Friday, 16 November 2012

Yammer Be There - Banning Internal Email

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I read an interesting article this week about Halton Housing Trust looking to ban email by 2014, that captured my imagination. An estimated forty per cent of staff time was spent ‘dealing with internal email that is of no value for the business’. Read the full article in InsideHousing here

The decision to ban email was inspired by a similar move by Atos Consulting, spookily enough located right next to HHT's building in Runcorn, Cheshire.

Maybe some advice was exchanged in the smoking area between both buildings. I certainly think there is some mileage in that one.

One replacement being considered is Yammer, the business social media collaboration platform acquired by Microsoft in Summer 2012 for $1.2 Billion. Presumably HHT will be using many of the premium features. It will be interesting in what direction Microsoft does decide to take it. Some of that uncertainty might put me off personally. I can imagine Yammer fitting right in very quickly with the bright young things of Silicon Valley type companies. To get the most from it within HHT and possibly other housing providers I would guess a lot of training and a genuine change of mindset from all staff expected to use it, might be needed.

Email can be very disruptive and particularly in the same way that staff are provided with Excel and never trained to use it properly, then waste person years going around the houses performing tasks badly. Email can be the same. Outlook or a similar email client is provided and rarely are users coached in how to deal with email coming in, proper use of To: , cc: and bcc: .

How many times have three people been named in a ‘To:’ box and nobody deals with it because they think the other two must be on to it. 

Also how many times have you been emailed by the person sitting next to you, instead of the two of you just discussing and resolving an issue?

Instant messaging can sometimes be even worse, something that can be responded to straight away, like a phone call, not like emails that can be left and dealt with at an appropriate time.

One aspect about emails that is really good however is the trail it provides. A perfect audit sometimes to disprove claims and assertions. This is one area that cannot be lost with a move to Yammer or A.N.Other. One phrase that I should actually have programmed in to a function key for outlook as I type it so much is ‘Confirming our earlier discussion..’ . The perfect way to document what has gone on be all parties.

A number of RSL’s with appropriate housing management systems have moved from internal email to workflow tasking or use of tasking in-trays. This means that any internal activity, that most likely will involve one or more people, can be traced via CRM or other modules of an integrated system. Any decent tasking system allows escalation, referral and closure of tasks, with corresponding activities closed off or set at an appropriate status on completion.

For example, a resident request for repair logged as a CRM call might generate a pre-inspection, a repair job, that job may be passed to the internal workforce. Several internal tasks (which could before have been emails) might be raised based on job issues. When these tasks are resolved, the job is closed and CRM call completed. Obviously, this flow can be embedded in workflow and tasking, something that would not be practical when using just email.

Now if Microsoft integrated Yammer more fully into Dynamics CRM, took advantage of standard workflow and Sharepoint for presentation, I think that would give existing options a great run for their money. Good luck to HHT, as one of my local RSL’s I would be pleased to see how this project unfolds.

Read on, more social media in housing:

James Ingram and Michael Mcdonald say "Yah Mo B There".

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting

PS I have noticed I have been getting a lot of traffic from the Housing Southern IT Forum recently Thanks everyone, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle, please get in touch and let me know!

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1 comment:

  1. Your right to think that many housing organisations have introduced enterprise social networks like Yammer, Chatter and Jive, but it's a change in behaviour by colleagues that really makes the difference. As with email, an understanding of what is required and what can be achieved is essential. This is a subject I've been studying for some time and this link will take you to a chapter I wrote for the EMHA/CIH publication Learning today, leading tomorrow which summarises many of the changes in learning that are being driven by technology: The specific changes in behaviour that are required relate to sharing, cooperation and collaboration, which are epitomised by the term "Working out loud". The expert in this area is John Stepper, this link will take you to his blog: