Social collaboration in the workplace.

What’s your experience and opinion of social collaboration tools in the workplace. For example: Yammer or NewsGator, or something similar.

I want to hear the depth and breadth of opinions on whether you find these tools effective or a complete waste of time. Are they helpful or intrusive? Do they help you share information with your team? Do they help with knowledge management or do they obscure important information because of superfluous noise and chatter? Do they improve or retard productivity, in your opinion?

I find workplace social collaboration tools like Yammer to be a complete waste of time.

“Big win for the Megacorp engagement!”
“Check out these hilarious photos from Boston office happy hour”
“Welcome new Director of Social Media Martha Megatweets!”
Like I don’t get enough noise and chatter through Outlook or Sametime.

I had a feeling you’d have an opinion and I even knew what it might be. :wink:

So no value in it at all? Not the article sharing? Not the the game-ification aspects of awarding “expert” to someone who is knowledgeable on the subject so others can contact him/her with questions on the are of expertise? How about adding answers to questions to the knowledge base for everyone to find later?

All worthless noise?

What do you think is a better alternative to enable teams to collaborate? Is a document management system like SharePoint enough?

We use Office Communicator and while there is no gamification or awards it’s a huge benefit to productivity.

We have a corporate culture that supports the idea that you should be logged into OC for the entire day and that between meetings or tasks you’ll check for messages at the very least.

Many people are constantly available and for quick questions it’s a huge benefit.

In general I find that people are asked to attend more meetings than their presence is required for “Just in case” something comes up where they’re required. With OC we can have someone on call for a meeting instead of forced to sit in thus improving productivity all over the place.

It’s been a huge help in our pilot work from home project as well. Not only am I just as available as I would be if I was sitting in the office there is realtime feedback to managers when a person is unavailable allowing them to determine who is not a fit for WFH.

I was skeptical when I started working here, it’s basically MSN messenger for a single enterprise and I had some pretty bad experiences with MSN and the interruptions it caused but this just seems to fit seemlessly into my work flow.

I don’t even use it all the time to contact people, but I can easily check their status (away, available, in meeting, DND) and decide if for a particular item I should call, email or OC to get the information I need.

So used in conjunction with Sharepoint for our project and process information storage and our internal corporate website for more general information I like it :slight_smile:

We do all that stuff through Outlook email. I wish there was some other place to put it, so I wouldn’t have to wade through it and delete it all.

Or are those other options like Yammer not optional for employees to view? I’ve never seen them.

We have Yammer, and I vote “meaningless chatter”. I get emails daily telling me what exciting things are being shared/discussed, but I can’t remeber the last time I logged in. Our rollout is company wide, and everyone in all (disparate) divisions are on the same installation. Ours tries to be all things to all people, and thereby fails to fill any role well. IMHO.

I use SameTime for quick hit questions (though you do have to know who to ping, there is no “expert” designation) and Collaberation Sites to connect with the teams I work closely with.

Yeah, IM tools like OC or Lync are a big part of this collaboration initiative in many offices. It’s becoming commonplace along with web meeting tools like GoTo Meeting.

SharePoint as a document management platform (or other ECM tools) are pretty standard too.

The latest major trend is this facebook/linkedin type environment baked into the corporate collaboration solution space that I’m most interested in hearing people’s take on.

Full disclosure: I’m an IT professional currently working on delivering this type of solution for a client and though I’ve been in this profession a long time and have a lot of experience in document management type solutions in very large corporate networks, this particular aspect of professional social collaboration has me at a loss. I simply can’t see how it improves office communications in the way that it’s marketed to do. It seems a far greater distraction than an asset in many common business scenarios. I want to like it. I want to feel like I believe in it. Truth is, I don’t and can’t find a good example of it working well and having anything but nitch user appeal. And if it only appeals to a very select few, is it cost effective? Because it’s damned involved and expensive to implement and maintain.

Anything beyond a decent chat system offers little benefit, in my experience. Worse, if mismanaged (and it usually is) it can an active burden on many employees.

A good chat system is invaluable, but there are cheaper and better options than Lync, which I have found to be rather flaky.

With team members in offices quite a way away, a chat system is much less intrusive than a phone call. Lync isn’t perfect, but the integrated presentation / desktop sharing is something I use multiple times a week.

My coworkers and I have found wiki sites and sharepoint sites valuable for collaboration (each has its proponents and detractors, most of us use both though from time to time).

The latest pseudo google+ and pseudo linkedin/facebook intranet things that they’re trying out aren’t bad really either… just not integrated into work habits (at least not yet).

