideas space, but you find yourself characterised as a strong team, then you are clearly in danger of “group think”.

Likewise you can infer a goal space for the Expert/Help group type.

If you are an ideas sharing group you have an extra measure of monitoring the number of exploitation teams that have been launched from ideas qualified in your group.

For the group leaders, who start in the bottom left, and many who are still there, it becomes an exercise in re-thinking your group type and purpose and then deciding the most appropriate actions for moving your group into the chosen goal space.

For some this may be growing broader participation, if you are expert help group; or building deeper relationships if you are a community of practice or functional team.

Slide 7

So in summing up:

Groups come in different shapes and sizes, where simple activity levels and membership size are insufficient for assessing success or otherwise.

Gaining critical mass for a group is important. Research has shown that critical mass needs to also include things like the diversity in the membership and the modes used to generate productive outputs.

{http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/connect/CSCW_10/docs/p71.pdf}

The Diversity vs Cohesion network performance matrix provides a more sophisticated means for groups to assess their performance, than simple activity and membership level measures.

Once group leaders develop clarity around their form and purpose, the network performance framework can be used to provide them with more precise and actionable directions for success

Slide 8

We have now covered benchmarking externally at the Enterprise level and now internally at the group level.

Naturally the next level is to look and compare the members inside successful groups.

Thank you for your attention and we look forward to having you at our next episode.

Yammer Benchmarking Edition 1

 

First in a series of SWOOP Yammer Benchmarking video blogs. Swoop has benchmarked some 36 Yammer installations to date. This first video blog shares some insights gained on the important measures that influence collaboration performance.

 

Video script:

SLIDE 1

Hello there

My Name is Laurence Lock Lee, and I’m the Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at Swoop Analytics.

If you are watching this you probably know what we do, but just in case you don’t, Swoop is a social analytics dashboard that draws its raw data from enterprise social networking tools like Yammer and provides collaboration intelligence to its users, who can be anyone in the organisation.

Our plan is to provide an ongoing series of short video blogs specifically on our Yammer benchmarking insights, as we work with the data we collect. We will aim to use this format to keep you appraised of developments as they happen. We have also recently signed a joint research agreement with the Digital Disruption Research Group at the University of Sydney in Australia. So expect to see the results of this initiative covered in future editions.

The Swoop privacy safeguards means its pure context free analysis, no organisational names, group names, individual names…we don’t collect them.

SLIDE 2

This is the “Relationships First” benchmarking framework we designed for our benchmarking. But we also measure traditional activity measures, which we tend not to favour as a collaboration performance measure…but more about that later. The 14 measures  help us characterise the organisations we benchmark by comparing them against the maximum, minimum and average scores of those in our sample set,  which currently sits at 36 organisations and growing rapidly. They represent organisations large and small from a full cross section of industries and geographies.

SLIDE 3

For those of you who have not been exposed to the Swoop behavioural online personas, you will find a number of articles on our blog.

Because I will be referring to them it’s useful to know the connection patterns inferred by each of them. We don’t include the ‘Observer’ persona here as they are basically non-participants.

Starting with the Responder; Responders make connections through responding to other people’s posts or replies. This can be a simple ’like’, mention or notify..…and it often is, but sometimes it can be a full written reply.

In contrast the catalyst makes connections through people replying to their posts. A good catalyst can make many connections through a good post. Responders have to work a bit harder. They mostly only get one connection per interaction.

The Engager as you can see is able to mix their giving and receiving. This is a bit of an art, but important as engagers are often the real connectors in the community or group.

And what about the broadcaster? Well if your posts don’t attract any response, then we can’t identify any connections for you.

SLIDE 4

This is how we present our benchmarking results to the participants. You can see that we have the 14 dimensions normalized such that the ‘best in class’ results are scored at 100 points and the worst performance at zero. The orange points are the score for the organisation with lines connecting their scores to the average scores.

A few points to note are that we only count ‘active users’ being those that have had at least one activity in Yammer over the period we analyze, which is the most recent 6 months.

Some of the measures have asterisks (*) , which means that the score has been reversed for comparison purposes. For example, a high score for %Observers is actually a bad result, so this is reversed for comparison purposes.

Finally, not all of the measures are independent of each other, so it is possible to see recurring patterns amongst organisations. We can therefore tell a story of their journey to date, through seeing these patterns.  For example, a poor post/reply ratio indicates to us that the network is immature and therefore we would also expect a high % observers score.

