Placing a Yammer Network into Forced Retirement

People are close to their social networks, and most see the network as representative of their brand and culture. If you kill the network, you’re perceivably killing a culture.

However, sometimes this needs to happen. I recall a recent scenario. Effectively an acquisition and merger, my mandate was to roll three disparate Yammer networks into one. Requests to collaborate here not there and incentives weren’t cutting it. People we holding on to what they felt was their heritage.

Two of these networks had to die to ensure the third thrived.

It’s a process I lovingly call strangulation.

It’s an appropriate metaphor. Social networks thrive on interactivity. To kill the network, you have to force a reduction in that interactivity; figuratively starve it of oxygen.

How do you do that? The key is in providing a strong enough incentive (and visual cues) to move the herd.

Can you just ‘Disable’ Yammer?

There is a documented process to turn Yammer off.

In our case, we wanted to ensure ongoing access to content in the network for a period of time leading up to tenant decommissioning. We also wanted to ensure users could log into the network and ‘springboard’ into other networks in which they were ‘guests’. Outright killing the network was not an option.

Note the following:

  • You cannot manually add or remove members from the All Company group (but you can restrict new conversations to admins only).
  • You cannot prevent people accessing Yammer or creating groups whilst they remain licensed.
  • Verified network administrators cannot access private messages and groups unless Private Content Mode is enabled (consult with your legal team before you enable this mode).
  • You can’t use a tool to migrate groups conversations to another Yammer network. Give users time to migrate supporting assets such as Files and Pinned Items (links) themselves.

The Importance of Change Management

This process enables ongoing visibility of content, until such time licenses are revoked. Retirement directly impacts the network in the following ways:

  • (non verified) Network and Group administrators are demoted, becoming regular community members in the network
  • Yammer groups are removed from the search scope. Only existing members retain access.

Migration Note: If users are transitioning to another network/tenant they are likely assuming a new identity. Any connections to heritage content (things they’ve posted, liked, people they followed) are severed in the transition.

This article is not about organisational change management. It’s about what you can technically do with the Yammer network to facilitate it’s retirement. However, I will state that you’ll only succeed with this process if you provide clear messaging leading up to, during and post retirement activity.

Pre-Retirement – It’s Time to Switch!
  • Explain that you’re retiring the network and the reasons why
  • Explain key terms such as ‘Deletion’ and ‘Archival’
  • If you can, publish an inventory of groups and nominated Owners (resolve scenarios where a group has no clear ownership, or there are many listed group admins).
  • Set our timelines for the retirement
  • Clearly set our what you expect Owners to do
  • Clearly set out what’s going to happen if Owners do nothing
  • Provide options (and support collateral) to help users move groups and content to other networks (if applicable)
  • Invite people to be proactive and relocate/re-establish Yammer groups (or outright delete them if they are no longer relevant).
  • Provide a support channel for the transformation.

Preparation

The Yammer Custodian

I recommend creating a Yammer Custodian generic user account to run the retirement. The account stays with the network after retirement and can be used by an admin to access content or manage settings for the network long after licenses for the user community have been revoked. The custodian has the following role:

  • It assumes a role as a verified network admin moving forward.
  • It assumes default ownership of any groups archived during the retirement
  • It is used to make announcements during retirement at network or group level (members have the option to ‘follow’ the custodian to keep informed of what’s happening).

Once you’ve created the Yammer Custodian account, head on over to your network’s Admin settings and make it a Verified Admin.

Accessing Private Content

By default, private groups remain inaccessible to Verified Admins. They have to request access like everyone else.

You have the option to set the network’s content mode to Private (Network Admin > Content Mode). This will enable the Yammer Custodian to access (and archive) groups marked as private in the Yammer network.

Consult with your legal team prior to enabling this mode. Alternatively, you can have the Yammer Custodian request permission and/or ignore private groups during the retirement.

Data Retention

By default, deleted content disappears from user view, but it will be retained in the database for 30 days,

You have the option to set the Data Retention Policy (Network Admin > Data Retention). Changing the setting to Archive will ensure anything deleted during retirement is retained for reporting & analysis.

Note: It is possible for content to be hard delved via the GDPR workflow or via an API call, even if the data retention policy is set to Archive.

Archiving a Group

It’d a good strategy to start with the groups with lowest member count first (low risk first).

You should perform the following tasks (signed in as a verified network administrator) in order to archive a Yammer group:

  • Add the Yammer Custodian to the group and promote it to admin

Perform the following tasks as the Yammer Custodian:

  • Revoke the admin role from each other group administrator (the Yammer Custodian should be the only group admin.
  • Append the term ‘(Archived)’ on the end of the group Name
  • If the group is public, switch it to private. If you do this, it will no longer be accessible to non-members but you’ll prevent anyone new from joining and/or posting. Existing members retain access.

(Removing groups from the directory and search results will prevent them from popping up in the Discover Groups Yammer feature).

  • Finally, post a message in the group to indicate it is archived:

Note: I recommend posting as an Update instead of an Announcement. An announcement generates email to all group members. Given you can archive groups quickly, you’ll spam them with messages from the Yammer Custodian. Impacted users with high resistance will consider this equivalent to a ‘knife through the heart’. Announcements should be by exception.

Network Configuration

With all the Groups (with the exception of All Company) archived, it’s time to make some changes at the network level:

  • Switch to the All Company group and open Settings. Append ‘(Archived)’ on the end of the group Name and set the Posting Permissions to Restricted.
  • In Network Admin > Configuration > Basics, set the Message Prompt to some kind of deterrent. Be creative!
  • In Network Admin > Configuration > File Upload Permissions, set the File Upload Permissions to block all files.

There you have it. A process to retire (not outright kill) your Yammer network. The process documented here is mature, having been employed in support of a large scale tenant migration. It proved highly effective, but not without supporting organisational change management efforts.

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