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How Yammer Stayed Lean
Post-Acquisition
Customer Development
as Survival Strategy
I’ve worked most of
my career in startups,
but somehow I keep working
with enterprises:
So here we were at Yammer,
just working hard, y’know…
…when this happened.
We totally had an open mind.
But the precedents weren’t great…
What We Stood to Lose
• How we build product
• How we make decisions
• How we maintain culture
(Actually, keeping these below items was part of the acquisition
deal.)
How We Build Product:
Problem First
• Product vision, not roadmap
• Identify problem through:
– Analytics data
– Research
– Customer suggestions (high degree of
skepticism)
How We Build Product:
Autonomy
• Goal: teams operate autonomously
• Goal: no unsolicited day-to-day
manager approvals, opinions
• “Hire smart people, unblock obstacles,
and trust them to get sh*t done”
How We Build Product:
Cross-Functional Teams
• Full cross-functional representation
– Product Manager
– Designers (visual & interaction)
– Researcher
– Data analyst
– Tech Lead
– Engineers
How We Build Product:
The 2-10 Model
• Scope it to 2-10 engineers, 2-10 weeks
– If it’s bigger than that, it’s not MVP
• Best = fastest speed to learning
How We Build Product:
No “Experts”
• People assigned to different
feature/product areas each time
– Prevents silo-ing
– Prevents territoriality / deferral to “the
search expert” or “the iOS expert”
How We Make Decisions:
Test Everything
• All features A/B tested
• Goal is learning, not shipping
– If it doesn’t move metrics, don’t ship it
– We ship ~50% of projects; if that number
gets higher, it means we’re not trying
ambitious enough changes
How We Make Decisions:
Maximize Impact
• What % of users will this affect?
• Can this change help people without
them needing to take explicit action?
• Will this change drive people to take
the actions we want them to take?
How We Maintain Culture:
Systems Thinking
• “95% of the variance in productivity
is due to the system, not the
individual” – Deming
– Is recruiting & hiring getting us the
candidates we need?
– Is staffing projects keeping people
productive?
– Is feature quality what we need?
– Do people understand the mission and
their part in it?
How We Maintain Culture:
Manager as Servant Leader
• Managers don’t code/design/write specs
• Remove obstacles
• Push people beyond their comfort
zone
• Advise when asked
• Provide higher-up view / vision
How We Maintain Culture:
Data, Not Opinions, Wins
• Kill the HiPPO
• Quantitative data proves that a
problem exists, that a feature works
• Qualitative data reveals problems
and opportunities, shows why a
feature works/doesn’t
• ANYTHING can be put to a test!
How We Maintain Culture:
Clarity around ‘Culture Fit’
• “Product sense”
• Ability to communicate clearly / work
openly
• Problem-solving ability
• Willingness to express dissent*
• NOT “the best engineer” / “the best
designer”
“Don’t pick your battles.
Fight for everything.”
- Kris Gale, VP Engineering
…though, apparently, just telling
people “You’re doing it wrong” is
not a successful strategy.
Acquisition
is a lot like
customer development!
Form hypotheses
State assumptions
Hypothesis
We believe cloud services teams are
struggling with moving fast enough
and making data-informed decisions
and we can help them by sharing what
we’ve learned.
Assumptions
• Teams will tell us, “that’s just the way
it’s done” and not listen
• Individuals will use bureaucracy to
avoid change
• Teams are optimizing for “avoid
mistakes” vs. “recover from mistakes”
• PMs/Research feels threatened that
Data Analytics will obsolete them
• What kind of people stay at a
company for 10+ years?
Find the early adopters willing to
listen to your beta arguments
Finding Early Adopters
• Posting on the MSFT Yammer
network
• Redmond casual “Lean Day” – chairs
and paper signs in an open space
• Visited people in their office, anyone
who’d listen
• Volunteered to give talks through
internal training group
Share notes with your team
and update your assumptions
Updated Assumptions
• Individuals are reasonable, the
bureaucracy is awful.
• The person who knows X is happy to
help; their manager will be a
bottleneck
• Teams are comfortable taking risks, they
just need reassurance.
• People know their products aren’t
good enough yet (but are eager to
figure out how to get better)
Stop doing
things that don’t work
No.
• Too much “systems thinking” and
theory
• “Minimum Viable Product”
• Asking GMs for
help/resources/collaboration
• Asking for behavioral change without
offering stepping stones
• Long-term collaborations with
“traditional” teams
• Yammer North
Celebrate successes!
Yes, more!
• “Borrow an analyst” for teams who
wanted to explore A/B testing
• Research + Analytics talks
• Dropbox integration (“take that,
OneDrive!”)