SLIDE 5

One way of understanding which of the 14 measures are most important to monitor is to look at the relative variances for each measure across the full sample set. Where we see a large relative variance, we might assume that this is an area which provides most opportunity for improvement. In our sample to date it is the two-way connections measure which leads the way. I’ll go into a bit more detail on this later on. The % Direction measure relies solely on the use of the ‘notification’ type, which we know some organisations have asked users to avoid, as it’s really just like a cc in an email. So perhaps we can ignore this one to some extent. The Post/Reply measure is, we believe, an indicator of maturity. Foe a new network we would expect a higher proportion of posts to replies, as community leaders look to grow activity. However, over time we would expect that the ratio would move more toward favoring replies, as participants become more comfortable with online discussions.

It’s not surprising that this measure shows up as we do have quite a mix of organisations at different maturity stages in our sample to date. The area where we have seen less variance are the behavioural personas, perhaps with the exception of the %Broadcasters. This suggests that at least at the Enterprise level, organisations are behaving similarly.

SLIDE 6

This slide is a little more complex, but it is important if you are to gain an appreciation of some of the important relationship measures that SWOOP reports on.

Following this simple example:

Mr Catalyst here makes a post in Yammer. It attracts a response from Ms Responder and Mr Engager. These responses we call interactions, or activities. By undertaking an interaction, we have also created a connection for all three participants.

Now Mr Engager’s response was a written reply, that mentions Ms Responder, because that’s the sort of guy he is. Mr Catalyst responds in kind , so now you can see that Mr Catalyst and Mr Engager have created a two way connection.

And Ms Responder responds to Mr Engager’s mention with an appreciative like, thereby creating a two-way connection Between Mr Engager and Ms Responder.  Mr Engager is now placed as a broker of the relationship between Mr Catalyst and Ms Responder. Mr Catalyst could create his own two-way connection with Ms Responder, but perhaps she just responded to Mr catalyst with a like…leaving little opportunity for a return response.

So after this little flurry of activity each individual can reflect on connections made…as Mr Engager is doing here.

So in summary, An interaction is any activity on the platform. A connection is created by an interaction and of course strengthened by more interactions with that connection. Finally, we value two-way interactions as this is reciprocity, which we know leads to trust and more productive collaboration

SLIDE 7

Finally I want to show you how the two-way connections scores varies amongst the 36  participants to date. Typically, we would look to build the largest and most cohesive Yammer network as possible, though we accept this might not always be the case. While the data shows that the top 4 cohesive networks were relatively small, there are also 3 organisations that have quite large networks with quite respectable two-way connections scores.

So there is definitely something to be learnt here between the participants.

SLIDE 8

So in summing up, as of September we have 36 participants in our benchmark and growing rapidly now. The two-way connections measure, which is arguably the most important predictor of collaborative performance, was also the most varied amongst the participants.

By looking at the patterns between the measures we can start to see emerging patterns. We hope to explore these patterns in more detail with our research partners in the coming year.

Finally, we show that network size should not be seen as a constraint to building a more cohesive network. We have reported previously that another common measure, network activity levels are also an unreliable measure for predicting collaboration performance.

SLIDE 9

In the next video blog we will be looking at Yammer groups in more detail. We are aware that for many organisations, it’s the Yammer groups that form the heart of the network, so it makes sense to take a deeper dive into looking at them.

Thank you for your attention and look forward to seeing you next time.

Looking Beyond the Product to the Purpose: MS Office 365 Groups

Need a conversation starter? How about the Mac vs PC? IPhone vs Galaxy? Facebook vs Twitter? Beach vs Mountains? Clinton vs Trump? Nothing better to while away a few hours than an animated conversation and debate about why I might prefer one product over another. We all know in the end that despite extensive reported analyses and feature lists and the like, our choices are likely deeper than a simple feature by feature trade-off. It’s much subtler than that. An Apple zealot is aligning with Apple’s stated core purpose; its user experience mantra. People will keep lining up outside Apple stores as long as Apple can sustain its mantra. A swipe instead of a click may not seem much, but for an Apple zealot it reinforces their strong preferences to buy Apple.

