Yammer takes off at Russian telecoms company

By Sophia Cheng

So you’ve identified a business need for an enterprise social network tool, you’ve selected the tool and the focus shifts to adoption and engagement.

We caught up with Dmitry Garin of Yota, a telecoms company in Russia, who have selected Yammer as their enterprise social tool.

In September 2011, Garin was assigned to address deficiencies in their intranet. After carrying out focus groups he identified the main problem area: lack of corporate communications being filtered down to all employees. Garin noted that people were not receiving company news and could not give feedback on the news they did receive.

Garin admits he did not roll out Yammer in a formal way. Instead he invited associates on his team and started sharing his activities on the new platform. In turn, others began to share content and the freemium model had soon spread through the organisation.

“It was someone else who invited the CEO. Not me,” says Garin proudly. “That was my particular tactic because people value the decisions they make themselves more. I had just started at the company at the time. A top manager invited him, told him about Yammer and how great it was. Eventually, he came to me via my CIO and asked why we were not running this project on a full scale. The CIO then came to me and said, let’s do this. We now have 90% of our available workforce engaged on the platform.”

What’s the ROI?

There continues to be an ongoing debate on measuring the value of your social enterprise-networking tool. Formulas have been developed such as Shell’s method on measuring effectiveness.

Garin believes this issue may be a problem for Yammer and other vendors. “If it is positioned within the IT department, IT has difficulty showing the results because how can you justify it? It’s good for the image of the company because if your employees are happy then sales increase. But how can you measure that? It’s impossible.” Dmitry adds, “It’s important for top management to understand that there is tremendous value in internal social networking and trying to measure it in a 'hard way', in my view, misses the point.”

The proof’s in the pudding

Garin highlights the success of Yota’s enterprise social network in 4 particular examples:

“Yota as a telecomm operator has retail kiosks, located in different public stores. Some of these kiosks are in the stores on a permanent basis. These employees are on the frontline with our customers. During winter the sales team were getting very cold and subsequently sick. Employees attempted to raise the issue but nothing was done about it. Some people even left Yota. When Yammer was introduced, one employee posted a very emotional message. Within hours the CEO commented on this post, tagged the person responsible for the issue and it was fixed the very next day.

“Another example of the benefits of Yammer was highlighted when we launched our new website. It was the biggest discussion on Yammer at the time, employees were highlighting mistakes and typos and the conversation had more than 200 comments. The project manager had fixed all the mistakes within two days. Normally it would take a lot longer as customers would not care to write and employees wouldn’t know who to write to. Yammer made the discussion neutral and the whole company helped to fix the website.

“When it comes to project management we have been using Yammer extensively. Yota are currently in the process of rolling out Office 365." Dmitry adds, “Usually the way IT systems are rolled out is that they prepare the technical stuff, send an email to everyone, which everyone invariably forgets and boom you have a new system! Everyone complains about it and sometimes it doesn’t work so the businesses may lose money. We took a different approach; we involved people from very early stages. We set up a public group for all the users of this new version of Office 365 and I’ve set up a page for volunteers. I wrote a very inspiring message, appealing to peoples’ ambitions and intrigue. It highlighted benefits of being a guinea pig, such extra storage and real-time editing of documents. The trial group identified lots of problems and shared them. They worked closely with IT, who responded effectively to iron out migration issues.

“HR then adopted the project management style. Yota is expanding into 150 cities and there is a huge shortage of talent to manage the opening of those cities. So the HR team set up a page of a project called City Managers, inviting ambitious employees to volunteer and help existing City Managers during the expansion and in turn, volunteers would be accelerated to City Manger status themselves. It was a very effective campaign and despite acknowledging then extra workload, more than 50 people signed up.”

Does Russian culture lend itself to internal social networking?

“Traditionally Russian culture, more specifically post-Soviet culture, is about secrecy. Of course some people find Yammer really annoying! Some people tell me, I’ve given them lots of problems! They blame me for the extra work and they have to respond to questions posted,” says Garin.

“It’s a cultural shift, younger employees are quite comfortable with the new tools because they are used to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and the Russian network, VK, but older people are not happy and they don’t know what’s in it for them. Some of them have learned how to use it and now share content. The exchange in information has led to learning from other people’s experience.”


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