• Spirit of the law, not letter of the law
• If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em (and
then covertly change their minds)
• Yammer Redmond

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How Yammer Stayed Lean Post-Acquisition: Customer Development as Survival Strategy

  • 1. How Yammer Stayed Lean Post-Acquisition Customer Development as Survival Strategy
  • 2. I’ve worked most of my career in startups, but somehow I keep working with enterprises:
  • 3. So here we were at Yammer, just working hard, y’know…
  • 5. We totally had an open mind.
  • 6. But the precedents weren’t great…
  • 7. What We Stood to Lose • How we build product • How we make decisions • How we maintain culture (Actually, keeping these below items was part of the acquisition deal.)
  • 8. How We Build Product: Problem First • Product vision, not roadmap • Identify problem through: – Analytics data – Research – Customer suggestions (high degree of skepticism)
  • 9. How We Build Product: Autonomy • Goal: teams operate autonomously • Goal: no unsolicited day-to-day manager approvals, opinions • “Hire smart people, unblock obstacles, and trust them to get sh*t done”
  • 10. How We Build Product: Cross-Functional Teams • Full cross-functional representation – Product Manager – Designers (visual & interaction) – Researcher – Data analyst – Tech Lead – Engineers
  • 11. How We Build Product: The 2-10 Model • Scope it to 2-10 engineers, 2-10 weeks – If it’s bigger than that, it’s not MVP • Best = fastest speed to learning
  • 12. How We Build Product: No “Experts” • People assigned to different feature/product areas each time – Prevents silo-ing – Prevents territoriality / deferral to “the search expert” or “the iOS expert”
  • 13. How We Make Decisions: Test Everything • All features A/B tested • Goal is learning, not shipping – If it doesn’t move metrics, don’t ship it – We ship ~50% of projects; if that number gets higher, it means we’re not trying ambitious enough changes
  • 14. How We Make Decisions: Maximize Impact • What % of users will this affect? • Can this change help people without them needing to take explicit action? • Will this change drive people to take the actions we want them to take?
  • 15. How We Maintain Culture: Systems Thinking • “95% of the variance in productivity is due to the system, not the individual” – Deming – Is recruiting & hiring getting us the candidates we need? – Is staffing projects keeping people productive? – Is feature quality what we need? – Do people understand the mission and their part in it?
  • 16. How We Maintain Culture: Manager as Servant Leader • Managers don’t code/design/write specs • Remove obstacles • Push people beyond their comfort zone • Advise when asked • Provide higher-up view / vision
  • 17. How We Maintain Culture: Data, Not Opinions, Wins • Kill the HiPPO • Quantitative data proves that a problem exists, that a feature works • Qualitative data reveals problems and opportunities, shows why a feature works/doesn’t • ANYTHING can be put to a test!
  • 18. How We Maintain Culture: Clarity around ‘Culture Fit’ • “Product sense” • Ability to communicate clearly / work openly • Problem-solving ability • Willingness to express dissent* • NOT “the best engineer” / “the best designer”
  • 19. “Don’t pick your battles. Fight for everything.” - Kris Gale, VP Engineering
  • 20. …though, apparently, just telling people “You’re doing it wrong” is not a successful strategy.
  • 21. Acquisition is a lot like customer development!
  • 23. Hypothesis We believe cloud services teams are struggling with moving fast enough and making data-informed decisions and we can help them by sharing what we’ve learned.
  • 24. Assumptions • Teams will tell us, “that’s just the way it’s done” and not listen • Individuals will use bureaucracy to avoid change • Teams are optimizing for “avoid mistakes” vs. “recover from mistakes” • PMs/Research feels threatened that Data Analytics will obsolete them • What kind of people stay at a company for 10+ years?
  • 25. Find the early adopters willing to listen to your beta arguments
  • 26. Finding Early Adopters • Posting on the MSFT Yammer network • Redmond casual “Lean Day” – chairs and paper signs in an open space • Visited people in their office, anyone who’d listen • Volunteered to give talks through internal training group
  • 27. Share notes with your team and update your assumptions
  • 28. Updated Assumptions • Individuals are reasonable, the bureaucracy is awful. • The person who knows X is happy to help; their manager will be a bottleneck • Teams are comfortable taking risks, they just need reassurance. • People know their products aren’t good enough yet (but are eager to figure out how to get better)
  • 29. Stop doing things that don’t work
  • 30. No. • Too much “systems thinking” and theory • “Minimum Viable Product” • Asking GMs for help/resources/collaboration • Asking for behavioral change without offering stepping stones • Long-term collaborations with “traditional” teams • Yammer North
  • 32. Yes, more! • “Borrow an analyst” for teams who wanted to explore A/B testing • Research + Analytics talks • Dropbox integration (“take that, OneDrive!”) • Spirit of the law, not letter of the law • If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em (and then covertly change their minds) • Yammer Redmond