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- James Tyer, expert advisor, published author and customer engagement leader at Microsoft
How can all that’s on offer in the enterprise social arena be best used to help connect and scale conversations in today’s hybrid workplace?
Demystifying Microsoft Viva Engage, Yammer and more is at the core of this latest episode of Digital Workplace Impact. Host Nancy Goebel is joined by expert advisor, James Tyer, a customer engagement leader at Microsoft and co-author of Social By Design: How to create and scale a collaborative company.
In this absorbing conversation, James takes listeners through a changing landscape of enterprise social, his career highlights and some top learnings on how to think about people before technology. Together, the duo bring honest insights into creating authentic connections and opportunities to build inclusive cultures – and also gaze into the future at what could be the biggest trends yet to come.
To hear more, and for an enlightening look at sparking collaboration, connection and conversation through enterprise social, join us and listen to this podcast today.
Show notes, links and resources for this episode:
[00:00:00.910] – James Tyer
I think if they’re incentivized individually, you’re taking advantage of people’s good nature rather than going with it. We want to connect, we want to be social, but we just keep putting things in the way, especially as organizations get bigger. And that’s why it’s difficult sometimes for tools like Viva Engage and Yammer and others to really be successful immediately. Being open to change, being adaptive and not trying to control change. I think that’s a mistake that a lot of organizations do. But I think there’s an opportunity to think about what are we trying to control and why? Where can we give up control and what can we remove rather than add things?
[00:00:44.950] – Nancy Goebel
Today I welcome James Tyer into the Digital Workplace Impact studio. James is an expert advisor and published author specializing in enterprise social networking. He’s also a customer engagement leader at Microsoft, specializing in Viva Engage and Yammer. I met James quite a few years ago at this point, when he was a DWG member at Kellogg’s, and we reconnected recently through his writing on LinkedIn, which was aimed at helping Microsoft customers understand the changing landscape around enterprise social with a view into Yammer initially and more recently, Viva Engage. James came into a DWG member session shortly thereafter to help us understand this changing landscape, to help DWG members start to put readiness plans in place to reimagine how to leverage these capabilities based on some high-value use cases. And of course, we couldn’t help but include a crystal ball moment to think about future possibilities as well. It became very clear that these insights would be useful to share on a wider scale. So I invited James to come on the podcast today. Join me now in conversation with James for some sense making around Viva Engage in Yammer, some interesting insights about how to feng shui enterprise social networks, and a few other goodies along the way. Digital Workplace impact is brought to you by digital workplace group. As always, happy listening.
[00:02:32.510] – Nancy Goebel
So James, it is just wonderful to have a chance to reconnect with you. Of course earlier this month we had a chance to bring you into DWG’s member circle to share a little bit about the work that you’re doing and some changes that we’re seeing happening in and around Microsoft relative to the enterprise social arena. And of course, we agreed as part of that conversation that it would make sense to widen the circle through this podcast to share a bit about not only what you’re up to these days, but certainly what’s happening from a wider industry standpoint. And so I have to start by extending a warm, warm welcome. And of course, I’m happy to be in conversation with you yet again.
[00:03:23.290] – James Tyer
Well, thank you so much for having me both on the podcast today and I really enjoyed the presentation to the members a few weeks ago because as I expected and wasn’t surprised, there were some really good, difficult questions which always make for a great discussion.
[00:03:39.700] – Nancy Goebel
Fantastic. And of course, we get to do more of the same today. And I think it’s important to start with a little bit of context in the sense that we met initially when you were a leader at Kellogg’s and an active DWG member at that time. And among your areas of specialty as a digital workplace practitioner was of course, enterprise social networking. And so I have to ask, what ignited your passion for creating and scaling companies, work around collaboration and connection.
[00:04:18.210] – James Tyer
In university for my undergrad and my masters, I didn’t realize at the time but what I was interested in and what I ended up writing about were networks and communities and how movements form and all of those kind of things. So then for some reason, I went to work at one of the big four accountancy firms straight out of university. And to be honest, what I learned there, and I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, was how I would not want a workplace culture to be. There’s lots of passive aggressiveness, kind of backstabbing. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Aside from some close people that I worked with daily, I went to work in an HR department in the university here in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia, and discovered that really I’m a connector and I’m a facilitator at heart. I don’t want to be upfront. I want to help people connect, to learn from each other, to collaborate and all those things that we talk about with enterprise social. And I first had my Aha moment when I was running a leadership development program and I asked the people that were attending was it useful?
