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A window to get off the email trail

Fancy a team Twitter feed? Microblogging is catching on in some companies.

Imagine having a small window open on your desktop or smartphone where you could communicate with your project team in real time, without having to send, copy, forward, or archive emails.

Some organisations, fed up with navigating through huge email trails attached to a project, are embracing microblogging as a more efficient internal communications tool.

Microblogging is essentially sharing short online posts with whoever wants to follow them. Twitter is a well-known example of a public microblogging platform. Yammer, Chatter and Tibbr are enterprise equivalents.

Microblogging can be used to co-ordinate projects and meetings, or used in a more collaborative way to share information. It's an easy way for teams to stay connected throughout a project, and for people that are interested, to join in the conversation.

"It's all about getting staff to contribute updates on what they are doing, sharing information about news in the industry, and praising each other," says Jillian Bowen, social media manager at CPA Australia, an accounting membership body. CPAA began  microblogging in 2010 with Yammer.

"Around 85 per cent of the company have joined. Some people are prolific posters, and some will lurk and just watch but not post. A very small fraction will regularly post.

"We can set up individual groups, make them private or [available to] everyone in the company."

CPAA found that microblogging was a great tool for connecting people that may not connect otherwise. After one of Bowen's posts, a person in the Singapore office joined the conversation.

At Deloitte, microblogging has reduced the need for project meetings, says Peter Williams, chief executive  of Deloitte Digital.

"We stick it on Yammer and talk about it. Anyone can jump in and see what's going on."

The Deloitte Innovation Team began using Yammer in late 2008, and there is now a 90 per cent uptake throughout the entire organisation.

"If we roll something out or launch a system, we use microblogging for feedback and testing. If you need access to a skill or an answer to a question, you can post on Yammer rather than sending out an [organisation-wide] email."

Microblogging has smashed hierarchies in the firm, says Williams. "The CEO posts lots of questions about his strategies. Microblogging gives him more visibility and reach. He can talk to anyone, and anyone can talk to him."

Microblogging is great for maintaining a cohesive work environment among geographically dispersed offices, says James Dellow from the social business consultancy Headshift.

"With access to microblogs, executives can be in touch with what's going on across the whole organisation. In a virtual sense, the CEO is sitting next to the employee."

In the future, Dellow says enterprises will be using data analytics to pick up issues, trends, and opportunities from microblogging conversations.

The idea is catching on, with Yammer alone planning a stronger foothold in Australia, hiring and expanding its sales and support team.

Yammer chief executive  David Sacks told Fairfax's IT Pro that he was expecting to double the user base this year.

David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, a social network for enterprises, says patent trolling is damaging the tech industry.
David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, a social network for enterprises, says patent trolling is damaging the tech industry. 

"We believe that every company will have its own internal social network for its employees to collaborate and share."
He said some customers have reported their email volume has been reduced by 30 to 40 per cent.

Email traffic has reduced because microblogging gives people a platform where they can collaborate, says Steve McWhirter,'s senior vice-president of enterprise sales in the Asia Pacific.

"There is no need for 35 people to be Ccd on emails. With microblogging, you can now choose if you take part in a conversation.

"People like the real-time aspect of the feeds. They can watch it from the corner of their PC. We've become real-time people."

But not everyone's a fan of microblogging.

"Email became annoying, and so will microblogging," says Brian Prentice, Gartner research vice president.

"Over-posting, or posting rubbish that has nothing to do with business, for example asking if anyone has any restaurant recommendations, is annoying.

"And what if a lot of people don't get involved? I stopped using Yammer because it only got me to a subset of the community. Not everyone uses it, that's the problem."

Sick of the email trail?
Sick of the email trail? Photo: actaurora.daniels

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