The focus of today’s episode of The Yaminade podcast is focused on building community in the manufacturing and automotive industries. I had the pleasure of chatting with Stefani Butler – who just recently joined Microsoft as a Yammer / Office365 Customer Success Manager – but over the past 10-15 years has held numerous human resources and internal communications roles in organisations like Rolls Royce, herbal Zimmer, buy cialis and most recently Delphi.
Stefani shares her story in the episode and we touch on a few topics which will be top of mind for a number of listeners – including:
- Getting executive buy in on your enterprise social project. Stefani shares a great story about a two day executive retreat where the discussion was lead on the Yammer network – increasing engagement and helping the executive team to make more effective planning decisions
- Her experience supporting and growing a community on Salesforce.com Chatter (an alternative enterprise social network to Yammer) – and the challenges she had to overcome as she worked with that community beyond their sales organisation
- The role that human resources and internal communication professionals need to play when it comes to enterprise social
- The call for more professional community managers!
Remember… the Yaminade is in it’s infancy – I haven’t got to the funky podcast opening and closing music yet so please enjoy The Yaminade in it’s rawest form. If you like the podcast please support it’s development… there are a number of things you can do:
- Share The Yaminade with your friends, pilule peers and co-workers!
- Subscribe, and if you really like what my guests and I are producing, please leave a review on iTunes!
- We would love your feedback – leave a comment below!
- Sign up to The Yaminade’s newsletter to get semi-regular updates and notifications when new content is published
- If you would like to be a guest on The Yaminade, please get in touch!
Transcript of Episode 4 of The Yaminade
Paul: Hi everyone, this is Paul Woods, @paulwoods on Twitter and welcome to Episode 4 of The Yaminade, the podcast dedicated to helping organisations build bigger and better engaged communities on Yammer. I’m really excited to share this episode with you I recorded earlier today with Stefani Butler. Stefani is a Customer Success Manager with Microsoft who recently joined the organisation to help organisations like yours get more value out of Yammer and the Office365 platform, but more importantly before she joined Microsoft, she had a wide and varied career across HR and Communications roles within the manufacturing industry. She shares some very interesting stories around how she’s built community from the HR and communications angle through a number of different organisations over the past 10-15 years. I really hope you enjoy the episode. If you really like it, please leave a review for us on iTunes or podcasting program as well and share with your friends and peers or people within your organisation.
For more information on things we talk about make sure you visit theyaminade.com
Without further ado, here’s my interview with Stefani Butler.
Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s version of The Yaminade, really excited to have a very special guest with us today, coming to us all the way from Memphis, Tennessee, but that’s not where she’s based but we’ll learn all about that in a second. Please welcome Stefani Butler to The Yaminade.
Stefani: Hi everyone, hi Paul, thanks for having me today.
Paul: Thanks so much for making the time to chat with us today. I’m excited about the converstion that we’re going to have today in Australia and over there in the United States, for a number of reasons. One, you are the first Microsoft employee that we’ve had on the show and we’ll get to that at the end of the podcast, but more importantly you’re probably one of the first guests that we’ve had who has had a view of community management from internal communications / HR kind of roles that you’ve held in the past. What I’m really interested in our discussion today is to talk about some of the work you did in your previous roles before joining Microsoft as an Office 365 Customer Success Manager. To kick it off, let’s talk about that. What is the Stefani Butler story? Where have you come from and what kind of work have you been doing with organisations over the past five or ten years?
Stefani: Well thanks for having me. It’s a fun story. When I step outside of myself and start thinking about my career, I’m pretty blown away by the experiences I’ve been honoured to have, some pretty amazing organisations that led me to what I do now here at Microsoft. Stefani is a Hoosier, I come from Indiana, a little town north of Indianapolis called Kokomo, Indiana. I started my career when I graduated college with a Communications in PR degree and my heart was set on doing something in communications. I didn’t know what at the time, but that’s kind of normal for an 18 year old not to have clarity right? [laughs]
Paul: That’s normal for a 31 year old, but for an 18 year old as well.