[00:05:25.230] – James Tyer
And it was using all kinds of great stuff that was new at the time. This was sort of 2008 so appreciative inquiry building, coaching culture, really kind of progressive culture building things, but people say it was really interesting, but not necessarily useful. And I said, well, what do you need then? And I would hear always, I need to talk to an HR adviser, but it’s hard to get a hold of them. I’m being internally audited, but I don’t know what that even means, you know, how can I find out? I started bringing reluctant subject matter experts with me for coffee with our participants and then helping them talk to each other, which I found I was okay at. And it rains a lot here, and it was winter, it rains a lot here. And I wanted to find a way of scaling it. And I found a tool, quite ironically, given my job now coding. It was free and I turned it on. I think I was the first person, so I had access to it and started connecting people in it and some really early LinkedIn groups. And I just became this facilitator where I was using technology to scale all these conversations.
[00:06:37.390] – James Tyer
And I thought, this is kind of cool. And I went onto Twitter again sort of 2008/9 and found people like Howard Jerky and Jane Hart that were kind of in the L and D space, but talking about this scaled social kind of collaboration. And in the end I went back to try and study it for a PhD. And I found that no one was really interested. And in adult education, people were talking about university education and that was about it. So I went and pitched the idea of building a Yammer or whatever else I could find practice to a bunch of companies in Vancouver. And I found one who were kind enough to give it a shot, and have kind of been in the space ever since. So I ran Yammer for Kellogg’s. After that. I was a consultant for a number of years where I got to help with the launch of a number of Yammer. And I want to be really honest, other tools, Slack, Workplace. I think I had an SAP jam once back in the day before joining Microsoft a year ago yesterday. So I’ve been a network builder, facilitator and helping companies work out how you can scale all these conversations to build that inclusive culture that everyone talks about.
[00:07:59.510] – Nancy Goebel
So two things immediately spring to mind for me. One is to say congratulations on your work anniversary. And secondly, I was listening very closely to see if you would make mention of the fact that in between all of this, you are inspired to sit down and write a book. And that book is called Social By Design: How to Create and Scale a Collaborative Company. And so let’s dig into that a little bit because I think that’s an important marker where lots of ideas came together as part of your sharing circle with others in the workplace at large and within the industry, especially now, given what you’re doing, that feels like a landmark moment in your career.
[00:08:55.240] – James Tyer
It was very interesting to do so. Mark Britz, who is my co-author and I, we’ve known each other for almost a decade, yet we’ve only met in person. It’s increasing because we co-present at conferences, but maybe six, seven times. And when we started writing a book, I think we’d only met each other four times in person. And we both had these kind of similar takeaways that we tried to help companies be more social and use technology to do that kind of scaling piece. But we kept seeing the same things get in the way. And what we found kind of getting in the way, were it’s the systems that structure organizations, it’s the hierarchy, the rules, protocols, processes, procedures that are both intentional and unintentional that kind of dictate how decisions are made. And they’re almost invisible when you’re working in an organization unless you take a step back and start to question them. So a great example we put in the book was there was a study of hospitals and outcomes from them. I think it was in the US. It was from 2018, and they found that in the delivery wards, there were more operating theaters than recovery rooms.
[00:10:10.180] – James Tyer
And that correlated really interestingly to more Caesarean C-sections happening again. It’s correlation, not causation. And they found that there were better patient outcomes when patients could face a window in their recovery rooms, yet patients always faced the door. Why did they do that? It made it faster for a doctor to come in, read their clipboard or iPad these days, and then step out, yet it meant for worse outcomes. And so these kind of almost invisible decisions were made. And what we do, especially in technology, is we focus on individuals’ behaviors and we say they have to change them. And we spend all this effort in adoption and change management or other kind of change projects, telling people to do things differently. But if you take a step back and think, well, if people aren’t rewarded that way, or if decisions aren’t made that way, or if leaders aren’t developed that way, there’s always going to be this conflict. And so in order to make a social organization, you have to think about it’s, about the design. And we kind of get the design wrong, and we focus on thinking of org designers lines and boxes and org charts.
[00:11:29.130] – James Tyer
But if we’re trying to connect people, that really is about the organizational design. And the book was written as a kind of it’s not a guide. We wanted to just give people some ideas of where to start to unpack their organization.
[00:11:46.610] – Nancy Goebel
I don’t know why, but as you were talking about the metaphor with the room design for a hospital, I was thinking about it’s almost like introducing feng shui into enterprise social.
[00:12:01.840] – James Tyer
I like that. Yeah. Think about how things flow. We want information. We say we want people to share knowledge. Well, do they have somewhere to go? Are they recognized for it? Are they rewarded for it? For example, do leaders appreciate it? And a lot of our organizations, it’s kind of no. I got two really good examples. One is Microsoft. This is all public stuff that’s been written about. Your end of year performance ranking was stack ranked, which means no matter how hard you worked, you’re probably bundled with 80/ 90% of employees as doing okay. Yet, we want everyone to collaborate, but if that’s the end, the incentive isn’t really there or I really like the story of Culture Amp. They’re an employee engagement tool company. A lot of former Yammer people went to work there. They don’t incentivize sales individually. And what have I seen when I go into their offices? Stories of salespeople helping salespeople where they don’t have they’re not having a great month, so their colleagues will come and help them and double up on some of the efforts they’re putting in. I think if they’re incentivized individually, you’re taking advantage of people’s good nature rather than going with it.
[00:13:22.500] – James Tyer
We want to connect. We want to be social, but we just keep putting things in the way, especially as organizations get bigger. And that’s why it’s difficult sometimes for tools like Viva Engage and Yammer and others to really be successful immediately.
[00:13:40.390] – Nancy Goebel
So in that micro example, it’s going from competition to coopertition and the way people work and get rewarded. And how do we extrapolate the learnings from these types of examples to think about how we want to optimize connection and culture inside of our organizations?
[00:14:02.360] – James Tyer
Very much so. We have the books short. It’s actually kind of funny. We wrote an almost 300 page book and then our publisher, who are the guys that wrote the book, Lean UX, which I think many of your members will know, said we want to be much shorter. This has to be something I can read in an hour to two and go do something with and then pass it on to someone else. And that was a really hard challenge, but so we came up with kind of three principles that we think can help guide people when they’re thinking about how to make these tools successful and how to make our workplaces better. The first is you can’t control people being social. It’s natural. And if you try and control it, they’ll just go do it somewhere else. And that leads to the second principle, which is we want conversation. It’s what creates movement in our organization. We want change to happen and we’re not helping people talk about it, then you’re not a part of that conversation. It’s going to go on anyway, so why not be a part of it apart from it finally is you have to think through these things before you think about the technology.
[00:15:15.710] – James Tyer
I think we’re getting much, much better, especially, I think, your members as well. We’re focusing on its people before technology, but we still get caught in what feature does this tool have over this tool? Oh, this one. You can do this thing, but you can’t in this one. And creating massive feature comparison sets. And we haven’t really thought about what are we trying to achieve before we get onto what are we going to try and do it through?
[00:15:45.490] – Nancy Goebel
So those are some very practical points to anchor enterprise social within an organization. I can’t help but wonder, if you were to sit down to write this book anew today, is there anything you would approach differently, whether it’s with these three enabling themes or any of the sort of secret sauce that sits within each of them?
[00:16:14.590] – James Tyer
As I was saying, you know, we wanted to write a book that was not too prescriptive, but what we actually realize is everyone wants us to be prescriptive, which is both interesting and maybe a bit of a shame as well. I know that everyone is so busy and to layer these lenses, which is essentially what we created over your organization, can take a lot of work so we found that a lot of people ask us for workshops and we occasionally offer workshops where we take the principles and we apply them to an organization and help those that are in the workshop. We create with them their plan of what they’re going to do next. But we’ve been talking about a second book and if people want the prescription then we want to do it in a way that’s not well Google does this so you should go do it. Microsoft does this, so you should go do it. But at least the kind of field guide with lots of examples. So we’re thinking that we have the time to write another book and it’s going to include a lot more examples and what you can do.
[00:17:16.050] – James Tyer
But we thought maybe a field guide as opposed to a lot of business books which just tell you what a lot of other companies do without any way of making sense of it for yourself.
[00:17:26.960] – Nancy Goebel
Well, of course, you know, you have an open invitation to come back if and when the second book comes to fruition. But in the meantime I still have a ton of questions and discussion points that I want to make sure we have a chance to cover in our time together. And I guess one of the things I’m thinking about is we have moved from Pandemic to Endemic and to what extent has enterprise social changed the way people are working inside of organizations today?