We have Lync and it is a waste of time. If there is any kind of real discussion that needs to happen about a subject it is done via phone or in-person if they are in the same office, Shared drives and SharePoint are the tool for everything else.

And let me also add that services like Podio that push data to everyone are mindless clutter and noise. The surest way to guarantee I am going to miss an important update is when you bombard me daily with mindless notifications of every update to every document in a digest that is an unformatted mess with tons of links in it. Those go straight in the trash bin after the first week.

Between 5 sharepoints, a chatter feature on another system, same time, lotus notes, webex, ideabook and probably others I’m forgetting, we’re drowning in information. Every department feels the need to create another communication system.

We need less, not more.

We have a lot of IM conversations going on all the time, in addition to mail lists and long mail threads that develop. It’s an international company with employees spread all over the globe, so except for email we don’t expect to have any common medium anytime soon.

This is exactly the kind of “problem” we’re attempting to solve. To create communities of interest for the employees that are located around the globe.

The more professional social collaboration solutions I look at and the more white papers I read, the less I am convinced that building what essentially amounts to a Facebook wall is anything but an effective way to disseminate information to a disparate group of people. At a certain point it all just becomes white noise.

But that may just be the way I think of working. I see great value in ECM systems where everybody can find the information (content, documents, etc) in one common place. I know there is great value in establishing team and project sites for groups of people working on a common goal/initiative. What I’m trying to find value in the activity feeds and discussions and questions posted by a variety of users and having that be something informative and usefull and part of a knowledge base that grows and drives workers to adopt it as part of their daily work routine.

I suppose one can look at SDMB as a knowledge base. I can’t think of any topic that hasn’t already been discussed at length multiple times over. A simple search will pull up anything you ever wanted to know about dieting, for example. But often we keep discussing the same things over and over again and I wonder if that adds to the knowlege base or does it just become redundant chatter that we filter as we focus on the occassional nugget of interest as we wade through the white noise.

I work at a global O&G company.

We have “communities” for different technical disciplines that can be joined. After joining them, questions and discussion are carried out using e-mail. When the question has been answered, the e-mails are combined into a single document and posted on an internal web page. There have been some nascent attempts at replicating this in a web based “Wiki” but it does not seem to be gaining many adherents.

Lync is pretty useful (when it works properly). You can quickly IM someone and get a real time response, plus do a call or share your desktop.

The white noise issue is the problem. If most communications aren’t limited to select groups then they’re unlikely to get noticed. The mail groups and other internal logs are all searchable in our information database and that’s the way we research. There is also an internal website, but database searches are much more effective than trying to browse the website, and updates and organization of the site lags behind. We also have remote meetings, teleconferencing when needed (and it’s rare that more than a voice conference is actually needed). Different groups choose their medium, it might be Skype, dedicated conference lines, Goto Meeting or Team Viewer, whatever works for the particular issue.

It is also significant that we are a software company, located in the capital city of the nation of NIH*. Finding consensus on the use of software that is not our own is nearly impossible.

*NIH=Not invented here

I work in a function with a global footprint. Microsoft Lync is a godsend for instant messaging, VOIP calling, video-calling and online meetings/screen shares.

We have Yammer in our company but it’s not widely used. I’ve tended to use it to get help with various company-wide systems (there are groups set up for these) and that’s it really. I don’t read the ‘general feed’.

I find SharePoint and SharePoint team sites in general, excellent for collaborating with documents and simple tables of data (issues tracking, tasks, custom lists, etc). There are other document management systems out there that perform a similar duty. Lync is very handy. As are various types of web meeting tools.

Communities of Interest is what I’m working on implementing currently. There are several options to choose from in this eco-system of applications. I’ve evaluated some of them. What it all adds up to, however, is the willingness of the participants to create valuable content. This is the first big challenge. The second is to drive users to it and have them get engaged in the activity by posting their own thoughts, ideas, questions and answers. The later is what I find most difficult because the workplace does not seem ready for this kind of approach to data mining - the social stream. Despite the fact that it’s completely searchable and can certainly be restricted to a specific audience, people don’t seem to grasp the idea that information can appear dis-organized but still be valuable and usable. But given that people are used to finding info by topic (usually in alphabetical order) on a static set of pages, this way of working is certainly going to take some getting used to. I was just wondering if many of you had experienced some success with this workplace social collaboration and could share some stories about how you find it useful. I’ve read enough marketing material telling me about it. I was looking for some IRL experiences.

Thanks to all those who contributed their thoughts. If any of you have more, positive or negative, please do share.