Stefani: You’re right about that! It’s probably around 31 where I finally did get clarity [laughs]. I felt my way through a role right out of college with Rolls Royce North America. I took that role because it was a HR assistant role that supported employee communications. All I remember hearing about that role when it came my way was communications. I didn’t listen to the HR piece until day one when they started talking about human resources. Not even having a human resources degree, I wondered why they even hired me for the job! [laughs] I dove into that job and believe it or not, my communications education actually ended up being really relevant to the organisation and the challenges at the time. So I was allowed an opportunity to join their accelerated leadership program where I got a feel for all the specialist and generalist facets of HR including employee communication. For about three years I travelled the world on different assignments with Rolls Royce and got a specialised understanding of human resources. Everything from employee engagement to change management to your database generalist functions. After about four years working with Rolls Royce, I walked away with what I would say was a solid understanding from an entry-level standpoint at least, of the human resources facet.
Paul: What were the challenges? That was early 2004 so what were the challenges you were coming across at that time in that role when you were talking to people in the field?
Stefani: A couple of things, it’s a great question. At that time, programs like the Accelerated Leadership Development one I was on were somewhat new for organisations and they were traditionally for the manufacturing environment, they typically had tracks like that for your self-organisation and for your engineers but Rolls Royce was ready to scope that out for other areas like finance and communications, HR and marketing. They had a challenge of finding the talent pool to pull into that type of program. So they pulled me in as an early career resource and unleashed me on that talent pool, that early career talent population in the United States and the UK at the time. We were really looking to build programmes that would attract the top talent from some of your well-known Ivy League schools that we could bring into the non-technical functions of the organisation. That was one big challenge. The other was just finding aerospace engineers in that day and age. Engineering was evolving, some of the skillsets that they were looking for across the organisation just weren’t there anymore so we had to get creative and market to the new and early new career talent to get them engaged and inspired about aeronautical engineering and aerospace.
Paul: So you were applying your communication skills to help build a community so you can help identify talent and drive it through the organisation.
Paul: Brilliant, very good, keep going. Beyond Rolls Royce….
Stefani: Beyond Rolls Royce… a great company, a great career, but I wanted to explore consulting and at that time, Rolls Royce had moved me to the Washington DC Metro Area which is where their North America Headquarters is based in Virginia. I wanted to get my feet wet in consulting so I was introduced to a great opportunity with BearingPoint which was formerly KPMG at the time, to again hone in on a more specialised area of human resources. I got my feet wet in an area that I wasn’t earlier at Rolls Royce exposed to, which was doing investigations for the Department of Justice and other government functions for Employee Engagement issues, so that really taught me the importance of diagnosing and due diligence from a legal standpoint. And I’ll talk about why that was invaluable to what I do today when I talk about my current role. It really gave me my first exposure to consulting and I fell in love. I fell in love with having conversations with both internal and external customers about what their expectations were when it came to, in that instance, my investigation, the solution, the outcome they were expecting and then being able to deliver that and move onto a new experience every day. So moving from that willy-nilly, no rhythm… I fell in love with it and I stayed in consulting for quite a few years after moving on from BearingPoint. Then, at some point, one of my former bosses at BearingPoint worked at the National Automobile Dealers Association and she called me up and said “I need you, Stefani” and I said “why?”
Paul: Good problem to have!
Stefani: It is a good problem to have, I was quite honoured! She said “I need you. You’ve got the change management, the consulting background that I need for this association. I have a small HR department… you’re going to wear many hats, I need your communications, your project management and your HR expertise to help me build a strategic Human Resources team, not a back office administration support team”, which is typically how HR and in many ways old school corporate communications had been viewed from an administration standpoint.