[00:18:03.860] – James Tyer
I think the Pandemic gave it a big shot in the arm for Enterprise social. So suddenly we’re working remote. Something I know you and I have done for a very long time. But everyone kind of came to our life and whereas you probably had the skills to use technology to still keep connection and to still bridge silos and geographies and all those kinds of things. I think a lot of people were thrown in and they had Teams and you can connect with people. They did Zoom calls and you can see people. But a lot of companies I think rediscovered there Yammer and other tool networks as the place where everyone is there in the open by default and together and as a result usage and have seen the stats behind this. It really, really, really picked up because there was no other place to connect. And now that people are coming out of the Pandemic, I mean, we don’t know quite what will happen this fall and winter. Of course organizations are putting the hybrid digital workplace, I think really front and center because during the Pandemic you kind of threw it all on and hope people would use it.
[00:19:19.000] – James Tyer
But I think there’s some really good thought being put on and what does this whole hybrid digital employee experience look like.
[00:19:28.610] – Nancy Goebel
And so I guess what I’m thinking about now is keying off of this idea that the Pandemic was an accelerator for collaboration, for community making, for conversation. We know that the Microsoft effect has certainly been a significant force within this arena. At the same time, we’ve seen some confusion around things like the role and value of Teams versus Yammer coming to a head in the middle of all of this. And then of course, over the summer, Microsoft introduced Viva Engage, which is certainly having an important role around replacing Yammer in the communities aspects within teams. Help us do a little sense making here for those who are still in that struggle and tell us a little bit about why Viva Engage now and what do you see happening in and around reimagining, the enterprise water cooler and then some for long term hybrid working?
[00:20:47.960] – James Tyer
Definitely. I put my full Microsoft hat on for this one. So, as we said, we saw all this usage kind of pick up during the Pandemic and as you’ve seen, Microsoft has been building out Viva, which is employee experience platform. And with interest they saw that, wow, people are really engaging using Yammer during the Pandemic. This is like a key feature of a digital employee experience and that is where Viva Engage came from. So Viva Engage, you’re going to make it really simple. Viva Engage is a way to bring the capabilities of Yammer into Teams. It is Yammer. The back end is Yammer. It’s the same back end. But when you look at an outlet notification, it is from Yammer. But it’s bringing that experience. It’s like a first step of bringing that experience into teams under the Viva banner. And what you can expect to see over the coming year or so is how all these Viva experiences start to kind of intertwine. And the way I think about it, I fully get why Yammer why Teams, why Viva Engage why Teams. But if you look at your left rail on teams, at the top of your activity feed you have the chat.
[00:22:09.280] – James Tyer
And that’s the one that we all use the most by far more than email these days. But that’s like one on one on three small tiny groups. And it makes sense that’s the smallest interactions that you have, that used to be emails but now sit in chat. Because even in our consumer life, we don’t phone, we don’t email, we use WhatsApp and other apps. Then below that you have your teams and channels. And to me this is conceptually and I have to try and make sense of these things myself too. That makes sense as well because you have your teams with your channel separating the conversations of those. So that’s where you have your project teams or standing teams, or work groups and all those kinds of things. But it doesn’t work really well. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a team with more than sort of 50 people. It’s really hard to go back and follow what people were talking about even a day ago if you were say, off for the day. So you have chat, Teams and then Viva Engage. And that’s where you have your organizational wide communication and conversations.
[00:23:13.350] – James Tyer
So it’s almost as you go further down, the bigger the pool of people are that you can engage with. So to me, it makes sense sequentially and conceptually. And with our new premium capabilities that have been announced, we’re going to be offering really useful tools. When I was running Yammer networks, I’ve been waiting for these for so many years. But the ability to have administer much better leadership engagement, so new ways for leaders to engage with storyline stories or for us all to engage, but rolling those up to personalized experiences for employees, where you will see the activity of the leaders that you report to. The one that I don’t know if anyone listening, ever used to run a campaign in the Yammer network, but you used to have to download the CSV. You’d have to clear out all the cells that didn’t have the hashtag in. I even had an intern do this for me at Kellogg’s I was very fortunate for, but this is all going to be automated now. So campaigns, we have to build proper engagement campaigns in Viva Engage and have it organized. And then a new tool called Answers in Viva.