These were the thoughts going through my mind as I took the deep dive to try and understand what Microsoft’s Office 365 Groups was really all about. Like most Yammer followers I fear the day when Yammer groups might be replaced by some generic “one size fits all” group structure. Of course Microsoft are quick to point out that O365 Groups are not a product but a “Groups Service”. I then spent over an hour listening to a Benjamin Niaulin more in depth webinar on the ‘product’. Benjamin used slightly more colourful terminology like a ‘fabric’ or ‘experience’ to describe O365 Groups. Yes, it appears like the ultimate ‘plug and play’ for groups. And like Benjamin, I believe there is a lot of positives to be said about the O365 Groups vision, if indeed Microsoft are able to get the ‘plumbing’ right. But I was still left with one nagging concern. As a long term Yammer supporter I believed in the purpose of the founders. I could forgive some deficiencies (I can’t edit a post I made…really?) because I felt that our purposes were aligned and therefore on the whole, the pluses would far outweigh the minuses. O365 Groups felt like Head Office had come to invade my world for the ‘greater good’. While I’m fully supportive of the ‘greater good’; could we just ensure that no ‘babies are thrown out with the bath water here?’.

Benjamin Niaulin did a great job of promoting the O365 Groups’ ‘Experience’ over the underlying products, imploring us to think in terms of user experience rather than Yammer, Sharepoint, Outlook, Skype etc.; which brings me to the point about ‘purpose over product’. Our experiences are largely driven by purpose, which is also impacted, but not totally directed, by our work roles. In our work analysing organisational networks  we regularly see collaboration patterns following the formal organisational structures. This reinforces to us that work is being conducted as designed by the organisation. However, it’s far from black and white. We also just as regularly see informal patterns of collaboration that are utterly invisible to the senior management. Is this non-compliance? Sometimes it is. More regularly though, it’s simply people being people and improvising around the formal lines of business, to fulfil their needs and purposes.

So if O365 Groups is to fulfil the promise of a customisable user experience one must look below the product features of the underlying products, through to the core purpose of what that product was created for in the first place. With many of these product components now having been acquired by Microsoft, it is important to not lose what made these products attractive in the first place. With this in mind the O365 Groups’ ‘Experience’ can build on the strengths of these products, rather than what many of us fear; a compromise solution that will detract from the experiences that we have worked hard to achieve in the pre-O365 Groups world.

For me it would be as simple as sitting down with some lead users and developers of the underlying product suite and asking questions like (with my answers for Yammer as an example):

  1. What core principles do you think this product’s designers had when they first developed the product?”
    • Not a hard one. I believe ‘networking and community’ is the core theme
  2. “What are some core features that to you exemplify the core purpose?”
    • The ability for anyone in the organisation to create and self-manage a group/community, without management oversight, is a core feature for community.
  3. “What was the core business problem that you believe these designers had in mind?”
    • As evidenced by the post-acquisition activities of the Yammer founders, the ‘Unresponsive Organisation’ was a key business target
  4. “What current features/use cases have been added for convenience more so that reinforce the core purposes?”
    • I think some of the features to ‘compete’ with shorter term team collaboration options e.g. instant messaging (now gone anyway), high frequency email alerts (though can be controlled). Perhaps security is another; do we really need private groups in Yammer?
  5. “What are the 3 most important new core purpose features you would like to see irrespective of the Office 365 Groups charter?”
    • With a focus on reinforcing the core ‘networking and community’ purpose, I would like to see a stronger focus on facilitating deeper relationships in communities. Also it’s important that communities do not become siloes in their own right, so some visibility of interconnectedness (or otherwise) between groups/communities is important. Thirdly, perhaps extending the group admin features to cater for differing group/community leadership roles like conversation moderator, content manager, event organiser etc..

If we were to complete a similar exercise with leaders/developers of Team Sites, Outlook, One Drive, Skype I suspect we would find:

  • Non-overlapping core purposes. Office365 Groups needs to avoid any erosion in functionality that support core purposes.
  • Several non-core features of one product that are core features of another. These can comfortably be stripped away once the plumbing is complete to the alternative source, if and when needed.
  • A product roadmap that would build up the product peaks (core purpose), rather than fill up the valleys with compromised features.

office-blog

What do Customer Communities have in Common with Employee Communities?

