How I use Yammer

Water Cooler

Around this time last year, I was at the Yammer on Tour event, sucking down the Kool Aid and wishing I had a Yammer network to participate in. Now, I’m a member of two Yammer networks—one a collective of volunteers and the other, a thriving corporate network. I’m only new to the former, but it’s been interesting observing the dynamics in the latter.

As a remote contractor, it’s easy to feel on the outer. For one, I’m a contractor, but I think I must also be one of the few people who works solo. The headquarters are in the US, there are a few regional offices around the world, and a few other people working independently around the place. While the corporate Yammer sees a lot of action, what I’ve noticed is the regional and remote people are the ones who really drive the “work out loud” philosophy that’s required to really get the most out of an enterprise social network (ESN).

When I hit the desk of a morning, I essentially punch in with Yammer and Skype. Yammer stays open all day. I might be a 16+ hours flight from the people I work with most often, but I still collaborate on a variety of projects, so it makes sense that I treat Yammer like the virtual office it can be. Here are a few tips on how to approach Yammer as a workplace tool:

1. Be real. I behave on Yammer like I behave on Twitter, Facebook, and in real life. I crack jokes, I observe, and I make mistakes. The water cooler conversation is just as valuable as Serious Business.

2. Be brave. Those mistakes? Just accept that you’ll make them. Yes, I have asked “dumb” questions and I have made unqualified statements. But out of these initially embarrassing exchanges surfaces useful information and knowledge that everyone can learn from. If anything, Yammer is a layer of abstraction from the visible hot-faced embarrassment that should make it easier for you to be bold in your participation.

3. Participate from day one. When you join a Yammer network, it automatically starts a welcome thread for you. Even if colleagues are slow to welcome you, take the opportunity to post a little background info and the things you’re looking forward to contributing to. Welcome the new people who come  after you and ‘like’ posts or threads with discerning abandon. (Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron.)

4. Fill out your profile. Yes, even those things about hobbies, pets, and children. These things help to form a sense of your personality even in the absence of your physical form. But don’t forget to add what your areas of expertise are, too. It helps others know to approach you when they have a relevant issue.

5. Join groups. Look for groups that cover your interests, departments you work with, and competencies that overlap with yours. Groups can be created as a formal means for people to collaborate on specific projects, and they can appear and splinter off organically.

6. Embrace working out loud. Use your groups as a place to put your ideas down and involve others in achieving deliverables. Look around at the integrations that make narrating your work day more automatic. People still struggle with this even in a modern “start-up” environment. Read more about working out loud from Bryce Williams.

As time goes by, many more of us will be freelancing and providing services to large organisations. Being proactive in your ESN usage can help you feel connected and involved, so speak up and work out loud.


Adapting the KCS article lifecycle to Zendesk forums

Knowledge Centred Support (KCS) is gathering a bit of momentum out there in customer support land. I didn’t want to go too heavily into KCS, as I’ve only scratched the surface on it myself, but I did want to show you how to approach the KCS methodology using forum-based knowledge bases—in this case, Zendesk.

One of the KCS practices is knowledge reuse, and the mantra is to “search early, search often”. When you receive a new ticket from a customer, or you get a phone call, search your Zendesk for existing knowledge base posts or similar tickets first. The answer may already exist, which means you can respond immediately. If a solution doesn’t exist, you’ll need to start a knowledge base article where the title includes the customer’s own description of the problem.

Searching is a critical part of the KCS method. Monitoring the keywords and phrases your customers search for can also form the basis of new knowledge base articles where their searching has been unsuccessful. If you know an article on the topic does exist but it doesn’t present to your customer, then this is an opportunity to improve that article and add the search terms that customer used, so that it turns up next time. Zendesk provides excellent forum search analytics and here’s a great post explaining how to get the most from that functionality.

The other KCS technique I wanted to focus on is the article lifecycle and how we can work that into a forum structure. KCS articles start out as a Work In Progress (WIP). This is a question without an answer. When we do have a resolution, the article moves through to Draft, but is still being refined and improved. Once it’s been reviewed for accuracy and is considered good enough for reuse internally, it’s Approved. And finally, if it’s good enough for consumption by customers, it’s Published.