[00:24:30.280] – James Tyer
And that’s enabling you to when we have a question and we don’t know the answer and we’re sitting at home or we’re sitting in an office and not everyone is there anymore. We can do a Teams chat or one of the other tools that you may use and hope we get an answer. We could email and then it can balloon with everyone adding ccs into one of those massive email trees. I remember there was an email tree YouTube video way back in, I think, 2012 or 13, but we can’t get that answer easily. And so the last capability that is going to be part of Viva Engage is a core read it stack overflow type social Q and A system which eventually you’ll be able to tap into all the information sources. So bringing those powers into Teams and having them all in one place, along with learning and insights and goals and all those things that help us feel like we’re part of something more, I think is the way to picture it. So Teams is the platform and then Viva is the experience.
[00:25:32.890] – Nancy Goebel
I think that will clear lots of questions for many people listening to this leg of the conversation. And of course, any good conversation sparks more questions. And so are we to think that if there is a level of focus and integration around the experiences of Viva Engage within Teams, that there could potentially be other integrations with Viva Engage in other modules?
[00:26:11.740] – James Tyer
I think it’s possible. If you think about it, Yammer for calling it the kind of back end right now appears in Viva Engage. The Yammer mobile and web apps. The notifications and Outlook are powered by Yammer teams Q and A is powered by Yammer engineering. Viva connections. You can have your Yammer feed which makes for a much more dynamic experience. It includes storyline now as well and then we have the web parts and custom apps that you can also bring the powers of Yammer into your SharePoint intranet and other places as well. So even though it’s a long rambling list, it’s just a way of saying it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if the conversational powers of Yammer and Viva Engage appear in other places across the experience.
[00:27:00.490] – Nancy Goebel
Very interesting. And what else do you think DWG members and practitioners in our wider circles need to know as Microsoft looks to continue to evolve enterprise social, broadly speaking.
[00:27:19.390] – James Tyer
I see a few things on calls with customers. I think there’s a really good opportunity and for your members maybe with your help as well, to take a step back and really design what you’re hoping employees to experience. I think there’s quite a lag between what Microsoft has announced and when it will be adopted by customers because of enterprise buying cycles and all those kinds of things. But this is definitely where the industry is headed. So taking a step back, maybe you’re probably in final budgeting and things like that for the year now, but maybe putting in a line item for having some assistance from a partner or another organization or Microsoft even to think through what’s our strategy for this, what are we actually doing or even what is the employee experience we’re hoping to deliver? The technology is there and will help you do it, but I think there’s a bigger picture that maybe we’re still running to catch up after COVID but take a step back selfishly, maybe read market my book to think about those principles and really come up with what is the purpose? So we want to create engagement, what’s it for, what does that even mean?
[00:28:34.410] – James Tyer
Does it just mean leaders making posts in a Viva Engage network? Does it mean we’re going to use Poppulo and do more email? But why are we actually trying to engage employees? What are the outcomes we’re looking for? And then think through your strategy, meaning what are you going to do and also be clear what you’re not going to do. I think too often again, we get caught up in the technology and we don’t step back and put that bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve around it.
[00:29:03.640] – Nancy Goebel
I think that’s really some sage advice, not only because of the time of year but thinking about this on a wider plane as well. And I guess one of the things people are always clamouring for when they’re in that reflective mode is mining for kind of the most innovative or high value uses in any capability in this conversation. Of course, it’s enterprise social networking. So are there any examples named or otherwise that fall into those categories that you could spotlight in a few minutes for us.
[00:29:40.840] – James Tyer
I think I’d like to share kind of a general idea of what the best Yammer Viva Engage network admins do and the organizations are part of. And then I can point to some resources that maybe you can add to the notes. Like we had a Yammer customer festival with Swoop last year has some great customers. They’re sharing their experience from using their own voices, not through me, which I think is more powerful. And we have customer best practice sessions where we bring our customers together. It’s virtual these days. We start a discussion, maybe we have a subject matter expert. So we had someone talking about how she used Instagram or Snapchat stories to inspire people for internal use and I’ll give links to that. But I think there are kind of three areas where I really see success coming in Yammer networks or Viva Engaged now. The first. And I think this would be really interesting to you as well. Is a lot of the time comms who generally run these networks now and IT and maybe HR and others. They don’t talk to each other very well or often and so I will hear quite often.
