Tapping into the X Factor to deliver better outcomes for clients

RealFoundations has been recognised by SWOOP as world leader of best practices for Yammer. A sign of RealFoundations’ Yammer maturity is the fact the CEO has been able to step back from being the most influential person on the network because using Yammer, along with Microsoft Teams, is now part of the company’s everyday culture of working out loud – it’s where people do their work.

RealFoundations differentiates itself in the world of management consulting and managed services for real estate by its “(rf)X Factor” – its ability to deliver a better outcome for clients by tapping into the firm’s collective knowledge and capabilities.

RealFoundations’ (RF) focus on the capture and dissemination of knowledge enables individual practitioners to easily and quickly tap into the always-improving knowledge and capabilities of every single person who is working at the company, or has previously worked there, to deliver a better outcome for clients. They call it RF(x).

Sharing knowledge to deliver better business outcomes has been a core component of RealFoundations’ culture and today it’s enabled via Microsoft’s enterprise social network Yammer, Microsoft Teams and SWOOP Analytics.

So important is it to collaborate and share knowledge to innovate at RealFoundations, it has become a part of every employee’s bi-annual performance review. Data from SWOOP Analytics clearly shows how and when each employee has collaborated and contributed to the company’s knowledge base and this information is used as an input into performance for the review cycle.

RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza.

“Being a professional services firm, we sell specialized knowledge and capabilities in the real estate space,” said RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza.

“So for us, it’s really important to know what we know as a firm and in order to do that, we really have to get out of people’s heads what they know, and what they know how to do, and get that knowledge and those capabilities in a place where other people can learn from them, where it’s accessible to other people. For us, those places are primarily Yammer and Teams.”

This, Mrs Souza says, is what sets RealFoundations apart from competitors.

Collective knowledge – the differentiator for RealFoundations

RealFoundations is a professional services firm focused on helping companies that develop, own, operate, service, occupy or invest in real estate make smarter and more profitable decisions. RealFoundations advises on everything from designing cost-effective solutions for energy efficiency to implementing operation strategies.

“If you’re a client of ours, you have the five or 10 people on your specific project team, but really and truly, because of our RF(x) you’ve got the collective knowledge of the entire enterprise,” Mrs Souza said.

“It’s a primary differentiator for us. You’ve got these smart, capable people on the project team but also the 20+ years of accumulated knowledge and capabilities of our firm. And the ability for the people on a project team to tap into that knowledge and use it to accelerate results for a particular client.”

Traditionally, the real estate industry has been a slow adopter of new technologies but RealFoundations is an exception.

“We’re delivering these management consulting projects to clients today and they’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, how did you answer that question so quickly?’ And in response, we are excited to have clients look over our shoulders as we work – we show them Teams and Yammer and how we can use those places to have rich conversations to solve problems with people across the globe.”

The company water cooler

For RealFoundations, Yammer is; “our virtual water cooler where we talk about topics of enduring interest,” Mrs Souza says.

To continue to keep ahead of competitors, RealFoundations needs to track this huge knowledge library to ensure all 400 users are contributing, accessing and updating.

That’s where SWOOP Analytics provides the answers. SWOOP immediately provides real-time data on who is connecting with whom, which teams and departments are collaborating, it shows every employee’s online behaviours, identifies influencers and assesses the levels of engagement between executives and frontline staff.

SWOOP will track sentiment in the network, tell you when people are posting, find the hot topics, show the health of the network, the most engaging posts and give every employee tips on how to improve their online collaboration.

To ensure every individual can understand their own online collaborative behaviour, SWOOP has identified five personas – the Observer (non-active), Broadcaster (someone who sends messages but does not engage), the Responder (prefers to react to conversation rather than initiate it), Catalyst (seeds conversation) and the most aspirational persona, the Engager (connects and sustain relationships).

SWOOP also provides benchmarking for each department, group or individual. Twice a year, Mrs Souza runs a benchmarking report for every employee for the previous six months which is discussed at their bi-annual review.

“If you are new to RealFoundations, or if you are junior in our consulting practice, there’s this expectation, maybe you’re not posting a lot but we want to see that you’re liking things, maybe you’re asking questions,” said Mrs Souza, adding that Teams and email usage is also reviewed and discussion is often around ways knowledge would be better shared by working out loud in Yammer and Teams rather than email.

