One of the challenges of having people operating around the globe is creating and maintaining culture across our distributed organization. Our R&D center in Wellington is always buzzing because there is a lot of people there but we also have small teams and individuals across the UK, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Wellington. Many of our people are on the road often and a few work from home a few days a week.
One tool that we’ve implemented internally that helps build that team culture across multiple locations is Yammer.
Yammer is like internal twitter – but with more interesting content.
Yammer does away with all those group emails and allows a sense of the water cooler chat that’s going on in the company. It’s a great way for those out of the office to show people that they are actually working and connected.
There is an Adobe AIR client for Mac and Windows. I don’t like AIR apps but fortunately there is a nice third party OSX application called Gabble that I use for yammering. There is also an iPhone and Blackberry client. I run Yammer on the right of my screen so I can see the flow of conversation going on in the company.
New employees can tap right into what’s going on and get a feel for what people are doing. Yammer contains a basic directory so staff can see what others they haven’t met yet look like. (Though we seem to still have quite a number of cats working for us.)All of our staff like to hear what’s happening in development, so it’s great to hear the dialog so you can feel the progress going on behind the scenes.
Use Yammer when your message is of interest to a group of people, but if they miss it, no big deal. If you want to be sure that someone does get a piece of information – use email.
Don’t use Yammer for one on one conversation; full scale arguments (just say ‘moving to email’ or ‘face 2 face’); or stream of consciousness ‘I’m making a cup of tea’.
Yammer means you get less meaningless emails. That has to be good.
Things I’d like to see in Yammer or Gabble include:
Directory list with Skype integration and Skype presence indicators
Ability to post to a default group, so that people don’t have to view all
I think it’s important that senior people in the team Yammer by example and encourage people in their team to post. We’ve noticed it’s the same people who are likely to twitter or blog that take to Yammer. So we have some work to do to get the shy ones telling everyone what they’re doing.
Yammer was recommend to us by Michael Sampson. He also suggest we look at SocialTextSocialCast which is similar (doh got the name wrong). SocialText SocialCast looked a bit prettier but in a 40 minute test session we found SocialText buggy and the threaded discussions (which can be turned off) started to get confusing. I’m sure Yammer and SocialText are competing hard though so this should see continuing innovation from both camps.
Yammer is one of the best tools I’ve seen for helping build a team culture across globe. Totally recommended for you mini-multinationals.