Why Yammer Failed

Check here for what happened next… 

Its not that Yammer was the wrong tool or couldn’t do what we expected it to do.

Its not that we didn’t have the business justification, case and ROI mapped.

Its not that we didn’t take secure measures for the users information.

Its not like no one used it.

Its not that it was abused, or someone was harassed.

Its not that the people weren’t ready and easily adapting to it.

It really wasn’t any of that.

It was some one who is higher than me, wayyy at the tippy tip-top of the organization didn’t agree. Without any explanation, clarification or justification – she wanted it off.

It was a pride thing. It was that someone didn’t have their voice heard and they were going to make sure it was heard. That was it. End of story. Yammer was cut off from our organization.

Honestly I thought I was going to lose my job, because I initiated the whole thing (see blog posts about Social Media and SAP) . I invested weeknight and weekends of time energy and research. I promoted and loved and believed in it from the bottom of my heart. I had seen a huge communication issue and saw it starting to erupt with positive findings and information.

But it was like she said NO and it was like they cut off dialog happening at the watercooler. Funny thing about it, they can’t control real watercooler chat either..

Do I think it will come back, of course. Same story (as with telephones, email, IM) different technology… hopefully by this time I have moved on. Or she has.


37 thoughts on “Why Yammer Failed

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why Yammer Failed « Doing More -- Topsy.com

  2. That’s a real shame because nothing breaks down the barriers of hierarchy like unrestricted communication. To have a manager kill that communication channel for petty reasons speaks to her insecurity.

    • Geoff – thanks for your comment. It wasn’t my manager – but WAYYY higer up (e-VP level). My manager was the biggest supporter. But you are right – I saw walls falling down that I didn’t even know where up!

  3. That’s really too bad for your organization. Your case is another classic example of rapid adoption by super users and early adopters, leading the way for the general masses to discover a new tool for collaboration and internal communication.

    Our company also tried Yammer for a year with similar results. Several teams discovered the efficiencies of a social communication tool, and I even did a mathematical study comparing typical e-mail chain communication with Yammer. Astounding.

    Unfortunately a different kind of road block came up for our company, so we too had to abandon Yammer.

    Best wishes to you. Great to find your blog from Twitter’s #postaweek2011 hash tag.

  4. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. With my new role in Yammer, understanding customer challenges is vital. DM me onTwitter @Greg2dot0 if you’d like to talk further.

  5. The flattened hierarchy of a social networks can be very threatening to those used to traditional hierarchical power structures in organisations.

    Many people think is a reason why these types of social networks will never take off in the enterprise.

    • I agree Antony! It was interesting… they can’t control what their associates say on IM or on the phone… but that doesn’t mean we stop them from picking up them phone… right? It’s def. a control and power issue.

  6. Try setting it up somewhere else, and allow people to use it subversively, or something like status.net, where you can control it a bit more.

    Perhaps a polite reiteration of the business value may take hold. Point them to the Deloitte Australia report about how it helped them,. and Deloitte isn’t exactly a bunch of creative hipsters, they have solid buisness reasons!

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    • The company won’t fail because of their product. However, they are growing so fast they are on the brink of destruction. OK maybe not destruction, but the people are tired. And confused. And… well yeah.

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  9. Do you work where I work? This is pretty much the same story. I guess pre web 1.0 email is the way to go with these dinosaurs I work with. If I hear one complaint about how full the inbox is or how someone didn’t ‘reply all’ or did ‘reply all’ I am going to bash peoples heads in. I feel your pain sister !!!

    • Email is the blood in the veins here. Whenever I bring up how email is SO LAST YEAR everyone stares at me like I have 3 heads. I mean, I only email old older people – I don’t have any of my friends emails. We just facebook. 🙂

  10. As consultants we walk into this all the time, politics and personal sensitivities are an intrinsic part of change management.

    Sometimes however hard one tried, some people are intent on derailing change however good that may be.

