Email vs. Social Round 1

I came across my first internal bout today where I posted some recent Azure announcements into Yammer and did not email the news around the company instead.

email-vs-social

It’s an interesting example and potentially valid push back from those who missed out in information.

This opens up a wider adoption conversation about what approach works best. There have been some good articles and thought leadership emerging that suggests a pilot is a bad approach and in fact if you build it “they” will come.

It’s the “they” that deserves focus – your colleagues who are not yet utilising enterprise social tools such as Yammer either because I/you have failed to include them, or you could argue that this is the true nature of social where you don’t need to intentionally include colleagues up front, but rather rely on information osmosis where the information availability itself is the hook to collaborating socially with your colleagues.

There is one fundamental flaw in this latter approach. It’s all well and good me posting content exclusively on Yammer to force adoption (as recommended within the Yammer Power User training), but as an organisation rolling out Yammer you equally need to be clear on your mandate for making the decision that people should be “encouraged” onto the Yammer platform for collaboration.

Officially, the line from Yammer is that it’s about educating your colleagues on the benefits of Enterprise Social. But as with any education you need to ensure that you personally are qualified to educate your target audience and understand what their needs are. After all, with any technology who is to say a professor of social outranks a general of email.

Technology adoption is all too often pushed down to individuals which in some cases is unfortunately necessary to ensure advancement for the organisation overall.

I believe a user led approach where your colleagues want to pull others into a new technology (such as Yammer) is going to be far more effective in the long term.

You still need an organisation mandate to make Enterprise Social happen, but it’s the boundary points of where this happens that requires collective thought leadership and relative consensus (where possible) on how to and when to engage with each other.

Some organisations might take things quite literally and say “If you are emailing information relevant to more than x people then use Yammer”. Others may take a slightly looser approach and recommend that industry announcements are maintained in Yammer but client related content remains in a combination of SharePoint and email.

Much like with Cloud adoption – I’m a fan of “Enterprise Social unless”, the “unless” is the variable that you need to define within each organisation.

To address some of my personal views on pros/cons of each approach (and I’m happy to change):

Email

Pros

  • Simple to send externally
  • Still appropriate for formal communications (either with clients or internally)
  • Best fit for sensitive information (eg HR related correspondence)

Cons

  • Email is bound by the original recipients. You can forward emails to include new participants but this may not include all historical correspondence
  • Topics tend to fork in different directions – easy for someone to drop off the latest version of the truth
  • Can be considered noisy – you receive an email regardless of whether you are interested in a subject – particularly relevant for long running threads

Yammer

Pros

  • You can collaborate not only on those conversations you are in involved with up front but also wade in on other conversations of interest
  • As an extension to the above point you can discover colleagues who can add value to your conversation who you would not have otherwise included
  • Conversations are structured with their replies grouped inline
  • You can subscribe to conversations, groups, or colleagues that you find interesting
  • …. The list goes on (OK it’s basically corporate Facebook but with some governance and top level control)

Cons

  • Lack of archiving tool integration
  • Inability to restore deleted content
  • If not used properly it can be easy to miss critical information (assuming announcements are not used)

I’m sure I’ve missed some pros/cons or in fact noted something other people will disagree with – but the key point is that there is no clean answer for all situations.

Enterprise social vs. email is not a one or the other question – it’s where you decide to guide your colleagues as to what situations would be best (but not exclusively) suited for one approach or the other.

Sometimes it’s both!

For me Yammer is the perfect tool for posting technical information. Selfishly it’s a reference for me – I can easily search for it later. Additionally, my colleagues can choose to hook into this source of information and either consume or hopefully contribute and add to an idea (even if it’s to rule something out), but more importantly break down barriers and create a more visible environment.

In my world, working closely with a variety of technologies requires some creative critique from your peers.

So my result from the first bout?

1:1

Email is not going anywhere but Enterprise social can’t be ignored as a valuable business tool. There is room for both – your boundary points will simply shift.

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