I spent Day 4 at Microsoft Ignite hearing stories of how Yammer is being put to use in organisations around the world to realise the potential of people and to provide a platform to connect organisations in their digital transformation.
A Spirit of Generosity
The day was full of many great stories and lots of practical advice which is a mark of the generosity of the Yammer community. It began with an update on a very familiar one as Al Reid of NAB shared stories of NAB’s network. Matt Dodd of Bankwest also shared practical advice using the Value Maturity Model from their experience of creating a thriving network on Yammer. Tom Kretzmer from Westinghouse also ran a session on Yammer for IT, but sadly I wasn’t able to hear it. Melanie Hohertz and Simon Denton also did a great session, including costumes on how to use both Yammer and Teams together, weaving together both the inner and outer circle. The MVP panel saw the audience tap into the expertise and experience of Martina Grom, Chris Slemp, Noah Sparks, Melanie Hohertz and Darrell Webster. Like last year, the discussion in the room saw members of the audience leaping in to share their ideas and contribute answers to questions (especially Lesley Crook of Change Agents Worldwide and Miguel Zlot of Coors)
In the MVP panel, Noah Sparks highlighted that fostering a culture of generosity is one of the key elements in the growing maturity of a Yammer community. The Yammer community at Microsoft Ignite reflected this at the highest level. After each session, audience members hung around to answer questions and solve each other’s problems. Some of the most creative conversations and vigorous exchanges have been over food, coffee or on the long walks across the halls. Consultants shared experiences, IP and approaches with their competitors. The generosity of this sharing was because they all recognise that change is hard and that we are better when the collective practice of Yammer adoption lifts.
Change is Hard
I noted in yesterday’s review that much of the advice on adoption was consistent. Many of the challenges discussed across the four days are consistent too:
- The fickle nature of leadership support: keep focused on strategy and value, tell stories to bring the value to life, focus on the executive’s business needs, keep pushing and leverage competition among executives to find a way forward
- Explaining the benefits of collaboration and accounting for the value: have a strategy, gather the stories of success, follow those stories to the hard value in financial systems, be prepared to leverage champions and employees to advocate the value too.
- The realities of winning user engagement, effort, time and attention in a busy world with significant business pressures
- Areas in which Yammer still lacks features or the integration with the Microsoft365 suite to deliver: many of these are on the roadmap, but it is useful to hear the successes, human changes and hacks others have used to move beyond the missing options – I spoke to a financial services client on how their existing employee compliance processes were actually better protections than a technology feature that their risk department was seeking, because informed and accountabilities removes the behaviour at source.
- The appeal of the shiny new thing: always
Many of the speakers have been successful leaders of Yammer networks for years. Audience members can at times feel that the stories of success feel out of reach. However, there was a lot of humility on display in all the talks to counter this with mistakes, missed opportunities and ongoing challenges openly discussed. There is no moment when a collaboration platform is done. A collaboration platform is never fully deployed. A community of humans keeps growing and changing. With that change will come new opportunities and new challenges. That’s why there is always more learning, more potential and more work to be done. For all those struggling there is hope and reward for persistence when a community gets it and begins to engage in the journey to maturity.
We are tempted with our process focus to think of adoption like deployment, a series of steps to be done to move to completion. Many of the questions in sessions were appeals for simple steps. The speakers did their best to help, but they had to note that each community is different, improvisation, experimentation, and adaptation are required to fit the purpose, context, capabilities and culture of the Adoption is not a playbook followed end to end. It is more like a work of street performance art, moving through phases woven from modules that respond to the needs and the circumstances (an idea I have borrow from and explored in more detail in the Experience Economy a book on the delivery of customer experiences)
The flowing adaptive nature of adoption sets the context for the need for leadership. Discussion of executive leadership support was everywhere. However, there’s a more important form of leadership that must be fostered to win the prize of the modern workplace. Every speaker today, every audience member is a leader. Anyone tasked with building collaboration or leading a digital transformation has to be a leader. Digital transformation is more than technology or process change. It is a change in culture of organisations, Changing culture in communities with deep history takes leadership, both hierarchical and distributed.
Leadership is not a hierarchical position. Leadership is the work of influencing others to act to make themselves and the world better. That well describes the ambitions of the Yammer community at Microsoft Ignite. Change leadership is not safe and is rarely easier. The leadership dimension of adoption work lies at the heart of the challenges above. Successful modern workplaces don’t just have executives who get it and lead their teams forward with purpose and passion. They have community managers and change champions working to put in place the structures around which vibrant community behaviours can emerge. Most importantly of all, they have users who take the small daily act of bravery of sharing their work, their story, their assistance or their challenge on the platform. Digital workplaces leverage all the human potential in the organisation. That leverage is not just to do. It is also the leverage of finding and working with the leadership talents of all people.
To be able to leverage the benefits of this leadership we must remember that we need our digital organizations to support an environment of psychological safety such that people can take the risks of sharing, learning and working together on change. Leadership and role modeling in the community will build the trust and the examples necessary for success.
My visit to Microsoft Ignite ends with this post as client work calls me back to Australia with a day to go in the event. I know all the sessions are shared online so I will have some catching up to do when my plane lands, not just the last day but also the sessions I have missed in other streams. My thanks go to all who have shared their work across these days. I would also like to thank Microsoft teams who have made the event possible and whose work was so well showcased at Ignite. Thanks especially to the Yammer team for their passion, support. I look forward to seeing them all again soon. I learn so much from them every time we meet.
There are two teams who made Ignite a whole lot of fun and helped push me to learn more and get more out of the event. The first is the Yammer MVP crew (Lonya French, Amy Dolzine, Melanie Hohertz, Becky Benishek, Simon Denton, Chris Slemp, Noah Sparks, Tom Kretzmer, Kevin Crossman, Martina Grom, Lesley Crook, Darrell Webster, Cai Kjaer, Scott Ward and the virtual participant Benjamin Elias). The second was the REgarding365 team, led by Alistair Pugin and Darrell Webster as community reporters, who set a standard of content creation, thought leadership and energy that was unmatched at the event. Thanks to all.
Thanks also to everyone who has followed along, liked or shared these posts or provided feedback on their value. The response each day has been a a wonderful reward.