PLOW, SEED, GROW: 3 KEYS TO ONLINE COLLABORATION & CROWD-SOURCING

By | October 1, 2016

Social networking in the enterprise is rapidly evolving from novelty to norm. This fundamental upgrade in the way we communicate is helping organizations move faster and become more competitive, regardless of size, geography or industry. Gartner predicts that “by 2013, spending on social software to support sales, marketing and customer service processes will exceed $1 billion worldwide.” At Yammer, we are seeing growth numbers that further prove robust interest and growth in Enterprise Social Networks (ESN).

As a company in hyper-growth, Yammer faces a lot of the same challenges that it helps customers solve. We drink our own champagne and test a lot of our theories on ourselves. As the ESN market continues to expand, our customer-facing teams have been forced to rethink our internal processes and methodologies. Traditionally, the Sales, Customer Success, Support, Security, and Solution Engineering teams operated somewhat independently throughout the lifecycle of a customer relationship. In order to both scale and enhance the Yammer customer experience, that needed to change.

To address this challenge, our team set out to create an “Engagement Playbook” that would get our teams on the same proverbial Page throughout the customer lifecycle. To do so, we created an interconnected web of content and conversations housed in a unifying Yammer Group titled “Engagement Playbook.”

In order to launch in time for our Global All-Hands Kickoff, we had to design, develop and deliver the Playbook in just four weeks. During that time, 60 colleagues worked together to build the Engagement Playbook. We learned some valuable lessons along the way, and the following summary of the steps we took can be used as a blueprint for anyone wishing to crowdsource a project with tight deadlines and limited resources.

1: Plow: Define a clear objective, tenets, framework, and timeline

A common misstep in crowdsourcing a project is to engage the crowd too early. Planting seeds without first plowing the field is a recipe for disaster. Rather than immediately involving everyone who might be interested in contributing to the Playbook, I took a day to synthesize what it was we were trying to accomplish and establish some direction on how we were going to pull it off. I focused on the following four areas:

  • Clear Objective: As espoused in Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick, clarify your project’s “Commander’s Intent” – a simple and clear objective that both empowers each contributor and harmonizes your collective efforts.
  • Key Tenets: Key tenets provide a framework for making decisions throughout the project and establishing a value system for the team to agree upon. If you’re going to crowdsource a project, it is imperative to pay special attention to these conditions.
  • General Outline: While ‘Outline’ may sound like the antithesis to a crowdsourced project, providing some general structure is essential to keeping the project focused and driving consistency across the contributors. The purpose of the Outline is to create suitable conditions for collaboration, not to define a rigid structure for how the team should work together so make sure the outline is flexible and can be iterated upon.
  • Timeline: Demarcate key events on across a timeline. This will help keep everyone on track and working towards a common goal.

With the help of a few peers, the following Engagement Playbook Outline Yammer Page was written, vetted and published – marking day one of the Engagement Playbook development effort:

2. Seed: Engage the Crowd

You’ve plowed the field, now you’re ready to start planting seeds. Like any project, engaging the team who will be contributing to the project should not be approached recklessly. Target a subset of the contributors based on expertise, influence, and bandwidth to serve as project facilitators. Or as John Kotter would say, create the Guiding Coalition. These facilitators will play an important role as stewards of the project’s objective, tenets, outline and timeline. Drastically increase your odds of success by identifying the individuals’ goals or motivators that are aligned with the success of the project. Does this project make their role easier? Does their involvement offer recognition? Does it allow them to influence their own role or future?

With the core team engaged, you are now ready to make a splash. Draw as much attention as possible to the project by leveraging multiple communication channels and soliciting support from key leaders. This will help increase the size of the participating crowd and reduce the average time required per contributor. Like with the facilitators, look to forge personal connections to the success of the project. Clearly translate the “what’s in it for me” and underscore the importance and value of the project. Stress the unique nature of the project and how each contributor will be empowered to directly impact the outcome.

3. Grow: Monitor and Encourage

The seeds have sprouted; now focus on cultivating their growth. As the project lead, your job is to monitor the activity of the various teams, keep everyone motivated, and ensure that the crowd is tracking against major project milestones, building short-term wins.

At this stage in the process, the use of collaborative technology becomes critical to your project’s success. By keeping conversations and content open and shared across the team, issues are more rapidly identified, gaps are more quickly filled and the project tracks more precisely against the timeline. The most valuable element of collaborative technology, however, is its ability to connect the team on a human level. Each contributor builds off each other’s enthusiasm and motivation, creating a vigor that results in a rewarding, efficient, and enjoyable experience.

Closing:

We finished building the Playbook a full week before we presented it to the organization at our Global Kickoff. Every team beat every milestone, and every contributor felt a sense of accomplishment, ownership, and engagement with the outcome. We now have a solid and scalable foundation to support our growing customer base, teams, and organization; allowing us to focus on what matters – guiding our customers through their social transformation.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Engagement Playbook was developed or how you can leverage Yammer to save time and increase the efficiency of your team, contact your Yammer CSM.

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