In June we wrote a blog post “Is Bridging the Enterprise-Consumer Social Networking Divide a Bridge too Far”, which went to some length in describing why these two worlds appeared to be operating in different solar systems.  In fact, we pointed out that blindly adopting the media centricity and activity measures from consumer social networking into the Enterprise, could actually cause more harm than good. In this post we want to explore what might be common and potentially useful adoptions from the consumer world to inside the Enterprise. I must say that this post has been influenced by Michael Wu  coming to town and telling us a little about his perspectives on the ‘Science of Social’ . Michael is the chief scientist at Lithium, an organisation that specialises in customer communities. While my interest in customer communities is somewhat less than my interest in Enterprise communities, Michael Wu is well regarded in the world of data science, so I was sure to learn something from him; and I wasn’t disappointed.

The two key insights I took away was that Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) are not social networks as we have come to perceive them; and secondly there is some useful commonality between customer communities and employee communities.

On the first insight, this is how Dr Wu characterised the customer engagement journey:

customer-community

In his commentary he positioned Facebook as a social network of pre-existing relationships, of which only some were based on shared common interests. In his view social networks were good for building awareness and reach, but not in influencing a purchasing action. For this level of influence, he promoted the role of the customer community; where actions could be more effectively influenced by those with a shared context. In essence he was arguing that each played their respective roles at different parts of the engagement funnel. When I look at ESNs like Yammer, there is no explicit connections being built like in Facebook or LinkedIn i.e. connections being sought and accepted. We do have Twitter like ‘Follows’ which can be interpreted as a network; but follower networks are more like one-way subscriptions trails and therefore would only weakly imply a relationship exists. So in essence, ESNs do not have the benefit of an authenticated social graph in the way that Facebook and LinkedIn do.

The point in common is in Figure 2, showing the customer community. The lack of a social network to create ‘reach’ is less of an issue for the Enterprise, as they have corporate directories for that purpose. The Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action phases in the funnel could equally be applied to the multitude of employee communities established in the ESN. Having an ‘Action’ as the end point we feel is entirely appropriate for an Enterprise community. As we have written previously, without actions, tangible value from an ESN is questionable.

dr-wuA key new message that Dr Wu provided was on his recent work with Geoffrey Moore on a four gears model for viral adoption. Wu suggests that those joining a group or community (acquire gear) immediately gain a ‘weak tie’ with all other members on the strength of their shared interest. The ‘engage’ gear helps turn some of these ‘weak ties’ into ‘strong ties’ and eventually trusted relationships; through the vehicle of online discussions and conversations. The ‘enlist’ gear acknowledges that there will be ‘super users’ who will drive the conversation and facilitate many of the connections. In SWOOP these are our Catalyst  and Engager  personas. In the Customer community, these people become the influencers and advocates. The final gear is ‘monetise’, which means making a sale and earning some revenue. Some would suggest that this is totally appropriate for the Enterprise as well. However, it is fair to say that Employee communities can be much more diverse than a customer community and therefore the action isn’t always as easily connectable to a monetary return. That said, this ‘performance gear’ should be able to connect actions taken by the community members, to the Enterprise’s mission and goals, as a minimum.

So there we have it. While Consumer and Enterprise Social Networks do appear to work in different solar systems, there is just enough of an overlap to make the learning worthwhile.

Need to convince someone? Bring Data (and a good story)

Big data

As Daniel Pink suggests “to sell is human”.  Even if we do not have a formal ‘selling’ role we are always looking to ‘sell’ someone on our point of view, our recommendations, our need for their help etc.. As data analysts we live and breathe data every day, whether we are looking to develop some new insights, prove a case or simply explore possibilities. In the end we are doing it to influence someone or some group. In these days of ‘evidence based decision-making’ I am wary that one person’s ‘evidence’ is another person’s ‘garbage’. You don’t have to look much further than climate change sceptics to appreciate that. I was therefore intrigued when I came across Shawn Callahan’s recent blog post on “The role of stories in data storytelling”. Shawn talks about the use of ‘story’ before, during and after data analysis.

Before data analysis stories

Before data analysis is about understanding the dominant ‘story’ before your analysis. For us a good example of this is our recent work on comparing relationship analytics with activity analytics. The dominant storyline was (and probably still is) that social analytics used in the consumer world i.e. activity measures, are sufficient for use inside the enterprise.

