Lowe noted that among all the groups that were formed in Yammer, IT was the least-represented department. "IT was very focused on bigger priorities -- ERP and large global systems," he noted. "This was the kind of thing that wasn't on anybody's radar.... At any time, anybody could have shut this thing down. But there was so much adoption that they didn't want to shut it down. It was a groundswell activity. And it didn't cost us anything."
Using a free service, according to Lowe, was critical in getting Alcatel-Lucent to take its first step.
"Yammer was really good in that it didn't cost us to do a pilot," he said, adding that 9,300 employees are now signed up to use the microblogging tool. "We had zero dollars to throw at it. That's good because if I'd had to get a budget for this, we never would have done it."
But now that Yammer use is widespread, "people have come up to me and said, 'Yammer saved me three days of trying to find who I should talk to about a problem.' It was those anecdotal cases that drove the business case for Yammer." Slow and steady pays off
Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at market research firm Current Analysis, said it's a great idea for companies to wade slowly into the enterprise 2.0 waters.
"If you roll out your platform and send out an e-mail to everyone saying 'As of Monday, I'll expect everyone to start posting,' the chances of that succeeding are very minimal," Shimmin said. "You'd be imposing additional work on these people. You'd be changing how they do their jobs. But if you put the tool in the room and let them pick it up and figure out themselves how it will best benefit them, it'll be put to good use. If you tell them what to do with it, it will be a detriment."
And that's exactly what happened at Alcatel-Lucent. Adoption happened via word of mouth, and it was a slow and steady progression.
And then Lowe decided to step it up a notch.
Last year, he figured the company needed more than just the ability to microblog. While employees continue to use Yammer, Lowe said he wanted them to have an easy way to find others who might have certain experience or knowledge . He wanted to facilitate communication among people in different departments and on different continents in different time zones.
"We just needed more," said Lowe. "We looked at different solutions. We looked at Newsgator to throw on top of SharePoint , but... I work in the birthplace of Unix, and we had a lot of non- Microsoft users for whom the SharePoint experience wasn't conducive."