    I personally didn’t know if I should laugh or cry when I read this.

  11. Perhaps this seems old-fashioned, but did Yammer ever have an “Executive Sponsor” at your place?

    Yammer is great, of course. But the best ideas/technologies in the world can fall flat if you don’t have the right *people* backing it.

    • Hey Dave – thanks for your comment. We did actually have quite a few sponsers… We even had support and sign off from her team. However, they didn’t communicate it up to her.

      And ownership became confusing. Does IT own it or does Communication Department? Basically IT said “We don’t own it – we just support it.” But Communications said, “We don’t own the telephones, instant messager or email. Why would they own Yammer? We don’t own the tools, we own messages.”

      So anyways… That was a conversation that came up (as Yammer was going down).

  12. I have looked at Yammer in my organisation and seriously I cannot believe that people should be allowed to indulge in such a load of dreadful time wasting rubbish. You should leave Yammer alone and get back to work guys , people are losing their jobs and you are frittering away your time on yammer when you should be trying to maintain and improve the services you are paid to provide.

    Do you remember the hitch hikers guide how all the phone hygenists ( I can’t spell I know )
    and coomunications officers where whisked off on the first ship because the space goat was coming ? Exactly the people who use yammer.

    I saw one thread where people commented how members of the public thought local government jobs were soft , well God forbid they should see the b*******s some of our staff put on Yammer.

    My advice get off Yammer and go and volunteer to help out your social workers or those trying to find people find a house or even go and help collect the bins.

    • Benny , Thank you for your honestly. Sounds like the company you must work for is perfect in terms of communication with eachother and visibility throughout the world. Unfortunately, the company I work for isn’t – because of our growth its been really hard to find who does what, where is that and who knows what. Yammer provided a great platform for this.

      We actually saw our “services that I was paid for to provide” improve. One thing Yammer provided visibility in our corporation and people share and helped each other that would not have happened with out it.

      And no I don’t remember the hitchhikers guide – must have been before my times.. 🙂 I also spend a lot of my time volunteering as well and I agree to get out there and make a difference within the community. How are you doing this?

      • What a great response! Taking the high road but also very subtley making someone look like a T-Rex…nice job!

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  14. Having been employed with this company during the attempted Yammer implementation I have a slightly different take on the failure. It’s true that Yammer was probably the “right” tool, the team also did have a Business Case and presumably ROI mapped, however…

    From the point of view of a user, poor communication is what killed Yammer.

    During implementation a “feature” was enabled that allowed anyone who logged into the Yammer portal to easily invite other people in the organization to start using the new service. It turns out this was “too easy” and ended with a number of employee’s working at a manufacturing facility to repeatedly “invite all” effectively spamming anyone in the company who was not already a member. This created an initial bad opinion of the service for anyone who wasn’t already using it. (This constituted the sole global communication regarding yammer “Yammer isn’t spam” without information as to what it was or how to use it)

    After the initial bad impression, several people across the organization begun to lightly use the service, I had considered myself one of the early adopters and began to try to use the service, even encouraging other to contribute, then one afternoon I received a “you’re doing it wrong” e-mail from a member of the implementation team (please note: not from this articles author) asking me to stop abusing the service. Having been 3 posts in (one work related, one a general technical query, and one contributing to the Chuck Norris joke thread) I was confused, especially since there was never a communication about what the service was/wasn’t for. My conversations with other people in the business revealed that I wasn’t the only one to receive that message. I’ll admit I got frustrated and gave up, but I know of others who asked what the “right way” to use the service was, with no response.

    So here we have this new tool that was already developing a bad name. And with it being so early on the implementation, not that many people were actually using it, but everybody had heard about it.

    This is where the social aspect of social media kicked in. Everyone was socializing and using the existing communications channels to complain about Yammer (even people who hadn’t even tried it).

    The people who had been using it were complaining about being told they were doing it wrong, the people who were doing it “right” were being ignored instead of used as examples. There was no communication coming from management or the implementation team about all the cool stuff we could do, or showing the advantages vs e-mail.

    It wasn’t long before the “I can’t believe we paid $XXX for this piece of junk” started floating around. Once that occurred it was only a matter of time before an excuse to kill the project was found. It may have been an E-VP level who pulled the trigger, and She may have been set against it from the get go, but if enough people in the company had wanted to keep Yammer, it would have stayed.

    A better communication plan could have saved the project, but unfortunately we were left with a new tool, and no idea how to use it or what it was for, so it got thrown out.

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree with the comments that you posted, as that’s probably how it looked from the outside. Unfortunately, we as a team had lots of communication and training in the queue ready to fire as well as additional organizational announcements regarding other social media policys, tools etc. However, with the explosion of Yammer they did not get to pan out as planned. I spent many hours of research, planning and gearing up for a launch that never really “happened”. I also agree if more people were “for it” then it wouldn’t have been so easy for the one E-VP to discredit it and shut it down. However, I wasn’t ever as close to the EVPs before this and never had been apart of executive decision making, I began to understand who really runs the place and who has the “control” and who doesn’t really no matter what their title was. Regardless, I appreciate your time and thoughts you posted.

      While this was considered a failure, I learned so much. Plus, I picked up and moved across country to work for Yammer. Its great to have some of these lessons learned to better help other organizations! For organizations planning or thinking about rolling out Yammer, my advice is to work with Yammer closely to help grow your network and develop engagement. This is what I am helping do right now! Plus I have lots of lessons learned and now can enable others to use it to the best of their ability! Working for Yammer now, I see daily new ways companies use Yammer and capacities I never knew possible.

  15. Does it appear that people are not allowed to be contrary to Yammer ? Critical comment is wonderfully addressed with a predictable empathy – which closely reads like it borders on the patronizing, each time we read of friendly advice identifying bad experience – or dare we say it – a disparate view. How many social corporate crutches need to be introduced in order to substantiate an individual’s social commitment to the working environment ? Yammer and its likes, is a good tool – but it/they ain’t the corporate panacea.
    So, let’s all believe that everything is always good for us – and if some are not a part of the ‘in-thing’ then, they are losers, right ?
    For some, it’s hip to be square. That’s neither right or wrong.
    In he mean time, let’s all look at the Big Screen, taken with the Big Soma, and let’s all bow in homage to Big Brother for this word must be the truth – and what is said there, must be unquestionably good for all – under all occasions. Let’s not be too harsh of those who choose to turn away now an then.

    • Hi Ab Bronze, I am not sure I understand the purpose of your comment. What exactly are you trying to say? Honestly, I would rather you just say it plainly and with clarity without poking around whatever you mean. I appreciate the time you took to write a comment, but with a made up email address and fake name, I think I will take what you have to say with a grain of salt. Thanks for reading.

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  17. My organization has had it for a year or two now. Not a tool for traditional businesses. The kinds of individuals it draws in are those that spend all day hanging around other people’s desks, talking about the latest sports news.

    Adoption among hard working employees after week 4 is zero.

    • It depends on how your organization is uses Yammer and what the perception is for people. I’d love to chat more about how to move those “social chit-chatters” into their own group and focus on talking about business vs what they had for dinner last night. I wouldn’t want to read that either! Also – I have a strict “NO PARKING” sign on my desk — So I know what you are talking about!

  18. I agree that in rolling out Yammer you should never ‘force’ anyone to join, rather ‘entice’ them by showing the value. In every presentation I do, I make this clear. Having said that, it appears that the higher in the organisation, the greater the resistance to its adoption – and in some cases – the stronger the will to get rid of it.

    • I think people are resistant because they dont know any better. Once the higher ups understand how open and transparent tools can start to save their organization money, time and improve processes they will come around. But I agree – it doesn’t happen overnight. Keep fighting the good fight!

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