During data analysis stories

The ‘during the data analysis’ story is about how stories evolve from your act of data analysis. Our story in the interactions vs activity debate was about one of our clients observing some analytics provided by Swoop and finding that the measure for social cohesion was far more reflective of their view of how different communities were collaborating and performing than the activity measures reported beside them. For us the ‘stories during data analysis’ is continual. We are always looking to find the ‘story behind the data’. And this usually comes when we can talk directly to the owners of the data, in what we call ‘sense making’ sessions. As an example, we are currently looking at adoption patterns for Yammer using some of the benchmarking data that we have collected. We have learnt from experience that collaboration happens best within ‘groups’. Our prior analysis showed that the social cohesion between groups varies a lot and follows a typical ‘power curve’ distribution when sorted from best to worst. We are now looking at how these groups evolved over time. What patterns existed for those highly cohesive groups versus those that were less cohesive? Is there a story behind these different groups? Our evolving stories are merely speculations at the moment, until we can validate them with the owners of the data.

After data analysis stories

Knowing Doing GapShawn Callahan identifies these stories as needed to bridge the gap between what the data analyst ‘knows’ and what the decision makers need to act on.  He goes on to describe types of data stories, being a chronological change, explanation or discovery stories. He recommends that if you are trying to instigate change from a dominant current story, then it has to be a better story than that one. Thankfully in our case we don’t believe there is a dominant story for the use of activity analytics with Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) implementations. Of course there are supporters, some quite passionate, but the majority point of view is that they are insufficient for the needs of the Enterprise. That said, you still need to come up with a good story. And that is still work in progress for us. We can use a discovery story to relate the trigger for the data analysis we conducted being a simple comment from a client. But our sense is that we will need even more data (evidence) couched in some powerful stories told by individuals, who have changed their interaction behaviours for the better, based on the analytics that they were provided with.

I should finish by giving Shawn’s recent book “Putting Stories to Work” a plug, since I have just completed reading it to help us develop that story. So watch this space!

100% Engagement on your Yammer site: How is this possible?

In our last blog post we reported that the average engagement score on Yammer platforms was around the 20% mark. Given that many of the organisations in our sample are mature users, how could one possibly hope for 100% engagement? Well we think the answer is simple. And that is to drive Yammer usage to the level that real work gets done; and that is to the Team Level.

In a nutshell, here is the maths….

100%Yammer

Ok, it might be easy for us to say just drive Yammer use to the team level, but how do we convince them to make the move? And to date no-one, to our knowledge, has yet to achieve this (other than of course very small enterprises).

To understand this, we need to change the way we think about enterprise social networking systems (ESN). Current thinking places the ESN as the place where staff might go if they need to find out something. Many staff, as we have found, perceive posting on Yammer much like the “Shark Tank” where they really don’t know what reception to expect, if any. We need to start to think about the “Enterprise as a Network of Teams”. This concept is not new, being actively explored now by the agile development movement. And inside teams, using Yammer should not be an optional extra, but a core tool for executing team tasks.

In exploring teams, we are guided by the research on what makes an ideal team size, being 5 to 9 people. In teams of this size there is little or no room for ‘Observers’. Research has shown , and validated by us in some independent research, that the email channel is substantially used by co-located teams. We found that the major proportion of email traffic travels physically less than 6 meters, suggesting that co-located teams are communicating (more likely documenting) activities via email. As Kevin Jones cleverly illustrates, in his excellent video on the inefficiencies of ‘Email trees’ , there is a strong efficiency and effectiveness value proposition for all team members, to move their internal to the team communications from email to Yammer. Sharing with team members, who you might work with every day, is far less confronting than for the vast majority of current Yammer installations. We have learnt from recent research conducted by Google on what makes up the ‘perfect team’. They nominate ‘psychological safety’ as a key attribute of high performing teams. It’s therefore no surprise that the lack of psychological safety in an ESN implementation is holding back broader adoption. Moving from email trees to Yammer is swapping ‘pipes for platforms’; the value we have previously articulated in achieving extreme productivity gains, in our blog post on “Trading Pipes for Platforms”. And once teams are interacting on a platform, rather than via email pipes, the opportunity naturally exists to build an enterprise wide network of teams.

So there should be nothing stopping you from instigating your “Yammer for Teams” program right now. In future posts we will be publishing some results on how our Swoop Personas can be used to help create great teams.

