Episode 15: Behind the scenes of the largest Yammer network in the world with Chris Slemp from Microsoft IT

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of speaking with Chris Slemp (@cslemp) – Mr Social from Microsoft’s own IT department – Microsoft IT.  Chris has been with Microsoft for over 15 yearse, what is ed and shared with me some war stories of how social collaboration started internally at Microsoft; how it changed when the company purchased Yammer, health and what the future holds for internal social platforms.  In particular he talks about a number of interesting projects were they are looking to make the digital workplace / intranet experience as relevant as possible to individuals in the organisation – using metrics, anorexia data and analytics to make it happen.

During the episode we talk Chris’s Medium post “Which Tool When, v3.0” which I highly recommend you take the time to read.

For those of you attending the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago make sure you get along to his sessions – The “Microsoft Enterprise Social Journey:  How We Did It“, and “Is Your Culture on a Collision Course with Open Collaboration?”

Thank you for the support of our sponsors tyGraph who have helped us cover the cost of bringing this podcast to you!  Support the organisations that support The Yaminade – and try tyGraph on your Yammer network today to surface metrics with meaning!

Episode 12: Using a framework to guide your enterprise social efforts with Scott Ward from Digital Infusions

Ever wished there was a simple framework you could use to guide your tactics when building a community on a enterprise social tool like Yammer?  After conducting research at Sydney University into building communities on social media, nurse
Scott Ward (@wardsco) decided to build that framework – BITIL.

BITIL brings simplicity, seek structure and focus to social media undertakings that can be used to measure and assess the activity and quality of communities; build strategies and drive community engagement toward specific business objectives.

Built from years of experience, viagra buy
experimentation and research the BITIL Framework is founded on the five key elements and over two-hundred and seventy sub-indicators common to high performing social media communities.

Scott founded Digital Infusions in 2011, and now works with Governments and Large Corporates across Australia to help them unlock the value of Enterprise Social.

We recorded this conversation in a VERY noisy cafe whilst Scott was visiting Brisbane – apologies for the background noise.  Considering how noisy it was when our impromptu podcast recording occurred, it is a reasonably clear episode.

Episode 11: The ROI of Enterprise Social and Collaboration / Machine Learning and the future of Work with Naomi Moneypenny (Part 2)

In Episode 10 of The Yaminade we kicked of a great discussion with Naomi Moneypenny (@nmoneypenny).  After hearing Naomi’s interesting back story – including how she created one of the first Intranets in Europe – we dove into how ManyWorlds Inc (and Synxi) use Yammer to deliver innovative research and products to customers with a team distributed right across the world.

In this Episode – Part 2 of the chat with Naomi, generic
we explore:

  • how to define and articulate the return on investment in Enterprise Social or Collaboration projects – taking a business process orientated approach.  If you are trying to build a business case for Yammer – or trying to justifiy its impact – this is must listen content!;
  • this thing called the “social graph”; and
  • how things like recommendation engines and machine learning are going to change the way we work in the future

Links from this episode:

Streamling It Out Loud – a great tool to display what is happening in your digital network in your physical world!  I loved Naomi’s use case of using this on tablets beside executive’s desks so they could casually watch what was happening in the network without having to keep checking!

Synxi – the machine learning enterprise social recommendation engine.

NaomiMoneypenny.com – where you can dive deep on content and presentations that Naomi is delivering


By the way – if you love using the Stitcher app on your iPhone or Android device – you will be very happy to know that you can now listen to all past and future episodes of The Yaminade from your favourite podcast app.  Make sure you subscribe via Stitcher today!


Episode 9: The best bits of The Yaminade – 2014 Edition!

I was going to end the year on a high with The Yaminade – but to be honest episode 8 where we discussed how to use Yammer at a conference or event left me a bit disappointed.  So I decided to release one more episode of the podcast this year – a “Best of” podcast.  In this episode I share with you my favourite parts of the seven interviews about Yammer and Community management to date.

In this short and sharp episode you will hear:

I hope you enjoy it!  Let me know what you think below – and if you haven’t already – make sure you subscribe to (and review) The Yaminade on iTunes or your favourite podcast service!

See you in the new year!


Transcript of Episode 9 of The Yaminade

Paul: Hi everyone and welcome to this latest episode of The Yaminade, the podcast dedicated to building bigger and better engaged communities on Yammer. You can find me on Twitter @paulwoods. I want to be completely honest with you, I published it a few weeks ago, it wasn’t the standard that I set myself for this podcast. So what I wanted to do was make it up to you all today and do a Best Of Episode, just like a family sitcom. I’m going to cut to my first seven episodes and we’ll forget about Episode 8 for now and listen to some of my favourite bits from Sarah, Rhiannan, Stan, Stefani, Steven, Simon and Hayley and hopefully for those of you who are new to the podcast, it will provide a great introduction. For those of you who have been following along for a while, here are the things to remember and apply in our workplaces. When we kicked off The Yaminade in Episode 1, we talked to Sarah Moran and we talked about the fear of doing the wrong thing in the Yammer network and community and touched on the implications that has for policy as well.

