The purpose of this study is to explore the use of Enterprise Social Networks (ESN), namely, Yammer and Chatter, using the lens of resistance and deployment of workarounds among individuals employed in a large, service sector organization. By doing so, we can illustrate the motivation behind individual use of ESN within a large organization, the reasons for not using it and the outcomes of their choices on the organization’s performance and day-to-day activities. The research approach of our study involves employing a qualitative approach and adopting the interpretive research perspective. Our findings illustrate that there are several bottom-up and top-down pressures, which effectively hinder the adequate or successful use of ESN and drive user resistance and workarounds. The contributions of our study are manifold. First, since ESN are actively considered by organizations, our findings can inform policymakers on the issues that might arise beyond implementation, more so, during the actual use of the system. In other words, the results of this research can shed light on the areas where their efforts are best placed. At a theoretical level, our study enriches the extant literature associated with adoption issues, by explaining that ESN involve multi-level organizational characteristics found within a specific context of use, that of ESN.
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The principal author thanks the Royal Academy of Engineering, A. Jones, M.A. Stewart, B. Krepel and University of Hertfordshire for the funding, access to Service Ltd and time afforded to this research.
Background to yammer and chatter
Background to yammer
Yammer is a private and secure online environment that supports real-time communication, collaboration and sharing within enterprises. Simply stated, it is a social network for businesses and companies, and is provided by Microsoft. Service Ltd has almost 24,000 users from within its 140,000 global workforce. Access to a Yammer network is determined by a user’s Internet domain so that only individuals with appropriate e-mail addresses may join their respective networks. From the interviews it was learnt that updates are sent on a daily basis to the users, and in the late mornings. Users then decide what is of interest to them and what is not. Some appreciated this practice but others did not like it. A business consultant mentioned that updates are about individuals leaving and arriving, and disliked this particular feature: ‘I find information on people leaving and coming in to the company as a waste of time’. In Yammer, some individuals also posted their personal hobbies and interests, as for example, recipes, or the latest gadgets and had discussions on them. One commercial bids manager mentioned that ‘It is really nice that we can ask someone at work about a recipe, or the latest i-phone rather than asking someone else’, while an IT manager found it interesting: ‘I like the quote of the day, or small information on Yammer’.
Figure A1 informs readers on Yammer’s structure and its interface.
Service Ltd’s Yammer network was launched in 2008 shortly after the inauguration of Yammer in the United States. It emerged after some individuals attended an Information Technology conference where a freeware known as Yammer was mentioned. This encouraged three engineers to begin posting on Yammer and encouraging growth. The network was very quiet for 2 years. As the Yammer champion said, ‘1000 people joined, but the three folks posted consistently – maybe once or twice a week each’. Then, in March 2010 there was a push towards growth where word-of-mouth and a single e-mail were used to encourage users. This led to the network peaking to hit critical mass. In January 2011, Service Ltd signed a contract and before the agreement it was found that there were around 3000 users. In 2011 February, Service Ltd merged with another American organization that had 5000 users, which led to a growth in the number of users in Service Ltd to approximately 8000. The network grew rapidly over the next year or two, thanks to a better understanding of the usage process, and then growth levelled. It has been just under 25,000 for some time now (at least 1.5 years). When reasons for the flat line were explored, several theories had been suggested. The first one was that there were limited resources invested into further development of Yammer. Second, despite all the promotions and initiatives that were undertaken, it appeared that the saturation or mature point had been reached. Therefore, further efforts appeared not to be achieving any outcomes. Third, the organization formed better processes to remove duplicate users. This better understanding of the processes led to the removal of multiple accounts, or of accounts of users who had left the organization, that is, whose employment contracts ceased to exist. If this had been pursued from the start of the implementation period, then there might be even less registered Yammer users. As the Corporate Communications Manager, who is also the Yammer champion said: ‘It was us poking into Yammer’s process for validating and getting rid of users who had left the company or who had more than one e-mail account. So Yammer keeps your user ID off your e-mail account. So if you have multiple accounts, you could accidentally or purposely set up a multiple Yammer profile. But we have, through our I.D. system, identified only one e-mail that would then get into the system. Therefore, you would be signing in with your Service Ltd ID rather than your e-mail account’.
As far as the champion of Yammer knew, there was no top-level (senior management) support, but approval for implementing Yammer did exist. Hence, there were no barriers that prevented the development and implementation of Yammer. In addition, as the champion commented, there was no strong campaign pursued, or senior management saying ‘Everybody needs to use Yammer’.
