Tag Archives: Social Networking

Our Yammer journey – how we implemented an enterprise social network at the Wales Audit Office

In a few online and offline discussions recently, we’ve ended up discussing how the Wales Audit Office is using social networking to improve internal communication. Mark Stuart Hamilton has blogged about how we’re using it and the work involved.

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side / Intranet Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru, gyda ffrwd Yammer ar y dde

The Wales Audit Office Intranet, with a Yammer feed on the right hand side

We’ve recently introduced Yammer at the Wales Audit Office – for internal use. Like other social media, Yammer is a platform where people can post messages to each other, start conversations and improve knowledge sharing.

The difference between Yammer and many other social networks is that Yammer is designed specifically with business in mind.

We had been thinking about launching an internal social media platform for ages, but the time was never quite right. But after redesigning our intranet we revisited the idea.

Our old intranet had a system called post-its, which allowed people to post short messages to the front page. Original discussions focused on expanding that system (such as post-its being targeted to specific groups of people). But we soon realised that a different solution was needed.

Various options were explored and, after careful review, it was agreed that we would choose Yammer.

Yammer has a paid-for enterprise version and a free version. The enterprise version offers more administrative tools, although the free version was good enough for us for testing purposes. So, we set up the free version, along with a small pilot group.

At the start, this pilot consisted mainly of people who had asked for a system like Yammer since they would be more willing to start new discussions and breathe life into the system. We wanted as much content on Yammer as possible before the launch, so people would think of Yammer as something others use on a daily basis – not something to use a lot for the first day or so and then immediately forget about. In line with this philosophy, we expanded the pilot over time, so that more groups and content would be created.

That said, we still wanted to generate hype behind the main launch and get people excited – to encourage as many staff as possible to join in once it was officially launched. We have two television screens in the Cardiff office that display corporate news on a slideshow.  One of these slides was changed to read “Stop! Yammertime” and posters featuring MC Hammer were placed around the building carrying the same motto.

At the start, we provided no other information about Yammer. We wanted to generate discussion and a sense of mystery. Over time, we revealed more and more information, but the intent was always to instil Yammer into people’s minds rather than introduce it as a surprise.

We scheduled training sessions for people to attend about how to use and get the most from Yammer. Some staff were initially sceptical about Yammer and we have worked hard to show how Yammer can be beneficial for business, for networking and social interaction with colleagues. However, it is worth noting that marketing Yammer as “Facebook for business” is likely to generate a more hostile reaction from people who do not use or dislike Facebook (or other social media).

A few weeks after the Yammer ‘teaser’ advertising and the ‘taster sessions’, we officially launched the redesign of our intranet. We wanted to integrate Yammer into the homepage to further solidify the intranet’s role as the primary communications platform. The homepage now has an embedded Yammer feed in the sidebar.

The new intranet was originally planned to have a Yammer notifications icon that displayed the number of unread Yammer messages received, but this was cut from the release for technical reasons and will be re-added later*.

Our old news ‘comments’ system was also replaced with a ‘separate’ embedded Yammer feed. Yammer comments automatically provide a link to the article being read thanks to the Open Graph protocol.

Before we launched Yammer, our vision was that it would become a knowledge-sharing utopia. Almost everything would be sent to specific, targeted groups, and these groups would be made public so that people in different areas could provide insight into things that they otherwise would not know about.

In practice, it is hard to tell how much knowledge sharing has occurred, since people who learn something do not usually leave a comment to say that they have learned something. We also underestimated the importance of private groups. Some members of staff feel more comfortable if their messages are not sent to the whole organisation.

We will be doing a bit of work soon to evaluate how it’s being used by staff and analysing the take up, activity rates and value to the business.

Overall though, we consider Yammer to be a success – based on the amount of interaction taking place – and expect it to stay that way in future. Generally, it has been positively received and this is reflected in the kinds of discussions that are happening.

*For the curious, the unread messages icon is actually deceptively hard to create. The short version is that it requires creating a Yammer app, using the Yammer API to make the app impersonate a user by getting and storing their bearer token, and then getting their unread message count. The problems are performance-related and should be fixable by moving certain code client-side.