 

 

SWOOP Analytics helps organisations drive enterprise wide collaboration and stronger adoption of enterprise social networking platforms, through its unique relationship centred analytics. We value the democratization of analytics, meaning there is value delivered to all staff. We currently draw our insights from Yammer, but soon also, Salesforce Chatter, Atlassian’s Confluence. Contact us for a free trial and benchmarking report at: www.swoopanalytics.com

80% of Enterprise Social Networking System Users are Mostly just Looking…is this a problem?

80% Observer HeaderWe have been comparing organisations using Yammer over the past 6 months. Of the 15 organisations we have compared to date, on average 80% of actual users (not just lurkers) are active on the system less than once every 2 weeks. We kindly classify them as “Observers” . On first blush a typical response is “that’s terrible”. Other more optimistic ones suggest if we measured the lurkers as well, then perhaps it wouldn’t look so bad. But whatever the number, what is a good number? And interestingly enough, some suggest this is what we should expect. Isn’t that what the 90/9/1 rule would predict? Overwhelmingly though, we see community management and the executive want the number to be better; but how much better? 30% engaged and active? 40%?, 60%?, 100%?

Of course the answer is, as always; “it depends”. Some organisations that have many field staff, like retail banks, supermarkets, mining and resources, transport and logistics might argue that these front line staff would not have the time in their day to access the Internet. Therefore having the Yammer system limited to management and functional specialist staff may be understandable, but mobile technology is now changing this situation dramatically. We have observed many ‘front-line’ staff interacting with their colleagues using their mobile devices and apps like WhatsApp or Facebook. Another perspective, which speaks to the 90/9/1 rule, are organisations designing their Yammer installations to be expert driven learning systems, where a selected few (1%) act as the experts who are largely responsible for answering the questions from the 9% who ask, leaving the vast 90% lurkers to benefit from ‘observing’; though we really don’t know, as all lurker measuring systems are questionable. Just because I scrolled over or clicked on some content, doesn’t mean I learnt something. To me this is a ‘safe’ option. Online forums have proved their value long before ‘social’ became fashionable, especially in highly technical areas. But should we be satisfied with a last century online forum, with the addition of some ‘social’ buttons, as our modern enterprise social networking platform?

At the other end of the spectrum are those that are feasting on the Social Business good oil. For these organisations it is not enough to simply dress up the age-old forum as a social networking system. These organisations acknowledge that all non-automated business processes are inherently social. We provided some illustrations of how even 21st century entry-level staff can no longer work alone. If indeed you believe this proposition and that your Yammer platform should support this, then accepting an 80% observer rate is like accepting that 80% of your staff only have to work once every couple of weeks.

Why Yammer? What about the other channels of Email, Chat, Skype etc.. Of course these are all popular collaboration channels. In fact Microsoft, with their acquisition of Volometrics, now have Organalytics which can expose insightful collaboration patterns in email and chat conversations. We believe it’s not an “either-or” situation, but staff need to be on both. Our research on collaboration channels identified that channels like email, chat and voice are substantially restricted to team level communication. Whereas Yammer was the only channel that connected across the enterprise. We see an enterprise ‘fusion’ of channels is optimal, more so than trying to identify particular tools by tasks.

So how do we bridge the huge gap of 80% observers, to everybody onboard and actively collaborating on the platform on a daily basis? Sounds a huge challenge based on where we are today. And it can’t be done through incremental thinking. It does require a whole change in mindset. Here are my recommendations on a mindset that could convert the 80% observers to 100% actively engaged workers:

  1. Do not accept that your ESN is simply a Q&A forum where a selected few ‘experts’ do all the work. Start to think about forming groups for each team and/or all non-automated business process teams. In this way every area of the business should be represented by at least one group. Logically these teams would exist as a layer independent of traditional enterprise level groups, that continue to draw their individual members from teams. Teams
  2. Provide analytics that help everybody and not just the management. Think about making available personal analytics aimed at helping all staff members develop their own personal improvement programs and perhaps share them with other staff; not unlike a personal fitbit for network collaboration. We have written about how analytics can help you “Work Out Loud”. Provide Team level analytics, so that teams can compare and contrast their performances with other peer teams.
  3. Make the assumption that everyone in your organisation is motivated to learn and improve themselves and independently contribute to the organisation without the need for continual management oversight. In fact, along with a belief in your organisations mission, this is precisely what Daniel Pink identified as what 3 motivations drive today’s workforce. Yammer will become the ‘go to’ place for both getting your work done, while improving your own capabilities.
  4. Currently most organisations have installed a few community managers to support the Yammer implementation. They are usually supported by group leader volunteers, who may become Yammer champions. This will not be enough to bridge the gap. We need to transform all your line managers into ‘community managers’. This is where the hierarchy meets the network; as preached by Organisational change guru John Kotter in his award winning book XRL8. We need to force this intersection by making the teams identified in the formal hierarchy, groups in the network; with their leaders acting as key inter-team communication brokers and Team ‘Catalysts’.

