Sunday, January 17, 2010

Internal micro-blogging for knowledge sharing within a department

Godfried Knipscheer works as digital communications advisor to the Flemish government in Belgium and is project leader of a social media project. I interviewed him about the use of Yammer as an internal microblogging tool.

At our department with 50 people there was a need for more knowledge and news to share. There are many meetings, meetings and seminars, but knowledge was not structurally shared. What have people learned in a conference or meeting? What valuable experiences do we have at work?

We have created a site with a blog and wiki functions (using Drupal). The site's name is Quagga. We have tried to find a name that people will remember. Quagga is an extint zebra species by the way. To ensure that people regularly visit Quagga and see what happens, we have put in Yammer. Yammer is a internal sort of Twitter. If you put something on Quagga, you can use Yammer to share it and visit Quagga.

How have we implemented it? In an information session for one hour, we explained the whole system: what is it, how it works and why we have chosen these web2.0 tools. We have also made a number of agreements for the use. It is now obligatory if there is an important meeting to put a report on Quagga. If anyone has been to a conference Quagga is used for sharing. If you have any read something fun and professionally, we find it valuable if you share, but it's not an obligation. In addition, a small group that has the role to encourage people to use Quagga. It was not necessary to encourage use of Yammer, which was very easy to use, the threshold for use of Yammer is very low. And we have communicated everything in a very practical manner, for instance, we said Yammer is a kind of chat whereby everyone can join the chat. The combination of compulsory and voluntary contributions has also worked well.

What are the results? Actually very good. Yammer has been played the role of an internal Twitter. People post little news, interesting sites, and there is sometimes an intense discussion. I myself feel that it works for team bonding. We have not evaluated it, but people are definitely more active knowledge sharing. Some people, such men that are building the stands, are now more visible. Joining a conference is less binding. You win not so much efficiency, but it improves your quality. There are a number of people who do not participate. Some indicate that it is not for them. Others have an excessive workload, such as the editors of the magazine staff. They don't find the time to read articles on Quagga.


Ivonne de Moor said...

hi Joitske, interesting ideas indeed. I keep thinking about what we discussed one day: if there is no existing community then creating one with social media and hoping people will start exchanging is too much to ask. How was that in the case of this Belgian project? Is that why they made it compulsory to report on the Quagga site? cheers, regards Ivonne

Godfried said...

Hi Ivonne, good question! I'm responsable for the Belgian project, so I'll try to answer.
I agree that people will not start sharing knowledge just because an on line community is created. If they didn’t do that before, they won’t do it afterwards. In our case, colleagues were not unwilling to share. It just wasn't part of their daily routine. There was some sharing but there were no efficient means to do so.
Our basic goal was to create better means of knowledge and news sharing. But it’s not easy to make people change their everyday behaviour – most people are essentially conservative. If you want to renew your processes, either the extra value should be immediately clear, or you’ll have to make the new processes compulsory (the latter of which is the least effective, obviously). But that’s why we chose to make our Quagga the only channel for news and knowledge, and to make it compulsory to share some types of information. But we are not enforcing it – up to now encouragement is enough.

Ivonne said...

Thanks Godfried, that is useful. I will soon be doing something with this too and Yammer sounds like an interesting option.

Unknown said...

Hi Joitske, very interesting to read about this project. In the company i work for (Stoas Learning)we are also using Yammer. As part of a paper i'm currently writing i've taken some interviews last week, will blog about that soon. Its interesting to see how the beldians included it in drupal so it is combined with other processes. We have no rules at the time (which may be part of its succes). Do you think there needs to be some regulation if you want organization wide adoption?
tnx for sharing - Joost

Godfried said...

Hi Joost,
We didn't really include Yammer into our Drupal system, but we are using them as two parallel, but complementary systems.Whether or not to create some regulation, depends on your goals when introducing Yammer organisation wide. Some close monitoring and evaluation of the way the use of Yammer evolves is advisable though. regards - Godfried

Joitske said...

@godfried thanks for your explanations! @joost I don't think regulations are the key, but I think it is important to have management involved and to have a group with a vision on how to use it. After all it is not the goal to have yammer used, but it is the quality of the information and how people use it that matters. Did you see this article? I'm interested in your study!