In Service Ltd (UK) the Corporate Communications Manager recalled, ‘When Yammer first came out, there was a pretty decent promotion about it. So there was some information about the processes to follow for using Yammer’. Further, there was no synchronous plan that the organization was pursuing to diffuse and develop Yammer any further. In other words, there was no concerted effort or campaign being pursued. Nevertheless, there is a corporate policy about using Yammer. As the champion of Yammer stated, ‘So we do have a corporate policy governing about what you can say, or cannot say on Yammer. Here’s what you do if something goes wrong and all of that’.
Background to Chatter
Chatter is provided by Salesforce as a secure enterprise collaboration application and social development platform. The unique selling point that Salesforce emphasizes is that Chatter allows organizations to collaborate in real time within a secure, private social network for their business. Further, it provides developers with the opportunity to use the Salesforce Chatter platform (www.salesforce.com/chatter/platform) to build social enterprise applications, with all 135,000 native Salesforce applications instantly becoming social. Having achieved immense success in the cloud computing arena, Chatter is the next major innovative initiative for Salesforce.com. To access Chatter, a salesfigure.com account is needed, which is provided only to the employees of the organization and is not available to every member of the public. An example of a Chatter webpage is provided in Figure A2.
As shown in Figure A1 and Figure A2, the appearance of both ESN is quite similar to that of Facebook. As the Marketing Manager for Europe, who is also the Chatter champion, commented: ‘Chatter is a Facebook for the organization’.
Comparatively, Service Ltd’s Chatter system is in its early stages as implementation took place in May 2014. To date, there are less than 1100 users in Europe and approximately 2000 globally. This shows that presently, compared with Yammer, there appears to be a larger social system user database. In what follows, we describe the background to Chatter’s implementation.
Salesforce was using Salesforce.com as a tool for their communication and their sales process, that is, as a Customer Relationship Management system for reporting the organization’s sales activity. In simple terms, as described by the Marketing Manager for Service Ltd (Europe), who is the Chatter, champion, ‘In lay man’s terms, Chatter is a social media Facebook of Salesforce that has the capability to have conversations with the other users of Service Ltd. It also discusses updates, opportunities and account contacts among the many other features of Salesforce’.
In Service Ltd, many of the sales people felt there was support for the ESN use as they were already using Salesforce.com every day. In the mean time, there was a huge drive within Salesforce to tear communication down to one tool, as there was a lot of frustration because of the many available tools. For example, one individual exclaimed his frustration by wondering ‘What tool do I use, how do I log in?’ To ensure some streamlining and to reduce, or eliminate the frustration, Chatter was enabled to an existing Salesforce.com group, that is, largely the Sales and Marketing departments. To implement Chatter, it was decided that all user groups would have the same capabilities. Therefore, some groups that did not enjoy the same features as the other Chatter users were provided with similar ones. This ensured uniformity. As a developer team member (also an Internal Communications Manager for United States) said: ‘There were different business groups – some who were more excited about Chatter and wanted Chatter to be enabled right away, but there were others with a wait and see attitude. So, it was decided that all the user groups would have the features and then, Chatter would be enabled’. The European champion spoke of how Chatter was implemented globally with champions around the globe: ‘Initially there were project managers who were co-ordinating the efforts’. Europe’s deployment strategies have been successful and their efforts were used as the benchmark. Some quick guides or 1 min tutorials were also used in Europe. These were drawn primarily from YouTube videos developed by Salesforce or from homemade videos with screen captures in them. These videos provided information on functionality, how to post an image, or how to interact with groups.
Another pursued strategy was to inform the senior management on Chatter’s capabilities as a social media channel for the organization. This involved the provision of a 15 min presentation to Country Managers and General Managers in Western Europe. As the Chatter champion said, ‘In the presentation, the importance of Chatter was also emphasized. This included: Chatter will allow communication. It will allow direct engagement. So you can have central management engaging directly with the field agents. There will be no need to use e-mail or other such channels. It is short and to the point as there is a limit the text to 140 characters. Finally, it is a hub to the organization’s business activity. Second. Chatter allows recognition: “If someone has signed off a contract, then senior management can take an instant action using Chatter. You know, to say congratulations, great job, and great win”. The Account Manager gets acknowledged as well. Therefore, the peers will see the recognition and acknowledgement and gives them encouragement. This helps with sales competitiveness. Finally, Chatter helps with collaboration. It enables virtual teams to work together, creates groups and allows content to be uploaded to those groups’.
The US strategies were more conservative. Some Salesforce information on Chatter usage, some quick guides and thorough tutorials, configured education courses and planned out education courses for their staff members were employed. Information for Senior Managers was not diffused, as it was believed that the inertia, or demand from individuals would drive the provision of Chatter.
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Choudrie, J., Zamani, E. Understanding individual user resistance and workarounds of enterprise social networks: the case of Service Ltd. J Inf Technol 31, 130–151 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1057/jit.2016.9