Paul: What kind of things should we be posting, what shouldn’t we be posting? Is there any guidance you’d like to give?

Sarah: It’s not what should or shouldn’t we do, but what if someone posts something bad. And that’s difficult because it’s covered in every other policy. Like, you know it’s covered in Sexual Harassment, etc. Just because the technology has created a different system, it doesn’t mean your system of communications changes.

Paul: If someone said that at the water cooler, the same rules apply, right?

Sarah: I think it was The ABC adopted a 4 line social media policy and the essence of it is actually one like and it’s “don’t be dumb!”

Paul: Exactly, “your name is on this!”

Sarah: Yeah, I was like “don’t be an idiot, and you’ll be fine!”

Paul: I don’t know if that keeps the lawyers happy though, that’s the only challenge!

Sarah: And it doesn’t stop the idiots!

Paul: I like the approach. The policy already exists: sexual harassment, how to you communicate within a brand and external communication, it’s all there…

Sarah: Tone of voice is within the style guide…

Paul: Alright, let’s think about Episode 2 with Rhiannan Howell and she talked about growing her network sustainably, aligned with some leadership events they are running and other events they ran on their Yammer network.

Paul: What strategies did you put in place to get past that 50% watermark of having the organisation in the network?

Rhiannan: We had a specific strategy around opting-in.  We really didn’t want it to be bare. The Director General said “thou shalt join” so people joined. To get people on board, we used a face-to-face opportunity we were running across the state in a series of leadership roadshows where our leaders were going out and talking to people. We used it as an opportunity to soft-launch Yammer. We weaved it into our innovation key messages and said “there’s a platform here we’ve made available, give it a go, jump on board and tell us what your ideas are”. It’s particularly important for people who thought they were too buried in the hierarchy to get their ideas heard. That was really our linchpin in launching and that was in February this year.

Paul: So you position it as a tool to capture ideas and align with this roadshow. What happened after that, did you see a huge explosion in uptake after these events or was it sustained over time?

Rhiannan:  Probably in the first six weeks it was explosive and then as everyone experiences, there was a degree of slowdown, but we have around 10-15 people joining every day and that’s been pretty constant for the last month.

Paul: Now let’s go to Episode 3, perhaps one of my favourite interview throughout the entire Yaminade process so far, with Stan Garfield. It’s probably also the most commented on and Tweeted, this idea of SAFARIs that Stan talks about. I just want to replay that.

What tactics do you use to share those tactics and communicate those user cases? Are you running workshops with change champions that have taken that message out to the audience? Are you just sending a blanket email to everyone and hoping for the best? How do you get those reluctant adopters across the line by sharing these stories?

Stan: You have to try multiple approaches. One way is through training and awareness and mentoring and individual one-on-one handholding. Other ways are publishing information that people can consume. Hopefully it’s not just viewed as some sort of broadcast email but it’s more tuned to what people might pay attention to. Another way in which we’ve tried to do it is to have a simple and easy to use device to remember what the recommended user cases are. I came up with an acronym for that. So instead of saying “hey everyone, start using Yammer to collaborate” which is easy to ignore, what I said was “there are seven uses for Yammer and those can be remembered in the acronym: SAFARIS” so we put a picture of a giraffe on a slide and the seven letters of SAFARI, share, ask, find, answer, recognise, inform and suggest. I’m able to rattle those off to you not because I’m looking at them but the acronym makes it easy to remember. If people can remember the giraffe, the word SAFARIS and run through those letters, they’ll know that these are the seven things that Yammer does best. Even if you can only remember the first three: share, ask and find, then that’s a pretty good start. Spreading that message around, having that image appear on screens in offices, conducting regular training, having people able to ask questions about how they can more effectively use Yammer and sharing the stories. Then Yammer allows itself to be a great place to gather stories. Let’s say you post a question to Yammer and I answer you and you respond saying “thanks Stan that was very helpful, that allowed me to solve a problem I was struggling with” I can capture that thread as a success story and nobody needs to do any extra work, you don’t need to write it up or disseminate it.  I just share that into a collective group called Yammer Wins so when someone says “prove it to me that this is worthwhile” I can say “don’t take it from me, here, read this thread from an actual user and see how this helped them”.

Paul: In Episode 4, Stefani Butler, a Community Manager from Microsoft talked about whether you should you hire from inside or outside your organisation when looking for Community Managers.

A lot of the 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 challenge the norm and I think an external hire is really well suited for that.

Paul: Brilliant. In Episode 5 with Steven Piotrowski. We talked about getting the attention of time-poor people. So for everyone in your organisation, how can you get them to care about and engage within your Yammer network?

