Yammer at Penn State

About one year ago I started negotiating with Yammer to bring the enterprise edition to Penn State. In the past year we have had a Yammer implementation team working to make that a reality. I met with the project manager, Heather Huntsinger, this morning in our monthly update meeting and we had a very interesting discussion. One of the things she asked was now that we are winding down on the implementation phase, how do we move this into the “product” phase … essentially closing out one project and starting another one that looks at Yammer as a product/service going forward. A great question and one that made me step back and look at the service in general … are people adopting the platform? Who is using it? How are they using it? Are things trending in the right direction? Having access to both the Yammer analytics and our own Data Warehouse allowed us to get a sense of where all this is heading.

The first thing I will mention is that Yammer has significantly changed my workflow and communication approaches. Within TLT, we make very heavy use of Yammer for ongoing discussion. In the past year we have moved nearly all of our organizational conversations to a series of private and open Yammer groups. TLT is made up of several units, each with its own proviate Yammer group so those local units can have conversations. There is a larger TLT private group for larger conversation and we have a TLT Leadership Team private group for ongoing strategy and operational conversations. I even have private groups that are just for my direct reports. In the end I have eliminated hundreds of daily emails for myself and am able to stay on top of so much more in a much more streamlined way.

But this is more about who is using Yammer at Penn State — I was shocked at what the team was able to discover. The data is about a week or two old, so the numbers are a bit lower than the total user count as of today, 4,695. People use their Penn State user ID to log in, so we can look at various attributes by mashing that data against what we know of people via data warehouse … based on what we pulled, there are 4420 user IDs in the Yammer user list. Taking out 62 unknown users, we retrieved information of 4358 users from Penn State Data Warehouse. Among these users, 481 of them (11%) are faculty members, 1948 of them (45%) are staff members and 1929 of them (44%) are student members. What blew my mind was the student number … I expected staff to be another 2,000 and have students be about 500, but that is not the case.

Yammer Users

It gets more interesting as you look across the Penn State system — remember we have 24 campuses across the state of Pennsylvania. There are 2970 users from what many people used to refer to as our main campus, University Park. Among them, 325 users (11%) are faculty members, 1687 of them (57%) are staff members and 958 of them (32%) are students. There are 1386 users from other campuses. Among them, 156 users (11%) are faculty members, 259 of them (19%) are staff members and 971 of them (70%) are students. For example, there are 271 student users from World Campus.

UP Users

Other Campuses

What is striking to me is how differently the user base is at University Park and the Campuses. At campuses, about 70% of the users are students versus 32% at University Park. And the difference in staff use is staggering to me. The next set of questions need to address what are driving these differences and what is going on differently here at UP versus across the Commonwealth.

Twitter Intranet Style

I have been a long time user of Twitter for mass community connectedness. I started using it quite some time ago and while my use of the tool seems to ebb and flow, I do find it very useful on all sorts of levels. When I first started using it I was instantly struck by the power the tool could have to help my own work unit stay connected. So far it has served that purpose and a host of others — binding the PSU community, helping me stay connected to distant colleagues, and more. The one thing that always bothered me was the tool’s inability to let me focus Tweets to a group of people in a simple and native way.

Tonight as I was catching up on feeds I came across a new tool from the TechCrunch50 conference going on, Yammer. Yammer is a Twitter knock off with a few new twists. The first, and most important to me, is the notion that it is a private network open only to those in your organization with a valid @yourdomain.edu(com, biz, tv, etc) email address. What that means is that when you sign up you are signing up to participate in a network only made up of those within your organization. Along with it are a handful of enterprise-like features that make this an amazing little Intranet addition with the power of Twitter. I know people will jump at me and say this is a closed and walled garden, but take a little bit of time to investigate the product and then think about how powerful Twitter would be as part of an organizational email replacement strategy, dynamic directory, and a collaborative toolset that only you and your co-workers could access. I think there is potential.

Yammer. Intranet Style Twitter.

Yammer. Intranet Style Twitter.

I’d urge you to take a look at it by signing up or watching the quick overview video. There are features here that could be very useful. I actually invited a few people from ETS who I thought might like it (or hate it) … I’d just like some people to hang out with in there for a bit to learn more. Going in, I think it will be tough to make it work at PSU as there are a ton of people with @psu.edu email address, but who knows. I think it may be worth a look. Let me also say I don’t see this as a Twitter killer for me … my Twitter network has huge upside, I just see this as another way to get on top of constant organizational information needs. Take a peek and let me know what you think!