Musings of a Twitter Toddler

Huw Lloyd-Jones

Ahead of our forthcoming Scrutiny Conference on 28 November, the Wales Audit Office GPX team has persuaded me to contribute another blog that sets my own ’developing’ use of social media in the context of its potential for councils and for individual elected members. We have workshops at the conference on:

  • The Role of the Networked Councillor in Scrutiny; and
  • Public Engagement in Scrutiny

Twitter has something to offer to both!

In my last post on this subject, I was a ‘Twitter Baby’ – easily amused by the new world that had opened up around me, with lots of ‘Twitter Parents’ helping me to get along and to avoid trouble. A couple of months down the line, I now consider myself a Twitter Toddler – we have to grow up quickly in blogland! I’m now more independent, but the hazards are greater than they were. I’m also prone to the odd tantrum. And bear in mind that toddlers always see the world from a perspective where they are firmly at its centre!

Toddler-with-ipad-610x300

So what kind of Twitter behaviours make me stamp my feet and shout? I suppose that I’ll become more tolerant as I grow up but, right now:

  • Some Tweets are frankly impenetrable unless you’re ‘in the know’! I appreciate that the 140 character limit demands that the author is concise, but surely the aim is to engage with your followers? Coded messages jam-packed with hashtags might be useful under certain circumstances but, in general, this Toddler yawns and moves on if it’s a good day and, when tetchy, starts ranting..!
  • Is it me, or are there some Tweeters that overdo it? When my Twitter stream is full of messages from the same source (sometimes retweeting what they tweeted a couple of hours previously), I can’t help feeling that self-promotion is the aim, not engagement.
  • I occasionally feel pleased that I’ve crafted a carefully-worded Tweet that (politely) demands a response from someone or some organisation. No response is therefore annoying, but a ‘Favourite’ badge from that organisation (without a response) adds insult to injury!

The ‘Unfollow’ route is always an option, of course but I still feel, at this stage, that it’s a bit rude and drastic to do so without at least explaining why!

Not all is doom and gloom, though, and there’s plenty to make me smile. I still follow the North Wales councils and several individual members with interest, and often with admiration. One of ‘my’ councils recently started posting pictures on Twitter of the lost dogs that their wardens are looking after, along with brief details of where and when the unfortunate hound was found. What a brilliantly simple and cost-free idea to re-unite more dogs with their owners while, at the same time, reducing kennel costs and vet’s fees! Others are very obviously increasing the type of material they post, often promoting local events and activities within the area alongside the more mundane (but nevertheless useful) information about job vacancies. Like me, though, councils have good days and bad days and I’m still not convinced that they’re using social media consistently well to signpost key publications and consultations as a means of engaging with citizens.

What about the numbers? This toddler has had a penchant for data from a young age! The table below updates the numbers I included in my last blog:

Council

Tweets

Following

Followers

 

12/9/13

1/11/13

12/9/13

1/11/13

12/9/13

1/11/13

A

1197

1257

0

61

2735

2928

B

2046

2153

14

17

3402

3647

C

6992

7313

174

197

6597

7041

D

3156

3278

31

31

4097

4391

E

1783

2049

182

208

1646

1850

F

6586

7364

3078

3102

5273

5580

TOTALS

21,760

23,414

3,479

3,616

23,750

25,437

What does this tell us?

  • In less than two months, North Wales councils have attracted an extra 1,687 followers – that’s an increase of 7.1 per cent! That means that everything councils Tweet reaches 7 per cent more people than  was the case less than two months ago!
  • There have been some dramatic changes in the number of other people and organisations that some councils are following. More opportunity to learn from others, therefore.

So What’s the Pont?

  • Twitter users become more critical as they gain experience! Sometimes Twitter may not be the best medium through which to convey the message!
  • Clear communication is a necessary (but not a sufficient) condition for effective engagement, including public engagement with scrutiny.
  • To engage well, you also need to know that you have an audience and the Twitter audience out there is growing fast! The potential for councils to use Twitter to inform, to consult and to gauge opinion is massive.
  • There’s lots more scope for the corporate centre in councils to make sure that their communications teams promote key plans, documents and reports using Twitter and other social media.

Looking forward to a thought-provoking Scrutiny Conference at the Swalec Stadium on 28 November. Be there!!

Thanks @huw711