Paul: It’s cost-centered, so how do we get the cost out of it, how do we get that administration as fast as possible, that’s how it normally works…
Stefani: Exactly, just churning it out. The request comes in, you don’t challenge it, you just say “sure” and you churn it out. That’s not the centre of excellence that she wanted at the office. That’s not why they hired her. They hired her to create a strategic office that could not only handle the administrative piece of the organisation but also to challenge the leaders and the board and employees to become more self-sufficient and knowledgeable about the things that mattered when it came to their employment like training and development benefits, those type of workplace experiences, so she hired me to come in and I gave her a year. I said “I’m going to do this for a year but I love consulting, I don’t want to be an employee anymore” [laughs] and four years later I was still there –
Paul: You must have been successful if you can lasted more than three months ‘cos normally if you take on one of those roles, its either because it works really well or you get walked out pretty quickly!
Stefani: It’s so true! Probably after three months I was questioning whether I’d last myself. But she’s an amazing leader and she challenged me with projects that really stimulated my skillset and where my passions were. By the time I left the National Automobile Dealers Association, I was able to deliver a new performance management structure, I had delivered a new recruitment management structure with a fast-paced technology at that time which took them from paper to cloud, we had integrated Sharepoint for the Association and that was a big integration for the team at the time. I had delivered a new business benefit administration structure, taking them again from paper to online and establish their internal communications practice which didn’t really exist beyond email here and there previously and had some solid deliveries with that group… That’s really where I started seeing the merge between my corporate communications experience and HR.
Paul: I think the experiences you’re talking about are very similar to stories I’ve heard from other people who have started out in communications or started out in HR. They’ve kind of seen the blurring of their roles as they’ve gone through jobs and organisations. It’s really interesting for me… I was a Marketing and Communications Manager for the organisation I’m with at the moment and to see the blending between communications and HR over the time that I’ve been working in these roles is interesting and it is interesting to see other people going through that exact same journey.
Stefani: It’s true Paul. Over 15 years now, I can’t imagine the two worlds living separately. That’s the conversation, not to skip ahead but just to plant the seed, that’s the conversation I have more and more with customers that these two functions and lines of business have to engage to create employee engagement success for an organisation. They do not function separately and if they do, I don’t see them being successful in the long-term.
Paul: If they’re separate, it’s newsletters and employment contracts – that’s not building community and engagement. Sorry to interrupt, keep going. After that you’re with a brand that even I’m familiar with over here in Australia…
Stefani: [laughs] When I left NADA, I had been in the DC area for about 10 years and I made the decision to come back to my roots and take a short window off and wanted to be intentional in my next role. I wanted to be smart about it and hone in on my passion for internal communication. At the time I felt like I had achieved about as much as I had wanted to achieve in HR, from a specialist and a general standpoint. I had an opportunity to join the Zimmer Holdings team, Zimmer being the largest medical device provider in the world. It’s based in little old Warsaw, Indiana and they had, what I would consider the perfect merger of HR and communications. They had the role of Global Communications Manager and said “you’re exactly the type of person we’re looking for”. I took that role and some of my big jobs were to create a mechanism for the HR organisation to inform and engage the global workforce about initiatives that were being under-utilised or not being utilised correctly or sometimes not at all. I joined that team and at the same time Enterprise Social was quickly picking up speed. At that time I’m on these external social channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and I quickly hopped on that integration team for a competitor product of Microsoft…
Paul: I’ll say it so you don’t have to break your contract. Salesforce Chatter, right? I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast who aren’t on Yammer but other social networks. It would be interesting to hear about the experience of building the community on Chatter as well.
Stefani: With Zimmer, the strategic vision for Enterprise Social relating to Salesforce Chatter obviously grew out of a very strong self-organisation. When it came to medical devices, they already had an infrastructure community in their Sales team. It was very strong outside of a portal it was a strong organisation of itself. We saw them utilising Chatter in a way that we thought “hey, let’s amplify this experience to our workforce, let’s engage employees and give them a voice that they haven’t had before” so that was the initial strategy, just to take a rogue experience and be very intentional and strategic about it for the entire global organisation. An integration team came together and we crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s and created a solid communications campaign that involved the C-Suite our chief marketing officer were real champions from the beginning. When you think about community, at least the way I think about it, it’s so important to get that C-Suit engaged from the start. Not only do they bless it and approve it, but also, they just give it momentum. They are the ones who engage with the average employee. Old school, we used to call it “walking the floor”, where the executive used to come down the aisles and pat you on the back or shake your hand, just to let you know they cared.
