When Business and IT Collaborate Instead of Collide

She stood watching over the IT guy’s shoulder as he made the final switch to throw them from Basic Yammer to Enterprise. As the slider choice took hold, Becky Benishek (@bbenishek) took the steps back upstairs to her office two at a time to see for herself that nothing was amiss with her thriving Yammer network. Of course nothing was. Worked as advertised.

As she came back downstairs to celebrate their launch, Dan Pankonen, the IT guy in this story, said, “That was quite the sprint. You know, you have a laptop, it does travel.” Just another friendly jab in what has been a great collaboration between Business & IT to roll out Yammer.

Yammer Kickoff Cookies

But I’ve started this story midway. Let me go back to the start.

Becky is the Social Media & Community Manager for a company that has been helping organizations like schools and hospitals create safer work environments for over 35 years. Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) provides safe de-escalation training for behavior management as well as person-centered dementia care. Serious, real world stuff. The folks they train then train others. These trainers—Certified Instructors–are CPI’s customers. And from the first time she saw Yammer, she saw a clear use case for CPI’s customers. A community that could share, contribute, and continue collaborating long after their training was complete.

Tip #1: Divide the duties and trust. This is widely known but hard to practice!

With the business challenge firmly in her grasp, Becky knew that she needed a partner from IT to ensure that any tech hurdles could be addressed. Dan, the Network Systems Manager, became that partner. For Dan’s part, he has many opportunities to try out new solutions but has to make choices where he and his team spend their cycles. He recognized that Becky understood the business problem and could handle the change management while he focused on issues related to infrastructure and security.

A timely SharePoint conference provided the opportunity for Becky to get Yammer Power User certified and for them both to attend sessions on Yammer implementation and effective collaboration. They brought this back to CPI and began to take steps on their social journey, first establishing CPI’s Yammer Home Network. Around the same time, Becky built a Yammer External Network for CPI’s customers, and named it the CPI Instructor Community.

Right away, there was a challenge.

CPI’s instructors are not a 9 to 5 bunch. One of Becky’s key requirements was that she wanted instructors “to experience no waiting on nights and weekends” to become members of their Instructor Community. External Networks have a built-in manual approval which is great for business hours, but what about after hours? She needed an auto-approval process.

Tip #2: Use the “discuss, decide, support” model for effective decision-making.

Becky, Dan, and their team faced a common dilemma for IT and Business: Do we buy or build? Dan was quick to recognize that this was a one-off problem so he recommended they seek an external solution. About that time, Microsoft’s Yammer Customer Network was moving its own members to a different Yammer network (the Office 365 Network). Figuring they weren’t manually approving thousands of customers, Becky contacted some folks she knew in the network and they put her in touch with a solution provider from New Zealand.

Once they were down the “buy” path, Dan and team’s only involvement was to ensure the auto-approval app met their security standards and that it was built in such a way that CPI’s dev team could make modifications as needed. Becky finalized the sourcing and purchase, and the auto-approval process for CPI’s External Network became a successful part of their onboarding of instructors, regardless of time of day, day of week, or holiday.

Months later, the CPI Instructor Community continues its growth, and the partnership between IT and Business is equally strong and working together to make the most of their investment in solutions like Office 365.

Tip #3: Have a plan to measure and demonstrate the value of your network.

Becky added reporting and analytics to her Yammer toolbox because she knew it would be difficult to show progress without it. “But eyeballs aren’t enough,” says Becky. “You need to show the value of your network with data. I can’t make good business decisions without that.” While there a number of options available, I am grateful they chose tyGraph for their reporting and analytics needs. All of us at tyGraph are amazed at the work they do with their customers.


Note: Want to know more about analytics for Yammer? I was very fortunate to share the stage at Microsoft Ignite 2017 with Becky. Our session, “Mining Yammer Data for Gold” includes information about what is available for reporting and analytics for Yammer and why it matters to community managers, business stakeholders, and IT pros.

Key Office 365 Reporting Announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2017

Lots to like coming out of the announcements on Office 365 Reporting last week in beautiful, warm Orlando. There is a little something for everyone with the importance of signals being recognized. What I heard: customers and partners want better data and critically, more accessible data. Here are a few key announcements from the show.


Rolled out: The Reader Role

Conventional wisdom dictates that you should limit the total number of admins in your organization. Hard to argue that. There are four types of admins for Office 365: Global Admin, Exchange Admin, Skype for Business Admin and SharePoint Admin. You’ll note that list doesn’t include your Yammer Verified Admin. While not the only one, this was one of the factors that played into the feature request for Reader role access to reports. Admins and community managers who care about what is going on, need reporting. Enter the Reader role.

The capability for Office 365 admins to grant regular ol’ users the ability to consume all the reports in the Admin Center was announced by Anne Michels (@Anne_Michels) and others from her team at the show. There was much rejoicing. Available now, all you have to do is convince your admin to give it to you. If you do, you’ll also be able to instantiate the Adoption Content Pack (ACP) just like an admin. One thing to look out for though: in our testing, if you are granted Reader role and you instantiate a Content Pack and then your role is revoked, you still have access to the ACP in Power BI. Just a data point on early testing. If that changes, I’ll report back.

Coming Soon: ACP to go GA Early Next Year

The ACP will be generally available early in the new year. The exact date was not announced. In fact, a look at the slide I saw indicated a Q1-ish, Q2 feel. But, when it does, it will have a new name: Office 365 Usage Analytics. I quibble a little bit over the analytics part as I am believer in drawing a distinction between reporting and analytics as described in this informative blog  by John White (@diverdown1964).

Coming Sooner: Teams Reports in Admin Center

If you want to talk about a Microsoft product that is hotter than flapjacks in a mining camp, pick Microsoft Teams. Two reports were announced that should show up in the Office 365 Admin Center by mid-October: Teams Activity report showing what’s popular and an Apps Usage report. This is good news but please, some signals via APIs would be nice. And some flapjacks.

Good tip: Message Center

This immediately got the Captain Obvious award but when Anne mentioned it, I made myself a note. If you want to know what is coming, keep an eye on the Message Center. That is the straight goods.

Yammer Group Statistics

The Yammer team announced group level statistics are now in the UI at the group level and will begin rolling out soon. These stats are based on Likes, Reads, and Posts and are available in three set date ranges: 7 days, 28 days, and 1 year. The key here is that the Yammer product team is listening to its user base. The level of these allow for some insights but leave room for third parties like my team at tyGraph to go deeper, if and when community managers, business stakeholders and IT professionals need it.

UPDATE: The roll out is set to begin on November 2nd. Here is the wording of the announcement as it appears in the Message Center:

On November 2, 2017, we’ll be rolling out the group insights feature in Yammer. Group insights will provide group admins and members with a comprehensive view of group activity and engagement. This message is associated with Office 365 Roadmap ID 20504.

How does this affect me?

Some of the feature highlights are:

1. Users will be able to see insights for each of their groups. – For public groups, any member of the Yammer network can access the insights. – For private groups, only members can access the insights.

2. Visualization of activities by group members and non-members across 7-day, 28-day, and 12-month periods.

3. Composition of how many group members and non-members posted, read or liked messages in the group.

4. Trends for number of posted, read and liked messages.

5. Data available for download as a csv file.”

While not a comprehensive list of all the reporting announcements, the above indicates that understanding usage and adoption is an important business goal and should be part of an overall collaboration strategy.

What thoughts do you have on what was announced for Office 365 reporting? I’d love to hear them!

(Blog notes: I sketchnote exclusively on a Surface Pro 4. The “holding newspaper” doodle is derived from a similar work by Jessica Esch (@jesch30).