8/10/12

How and Why LAC-Group Successfully Eliminated Internal Email


[Ed. Note: Last week, I wrote a post about a company that banned internal email and brought in Yammer as the replacement platform for internal communications. One of my hopes was that I'd get Rob Corrao to follow up and tell us more about how his idea of streamlining communications at LAC-Group became a reality. Rob did not disappoint and has written a nice synopsis of his experience, and gives us a little teaser that there will be more details coming out soon on his own blog, Everything Information. I'd like to personally thank Rob for doing this and I look forward to hearing more. -GL]

We decided to make the bold move to eliminate internal email about June 2011.  Over the course of a year we tested 4 different products, finally settling on Yammer.  I'm happy to discuss specifics if anyone is interested, and will be posting the entire process on my blog (Everything Information - in the next month or so....over several posts.)

We set out to resolve four key issues:

  1. How do we preserve contributions after an employee has left?  Preserve our corporate knowledge?
  2. How do we protect internal material from being emailed to the wrong party? Or being forwarded by mistake outside the org (we have all had this happen to someone we know…if not ourselves…and know that hitting the “Recall” in outlook only makes the person actually read what you are trying to recall.
  3. How do we cut down on task duplication/trip/quad/etc... what happens when you need something done right away and email 4 people...and they ALL do it.
  4. How do we bring together a team spread across 7 offices and two continents?

Top 5 reasons our staff has found that internal messages on Yammer are better than email:

  1. Yammer is a completely searchable tool that outlives any individual employee (eDiscovery compliant/accessible as well) - preserving content even post departure, rather than ending up in an archived email folder sitting on a DVD on someones shelf. It is a central repository for all messages, which enables continual growth of knowledge vs starting over/mining data (which we all know rarely happens due to time and expense).
  2. Yammer helps organize a conversation to keep track of input and eliminates the need for multiple people to have to do the research/fact finding, etc. Increasing organizational productivity.  Employees are working together to get tasks completed.  While email has tried to address “conversations” it’s simply a roll-up based on subject…and we’ve all lost a message or two that happened to have the same subject.
  3. Yammer can be as easy to use as email...or easier.  And can be faster as well!
  4. Yammer can be private – not everything has to be “public” - having a discussion that should only be amongst certain individuals - using private messages you can limit to one or several people.
  5. Yammer builds a corporate repository that allows us to search to see if we have ever had a discussion on a particular topic, client, situation, employee, etc.

BONUS: Yammer enables a concept I call working publicly.  So many times we want to know what’s going on (as managers) and rather than have to stop an employees productivity to prepare an email (ugh) to update us – we are always updated.  It’s a similar effect to what TR did with their cubicles… brought the height down – working publicly increases collaboration, cooperation, organizational awareness/knowledge and most importantly productivity.

Now to how we did it (short version).  We first ran a very tight test group, making sure that the technology worked, testing the concepts put forward by Yammer's implementation team, etc.  We decided that we would design specific groups and not allow random group creation.  One of the groups is called "Water Cooler" and has strict instructions...no business discussed here...keep it fun - bring people together...a place to blow off (of course we also have word monitoring set in the system to prevent too much creative license with words...we still have to keep it clean).

We also put out a corporate mandate that we were transitioning internal communications and assigned our Yammer champions to re-direct to Yammer.  So when people slip, and they do, and send emails, these champions will forward the email to a group on Yammer (each group can receive posts via email as well)...and then respond within Yammer.

We officially launched Yammer June 1st.  Many of those on LAC Group’s Yammer had not actually met each other...so we made photos a must.  Each person was also required to fill out their profile (completely) so that people could get to know one another (and their skills, areas of expertise, etc).  Then it was off to the races.  Within the first few days, one of our staff members in DC asked a question that would have taken them 5-6 hours to research...a staff member in NY (who had never met the person in the DC office...or even knew they existed) answered the question in 3 minutes (had done the same search the week prior).  While this happened by chance, creating/manufacturing a similar exercise during roll out would be advised, as adoption immediately soared.

When we signed up for yammer, the sales staff told us of their most successful clients where internal email was down by 40-50% - our current stats are internal email is down by 80% (and still going).  Team collaboration is up (significantly).  Teamwork where there wasn't any...and people are getting to know their co-workers, not just across the cube...but across the country.  Duplication of effort (for us this was huge) is down to almost 0%.  Working publicly is working, it’s been a real shift in our corporate culture.
Ending (internal) email isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be hard either.  The key is finding a reason for each individual in the company - if there is a personal gain, there will be adoption.

Success factors:

  1. Running a solid test group - creating Yammer champions – you have to have believers for any cause.
  2. Setting up the right way - Yammer implementation model of just let people go at it and they'll get it, isn't the right model (IMHO).  Orchestrate success – that’s how to ensure it happens.
  3. Make it fun... and have a champion for that - we have a daily post in our Water Cooler that keeps people going.  Have a stash of gift cards and make up prizes for most collaboration, most helpful this or that.
  4. Consistently push to Yammer - make sure that the team is posting there, vs email.
  5. Have some real "wins" for people - use a carrot - sticks will only get you so far.
  6. Set up email to Yammer aliases to auto-send to yammer from email - helps with adoption…and your employees don’t need to remember the long cryptic email addresses Yammer assigns to the various groups.
  7. Send regular posts on Yammer tips and tricks to help make adoption stick.  Just because we have reduced email by 80% doesn't mean it will stay there.  Have to help back-sliders.  We have a daily tip post that goes in our Yammer 101 group.
  8. Dispel myths about email being faster - set up SMS notifications for groups and individuals, as well using the Yammer app (iPhone, Android, BB, iPad, PC, Mac, etc.) to show speed and ease of use.
  9. Use @mentions and #tags to draw attention to people and organize topics.
  10. Find a success factor for each and every participant - it's got to personally benefit each person, or they won't use it.

I'm at rcorrao@lac-group.com if you have any additional questions.

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3 comments:

Traci Dean Walters said...

When I first started to read this I had no idea what Yammer was. Now I sure do! Thanks for the very informative post!

Jeanette said...

I'm definitely guilty of sending an email to the wrong person. It's one of the things I love most about Yammer... I don't have to worry! Great post. Love the success factors!

Jeanette said...

I'm definitely guilty of sending an email to someone outside the organization. With Yammer, I don't have to worry :)

Enjoyed the post! Hope Yammer is continuing to treat you well.

Jeanette

 

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