[00:30:52.140] – James Tyer
Oh. I didn’t know this capability was coming and it’s already been sent into the Office 365 Admin Message Center many months before and I think there’s a really good opportunity to maybe it’s part of that. Designing the bigger purpose of bringing these more siloed departments together and designing the experience so it’s not Comms writing what they want to have a tool do feature-wise. Followed by IT turning it into a requirement stock. Followed by we end up with a tool but we don’t really know what we’re going to do with it. The second one, and it does come down to leadership, is how have your leaders given up some control to be a part of those conversations. These tools really throw an X-ray onto your organizational culture. If you say, well we’ve got this tool and no one’s talking in it, it’s quite likely that you weren’t that kind of environment in the first place where your leaders walking around the office tapping people on the shoulder, saying hello, asking what they’re doing, doing the kind of politician or royal family kind of stuff. If they didn’t, they’re not going to be doing it online.
[00:31:59.320] – James Tyer
So how can we help leaders to create genuinely authentic connection with employees? It’s a big question but we’ve seen many, many examples of where that has happened and it generates such a massive payoff. But I also want to acknowledge that I know that there are many internal comms and IT teams working with carrots and sticks behind the scenes with leaders to have that happen. But where it’s good, where the leaders are great, the engagement is great. And finally, I was find community management to be a bit of a buzzword term and it became a thing. But if you. Think about the skills of a facilitator. Being able to connect people. To coach. Question. Interpret. Like I said at the beginning of the recording. To share the right information. Research. Recommend. Curate what’s been going on. Organizations that have invested in some people with those roles. Whether it’s you’re running a community off the side of your desk and we give you some training. Or we actually are creating and I’ve seen this official sort of connectors and movers as a role in an organization and those are the three things. So getting the teams together to make it successful, working with leaders and maybe just finding the right ones and not trying to fight the wrong ones and then finding those facilitators and connectors, finding a way of supporting them, maybe unofficially, but when it’s done officially, we know that Yammer communities, for example, really take off.
[00:33:33.700] – Nancy Goebel
Those are some really powerful takeaways. James, I really appreciate you bringing those three thoughts together. It seems that you like to work in groups of threes which are easily digestible. So I’m going to pull that theme forward and say, if you had a crystal ball, what do you anticipate would be the three biggest trends for enterprise social in the next three to five years?
[00:34:01.240] – James Tyer
There’s a good question. I know you gave me this in advance and I put a lot of thought to this. I think the first is to our earlier discussion that rather than going to an app like Yammer or even Workplace or something like that and everything happens in that one app. I don’t have anything to back this up. But I would expect to see the social like the conversation piece appearing across suites. Including Microsoft and not it being just this sort of one experience that you go to. Maybe I’m honestly just inventing something here. In Viva, learning the conversation around a formal elearning training happens in a Yammer conversation piece and then the questions that come out of that are recorded in say, answers, the new capability we have and the answers are given. So a much sort of easier flow between the experiences. And I could see something like Slack with all its integrations, way too many in my personal opinion. Those things happen there as well. So I would see the conversation not being in a tool, but being where it needs to happen. And I think that will be pretty powerful. The second one, I’ve been advising a startup called Soundbite for a couple of years because I’m a really big fan of audio.
[00:35:24.940] – James Tyer
It’s a neat idea, it’s already here. I think audio has been missed in the enterprise. I’m sure Microsoft is thinking about it too as well. But if we’re thinking about the evolving workplace, whether it’s from meeting accessibility and we know that people can hear and speak much easier, or the ability to read and write, especially in a second language, is much more difficult than speaking and listening in a second language, for example, and things like neurodiversity. Audio helps capture a bigger audience than the written word. So I think if we’re mobile, we’re hybrid generationally, we emotionally connect with audio. Hopefully I’m not grating on anyone as I’m in your headphones right now, but I know from podcasts, for example, that I’ve listened to for over a decade, I feel like I know the people that I have had in my ears for so long. So I think it Soundbite already like a quarter million users. I think that’s the kind of thing. And then a third thing, I think there’s a lot of white space and I don’t know, I think that say for example, with Microsoft, the Viva experience is the first kind of go at building this digital experience.
[00:36:44.070] – James Tyer
That’s not just an intranet, it’s not just a social tool, it’s not just email, it’s none of those things. It’s combining them together in something that’s better than the sum of its parts. I would imagine Viva’s going to evolve in super interesting ways and other competitors will be thinking similarly.