Now I hear you saying, well that’s all well and good, but can you show us an organisation that is already doing this? The answer is: not in the organisations for the size included in our benchmark (more than 1,000 staff), but more regularly we see this in smaller more agile organisations. So the essence of the challenge for the larger enterprises is to facilitate agile teams onto the Yammer platform for their day-to-day work. It’s harder to be an “observer” in a team, so the more work teams that move onto Yammer, the more engaged your workforce will be overall.

 

 

SWOOP Analytics helps organisations drive enterprise wide collaboration and stronger adoption of enterprise social networking platforms, through its unique relationship centred analytics. We value the democratisation of analytics, meaning there is value delivered to all staff. We currently draw our insights from Yammer, but soon also, Salesforce Chatter. Contact us for a free trial and benchmarking report at: www.swoopanalytics.com

Communicating Diagonally: New Value Pathways via Enterprise Social Networking?

Diagonal communication

One of the keystone value claims for implementing an Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) platform like Yammer, Jive or IBM Connect is facilitating horizontal communication paths across the enterprise. Traditional organisational hierarchies have proven to be poorly suited to sharing information and knowledge sideways, as designed communication pathways at the base of the hierarchy would have information move vertically upward before moving across and then downward to its waiting audience. A lot can happen to an intended message as it makes this tortuous path, often resulting in a poor communication result.

But what about “Diagonal Communication”? By this we mean communication paths that connect leaders of business units to non-leaders of other business units and visa versa, as shown by the dashed diagonal pathways below.
Diagonal structure

A natural response would suggest a potential undermining of the leaders’ authority i.e. if I as business leader, were found to be communicating directly with a staff member of another business unit, would this be disrespecting that member’s own business unit leader? Likewise, if as a non-leader, I seek to communicate directly with a leader of another business unit; am I disrespecting my own business unit leader by not involving them in the communication? It is this reticence that no doubt hinders this style of communication in traditional hierarchical organisations; arguably at some cost to the organisation.

Recently we completed an analysis of collaboration patterns with a major financial services company by analysing the usage logs of their ESN (Yammer). The objective was to understand the value being gained to date by applying our social networking analytic measures. Because this was a ‘relationships centred’ analysis, we aimed to go beyond the simple usage traffic measures and only include connections where a true reciprocal interaction had occurred i.e. to be included in our analysis a specific two-way interaction between two individuals had to have occurred to produce a link. As anticipated, the horizontal collaboration paths across internal business units were indeed prominent, but perhaps the bigger surprise was the size of the diagonal communication paths: 

Diag Comms Table

The results indicated that the diagonal linkages were nearly three times the number of the vertical, within business unit, connections. One can only speculate as to why. Perhaps the ESN was seen to give license for this form of informal communication, without the concerns attached to more formal communication. Perhaps it is a response to such  ‘protocol’ constraints by releasing a pent-up demand for communicating diagonally in a more timely fashion; with the knowledge that the formal channels can be enacted should the communication escalate to something significant.

Whatever the reason there is significant value to be gained though opening up diagonal channels of communication. Firstly, the opportunity to accelerate more radical enterprise innovations. Radical innovations typically result from the bringing together of inputs across a diversity of sources, like other business units. Formal channels can kill off an innovation opportunity simply through its bureaucratic nature. Secondly, organisational politics can result in mixed messages as communications move up and down a hierarchy. Diagonal communication can open up a more open and active narrative across the organisation, leading to more informed and responsive decision-making. Last but not least, ESNs, by opening up informal diagonal channels of communication, while potentially not undermining the formal channels; allows organisations to get the best of both worlds: Social + Business.