Paul: Tom Peters’ “managing by walking around”
Stefani: Exactly. And it’s not a lot, but it goes a long way. And we really got that executive support when it came to community early on so that if engagement was low or slow, they could post or like or reply to a post a thread here and there and really stimulate the type of behaviours we were hoping to see with Chatter. That was early on in the project and we had a great and successful launch. But I got an opportunity before I saw it grow to join an amazing company that I was familiar with in my own back yard, Delphi Automotive.
Paul: Before we get into Delphi, can I ask one more thing about Chatter. I don’t want to put the Microsoft employee on the spot. Take your Microsoft hat off for a minute as I’m looking for a really transparent answer. In our organisation, we have Yammer and Chatter. Chatter is really being driven by the sales organisation. As you said at Zimmer the sales organisation was using it as a tool and you were trying to apply it to the rest of the organisation. One of the things that has come up in conversation is that with Chatter it was easy to get the sales team on board because it was a very opportunity-focused collaboration and social interactions. But when you went to the rest of the organisation it was harder as they’re not necessarily opportunity-focused in their roles. When you went away from the sales process to the rest of the organisation, was there a difficulty in trying to get them engaged in that community or was it easy to overcome?
Stefani: I would say it was the former, getting the sales organisation engaged with the entire organisation. They had built their own community and they were comfortable interacting with each other. At the same time, the rest of the organisation had competing forces against it which hindered the ability for not only for them to interact with each other but also power users who were very familiar using it, like the self-organisation. Those competing forces were MyProfiles on SharePoint. The organisation had introduced Chatter and MyProfiles at the same time roughly to the broader organisation. You just had competing forces there that cause user confusion, but speaking specifically to the sales organisation, I did find it difficult to engage them outside of their core community because it was functioning so well for them already.
Paul: Excellent. Move on…
Stefani: No, it’s a great question and it’s not something that we don’t see with Yammer, which is something that I’ll discuss with Yammer when I go over my experience there. But overall the Chatter experience whet my whistle for Enterprise Social and the capabilities it brings to a business when done well and done right, when attached to a core, clear vision from the top down then actually attached to and mapped to specific business values across the lines of business. That’s what whet my whistle. Then an opportunity to join Delphi Automotive came across my desk. It’s a company that my family all worked at and I couldn’t turn it down. So I was the Global Internal Communications Lead for one of the divisions at Delphi Automotive. The approach there with internal communications was, I’d call it dated.
Stefani: Yes, traditional is a much better word, a bit traditional! It was more of a one way conversation. It was that traditional “here’s the flavour of the day, the news of the day, the message from the CEO of the day” and it really didn’t take into consideration the voice of the workforce. That’s what I’m passionate about, that’s the heart and the pulse of an organisation, your people. I remember working at Rolls Royce and their tagline has stuck with me to this day, Paul. Their tagline was “People, the power within” it just makes you pause, right?
Paul: Yeah [whispers] that’s really powerful.
Stefani: It just makes you pause, right? It’s a good one. Trademark props to Rolls Royce for that one. From a philosophical standpoint, as someone who’s passionate about internal communications, well I call it internal voice actually. I don’t know if that was previously coined but that’s how I coin my approach when it comes to internal coms because your people do have a voice. They don’t just want that one-way conversation, they want two-way. That was one of the key objectives when I took that role, to pave a two-way conversation. Simultaneously, that’s when we began to explore Yammer, Microsoft’s Enterprise Social platform. There were some rogue users, much like Chatter, the rogue users were just doing it under the radar, but the connected work team at Delphi reached out to me as one of the early communication adopters and said “hey we see what you’re doing on Apollo and what your division is doing when it comes to fresh communications, we want to pull you into this core connected worker team and test the applicability of impact of Yammer on a more intentional scale”. That was my early introduction to Yammer, Paul…
Paul: How long had the rogues been on Yammer before you had visibility to it?
