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6 ESN implementation mistakes: Xerox using Yammer and Chatter

13 minute read

The implementation process of an internal social network is essential for its success within large organizations. Because Speakap cares about it very much since its start in 2011, the employees of our corporate clients enter our platform three times a day. Therefore, we were surprised to notice new scientific research concluding document-outsourcing giant Xerox (131.800 employees) poorly implemented both ESN’s Yammer and Chatter.

Actually, we were very surprised. Not only because we emphasize the importance of the implementation process and consider Yammer and Chatter as experienced players in our social software market, but also because the comments of employees give an opposite impression of the added value of Yammer than this commercial case video does.

In their report ‘Understanding individual user resistance and workarounds of enterprise social networks’, published by the Journal of Information Technology, researchers found several top-down and bottom-up pressures which led to the poor adoption of both Yammer and Chatter. As usual when a company is involved, the researchers anonymized their research location and called it 'Service Ltd'. But they forgot to anonymize one part which made clear Xerox was their focus.

6 implementation mistakes

Based on their report, we could identify the following mistakes within the Xerox’ implementation process:

1. No specific guidelines put forward

The researchers found out employees had to figure out themselves if social media guidelines exist and to which extent they apply for Chatter. They state:

"Regarding policies, it was learnt that there is no official, specific policy for Chatter’s use or content. However, there are conventions and behaviour guidelines. If further information about policies and procedures on Chatter is required, then the users are referred to the social media guidelines provided for Yammer (which is rolled out at Xerox in 2008), which are viewed to be applicable to Chatter as well."

"The Chatter Champion stated: ‘We believe that people are aware of the guidelines for Yammer, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, so we do not have to inform them some more. This will cause an information overload. We anticipate that people will use Chatter the “right” way’."

The researchers’ judgement:

"This implies that users are allowed to enact workarounds, which suggests that even though the intention for using ESN is clearly provided, it does not necessarily involve faithfully following the established laws to the letter."

Our approach:
By not pro-actively putting forward guidelines, the exact purpose of Chatter and the proper way of using it, remains unclear for employees. This leads to indistinctness and uncertainty about the platform, and ultimately poor adoption. We therefore always emphasize the importance of putting forward guidelines to provide employees clearness about the objectives and the use of the platform.

2. Poor access:

The researchers cited a manager:

‘"Yammer is connected to SharePoint, but this is only a window. There is no real integration to our systems. In fact if you go to our intranet, you cannot find Yammer. You need to log into Yammer and then find Yammer’. For Chatter, initially a Salesforce account is required, which if an individual has, then (s)he is provided with access to the portal."

And then they state:

"Due to such views, it was felt that there is little, to no place for an ESN, particularly Yammer that involved logging out of the system and using it. As the Yammer champion mentioned, the intranet explained the directions for using Yammer and illustrations of Yammer use were provided in SharePoint."

The researchers’ judgement:

"These findings suggest that Yammer is a distinct system, separate from the working system. A limitation also exists in that not all the stakeholders of the bidding process have access to Salesforce; hence they are not aware of its existence or use. To those who have access to Chatter, some choose to ignore it due to work commitments, while others access it solely on a weekly basis when online forms require updating. Owing to these circumstances, we classify Chatter as an independent application, yet part of the system, and as a result it may be seen as a loosely coupled system."

Our approach:
For optimal adoption of an internal social network it’s very important to make clear all internal communications should take place within the ESN. The internal social platform should be the hub for all internal matters, especially as top-quality ESN’s consist of an ecosystem of enterprise software meeting all the needs of employees. Although ESN’s are highly suited for secured and privacy-proof communication with external partners, companies can then use e-mail, chat bots and public social media to have conversations with external stakeholders.

3. Fruitless comments (from senior management):

The researchers state:

"The ethos or work practices of the various organizational members, whether at a senior management position or at an end-user level, are guided by the issue of quality. A comment made by a Change Manager, e-mails sent to the organization and postings on the intranet illustrate the relevance of differentials and disparities in professional ranks, the role of sponsors in the organization and their importance in implementing an innovation."

And then they quoted a Xerox manager:

"To increase user numbers, we held a collaborative brainstorming session at Yammer with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) speaking about Service Ltd future in 75 years. We believe that due to her status, her discussion will create an interest within members of the organization’.This was further confirmed by the Yammer Champion, who said that having a newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer would lead to changes in Yammer usage."

"In the week after the session, during the interviews with the staff, a ‘watcher’ of Yammer updates informed the author that he had taken an interest in the discussion and had widened his views about the organization. However, he also spoke of being disinterested by the CTO’s remarks about her own activities, for instance, ‘I am about to fly now’, and would have much preferred an emphasis on the discussion. Other members in the organization expressed the same opinion."

Our approach:
First of all, we emphasize again the added value of embracing an ESN as the number one internal communication platform. An ESN, existing of timelines just as most of our personal social media, provides a perfect stage for managers to have conversations with a group, a department or the whole organization. These conversations drive engagement, knowledge sharing, efficiency, quality of (customer) service and improve the employee experience.

Now, when a manager is posting superficial comments, maybe just to show he ‘does something with social media’, it’s clear there’s misunderstanding within the top management about the added value of an ESN. And also proof the involved ESN is not taken seriously. A company embracing an ESN should have clear business objectives, share these objectives with the senior management and thoroughly instruct the managers what kind of use fosters the objectives. In either way, an ESN is always meant to improve the employee experience.

4. Positioning an ESN as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have:

This mistake is comparable with the previous mentioned one. If you want to ensure an ESN is successful, do not position it as ‘software on the sideline’. As developer of the social platform Speakap we always make sure prospects are aware of this. We pride ourselves having customers whose employees use Speakap within a month after launching, and on average, connect with the platform three times a day. All because our customers really embrace Speakap from the start.