Each of these stages in the lifecycle can be adapted to the Zendesk forums structure. I have several categories in my Zendesk forums: News, Community Help, Knowledge Base, Internal. News is just announcements and Community Help is based around user interaction and is largely unmoderated. When I first started filling out my Zendesk knowledge base, I was disappointed there was no way to keep an article in draft. But, there are a couple of ways you can work around this. The first way is to create a forum for draft articles and make this visible to agents only. Here, I created a drafts forum under the Internal category, but you could also have draft, agent-only forums in any category.

When I’ve finished reviewing that draft article (and any others that might be in there), I can move them to the appropriate forum, whether it’s a forum for internal use (KCS Approved), or a public forum for customer self-help (KCS Published). It’s as easy as selecting the right forum from the drop-down box in the edit screen.

For articles that will only be used on an agent-only forum, you may decide to have them in the appropriate place but with *Draft* in the title.

When this draft article has been accepted as good enough, just edit the title and remove the *Draft*.

Have you adapted your forum-based knowledge base for KCS? Add your thoughts in the comments.


Zendesk Benchmarking & Analytics Workshop

Much like their blissed-out mascot, Zendesk have such a confident omnipresence on social media that I often forget they’re a startup. With over 15,000 users worldwide they’ve embarked on a lap of Asia-Pac with a series of bootcamp and benchmarking workshops. As the Knowledge Bird, I wear a few hats and one of them is as a Zendesk administrator and customer support manager for a client, so I thought I’d go along for a bit of schooling.


Knowledge12—the wrap

ServiceNow’s Knowledge event is over for another year and they’re already planning the next one. The combined user conference/sales event gathered 2000 people in the recently reopened Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. A stunning venue, it was branded ServiceNow and completely overrun with IT people.

As far as events go, it was well-run with an excited, enthusiastic vibe. With a good-sized representation of prospects, I thought it was interesting though, that there wasn’t a clear session track for those guys and the Innovation of the Year award wasn’t given the kind of attention I’d expect at an event like this. Practitioners and administrators, on the other hand, were well catered to with labs and a great array of breakout sessions. It was sometimes hard to choose sessions and I know there were at least two or three that I now regret not seeing.


Yammer on Tour

The Yammer tour kicked off yesterday in Sydney. It comes to Melbourne tomorrow. It was certainly a well-patronised event and it was great to see so many people taking interest in what has become a new communication paradigm. I haven’t had much to do with Yammer. I have a login and just little old me in the Home network, but fortunately, Yammer created a network for everyone who had registered to attend the event. So, I had a chance to dive in a see how things really worked in there.


How to Choose and Use Business Software

I don’t really like the term “business software”. I’m really talking about service desk tools and knowledge management products, but there isn’t an appropriate collective noun for those specific things so I’ll just lump it all in with MYOB. Do you have a preferred collective noun? Leave it in the comments.

There’s a whole slew of software options out there for getting your job done. Here are some tips to help you choose what might be right for you.


An Interview with Evan Hamilton from UserVoice

I took a look at UserVoice a couple of weeks ago when a blog entry of theirs turned up in my RSS reader. As said on the website, they’re a San Francisco-based startup focused on helping companies listen to their customers through feedback and support tools. They’re passionate about understanding and engagement, which was obvious when Evan Hamilton, UserVoice’s Community Manager responded to one of my tweets. He seemed like a nice enough guy, so I asked if he’d participate in an email interview about UserVoice and the role of knowledge management.


Hivemine’s AskMe Cloud launched

US company Hivemine have been addressing the need for business-ready social media tools built on a knowledge management foundation for a little while now. AskMe has already been available as an add-on for Outlook and Sharepoint, and as a web app with collaboration capabilities, and this week Hivemine launched a beta program for AskMe Cloud.


Greater Integration Between Highrise and Basecamp

37Signals announced this week, that Highrise deals can now be turned into Basecamp projects with the click of one button. Integration on this level makes sense, and it’s something the 37signals team will be focusing on as time goes by. However, it only applies to the full Suite.


Apollo Takes Off

Created by Italian software company, Applicom, Apollo has been billed as an alternative to Basecamp and Highrise. Indeed, it’s look-and-feel is not unlike a 37 Signals product, and the new-look Google, for that matter.


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