Stefani: I would say a good year to a year and a half. A lot of the rogues were coming out of our Latin American regions. I have to give credit to some of our employees at our Mexico sites at Delphi as they were rogue users with a business intention of Yammer long before it was on the radar for IT.
Paul: What were they using it for?
Stefani: They were using it to collaborate on some of their engineering related projects, to discuss some of their workflow and basically collaborating out loud long before we were thinking about that more strategically across the enterprise.
Paul: So they were engineering folks. Did you have a mix of people from the manufacturing plants and people on the front line or was it still in the “ivory towers” of the acknowledged workers in the manufacturing organisation?
Stefani: I would say it was the knowledge workers based on the way we were set up. It had not at that time deployed to the front-line workers on the shop floors and the manufacturing developers. These are definitely your knowledge workers, folks who were probably collaborating inside email in much of the same way that they said “we want to see the value of doing the same thing, having the same conversations real-time inside Yammer” so they were your knowledge workers, definitely your engineers, some of your sales and marketing folks but the folks who were helping to innovate the products that Delphi were using, they were looking to Yammer to see if they could do it better.
Paul: Brilliant. I think the scenario you’re painting here is similar to that many people listening to this podcast would face. We’ve had a free version of Yammer within our organisation for six months, two years… however long it’s been. Now we’ve made the decision to go “right, let’s turn this into something real”. What I’m interested in is how you achieved that at Delphi? How did you transform the rogue network into the strategic communications asset that it became?
Stefani: I need to give credit to the connective worker team led by Shaun Murphy and his vice President Andrea Siudara. They came and said “we want to test this and see if it has real business value and impact”. They pulled us in and one of the first ways we were going to get strategic and intentional about it was to kick off an engagement contest. We were opening, at the time, our Silicon Valley office for Delphi. I said “let’s engage the workforce in this experience, let’s not make it a separate channel or experience reserved only for our media, PR or external audiences but involve our employees because they’re the ones who help make us who we are”. So we launched a soft employee engagement contest where we tapped the workforce and said “innovation lives here. We’re saying we’re this high-tech innovation company, tell us that innovation lives here. It was just a neat contest to see if people would adopt social, would they engage? It wasn’t something we were going to roll out to the C-Suite, we just needed to validate a few hypothesis about general acceptance, engagement and adoption. The response to that just blew our minds. Network numbers went from maybe 500 and something to almost double by the next day in a week-long contest. And we gave away a prize or what have you. But from a business standpoint, what we took away from that experience was that if you communicate well enough, people will give them something very specific and intentional to do with that engagement and they will deliver for your business. Because the winning name helped name a collaboration room in that Silicon Valley Office. We realised that that had a significant impact and it was measurable and visible to the external audience. So when that was successful, we said “Ok, let’s test this on something that has true business value and can further our workflow on a day-to-day basis”. So another division decided to utilise Yammer after that engagement contest on a more overt way. The president of that division had a two-day executive leadership conference in Shanghai and he came to that communications team and wanted to create that experience all inside Yammer from communication to engagement, to even the breakout sessions, Paul. With the help of a marketing partner, that two-day event saw significant number increases. They had kiosks set up with Yammer launched so that people could stay close to the stations who were not on-site.
Paul: Hi everyone, sorry about the technical glitch here, what we’ll do is bring it back to Stefani so it’s different audio
Stefani: We had the executive kick off the two-day executive conference in Shanghai right inside Yammer. He set the tone by saying “Over the next two days, everything we communicate about and work on will happen inside this network.” There were a combination of public and private groups where the private groups served as the break-out sessions for people both onsite and remote where they collaborated out loud. Instead of having meetings in a bunch of conference rooms where everyone had to show up and close their laptops, people were invited to use their mobile devices at any point and stay connected to the breakout session. Between the marketing that went into this, the pre-communications and post-communications, it served as an extremely valuable business case for our executive team to show that from a cost standpoint, you don’t always have to have everyone in the right place at the same time to still accomplish your objectives for these type of meetings. So I’d consider that a huge measurable business outcome for using social collaboration to support a lot of the leadership efforts across the organisation.