So building up the Yammer community in a professional services organisation where everyone is too busy because they’re out billing with customers and they have their administrative job after hours where they do their timesheets and all the paperwork… and obviously the distributive nature of the organisation, how did you get people’s attention? How did you get them into that community into when they had that constraint of “I don’t have time for this?”

Steven: I think that is always a constraint with anything new and Yammer isn’t an exception in that scenario. Any new project or effort you have, you’re vying for people’s time, so you have to connect it to something they care about. My approach was to hark it back to my days as a consultant at Deloitte, to enter and become my own internal management consultant to them. I was using the network to see who the early adopters of the platform were, who were contributing to it and trying to get something out of it. Early on it was quite easy to see who those folks were. I would phone them up and explain that I had seen their activity on Yammer and ask them what they were trying to accomplish. I’d explain that I had seen them on Yammer and if I could help them. Then we’d talk about what collaboration meant for those colleagues. What was interesting about those conversations was that colleagues always thought they had great methods for themselves for how they got that information, shared ideas and sought ideas from others. The more you talk about it, the more you see friction in so many aspects of work with their team and stakeholders and the more distributed those relationships got, the more frictions there were. What that did was really open up a door to talk about how Yammer and SharePoint could help reduce or eliminate those frictions. It was a great entrée into those conversations. What would happen was one of two things: Not everyone is going to bite, due to the time constraint. Some folks said “no thank you very much” others said “oh my gosh, I need you to sit down with my team and I want my team agreeing that we are going to collectively begin to work like this” and those were the people I knew I had hooked and were going to become success stories in the network.

Paul: In Episode 6 with Simon Terry, we start talking about accountability in networks because if you think about it, when you’re in a network and don’t have that hierarchy, then how do you hold people accountable or how do people hold themselves accountable for what their actions or commitments they make in your Yammer community?

How do we hold people accountable when everyone is there’s no clear hierarchy of a reporting line? Maybe spend a little bit of time talking about the content you have been writing about accountability… I think that’s really valuable in the context of what we’re talking about here

Simon: I think the key to the points I have been exploring on my blog are that when you start to think about what accountability means… we have a traditional view of what accountability means in a hierarchy which is when other people use their hierarchical power to hold me to account. We actually know that that’s not a particularly effective form of accountability because it relies on the people in that hierarchy to know what’s going on, following through on their threats of negative penalties and as we all know in hierarchies there are all forms of ducking and diving and weaving on accountability. Often, the accountability is only one way, from the top to the bottom. There’s no accountability back up from bottom to top because senior executives are held accountable by boards and shareholders and they are often remote don’t understand the particular issues that the organisation would like the executives to be accountable for. What I think is interesting is when you change the frame and say “what does accountability look like in a network?” and that’s if you don’t hold up to your integrity, commitment and promises you’ve made in the network, you’ll find yourself losing trust. As you lose trust, you lose influence. As you lose influence, networks will route around you and stop dealing with you and deal with others instead to get things done. That concept of the network thinking who they can rely on to get things done works both ways and enables people to get stuff done without enforcement processes.  It’s a natural process of “I don’t like that person, I’ll follow someone else”. That mindset of a very agile network of accountability is really at the heart of what responsive organisations is all about.

Paul: It’s not just a Yammer natural selection, it also applies in the physical world just as equally as in the digital world.

Simon: Yeah, this is a social process. One of the things I love about social business is that it forces us to rethink management in terms of how humans behave. We already naturally avoid people we can’t trust and spend time with people we can trust. Trust is the most sophisticated algorithm that is built into the human brain. We can manage really complex trust relationships with hundreds of people and know who we will work with and who we won’t, we make judgements quickly and evolve those judgements as new things occur. Being able to leverage that, rather than fixed, arbitrary hierarchies and processes. One of the things that happens in hierarchies is that it’s ok to let down other silos, you just never let down your own because you’ll be held accountable by your own, but your own may not hold you to account for how you’ve let down silos. That creates terrible dynamics within an organisation but when you’re talking about a network, when you’re working with these people consistently, you don’t let them down because you’ve got to build and maintain a relationship with trust.

Paul: I can’t think of an organisation where that isn’t an issue. As soon as you’ve got more than two teams it becomes an issue!

Simon: Because we are humans who value relationships, what you create immediately when you talk about trust, is a personal accountability. That’s not something that is imposed, it’s coming out of me, I want to be that person in the relationship and I have to live up to that. I think creating a personal level of accountability is much more powerful than anything externally imposed.

Paul: Absolutely.

Then in Episode 7, the last good episode before that terrible one in Episode 8, Hayley Bushell shares with us her top three things she thinks people should do when starting their Yammer network.

Hayley: I would personally recommend the sync tool. Even if people don’t join but at least if they are aware, even if their team isn’t using it, they might not be exposed to that network to get on… that whole syncing with your Director, even if they just see the name…

2) Get your middle management on board.