[00:37:04.890] – Nancy Goebel
That’s a lot to take in and I’m trying to think through some salient points here. So there’s almost an element of conversation happening in context. In the first, I can’t help but go back to the idea that we speak with one mouth, but we’re supposed to listen with two ears. And so this second area really brings that thought home to me because I’ve been asked previously, why don’t you do a video to go along with the podcast? And just as you said, by channeling people to just listen a, it’s more accessible because people listen to the pod while walking or at the gym or on vacation at the beach, believe it or not. But also they talk about the fact that the stories, the energy, those are things they pick up on because they’re listening with both ears. And then in the third, I think that the most important skill that digital workplace leaders and their teams need to have is all about change. And with change we give room for experimentation and allow for the space to adapt and to guide others around being ready for the unexpected. And we know that technology is evolving very rapidly.
[00:38:37.260] – Nancy Goebel
We’re seeing partnerships come together to allow for new technological advancements or capabilities. Invariably you will see pockets of goodness coming out from startups of different kinds and they’ll rationalize and come into portfolios much like Yammer did once upon a time into the land of Microsoft. And so just embracing and expecting change and helping others work through it feels like the essence of what you’re saying without it being necessarily a crystal ball element per se.
[00:39:17.290] – James Tyer
I think it’s impossible to have a crystal ball. As much as I like sound bite and short form audio, I always wondered why audio has not taken off in the enterprise. I think there just wasn’t the way of doing it in a neat idea until now, but yes, being open to change, being adaptive, and not trying to control change, I think that’s a mistake that a lot of organizations do and a reminder that change is constant. There’s no start or finish. And if you’re thinking about the way that technology buying happens these days, we’re still trying to buy cloud tools with enterprise buying cycles and budgeting, which can be yearly. So I think there’s probably an opportunity for those things to start to align more effectively as well so that comms and IT and digital workplace teams can maybe quarterly plan and make sure that they’re on purpose and make sure the strategy is right rather than all these big yearly projects, for example.
[00:40:19.000] – Nancy Goebel
Great insights as always, James. I didn’t realize how much I missed connection and conversation with you, and I want to make sure I leave you with an opportunity in our final moments together to say, what have we missed? Any final reflections? Any parting advice? This is kind of your free space now.
[00:40:41.660] – James Tyer
I feel I’ve exhausted most of what I wanted to say, but maybe what I heard. I had some notes that I made for this piece and I’ve actually written about training and change management, which is you summarized it so nicely, much better than I put it initially. But I think there’s an opportunity to think about what are we trying to control and why? Where can we give up control and what can we remove rather than add things? I don’t mean to add a tool necessarily, but what can we take away? One of the things that Mark and I, when we do our book workshops is we outline we help companies outline all the kind of processes and systems that are governing how people work in the organization. And we say we work with a few of them and they’ll go, okay, we’re going to remove that HR process because it’s actually putting some friction between this group and this group from talking to each other. We’re going to remove this email that we put out, which is the 10th of the week, and it just puts in too much information to people. So I was thinking, how can you give up some control?
[00:41:55.840] – James Tyer
How can you remove and then that’s instead of doubling down on OCM and training and more formal pieces, I wrote it’s exactly what you said. How can we make change management an ongoing process and not a set of projects with ends?
[00:42:15.360] – Nancy Goebel
That’s the perfect way to cap off our time together. James, thank you so much for taking time out of all the work that you’re doing with customers and colleagues. Day to day to chat with me, and I’m sure many will benefit from the highlights from this conversation. And of course, as things continue to develop, we talked about looking for additional ways to collaborate with each other with DWG members and our wider audience in mind. So I’m saying that out loud. Not so much for us, but for the benefit of others to know this is to be continued when we find the right moments to come back together and share some more. Thank you for your energy, your time and great insights as always once again.
[00:43:05.960] – James Tyer
Thank you very much for having me. And I’d just like to make an open invite if anyone wants to connect on LinkedIn. I seem to be sharing a lot of this Viva Engage stuff right now, so it might be a way to keep up to date. And I’d also like to invite we have a Yammer Viva Engaged customer community that is on our internal Microsoft network. Lots of good discussions there. Just drop me your email on LinkedIn, make sure to add you.
[00:43:35.660] – Nancy Goebel
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