Paul: How specifically were they using it? Was there a set agenda of questions that were posted that people could comment on or was it more ad-hoc and informal as people thought of ideas were they posting it to the network? How did the two days roll out?
Stefani: They did a combination of pre-intake and ad-hoc, being very agile with the whole experience as it was new. From an intake standpoint, the corporate communications team assisted by doing some pre Q&A about what people expected to get out of the conference and how they expected the different breakout sessions to go, what type of things they would like to cover so that it could be a bit more strategic rather than it being a bit ad-hoc, willy-nilly, let’s test this… but then they also left the door open for people who were new to Yammer or this way of working and to provide feedback or ask questions real-time. All of his communications were scrubbed pre-event –
Paul: [groans] No, no!
Stefani: – but that doesn’t happen in this day and age, right? I think that’s ok because there were times where he was genuine and that’s what I encourage all executives, both at Delphi and even now customers with the CSM, that engagement from the top down and up again has to be genuine. Even though there were some pre-scripted/scrubbed posts for him to be very strategic against the agenda, there were also moments where he and his staff posted genuinely and authentically to further the objectives of these two days.
Paul: Brilliant. That’s the one thing I worry about… With a corporate communications person a couple of weeks ago, we talked about whether that was about control or empowering someone’s voice. Whenever I hear someone talking about scrubbing or watering down communications, I think that’s one of those controlling communicators that just wants to make sure they’re on message and you lose the value in some of the things that we’re trying to build. It’s good that the authentic executive came across as well.
Stefani: It did and I want to hone on that a bit if I can, because you’re a man after my own heart just saying that. That’s exactly my communication philosophy as a communications professional. I think traditionally we’ve been professionals who have written blogs and statements, scripted town halls. Anyone who’s in internal communications listening to this will know what I’m talking about, there is that mitigating risk by scripting conversations between executives and employees. But when we started migrating our workflow into a more agile social collaboration and enterprise experience at Delphi, I did share – I was a ghostwriter for the President and his Vice-President – very candidly with them, I said “as part of our editorial calendar, I’ll continue to write your blogs for the intranet site, but when it comes to Yammer, I will not write your blogs or your posts, simply for the reason you said, it’s got to be authentic and genuine and quite honestly, you’re going to get replies that I can’t respond to, you’re going to have to own the message and be comfortable with it”. It was a transition, definitely.
Paul: Thank you for sharing that very deep history of what you’ve done over the past few years, it’s definitely an interesting story and journey from starting at Rolls Royce in communications and HR and seeing that transition through the years. What I’d like to talk about now is the transition from customer land, we’ll call it, into the machine that I Microsoft. You’ve only been there for five months?
Stefani: Yep, five months!
Paul: Moving into a role which a lot of people will be familiar with, the Customer Success Manager Role. First of all, give us a bit of an overview of your role when working with customers, then I’d like to hear about the interesting stories when you’re engaging customers, from outside looking in and how customers engage their communities and they key takeaways over the past four or five months.
Stefani: That’s a great question and I want to take my time and when I say that I just want to be thoughtful and pause… When I think about the role CSM plays in the customer success experience, I know we bring significant value into the change management strategy, but even more than that, we keep culture at the forefront of the conversation. I think that’s where we have our biggest impact and greatest value. Because as you know, traditionally when it comes to discussions about technology, before the cloud experience we were talking about software. That’s a technical, heavy discussion. Now we’re talking about the cloud and productivity solutions, you’ve integrated culture and people more broadly into the conversation both from an impact and adoption standpoint. So CSMs keep that culture at the forefront of the conversation and we nurture it so that when people start talking about architecture and domain names –
Stefani: Yeah, exactly, “zzz! Snore! Yawn!” [laughs]. When people start having these conversations, we pause and say “what’s the impact of this in your people? How are they going to respond?”
