A couple of years ago, LexisNexis set out to reinvent its business, including rolling out new products, implementing new back office systems, and restructuring the company.
At the same time it wanted to “reinvigorate the corporate culture,” said Jonathan Kerry-Tyerman, senior director of innovation for LexisNexis, a global company that offers information services to industries including legal.
LexisNexis had SharePoint but at the time -- 2011 -- it didn’t have particularly great social features, he said. Also, because LexisNexis had grown in part through acquisitions, many business units were siloed into different SharePoint implementations, which wasn’t conducive to collaboration across groups.
The task force began by looking at social enterprise tools, including Yammer and Salesforce Chatter. From the start, Kerry-Tyerman said he preferred Yammer, which at the time hadn't yet been acquired by Microsoft. “Chatter seemed to be more of a ‘me-too’ play by Salesforce,” he said.
He thought Yammer would solve the problems he was hoping to address, including allowing teams around the world that were on different SharePoint deployments to collaborate and offering colleagues a way to opt in to conversations they were interested in, rather than having to opt out by way of ignoring emails cluttering up their inboxes, he said.
LexisNexis also hoped to learn a bit about Yammer’s own corporate culture. “They were modeling a lot of the behavior we were trying to embrace,” he said. “We wanted to not just become a customer of theirs but to have a real partner that could help coach us as we evolved.”
A healthy internal network
Currently, around 8,000 of LexisNexis’s 10,000 employees are Yammer members. On any given week, the proportion of those users who are active ranges from 10 percent to 40 percent, depending on events or campaigns, he said.
A more important metric, Kerry-Tyerman said, is how diffuse the usage is and so he tracks the activity of the top 50 posters. Those top users account for 20 percent of traffic, which he thinks indicates a healthy network. In some implementations top users can account for half the traffic, he said, which would show good engagement across only a small population.
LexisNexis has also discovered another interesting statistic. It wanted to discover if using Yammer makes employees more engaged with and supportive of the company. To do so, it looked at the annual employee opinion survey, where it calculates a net promoter score -- a metric used by some companies to try to gage customer loyalty. LexisNexis calculated the score by asking workers how likely they are to recommend working at the company to family members and friends. After segmenting the responses by Yammer users and non users, LexisNexis found that average score for Yammer users is 20 points higher than non-Yammer users.
“That’s really significant,” he said.
How LexisNexis got everybody on board
LexisNexis employs a number of ongoing techniques to encourage use of Yammer.
When LexisNexis began rolling out Yammer across the company in late 2011, it already had a couple hundred people who had started using Yammer independently. It also had a similar number, primarily in sales, that had adopted Chatter.
Kerry-Tyerman didn’t forbid the continued use of Chatter, but his group worked to show the sales group how Yammer might meet its needs. To win over the sales group that had been using Chatter, Kerry-Tyerman’s group made Yammer the official social platform of the annual sales meeting, promoting it heavily and holding competitions on Yammer to attract users. His group also had a physical presence at the meeting, displaying the live Yammer feed at the event, hanging signage, and generally being available to answer questions users might have. Ultimately, as users adopted Yammer the network effect kicked in. “You go where the community is,” he said.
Kerry-Tyerman also understood the importance of buy-in from senior executives. “Rather than swim upstream and push all the executives into it, we tried to figure out who naturally are the executives who intuitively understand the technology and embrace it. We circled the wagons around these executives and made them examples,” he said.
For instance, LexisNexis’s chief product officer is “just completely fluent somehow in Yammer, he just gets it,” Kerry-Tyerman said. “More often than not he’s coming to us with ideas of things to do. Our policy is anything he wants to do we all support 100 percent. Any idea about a competition or new group he wants to create, we’ll go out of our way to dedicate resources because his success ripples out through the organization and creates an impact on the other execs who see him.”
Kerry-Tyerman’s team has done some work though to try to bring in other executives. For instance, it sets up “Yam Jams,” when an executive will be online for an hour during which employees can ask them anything they want. These have worked out very well, he said. “It really breaks down barriers,” he said. The feedback he gets after Yam Jams are typically from employees who say they didn’t expect the executive to answer questions so candidly.
The events also “humanize the executive leadership,” he said. “People go crazy when there’s a typo,” he said, because they realize they aren’t getting canned answers.
The Yammer campaigns have also spurred new ways to contribute for LexisNexis employees, many of whom have worked in roles similar to the company’s customers and so have valuable experience. For instance, the chief product officer was working on a major project to harmonize the design of all LexisNexis’s products around the world. He posted the three different proposed mockups on Yammer and created a poll, also asking people to comment about why they voted the way they did. Within a week, he got 600 votes and more than 100 “really thoughtful” comments, Kerry-Tyerman said.
Now, users are getting creative about how they’re using Yammer. “It’s taking on a life of its own. That’s a real sign of success,” he said.
Still, there’s one complaint that Kerry-Tyerman has about Yammer. “Pre-Microsoft they had an ambitious road map that addressed other use cases we were envisioning,” he said. For instance, LexisNexis was looking forward to an integrated file synch service that could replace Dropbox. Currently, some LexisNexis employees use Dropbox and Kerry-Tyerman allows it but worries that it’s a security risk.
While Microsoft is pushing Yammer users toward SkyDrive, it’s not yet integrated with it. Kerry-Tyerman is eager for other Microsoft products to be integrated with Yammer too, since LexisNexis also uses SharePoint, Lync, and Office 365. “It will happen but I wish it were already there,” he said.