Paul: [Laughs] steal the middle management from Workcover

Hayley: No, don’t steal them, we want them. Middle management create the excitement and set the tone for our people. They’re a great asset for Workcover and if you can get that middle management… even if you get ten on board and get them championing it to other managers that would really help!

3) Community Manager, can I say that? Get a Community Manager!

Paul: Very good.

So there you have it, there are my seven favourite parts of the first seven episodes of The Yaminade. Once again, thank you once again for your support over the last nine episodes. Thanks to those of you who have downloaded episodes of The Yaminade and tune in each week, I really appreciate your support and look forward to it moving into the New Year.

For those of you who have listened to the podcast and would love to share your story on The Yaminade, please drop a line with me on Twitter: @paulwoods and I’d really love to have you on an episode of The Yaminade in the New Year. All the best for the holiday season, thanks!


Episode 5: Steven Piotrowski from Microsoft (and Aon)

On today’s episode of The Yaminade – the podcast dedicated to helping organisations build bigger and better engaged communities on Yammer

Imagine being able to harness the power of 36 000 smart and talented people around the world… and knowing they had your back when you were working with a customer?  Today’s guest – Steven Piotrowski was recently the global collaboration lead that helped create a strong and flourishing knowledge sharing community at global professional services/HR firm Aon.

By using tools such as SharePoint and Yammer, health Steven and his team were able to bring people closer together, enable the re-use of knowledge within the organisation, and ultimately amplify the success (and revenue) of consultants around the world!  It is a great story and you will definitely get value from some of the insights Steven shares from that environment.

After his success at Aon, Steven joined Microsoft as an Office365 customer success manager.  Later on in the episode we discuss some of the real world conversations he is having with customers to improve knowledge discoverability and sharing using Yammer, and other tools like OneDrive and Delve.

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:

  1. Share The Yaminade with your friends, peers and co-workers!
  2. Subscribe, and if you really like what my guests and I are producing, please leave a review on iTunes!
  3. We would love your feedback – leave a comment below!
  4. Sign up to The Yaminade’s newsletter to get semi-regular updates and notifications when new content is published
  5. If you would like to be a guest on The Yaminade, please get in touch!

Transcript of Episode 5 of The Yaminade

Paul: HI everyone and welcome to The Yaminade, the podcast dedicated to helping organisations build bigger and better engaged communities on Yammer. I’m your host, Paul Woods and you can find me on Twitter @paulwods. Thank you so much for tuning in to Episode 5, I can’t believe we’re up to Episode 5 already, time flies when you’re having fun so a big thank you to everyone who has supported the podcast so far. You can show your support by leaving a review on iTunes, just search for The Yaminade on iTunes or you can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theyaminade, find us on Twitter @theyaminade or our website www.theyaminade.com

This morning I have the great pleasure of talking to Steven Piotrowski from Microsoft. Steven is a Customer Success Manager who has just recently joined Microsoft, similar to Stefani Butler from Episode 4 so for most of the podcast we don’t talk much about his time at Microsoft, but about his previous life where he led the knowledge manage initiative and knowledge sharing initiatives for global professional services, HR, reinsurance firm Aon. I think you’ll really get a lot of value about the discussion we had as he goes into detail about how he aligned projects to various specific business strategies and objectives. We both agreed through the Episode that it is a really important aspect of ensuring your community has legs and is sustainable in the long term. Totally by coincidence, Steven is the third episode in a row where I’ve talked to someone from Chicago: Stan Garfield in Episode 3, Stefani Butler in Episode 4 and now Steven Piotrowski in Episode 5 all from the Greater Chicago area, so I think that might be enough from that part of the world now. Unfortunately being in the East Coast of Australia talking to people in Central Time in the United States means a very early start for me. You can tell in this episode as my voice is a little bit of a morning voice, I had been awake for about 7 minutes when we had started this call. But the content is well worth it. Please welcome Steven Piotrowski to The Yaminade.

Steven: Thanks for having me, glad to be here.

Paul: Thank you so much for making the time to appear on the podcast. The reason why I was really interested in talking to you today, just like Stefani, it wasn’t too much about your life as Customer Success Manager, as you’ve only been in that role since about June and we’ll get to that later in the episode. What I’m really interested in is your previous life and roles and how you used Yammer to do some pretty amazing things. Can you give us a little bit of a context as to where you’ve come from in your career and some of the things you’ve picked up along the way as you’ve come to this crescendo as Customer Success Manager at Microsoft?

Steven: Crescendo? I like the sound of that. In some respects it does feel like that because it allows me to mix a few things I’ve done over my career and pull them together. I joined Microsoft in June and it’s been a fun ride so far. Before Microsoft, I spent four years with Aon. Aon is a risk brokerage and HR advisory firm and knowledge is at the root of much of what they do in the professional services industry. What I was doing at Aon is helping push forward a knowledge sharing strategy to bring colleagues together to help provide access to and the best information and examples of the service offerings that we provide customers available to find them. Colleagues were always starting from an end-point of a product rather than reinventing the wheel every time they engaged with a customer.

