Posted by: karisyd | February 28, 2015

What drives value in ESN?

In a recent survey of 193 Yammer users my colleague Matti Mäntymäki and I investigated which forms of usage drive perceived individual value in ESN. The study was based on prior case studies I had carried out with various other colleagues in which we identified five major use cases of ESN: the ways in which Yammer was mainly used within the workplace.

These five use cases are: 1) Discussions and informal talk (people discuss various matters of interest), 2) Status updates and event notifications (people tell each other what they are working on and about events in their work environment), 3) Idea and input generation (people post links to interesting information and brainstorm new ideas), 4) Problem-solving (people crowdsource solutions to pressing work problems), and 5) Social feedback (people share success stories and praise each other).

While these studies have shown that all of these use cases contribute to the shared value for the organisation, these cases were all based on the analysis of Yammer messages – what those people do that actively post to the Yammer space.

But what about the silent majority of passive users (note: don’t call them lurkers – they’re not)? So in this study we wanted to know, what makes Yammer valuable more generally for all users?

We went through a multi-stage process to rigorously develop and operationalise constructs and an ensuing questionnaire instrument, which we distributed to Yammer users across three organisations.

The results

Our results (see figure below) show that exchanging and obtaining ideas and information is by far the most important source of value for ESN users. Users see ESN as a space for sharing information with other users, for discussing ideas and for reading and obtaining information that feed into the users’ work processes. This speaks to the usefulness of ESN in the context of knowledge work and for knowledge exchange.

Moreover, users also perceive problem-solving and updates & events as valuable, yet to a lesser extent. The other two constructs were non-significant.

But does that mean that informal discussions and the social aspects of ESN communication are useless and should be avoided? Of course not, it only means that when asked directly, users find value mostly in the information sharing aspects of ESN. The social aspects however are necessary because they underpin the ESN community, without which there wouldn’t be a useful space for information sharing to begin with.

esn survey


Riemer K and Mantymaki M 2014 ‘Information, Ideas and Input: The Value of Enterprise Social Networks’, Proceedings of the 25th Australasian Conference of Information Systems ACIS 2014, Auckland, New Zealand, 10th December 2014 – Download full paper


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