Paul: I had a meeting with a customer about a week ago. They wanted to launch their Yammer network and introduced each other, the Communications Engineer, Applications Engineer, the Systems Architect, around seven technology people. I said “look, your job is really easy, we can do it within the time of this meeting if we want, there’s a much bigger challenge at play here”
Stefani: You’re so right! I don’t think that for the folks listening to the podcast, that you’re downplaying the role IT has and continues to bring to this experience, but CSMs come and we say “hey there’s a couple more folks who need to be at this table” and they sit in HR and Communications and inside the business because those are the folks who help us impact your culture. Until you bring them to the table and this dance is on pause in many ways. From a change management standpoint, from an adoption and engagement standpoint, in a snippet, that is really the value a CSM brings into the experience.
Paul: Very good. Looking at your experience so far as a CSM, what are some of the things you’re seeing outside, I’m going to start again. I’ll edit this out! In fact no I’m not going to edit it, it’s going to be raw!! Sorry everyone! Thinking as a CSM, working with organisations in the US, what are the things that you are picking up that you might not have picked up when you were deep in the trenches of community management?
Stefani: I think one of the biggest things I’ve seen, and it does directly tie back to community management, is the absence of an emphasis on community management. For example, I make this analogy… any good project has a good project manager, right Paul? You need someone to steer the helm!
Paul: Sometimes there are bad ones too but generally the good ones are Project Manager!
Stefani: This is true! But you typically engage the Project Manager when you’re kicking off a substantial or highly-impactful mission-critical project across your organisation. I see community management in the same way when it comes to launching an Enterprise Social network like Yammer. You need that person or in this case persons to establish a community management practice in organisations for them to be successful. When I talk and train community managers, I tell them “Community managers know how to start great conversations”, and that’s the essence of an Enterprise Social network, business communication, sometimes they’re personal, but business-related conversations that further the work you’re trying to accomplish. When I’m in these conversations at a high level and I’m talking to customers, I’m always amazed at how little emphasis is placed on community management, as if somehow the network will magically grow and mature without some level of nurturing. I think that’s one of the biggest eye-openers in things I see and it’s something I’m passionate about so when I’m on an engagement, I’m bringing that to the surface and emphasising it as part of the full success strategy. Another thing is it’s a lack of education about what Enterprise Social is and its capabilities to enhance the way workforces and people work. That’s why we’re doing a lot with the Move The Market campaign at Microsoft which is amplifying though leadership about Enterprise Social. I think a lot of companies I’ve seen get this Enterprise Social thing from a trend standpoint, but don’t know the logistics of it and continue to be surprised about how relevant and applicable it is to what they’re doing, whether it’s a manufacturing company, a consulting practice or a partner, even. That’s another thing I’ve seen… How little education… because I’m so close to it, I feel like everyone understands it like I do, but that’s obviously not the case.
Paul: If only that were true! Going back a little bit to the community management, a lot of people I’ve talked to in the past and listening to this podcast have this vision of being a community manager or curate communities professionally, not just being .2 of their role in HR or Communications. Have you seen anyone transition from a traditional organisation role into a community management role? If so, what kind of things have you seen people do to make that transition? How have they created that vision or built the business case in their organisation to bring on that full-time community management capability?