Paul: Just to put that into context, how many employees is that and how distributed? Was it just the US operation or was it much broader than that?

Steven: This is where it gets fun. Aon has around 65,000 colleagues across the globe in about 500 different offices in 150 different countries, so as you can tell it’s a pretty dispersed workforce, when you think about the scale of some of Aon’s global customers, the need and ability to connect colleagues together to provide a cohesive story and service delivery becomes essential. And that’s really what we were trying to get to.

Paul: That makes perfect sense. Sorry to interrupt, keep going on.

Steven: I was responsible for this knowledge sharing program. One was how to get insight out there around who a colleague us. This is to do with their internal professional profile, something akin to an online curriculum vitae, like LinkedIn, for lack of a better term. The second one which is what really brought me here to Microsoft is that I owned the Yammer network. When I was pulled in to the project, there was a handful of people who had tried yammer and we had a bunch of fledgling networks all across the globe and we wanted to unify them to help realise the knowledge sharing vision of bringing the global firm together. That’s where I spent about a year and a half of effort getting the network unified and getting colleagues to understand the value of the tool and help them understand how to incorporate it into day-to-day workflow.

Paul: You mentioned a project. Was it a formal project by the business or this grassroots campaign that informally turned into a project and took it on yourself?

Steven: This is where Aon aligned very much with the way I advise my customers today at Microsoft and the way I always have throughout my entire career. Products are most successful in my mind when they are linked to a strategic goal of the business. In this case, the knowledge sharing at Aon absolutely was. It fell within a tier of projects on the CEO’s agenda which was called Unmash Talent with the focus on Aon’s colleagues to create a work environment that allowed for greatness to be demonstrated and delivered across all facets of the organisation whether that was internally through efficiencies or externally through fantastic customer experiences. So knowledge sharing at Aon was tied to a strategic initiative and that’s the advice I’d give to my customers today: If you want broad acceptance of a project, particularly an enterprise level project, connecting it to something that many of the folks at executive level care about and they themselves are trying to drive toward and achieve, it’s going to get you the biggest level of attention and resources behind it, and the colleagues are going to understand why it matters. That’s exactly what Aon has done with the knowledge sharing program as a whole.

Paul: And obviously there’s a really strong executive sponsorship from the leadership team because it’s directly aligned to the strategy of the organisation and ultimately aligned to the money they bring in every day by allowing people to do this work with customers?

Steven: That’s exactly right, Paul

Paul: What I would be interested in hearing is if you could break down that process that you and your team went through during the year or two when you worked specifically on trying to establish Yammer as the tool that allows people to find that expertise and unlock inside what’s in people’s heads within the organisation.

Steven: There’s a lot going on there. Aon is focused on three or four pieces. The first piece was helping to get access to the people. Who was those subject matter experts? In a professional services organisation, that is the project you deliver so how do you know that you’re bringing the right product to the right business or customer scenario? To be able to understand that, you have to know who has the skills within the organisation? Focusing on profiles and making that information accessible and sociable so colleagues didn’t have to play the phone game all the time, they could just do a few searches and get some leads. The second part of it was really around the knowledge, the outputs of the subject matter experts that we deliver to the customers. These are the intellectual property, the next thoughts and how services and products progress, those outputs. How do we make those outputs available to colleagues? That, oftentimes is often a conversation starter while you’re trying to find the right expertise to sit in front of the customer and show them where you’ve been successful in the past and clearly articulate what the firm can do for those customers.

The third piece was around the collaboration. How do you help colleagues work collectively together to create those outputs? That’s really where the Yammer piece fit in.

The final quadrant, if you will, around what they were trying to build, at this point I know that they have deployed it, was bringing all these capabilities together in an updated and refreshed intranet which becomes the way colleagues view the organisation each day they come in and open up their browser.

Paul: One place to go, you brought all these different aspects of the world together. So if I’m a consultant in Australia and working with a customer here and I have a specific challenge I’m facing, I can not only find the documentation from previous projects that were delivered around the world but I can find out who the subject matter is and I can engage with them using the Yammer network as a way to engage these people around the world?

Steven: That’s it!

Paul: Very good. So building up the Yammer community in a professional services organisation where everyone is too busy because they’re out billing with customers and they have their administrative job after hours where they do their timesheets and all the paperwork…  and obviously the distributive nature of the organisation, how did you get people’s attention? How did you get them into that community into when they had that constraint of “I don’t have time for this?”

