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Today’s post features Frans Klaassen, Regulatory Business Unit Manager, Kluwer
Social Networking Trumps a Static Intranet
Part of the Wolters Kluwer group of information services companies, Kluwer is the Netherlands’ largest online publisher for professionals and knowledge workers. The company delivers expert information to those engaged in fields such as law, taxation, human resources, and marketing. Kluwer works closely with authors and customers to provide specialized products and services that give professionals the up-to-date and relevant information they need to work efficiently and effectively.
To do the same for its own workforce of 700, the company embarked on a review of its communications channels in early 2012. The study revealed that the existing company intranet was not widely used by employees, and its static nature wasn’t supporting senior managers’ goals for knowledge sharing and collaboration. “We needed a central resource where the entire staff could go to find information on the company and updates on what was happening with particular initiatives,” explains Regulatory Business Unit Manager Frans Klaassen. “Even more important, we required a platform that was dynamic and offered staff a chance to start dialogues, share ideas, and work with others in the company—including people they may not know.”
Another significant issue that Kluwer faced pertained to ownership of the intranet. “At times, people who wanted to add information or updates were unaware which department or person was in charge of content,” says Program Manager Mirjam Riedel. “We wanted a new system that would ensure that anyone in the company would be able to post information they considered relevant to their colleagues.”
Equally as important as information sharing, Kluwer management wanted employees to work more closely together to streamline operations and speed up key business functions. The traditional intranet, which was a static resource used to broadcast information, did not lend itself to dynamic knowledge sharing. Nor did it help employees unearth subject matter experts in unexpected departments, something that Kluwer was keen to address.
Early adopters proactively started using Yammer’s freemium version on a large scale in December 2011, and the company began replacing its outmoded intranet with Yammer about six months later. “Our Yammer adoption started from the ground up,” recalls Innovation Consultant Pim Nauts. “As the number of people using and benefitting from Yammer increased, managers within the company took notice.”
“The real driver for our move to Yammer was the benefits that early adopters were getting from using a social network instead of a static intranet,” Klaassen says. “Seeing more and more people using Yammer as a platform to share information and ideas, we began to embrace the idea of a dynamic social network that would link management and staff across the entire company.”
Collaboration: Is the Mother of Innovation
Yammer is now the central resource for sharing Kluwer’s company news and updates. Employees are also getting to know new people within the organization, collaborating on projects, and sharing ideas—all of which would not have been possible before the company replaced its intranet with Yammer.
“Yammer has driven relationships across the company from online to offline,” Nauts observes. “People are meeting on Yammer by collaborating and sharing ideas across departments, and those relationships often move offline, increasing the amount of face-to-face time employees have with colleagues—including ones they otherwise never would have met.”
Riedel adds, “Though still at an early stage, Yammer has been a resounding success. More than 80 percent of all Kluwer employees, including senior management, regularly log on to Yammer to find and share information.”
The ultimate test for an enterprise social network’s success is whether it can become self-sustaining, with communities building around common interests and projects—and requiring little administration from any business function. That’s certainly the case at Kluwer, where staff are creating their own spaces and groups so they can pool their experience and expertise to improve business agility. Today, there are 21 active groups, including ones focused on innovation, the legal field, and customer experience. As part of the team focused on innovation, Nauts takes a special interest in groups where cutting-edge business ideas are shared by staff. “The network has been particularly helpful as an incubator for business ideas,” he says.
“Yammer has become Kluwer’s grassroots driver for innovation. The entire company is able to contribute suggestions on how we can evolve and be creative in order to drive the business forward. Furthermore, we experienced another significant benefit from the integration with Yammer whereby we saw increased interaction with our already existing ideation platform.”
Klaassen sums it up this way: “Our aim was to create a company culture that fostered openness, bringing a real community feel to the organization. With Yammer, we have achieved exactly that. A large number of employees feel more involved in the business as a whole—and that’s something we never could have achieved with the old system.”
- Increased employee engagement. More than three-quarters of employees are rated actively “engaged” with the network, regularly logging on to find and share information.
- A company of working communities. Employees have created more than 20 active groups centered on shared projects and interests.
- Better and faster knowledge sharing. With greater communication between departments and an end to information silos, employees are finding the information they need wherever it resides in the company.
- An engine for great business ideas. Yammer acts an innovation hub, with a wide range of employees contributing and refining ideas.