Quick Yammer tip: controlling external group creation

What do IT pros usually do when they don’t understand something or don’t have a clear direction? KILL IT! Kill it before something happens that we don’t understand!!!!

I’ve seen this a lot with Yammer external groups. IT don’t want users creating external groups due to data leakage or other compliance/governance purposes, so disable the feature. The problem here is that this approach in Yammer also stops users accessing external groups hosted in other networks.

This scenario gives rise to “Shadow IT” as users tend to find their way around IT and will find other tools like Slack, Facebook, Google Groups, and any number of others.

In some instances, IT wants to block users accessing external groups in Yammer completely. Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with this approach because users then turn to LinkedIn as it is generally not blocked, and has a community / group aspect where IT has no control. Often people will use their own phones to access services blocked by the corporate firewall/proxy. Or in cases like Yammer they might get an account created in someone else’s Yammer network and join the groups anyway (I and a few others I know play host to such wayward users who still want to participate in conversations, but their IT department has disabled external groups).

There’s two things IT departments can do here:

Allow users to access external groups, but prevent their ability to create them.

If you check the checkbox in the picture below, external groups will no longer work.

What other users in those external groups will see is this:

In one external group I’m a member of we’ve turned it into a sport to use memes and GIFs to make light of people disappearing in this manner. (The organisation in the screenshot below had the name “Connect” as part of their name.)

So, what’s the tip here? There is a way to prevent the creation of external groups by users, but still allow them to join external groups they have been invited to. You can read more in this support article: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Create-and-manage-external-groups-in-Yammer-9ccd15ce-0efc-4dc1-81bc-4a424ab6f92a

Unfortunately, it’s not a setting you can change yourself, and instead you’ll need to contact support from within the Office 365 admin panel.

Get your house in order

As I mentioned earlier, users tend to find their way around blocks and restrictions which is actually worse for governance and compliance than giving them access to something that isn’t completely managed in the first place.

As new services pop up that IT doesn’t necessarily know about, users will subscribe to them which results in more shadow IT. Sure you can block Facebook, Slack, but if you start blocking Google or LinkedIn that will cause real problems – and there are plenty of other community and group chat solutions out there.

So instead of burying your head in the sand and turning things off or blocking access – prioritise the compliance and governance frameworks needed to support the use of tools like Yammer or more recently Microsoft Teams. This may require actually investing the time and effort to build a robust policy as well as potentially procuring a third-party monitoring system, but it’s better to be on the front foot with appropriate guidance and measures than annoying users and losing control of data.

Anatomy of a well-communicated meeting

Earlier this week on RE:Office 365 we discussed etiquette when it comes to meetings. A lot of great points were raised and I think most people generally come to the same consensus that meetings should be better. So why is it that people still get their feathers ruffled around organising and having meetings.

I thought it quite ironic that almost immediately after the live stream ended I was speaking with a friend that works at a large Australian firm, and mentioned the discussion I’d just been a part of. They were staying at home for the day as they were unwell and had logged into their email to cancel any meetings for the day. One of them was a workshop with a number of people, and within a few minutes of the cancellation the organiser fired back quite tersely about how important this workshop was, how it was core to my friend’s job, how difficult it was to organise, etc. My friend was quite flustered with this brittle response.

I asked the question: “did you give a reason for your cancellation, or just cancel without any message?”. They indicated the latter. I didn’t need to say anything further on this as they immediately followed up with “I guess I should have explained why”.

The organiser of the meeting found out from my friend’s manager later that morning and sent an email wishing them a speedy recovery. This was a positive action to take from someone who realised that they may have overreacted in the tone of the email and was attempting to make amends. However, time and energy would have been saved if my friend had simply let the organiser know that they were unwell in the first place.

I recently wrote an article about “Bob” and his boss, where Bob cancelled the meeting with a few minutes to spare which caused his boss to overreact with a terse email. Bob could have done better by cancelling the meeting earlier – this would have avoided his boss being a dick and responding with how important he was and how unacceptable the meeting cancellation was.

On The Office 365 Good Etiquette Guide I have written a number of smaller articles around meeting etiquette that are really common sense, but for the sake of the exercise let’s piece together what I believe would be a well-communicated meeting that everyone will benefit from.

For the meeting organiser:

For the meeting participants:

The reality is that if the organiser spends a minute or two extra before sending a meeting invite: they will have a better a response.

If participants write a line or two when declining or cancelling this will save considerable frustration.

The technology has been here for a while:

If you don’t have the technology, get it. A comparatively small investment will result in an increased speed of decision making and collaboration, improve employee satisfaction by removing meeting frustrations.

The people aspect however costs even less to improve. Think about your fellow human being as a person, not a resource or obstruction. This person has their own job and life with their own challenges and pressures. We don’t know what is going on at all times with each other, and in reality, it’s not entirely our business. However, it is important to be considerate. So, spend a few extra seconds or minutes before, during and after meetings – it will pay off handsomely in the long run.