Steven: I think that is always a constraint with anything new and Yammer isn’t an exception in that scenario. Any new project or effort you have, you’re vying for people’s time, so you have to connect it to something they care about. My approach was to hark it back to my days as a consultant at Deloitte, to enter and become my own internal management consultant to them. I was using the network to see who the early adopters of the platform were, who were contributing to it and trying to get something out of it. Early on it was quite easy to see who those folks were. I would phone them up and explain that I had seen their activity on Yammer and ask them what they were trying to accomplish. I’d explain that I had seen them on Yammer and if I could help them. Then we’d talk about what collaboration meant for those colleagues. What was interesting about those conversations was that colleagues always thought they had great methods for themselves for how they got that information, shared ideas and sought ideas from others. The more you talk about it, the more you see friction in so many aspects of work with their team and stakeholders and the more distributed those relationships got, the more frictions there were. What that did was really open up a door to talk about how Yammer and SharePoint could help reduce or eliminate those frictions. It was a great entrée into those conversations. What would happen was one of two things: Not everyone is going to bite, due to the time constraint. Some folks said “no thank you very much” others said “oh my gosh, I need you to sit down with my team and I want my team agreeing that we are going to collectively begin to work like this” and those were the people I knew I had hooked and were going to become success stories in the network.

Paul: When you met with those teams, did the passion and enthusiasm with that particular manager translate to the rest of the team or was it a hard slog to achieve that level of awareness of the desire of what we can achieve if we transition some of the work we do into an Enterprise Social like Yammer?

Steven: Here’s where that was interesting, because I saw varying examples. For managers that were very close, and this is just their leadership style, to their team, they had already painted the picture and paved the road before I turned up. Their teams were like “we’re so glad you’re here. In speaking to our manager, he totally gets that we have a hard time here, here and here. So let’s talk about those areas”. When that manager wasn’t that close to their teams and they had just tapped someone on the shoulder and said “Hey I think you have had this conversation with Steve about Yammer” and provided that context, then it was that tough slog. Clearly the former conversations were so much more fun and productive and the adoption and conversion happened so much faster than the latter.

Paul: Exactly. I’m thinking about the scale and complexity within the network are as significant as the Aon one. Are there any Yammer Wins where you think “that was so worth it going through all that work to bring these people together”?

Steven: You know what? There’s no one. Because these experiences were so individual, I stopped looking at them in their uniqueness. What was interesting to me was the growth of the network as I had those successes along the way. When I started with Yammer in April/May 2013, there were a few thousand users across multiple networks. The first thing we had to do technically was bring those networks together and integrate it with the environment and slowly we had communications and created minor awareness, never really a launch, and that’s when I began all my grassroots consulting within the organisation. Each person I was able to convert, multiplied and amplified my ability to do that. Each week I had more and more of an influx of people who would call me because their manager would call for insight and guidance and they had discovered who I was through the network or hearing about a peer having this conversation. More of those were coming my way than I had time to feel so I had to be more strategic about who I went to. The more I saw that happened, the more you saw that network multiplying effect and before I knew it, when I was transitioning from Aon to Microsoft about a year later, we had around 36,000 colleagues who had signed up to the service. It’s that milestone for me that was the exciting one. Each of those wins leading up to that culmination.

Paul: You really put that into perspective. If I was a consultant working on a customer site, being able to tap the brains of 36,000 people… the power of that and the amplifying effect for that one consultant let alone all the other networks affected by that is huge.

Steven: That’s what customers are buying. In some cases a consultant is fantastic in front of the customer who is in the room at that moment. But the customer understands that they’re paying a rate that not only includes you, but the whole organisation. And that’s their expectation. An organisation that works in the services industry like that, the more apparent and transparent that you can make that transition to everyone around you, the better those customer experiences are going to be.

Paul: Exactly. I think that’s a nice point to wrap up the discussion about your role at Aon but before that, if you had your time again at Aon, what would be the three things that you would do differently that would improve your success of the level of engagement within the community?

Steven: Three things? I’ll pick one. I was very good at being the one in the room doing the consulting. It was so much of my career it was something I enjoyed. It helped me impart the knowledge and helped me get the teams who I was advising up and running on Yammer. I think there was an opportunity for me to turn that into method. Some of that method has shown up on the YCN, there’s a maturity model that I put out there that helped me, but I think there’s more that I could have done for the folks internally. In essence, heading those teams that once those teams had crossed the proverbial finish line and produced a success story, say “here’s the playbook, guys, I need you to be out there” I think they did that in references, but giving them the tools to help facilitate those conversations and continue to push how colleagues within Aon could work out loud and work social like a network, that would have been a really big one.

Paul: That makes sense. I guess my question now is, at Aon, it sounded like you had a pretty good run and a lot of success. Why would you want to leave there and go to Microsoft?