Xerox doesn’t fully embrace Yammer or Chatter. Researchers’ findings make clear these ESN’s are not an integral part of the organization, but actually are sidelined. They state:

"With regards to Yammer, participants viewed logging in to and the updates provided by it as being of no ‘business and work’ value to them. From the interviews, observations and access to Yammer’s website for Service Ltd it was discovered that Yammer is viewed to be more of an entertainment ESN for which individuals had no time. As an Internal Communications Manager commented, ‘The content in Yammer is very general. Very little is applicable to Service Ltd.’ A Business Consultant remarked ‘Using Yammer is not of any value to me. It has no relevant information for my work.’"

"Further, Yammer is considered to be a detached ESN, which means that no one has time to spare for it. As the Yammer champion noted, ‘Yammer is an extra activity to a daily task and in such a pressurized, meeting deadlines environment, one cannot afford to increase one’s new activities’. When speaking with the Yammer champion, the issue of time was mentioned: ‘people also don’t post on Yammer because they feel like my manager might be watching and this might not count as work and seen as a waste of time’. As a result, access to Yammer is more cumbersome and is viewed to be a singular system, which is detached from the rest of the IS."

And about Chatter:

"With regards to Chatter, participants’ actions and opinions suggested that despite its integration, staff members still choose to ignore it, depending on the particularities of the specific workday, which accounts for it being regarded as a loosely coupled system. A Marketing Manager mentioned the value of Chatter’s information to her work, but also commented on the tight deadlines and long hours preventing her from using Chatter: ‘I use Chatter as it contains sales directed information, which is of use to me. However, the logging into the salesforce.com account prevents me from accessing Chatter. If I was asked what I would want differently of Chatter, I would say it is the logging in part’."

The researcher’s judgement:

"In both instances, the implementation of the two ESNs, especially that of Yammer, seems to allow an explicit resistance to surface, and to facilitate the deployment of workarounds. This is somewhat surprising, particularly if one considers that there are relatively specific policies and procedures in place for the organization’s operations and day-to-day activities that do not allow staff members to deviate from them. Further, despite the implementation of the two ESN having the support of senior management, their actual use has not been explicitly specified. As a result the two ESNs are not well-implemented, leading to their non-use."

Our approach:
As Xerox apparently considers Yammer to be a detached ESN, it’s obvious why employees avoid it. Once again, it’s very important an ESN is a central hub within the organization. An ESN should be the hub where all internal communication takes place (proper implementation processes contain the removal of shadow IT), accompanied by an ecosystem ensuring that employees can execute their other daily tasks at the same platform.

5. Poor registration and off-boarding policy

The researchers found out the following:

"To access Chatter and Yammer, there is a formal approval policy, which is embodied within the organization’s IT systems. For Yammer specifically, from intranet and the interview, it was shown that the rule is that a user must have a corporate e-mail address, that is, once an official Service Ltd e-mail address is provided, an individual can access Yammer. To get this address, the individual needs to get cleared by the security, IT and Human Resources Department."

"This process for logging into Yammer was made possible in 2012 after the double accounting issue was discovered. As the Yammer champion mentioned, ‘We poked around Yammer and found that double accounts were formed as individuals who had left Service Ltd, but due to an individual e-mail account could still access Yammer. Therefore, for the organization they had left, but we were counting them as a Yammer user.’"

Our approach:
As Speakap also serves organizations with hourly workers, employees can be registered with a company and a personal e-mail address. This doesn't affect our 100% secure approach. In case of a large amount of new network members, Speakap is always connected with the HR system of the client. This HR system provides the necessary information whether employees are automatically on- or off-boarded, and to which relevant network groups they are automatically added within Speakap.

And as our clients use Speakap as their central internal communications hub, the attention of network administrators is always directed to our platform, as other software solutions for internal communications do not exist. Administrators can control the authorization of employees as well.

6. Pressure for senior management

When a professional implementation process isn’t set up, thus started and guided by the provider, a company puts too much pressure on the senior management.

The researchers state:

"An important implication of our study is that when considering bottom-up and top-down pressures, there is an additional form of pressure: organizational goals, activities and purposes, which needs to be addressed when considering the implementation and use of an information system. It can be understood as an extra-organizational form because of the information and knowledge of the organizational goals, activities and purposes being in the realm of senior management teams rather than that of users."

The researchers’ judgement:

"There need to be certain and clear reasons for the implementation and use of an ESN. Once this is achieved, the next step is to ensure that the ESN is aligned with the top-down and bottom-up pressures that can lead to its better development and allow the emergence of ‘discursive institutionalism’. In addition, the organization’s main ‘work and business’ motive and purposes need to be clearly and transparently presented to the developers, implementers and diverse users of the system. In essence, the stakeholders of an ESN need to be clearly acknowledged and their roles defined and identified within the ESN."

Our approach:
In essence, social software is a technical solution, but its success is dependent of managerial decisions shaping the internal communications strategy and practices. Senior management’s involvement is necessary, but managers should be guided by implementation experts to align organizational processes with the existence of an ESN.

We feel it's important that managers show their leadership at an ESN, as this truly inspires the organization and shows what kind of content is expected at the platform. Speakap helps managers to create a suited content strategy to make this happen. We have years of experience with preparing pilots, corporate roll-outs and creating tailored implementation strategies.

The social future of Xerox

It would be interesting to get insights about how Xerox took advantage of the learnings the scientists provided. Especially with regards to Chatter, which ‘is just taking off’. This is also a suggestion the research report puts forward: “It would be useful to examine whether Chatter will have the same fate as Yammer, or it will transform into an integral system to the work activities and processes of the organization.”

Bas was Speakap's first marketing manager. He enjoyed gaining a lot of scientific insights about the value and impact of internal communications.

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