Stefani: It’s a two-fold answer to your question. I have not witnessed someone transition per-se, I have witnessed customers transition their thinking about the day-job community manager role in the organisation to now creating a full-time equivalent resource. I have seen that and we’ll speak about that. I have seen someone attempt to transition into a full-time community management resource and that was a difficult transition because she did have the executive support and the C-suite support and the business strategy was to have her transition into a full-time resource, but quite honestly I did not get the impression that she was ready to be a full-time resource. Why is that important? When I think about it from a CSM standpoint – and I tell customers – when you’re going to add a layer onto what they’re already doing or transition them into a full-time resource, make sure that they’re passionate about this. One person said “this person is responsible for that line of business, they own that relationship, it’s natural that they would become the CM, the Community Manager” and that might seem logical in theory, but if the person is going to resists the social experience and be what we would consider at Microsoft a yellow or a red dot, I would encourage them to partner that person or identify someone else closely aligned from a similar skillset who is passionate about it, because you cannot have dispassionate community managers. You have to have people who are really good at it, or who will nurture it and are really good at it or can be developed in it. I think that’s about as simple as I can make it. I’ve seen customers transition their thinking around community management by adding a full-time resource. Not a whole lot, but we see them picking up momentum on this. I know three from the top of my head that from a confidentiality standpoint I won’t share without asking my fellow CSMs, but three customers I know who have added a full-time resource of Community Manager to their organisations. I commend them for that because it is a full-time job. I’d say that at the risk of people disagreeing with me. When you’re maturing your network, you can add that layer on to people who have capacity. It was definitely an add on to my position and I was a global lead for a division for internal communications and I did have a significant amount of accountability but it was something I was passionate about, so CMing didn’t feel like another layer, do you know what I mean?
Paul: If you were going to give someone a full-time community management role, would you bring someone in from outside of the organisation with fresh eyes or someone from inside who already knows how the company works?
Stefani: It’s a good question. I think it hinders on what the organisation has said their purpose is within Enterprise Social. We have customers who are approaching this experience still from a traditional standpoint and they still want to do the one way push and integrate that with their SharePoint intranet and really still control the message and engagement. If that’s the case, I would not bring somebody external into that experience. That’s neither good nor bad, I just want to make sure that if they develop, hire or create a CSM full-time role and do things they are traditionally do things the way they’ve done them, why not nurture and develop someone who is used to that. On the flipside, if they said “hey, we’re used to working this way but we want to explore a new way of working” then I’m a huge advocate from bringing in someone from outside, bringing in fresh thoughts and ideas, because you want to mix up the flow and the norm. You want to bring somebody who may not be used to doing things the way they have always been done and Quite honestly someone who will challenge the norm and I think an external hire is really well suited for that.
Paul: Brilliant. I didn’t have the answer for that, but that’s great. I think we’ve had a good chat now. Thank you so much for making the time.
Stefani: I’ve loved it!
Paul: What I’d love to hear are the top three tips for people who are creating a community on Yammer, what are the three things you would focus on to help drive growth and engagement and get those business outcomes from the Yammer community?
Stefani: Great question. Top three things… One, connect yourself with the top folks within your business. I’d start with IT, HR and Communcations. If you don’t have connections with the top tier folks within your organisation, then start asking questions “Who can I talk to? Who’s in charge for this line of busness?” but get connected early because they are the decision makers and will help drive Yammer adoption within your network.
Two, work with those people to get executive exposure and buy-in. Without that executive blessing, engagement, acceptance, it’s going to be difficult to grow the Yammer network and Enterprise Social collaboration as a whole because they are your advocates and champions from a top tier, so get with the business decision-makers, engage your executives…
And three, get your champions, whether they’re Community Managers, certified Community Managers or Yambassadors, folks who want to evangelise the value of the network but not be accountable for growing it per se, get those folks early, have conversations, have lunch and learns, ping them on Yammer, @ mention them on Twitter, make them feel like VIPs but get them on board early because they’ll take a load off you as a Community Manager. You’re going to be pulled in so many directions and you can’t do it all so engage folks who you can delegate to and hold responsible for its success.
Paul: Thank you so much for coming on The Yaminade today. Sharing your story across multiple organisations and particularly community management in the manufacturing automotive industry and also the transition from that world into Microsoft has been great. Thanks, I really appreciate your time. Catch you next time.
Stefani: Thanks, Paul, for having me, have a great day!
Paul: Thanks [laughs] I really need to find a better way to close that off because it gets really awkward… like “er thanks and I’ll see you later?!”
Stefani: I know, I’m like “how do I end this?”