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.