CASE STUDY: How Yammer can help local government innovate

“Yammer?” a colleague once asked, “isn’t that a Black Country word?”

Actually, no. It’s a web-based platform to allow people from the same organisation to talk to each other.

Used by 80,000 comanies as of Septrember 2010, it’s a way of sharing ideas, links to useful websites and for asking for help to crack a problem.

You need your organisation’s email address to access it so it’s a walled garden to allow discussion that cuts across directorates and teams.

The best thing of all?

It’s free.

It’s been used at Walsall Council since October last year when members of the communications team Kev Dwyer and Mel Lee came across it at the Hyperlocal Govcamp held in Walsall. Our head of communications Darren Caveney saw the value in it straight away.

In the first five months more than 600 people have signed up from around 8,000 employees.

Isn’t this just a glorified water cooler where people talk about last night’s telly?

Actually, no.

There’s a string of useful discussions.

  • Webteam members asking for feedback on how our website header should look like.
  • Transport asking what people thought of bus lanes.
  • A link to a Guardian Society piece on what hyperlocal blogs are.
  • A link to a blog written by a Cambridgeshire County Council officer on localism.
  • A thread on heavy imminent snow and best routes out Walsall.
  • A discussion on what planning pages should look like.

STATS ON HOW YAMMER IS WORKING…

We took a snapshot of 27 days of Yammer activity at Walsall Council from December 2010 and January 2011.

What we found were people busily innovating. Of the sample of 188 posts and comments:

82 per cent were work related

17 per cent were non-work.

Of the non-work posts, a third were about snow, information they’d seen in the staff e-mail Weekly Bulletin, on the intranet or were New Year greetings.

Not one was about Saturday night TV. Not one.

That compares favourably to the amount of time spent off-topic in some meetings.

Of all activity:

37 per cent were posts

63 per cent were comments.

What were the work-related topics about?

61 per cent were about proposed policy ideas.

For example, how a new operating model should look or what should happen to a new initiative should look.

Some were happy to ask for input while others were an update on what their team were working on.

22 per cent were on actual policy.

Such as an update on new sickness arrangements.

10 per cent were posting links.

A useful website, page on the council website or blog, such as a news story on how smart phones are having an impact.

0 per cent were abusive.

Not a single post on any subject was intemperate or even remotely threatening the code of conduct. That’s important to know and shoots down an early worry.

The regular cry ‘we need to be better at communicating with each other’ has never been louder.

Yammer is proving one way to do it. It won’t do it on it’s own but it is a powerful tool.

Links:

Yammer on Wikipedia.

Why Yammer failed at my organisation.

A Yammer experiment in local government.

LGC Comms Yammer thread with an account of the Kent County Council Yammer network.


15 Comments on “CASE STUDY: How Yammer can help local government innovate”

  1. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for sharing….a silly question but has anyone complained about the “logging in” and the “notifications”?

    Carl

  2. Dan Slee says:

    Hi Carl. No, people have been generally fine with the logging in. There’s maybe 20 people ata time who are on yammer when you log on. Several of those will have minimised the URL along with several others.

    The one complaint there has been as far as notifications are concerned are people who have clicked the wrong button and get an email notification EVERY time someone posts or comments. I’ve opted for once a day which is perfectly okay with me.

  3. usedbyyou says:

    Love the stats you have shared! Thanks for linking up my blog!

  4. […] to Dan Slee for allowing us to repost this. View the original on Dan’s blog or follow him on Twitter @danslee. Posted in General, LearningPool Blog | Tagged: communication, […]

  5. Austen Hunter says:

    Hi, a while back we set up a “Local Government” Yammer Community to link local authorities using Yammer, share bast practice, make contacts, discuss new initiatives etc. We’ve linked up 12 “.gov.uk” domains so far… just added Walsall… let us know if any others need adding!

  6. Have I got this wrong or does this average at 7 total posts a day? From more than 20 users? This doesn’t seem very active. Other question is did these conversations have to be semiprivate? What is advantage over twitter? Thanks
    AM

    • Austen Hunter says:

      Here’s some of the advantages of Yammer over Twitter (thanks to Ed Krebs & Juha Krapinoja):
      1) Yammer separates work from non-work;
      2) There are no character limits so you can get better answers;
      3) Information is more focused, more relevant, less noise;
      4) More control over risks (especially with upgraded version);
      5) Business focused apps (eg Polls, Questions etc);
      6) No adverts

  7. […] One of the popular internal social networks is Yammer. In design it has a familiar Facebookesque feed at its heart asking you the Twitterstyled question ‘what are you working on?’ and there are plenty of other features to play with (groups, polls, share files, etc). It’s free to set up and that meets most needs but there are benefits to the full version (albeit for an eye-watering $5 per user per month). Some councils have been using it to good effect. […]

  8. Austen says:

    …you can find the “Local Government” Yammer Community here http://www.yammer.com/localgovernment ..so far there’s representation from 17 authorities, including some from Netherlands + Australia …it’s open to anyone working in govt🙂

  9. lawrence serewicz says:

    Dan,
    Does Yammer replace or supplement the need for an intranet? I would be interested to see how this works alongside or whether it replaces your organisation’s intranet.
    Thanks
    Lawrence

    • Dan Slee says:

      That’s an interesting question.

      For us, we still very much use the intranet for static stuff. Like the repository for how you go about claiming travel costs, for example. Yammer is more for idea pinging and telling people what you are up to. One day they’ll both be commonly integrated…

  10. Ross says:

    Thanks dan. A really useful post. I’ve been toying with this for a whole and I think I’m going to take the plunge and Pilot this with a team her in Northumberland.

    May bend your ear further when we get started.

  11. Great article – we’re currently piloting this in Derby as part of our ‘better ways of working’ strategy. There will be more and more people working from home so this is a great way of project managing and sharing ideas whatever your location.

    The one thing we have had difficulty with is our school staff and other employees who have different email domains – anyone have any tips for including these? Eg. @derby.sch.gov.uk.

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