In our private life, thanks to companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, etc., it is nowadays easy to find people or information, create and share content, share our ideas and insights, ask for help or advice and join or create communities of our topics of interests. We can get access to people and information anytime, anywhere and on any device. In addition, the tools at our disposal promote transparency and foster innovation. This makes us as consumers more informed, engaged, empowered and collaborating than ever before.
In our work life on the other hand, don’t we regularly have the feeling that it is hard to find the people or information we need? Or that we are trapped in e-mail and stuck in legacy systems and silos? Or that the company we work for is not adapting, which leaves us disengaged and less efficient than we could be? In contrast to the consumer web, the enterprise is often getting left behind, struggling to adapt to current changes in behavior and technology. However slowly, the behaviors we show on social media channels are also making their way to the enterprise, as companies are beginning to invest more in (social) enterprise collaboration initiatives. This is where Microsoft Office 365 comes into play.
More in particular, I would like to zoom in on Yammer, an enterprise social network. It is the family member of Office 365 that relies closest to the social media tools we have access to as a consumer. Yammer is not just a collaboration tool, but also a powerful way to change the organization’s culture to become more social. It can help to break down the barriers of silos.
Breaking down the barriers of silos
In any medium to large enterprise, people work in silos, be it functional, geographical, project or anything else based. Most of the time, employees only interact with people in their silo. As a consequence, an employee’s network often is extremely small compared to the number of people in the entire company. Wouldn’t it be a waste not to tap into all that wealth of knowledge and experience in order to help us do our job better? However, this would mean breaking down the barriers of silos. Don’t get me wrong, silos are built for many reasons and often valid business purposes. They provide structure that allows expertise in different areas for example.
So why would we want to break them down? What does it enable for the business and how? No matter size, silos are unfavorable to an organization’s ability to succeed in today’s fast-paced and hypercompetitive world. Imagine if we could easily connect with people that have the knowledge and experience we are looking for to help us do our job better. The amount of time it takes for us to figure out a problem, research an idea or implement a project might get reduced by half. This also relates to the theory of the strength of weak ties. Social network research focusing on the link between tie strength and creativity has concluded that weak ties are beneficial. Strong ties, that are more common in a silo, lead to redundancy in ideas while weak ties lead to diversity in ideas. Weak ties act as bridges to people and information, which help us find subject matter experts and the answers and help we need.
Without a social network such as Yammer however, we have no way to communicate with all the people in your organization. An average employee often isn’t allowed to send mass emails for example, or the information that’s being shared must benefit everyone, not just people who share a similar interest. Yammer can create bridges to information that we otherwise might have never discovered. If someone has a question, the best response may come from an employee he or she would otherwise never ask the advice of. Moreover, the use of Yammer flattens the organization, so anyone can associate and socially respond equally well, be it a question posted by a manager or a junior.
The growth of social media platforms in our lives has significantly altered the way we interact with each other and has connected information and people across generations and geographies. In the same way, Yammer can help us to break down silos in a company and thus enable knowledge sharing across the organization to make employees connected and agile to adapt to change.