Steven: A few things. One, being in that advisory role even as an internal consultant reminded me how much I love being with customers. The second thing was watching an organisation transform itself online. That to me was the most amazing thing being the Community Manager, the Network Manager for Aon, I was able to appear into the behavioural changes of colleagues well beyond the four walls of our office in downtown central Chicago. To see the transformation and people come into the network and openly ask questions, even if they thought they were dumb questions… there’s no dumb question, right? To see those folks transition from asking to sharing, I thought if I could do this sharing and help colleagues make these behavioural changes to make us a more transparent, knowledge-orientated company, I have to do that for a lot of other places. That’s where I picked up the phone and I have a great relationship with some fantastic Customer Success Managers at Microsoft and began the process. Lucky for me it ended in my own success story. It’s truly how I view it.

Paul: Exactly. You’ve been there for five months now. I and other people from the YCN would be interested in is that transition from an internal role to an externally focused role at Microsoft. Are there any other challenges you’ve faced, particularly making that transition? What about any war stories from your engagement with customers?

Steven: There’s two I’ll talk about. One is what it means to leave your room: Enterprise Social and join the Yammer network. The second is getting back in front of customers and talking about the products. That’s a shift in the nuance of how I’ve been with customers previously. Typically it was a services industry where, “if you don’t like the service you’re getting, let’s talk about it on the fly and establish goals that we both care about”. With the product, it’s a little bit different so I’ll talk about that as well…

For the first piece around the network… what was interesting was that towards the later stages of my ten years at Aon, I became known as ‘the Yammer guy’. You hear across CSMs, “oh you’re the Yammer guy?! How are you everywhere in the Yammer network all the time, don’t you ever sleep?” Yeah I did sleep, but I was having a ton of fun, working hard being visible and making the connections. When I came to Microsoft and truly saw how the Microsoft team works inside Yammer, particularly the customer success organisation… it goes from high-school football to pro… that’s the way I think about it…

Paul: Just without all the money!

Steven: They embraced the work out loud culture and everyone challenges each other to continue to demonstrate those behaviours and think through other ways that is possible. This expands into the second part I want to talk about, the product as a whole. The CSM organisation lives and breathes by working out loud and CSM itself. So everything we bring to customers starts with our own organisation, right? You can think about the progression… customers who started with Yammer, then our transition to Office365, we as CSMs, and it’s clear even before I joined, the team has been doing that long before. Learn what the tools can do, play with it in a ton of different ways and walk into customers with ideas that we have tested where we know work and circumstances where they fall down. When a customer says “we want to try this”, we can actually say, “we’ve tried that experiment and used this combination of Offic365 tools to see these outcomes, but if you tweak it this way and add a note to it, think about sharing more broadly, the SharePoint piece linked in Yammer, then try it this way, we’ll have a much better output”. What that does is helps the conversation with customers to think about their user cases without as much trial and error that would be there otherwise.

Paul: That makes perfect sense. I’ll just echo that point as well: having enough knowledge about the products to be able to solve a problem. It’s a powerful discussion you can have with the customer when you can give a few options to solve that specific problem for that customer, not just a generic “here’s a brochure, this is what I can do, move on” type conversation.

Steven: I think you’re bringing up an important point here, Paul. Every time I’m in a conversation around the tools themselves, you can easily get overwhelmed with all of the things the tools can do. Where that becomes salient is when you start asking and transitioning from the tool conversation to the “how do you work today and how could you better work tomorrow?” discussion. That’s when it’s less tools and more about “how do I begin to reduce friction in this one area?” Then the tools become easier to identify and the functions within those tools that are going to help you get to that better place of working collaboratively with your colleagues. If I want one thing for folks listening to this to think about, it’s to pull away from that tool-focused discussion and think about where colleagues have a hard time collaborating together, interacting with each other, bridging time zone gaps, bridging geographic gaps, get it down to where individuals need help connecting then the solutions become much easier to envision and more tangible to explain.

Paul: Exactly, because you have something to ground the conversation in rather than “this is what this button does and this is how you connect people together”. There’s that business context and value which makes it easier to talk about. You started talking about user cases. What I’d be interested to hear is some of the more unique user cases or some of the things a little bit out of the field where you thought “ah that would be an interesting problem to solve, let’s see if we can solve it with the tools we’ve got here”?

Steven: One is one that I’ve been playing with my knowledge sharing background… My knowledge sharing exposure started long before Aon. The question of how do you curate content and how do you help colleagues begin from a point that isn’t a point of origin in their own silo. One of the things I continue to tinker with is “how do you help colleagues think of the work they do at two key points if not others…?” When I begin a new task, pause and stop, keep yourself from jumping in and put a little plan together and how do I get it done? Do a little bit of research. Do the research in those collaborative places where you know your colleagues are. That’s where Delve really comes in and it’s been great for me in accomplishing this thing, as well as OneDrive and SharePoint, not to mention the conversations that are playing out in Yammer. I have found that a few hours of research on a topic puts me in a far better place to structure a plan that is grounded in others’ experiences which already starts me off from a place where I can avoid a handful of pitfalls or avoid going into a ditch.