“Certainly, as you move up in your career we want more responses, more knowledge sharing, more thoughtful questions that turn into problems solved. We look at it differently at different levels, but we do look at the SWOOP personas in these reviews.”

Mrs Souza said it is important there are no Broadcasters in senior groups, only Engagers or Catalysts.

RealFoundations Chief Executive Chris Shaida.

With Teams also used heavily at RealFoundations, she said she can’t wait for SWOOP to release its analytics for Teams, due in late 2018.

Executive leadership

RealFoundations began using Yammer in 2014. Back then, it was driven by Chief Executive Chris Shaida.

He would give weekly tips on how to use Yammer and would engage staff by posting, sharing, tagging and commenting. Five years later, Mrs Souza says she still refers people back to those tips.

One of RealFoundations’ chief executive Chris Shaida’s early Yammer tips.

“He challenged us to think every time before you send an internal email,” Mrs Souza said.

“Ask yourself, are you certain that everybody who might know the answer to that question is in the distribution list? Or are there people who might benefit from hearing this conversation, from seeing how these questions get answered. If you believe others might benefit from the exchange, don’t bury it in email but put it in Yammer. We challenge people to have those exchanges in either Yammer or Teams.”

RealFoundations has been recognised by SWOOP as world leader of best practices for Yammer. A sign of RealFoundations’ Yammer maturity is the fact the CEO has been able to step back from being the most influential person on the network because using Yammer is now part of the company’s everyday culture of working out loud – it’s where people work.

“In the beginning Chris was very active.  If you looked at SWOOP two years ago, and today, Chris has definitely tried to step back so that others can step forward. He reads everything in Yammer still but that’s not apparent to everybody,” Mrs Souza said.

Live blogging on Yammer

Being a real estate consultancy firm, RealFoundations staff attend about 50 conferences every year. They create a Yammer group for every conference. While this means there are a lot of groups on the Yammer network, it also means it’s easy to share news from each event and refer back to the previous year’s event.

Usually four to five employees attend each conference and they all live blog on Yammer to share what they’re learning. They also use the group to answer questions from potential customers who visit the RealFoundations booth. They can snap a photo of a business card, ask the question on Yammer and tag the relevant person, and either give the answer to the customer or get the person they’ve tagged in the Yammer post to follow up.

A post on RealFoundations’ Yammer network about a session Mrs Souza attended at Microsoft Ignite.

“Everyone who goes to conferences on behalf of RealFoundations takes pictures, shares business cards from people that visit our booth, goes to sessions and live blogs what they’re learning,” Mrs Souza said.

“It gives people the opportunity to learn and feel like, even though I didn’t physically go to this event, I know what happened, I know who we talked to, I know the big themes that were discussed.”

#widt (What I’m Doing Today)

SWOOP also tracks hashtags, topics and conversation threads on RealFoundations’ Yammer network. With employees scattered across the globe, they’ve started an initiative called #WhatImDoingToday where each employee begins their day with a quick post on what they’re doing each day.

“I have five people in my team in India,” Mrs Souza said. “We all come in and do the same thing and post what we’re doing to start our work day. It’s just a little thing but it makes you feel much more connected and when I finish something at the end of the day, to be able to pass that thread on and have them pick that up is invaluable.

Some of the RealFoundations team in Chennai, India.

“To be able to work out loud in that way makes us definitely more productive. As a manager of resources across distance, it allows you to have your pulse on what’s going on.”

For new employees, the knowledge library in Yammer and Teams is a way to accelerate learning.

“This Work Out Loud culture and encapsulating this knowledge and these capabilities in Yammer and in Teams, it allows us to get new, junior people up to speed more quickly and then it allows senior people, who are experiencing an issue that they haven’t come across before, they can quickly crowd source the answer because you may not know the answer but somebody here does, somebody has experienced that before,” Mrs Souza said.

Productivity in general is boosted by working out loud at RealFoundations. Knowledge is no longer lost in emails, it gives employees more room to be flexible in their work hours and everyone in the organisation can keep their finger on the pulse.

“Our leadership team can’t be at every project, every client, every week but because their teams are working out loud in Yammer and in Teams, they can have a pulse on what’s going on and they know straight away if there are issues anywhere,” Mrs Souza said.