How to use Yammer for Business Continuity Planning

Picture the scene: high summer, after a month of false starts and grey skies, finally reaches Oxford.

With the temperature outside reaching 28°C, the air conditioning unit in a main server room fails. What do you do?

John_KayThat’s the situation Oxford University Press faced 10 days ago.

Here John Kay, Internal Communications Manager, Group Communications, (pictured) picks up the story.

He’s written a guest article for the All Things IC blog to share what they did, what you can learn and how Yammer helped.

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford here in the UK. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. You can find out more about them via this video:

Over to you John…

How to use Yammer for Business Continuity Planning

It was a ‘Perfect Storm’ moment: with nothing to keep it in check, the internal temperature climbed rapidly, several servers shut down, the fire suppression system swung into action.

This in turn activated the fire alarm, evacuating the offices, leading to comments among staff about how pleasant it was to take an unscheduled 20 minute breather in the warm sunshine.

Then down went the email systems for OUP offices in 35 global locations, from Canada to Poland to Vietnam.

OUPWith our principal ‘Push’ channel potentially out of action for a week, it was up to the communications team to work with IT on keeping people informed on progress through alternative channels.

We decamped to their offices, quickly got up to speed on IT-server-repair terminology, and put our business continuity plans into action.

Firstly, we created a dedicated page on our Intranet, and a news feed, updated hourly, on the home page.

We then took to Yammer – posting links to the updates in the All Company feed and Groups as appropriate; contacting international service desks, senior PAs and local communication network leads via Skype for Business, and getting them to encourage local staff to check those sources; while our Group Communications Director kept Executive Committee members informed by SMS.

Yammer proved vital.

OUP As the situation returned to normal we were able to provide updates in real-time, answer specific enquiries, and share solutions to IT problems that end-users could fix themselves.

These were provided by other subject matter experts when – as was inevitably the case in the circumstances – the IT team weren’t always on hand.

We got a real sense of colleagues across the business proactively willing to collaborate and help keep essential business processes operating.

After seven long days we were able to inform all affected staff – more than 2,000 of them – that normal service had been resumed.

The feedback has been unanimously positive: one member of staff summed up our use of ESN by simply posting: ‘Yammer works! ’, while our IT lead commented ‘I’ve found your input supremely valuable, and the help in comms which is never IT’s strong suit, is great’.

Lessons learned
We now have as much evidence as we could wish for to demonstrate the value to the business of an Enterprise Social Network, and to drive up adoption; and we know we can continue to operate and communicate effectively in a critical situation (other systems were impacted, including our SAP system – the engine underpinning our sales processes).

We’ll be looking at how we use SMS to communicate to wider groups of staff then senior managers; and, above all, we’ll be pondering the question ‘what would we do if it wasn’t just email that crashed?’

Post author: John Kay.

Thank you again for sharing your story John.

How good are your Business Continuity Plans or crisis comms preparations? Have you used Yammer in a crisis situation? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Not sure what BCP is? See my glossary of internal communication.

Further reading on BCP and Crisis Comms: 

Crisis Comms checklist – find out how to get prepared
Glossary of internal communication – bust some jargon
Snow comms – how to prepare for the weather
Blurred lines – communicating from the inside out

Further reading on Yammer and ESNs:

How are you using Yammer? Got a story to share?

Check out my guidelines and do get in touch with your idea.

Learn about internal communication

MasterclassesThere are a handful of spaces left on two upcoming Masterclasses from All Thing IC.

These are day-long courses designed by and for professional communicators, and you’re welcome to sign up.

They are:
Internal Communication on 15 September 2016
Strategic Internal Communication on 6 October 2016.

See the Masterclasses website for full information and to save your space.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 28 July 2016.


  1. […] How to use Yammer for Business Continuity Planning – praktikfall #4 (Oxford University Press) […]

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