Paul: For the people listening to the podcast who aren’t familiar with Delve, which I think is the best thing ever since sliced bread, can you give us an overview of what Delve is and how you can use that tool in this context?

Steven: To me, Delve is the full manifestation of one of the many things that Office365 can bring to organisations and individuals. It takes signals from each of the workloads. So SharePoint, OneDrive… it’s going to continue to expand from there… and begin to create connections around who has liked a document, who has shared a document with you, etc. It takes all these signals and you can go in and see a homepage and see content that the system thinks is relevant to you that day. Beyond that, you can search things you are explicitly looking for and it will crawl across the groups, emails, where there are individual connections between people and surface content. If it’s out there in Office365, then you can find it. Not all of that is there today, some of these links are still being built, but already it’s a fantastic way of surfacing things that others are doing things that could be really close to what you’re doing, and you might not even know about it.

Paul: Discovering content that might be valuable for you, but also when you’re looking for content and knowledge, it’s that extra level of relevance and closeness because it’s building on the relationships that you have with other people.

Steven: To close this piece, the second part of that is the end of that knowledge life cycle. If I’m ending my project with research, I should be ending my project, understanding that someone out there wants to do research. Even If I’m in the early stages of changing the way I work to work as a network and work out loud, at a minimum in my efforts and thinking about what I learned and where my inputs and outputs were and putting them into the Office365 space (SharePoint, OneDrive), or using Delve or other tools, it enables somebody else to start up where I left them. I view it as the courtesy I owe them for the amount of time I invested in something, so they wouldn’t have to start from a place that I was when I was at, three months before I completed it.

Paul: The organisation has invested a lot of time and money to pay your salary while you’re trying to solve that problem. If you’re a good corporate citizen, you need to pay that back so other people don’t redo that work all over again. But from a personal point of view, if I knew someone in the organisation had just solved disheartening situation for myself. Actively sharing the outcomes that you get from this work is paramount when you’re engaging these communities.

Steven: There’s a second piece that I’ll add to that. Not only do companies want to get what they can for my salary and what they’re putting in to me, but the company wants to grow and evolve. The way you do that is not by talking to these people who are there all day every day. Innovation happens when you connect colleagues who are within different pockets or circles of the organisation. You never know when an idea or output that you landed on will be that innovative spark, but if you don’t put it out there, I can guarantee you it won’t be. So getting it out there becomes so important just to enable those connections and ideas of individuals, the right insights that those concepts push the outer boundary further out.

Paul: Exactly. It’s an interesting point that you make there that I’ve discussed with a lot of people within the YCN about innovation and generating ideas and how you encourage innovation process. I think you’ve hit a really important point, it’s not a formal process where you ask people to submit ideas for approval to then become innovative ideas that then become some sort of project, it’s about putting things in there where sparks could happen and that informal way of making sure people share ideas and you can share two ideas and create a new idea, I really like that, the power that drives innovation, even though you don’t have a formal innovation program around it.

Steven: The foundation of innovation is sharing

Paul: Absolutely, I agree. That’s been really interesting. You’ve had a stellar ride there across Aon and Microsoft with Yammer and community management now broadening out across Office 365. A lot of people listening to the podcast can’t draw on Delve or OneDrive because they’re sitting in HR or internal coms or other parts of the business that might not have any influence. What I’d be keen to hear is for those people in the Yammer network just starting out, what would you recommend to them to ensure their network grows and they encourage the level of engagement that you’ve seen at your time at Microsoft and Aon? What would you say to those Community Managers, whether they are formal Community Managers or people doing it just for the love of it, to ensure their success long term?

Steven: Great question. Regardless of your network size, you can’t go it alone. As much as it feels like you need to be in the network making connections, you need to make your own connections outside of the network too, so you can get your own scale as that is a big part of it. The second one is success stories. There’s a reason why you hear Customer Success Managers talk a lot about success stories because they do the selling when you’re not there. In addition to recruiting folks to help you, put in their hand the stories and tools for them to be in the position to help their colleagues along, even just a bit.

The last part, which is what I’ve had a chance to do now, is to take a look at what you’re doing in the network. You need to make sure that the network is doing what you want it to be doing: growing in the right places, having the right kind of conversation and tone in the way colleagues interact with each other. You’re a strong influencer whether it feels like it or not. You really influence how people behave, so get out there and show what right and what truly working out loud looks like!

Paul: And lead from the front. Lead by example. Thanks for taking the time to talk through some of your experiences, it’s been really insightful for me and I’m sure for other people who are listening to the podcast on their commute or in the office today. Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it and look forward to chatting to you in the future.

Steven: Thank you, Paul. I’ve been listening to the podcast and I’m becoming a fan. I’m glad and honoured that you’ve included me in this project. I think it’s tremendously valuable to everyone out there trying to set this up. It’s not easy, it takes effort but the rewards are there for individuals as well as companies, so thank you for the opportunity!

Paul: Not at all, catch you later