MS Yammer

by Dave Michels

It seems nearly official: Microsoft is reportedly close to buying Yammer, a privately held social enterprise vendor, for more than $1 billion. WTF?

It makes sense, sorta.

IBM, Google, VMware, Cisco, and of course Facebook and Twitter all see social networking, and the social enterprise as a huge opportunity. When I evaluate UC vendors in my TalkingPointz research, I dedicated a section to the vendor’s social networking integration and capabilities. It is generally one of the shortest sections. MS is already in CRM and UC – Yammer could fill a partially filled hole via SharePoint and Office 365.

It is absolutely clear that UC, CRM, and Social networking are all converging. One of the best simple examples of this is Cisco’s tarantula video. Several call center solutions are embracing social in some way, SEN’s OpenScape can actually change call routing based on social updates, and is betting heavily on its Chatter service. But I don’t want to make it sound like social integration within UC is common – it is not. Most vendors still don’t have any type of formal strategy around it.

A point of confusion is if SharePoint is a social platform. Some people say yes – some people say no. My take is no. SharePoint is a pile of crap and I have yet to find anyone that actually swears by it (swears at it yes). It is an obsolete model of collaboration inspired by the traditional library (when we explain to our kids what a library was, we can say kind of like SharePoint for real books). SharePoint simply doesn’t belong in a  web 2.0, HTML5, social enterprise world. That’s bad news if you are a SharePoint user looking to the future, because SharePoint has a way of creeping into everything making upgrades very complex.

Yammer is an enterprise social network provider which allows employees to collaborate across departments, geographies, content and applications. Yammer is pretty simple. I like Yammer. It’s closest competitor is SocialCAST which VMware now owns. Yammer is easy to learn, and your organization may already have an unofficial implementation. Yammer uses a freemium model, and the unmanaged/free model simply uses email domains to determine group eligibility. Getting rid of people, or controlling membership in anyway costs money.

I like the idea of Yammer being acquired. I think it is a great service, and I’m surprised it took so long since business related social networking continues to grow in popularity. The question is now what? Now it falls into the Redmond Abyss. MS needs to announce and finish the acquisition, and then begin plans to integrate which it likely won’t pre-announce. It could be years until we see the [intended] fruits of this deal. Note: it’s been over a year since MS announced its intent to acquire Skype and we still don’t know the [intended] strategy.

It isn’t clear if MS is acquiring the technology or the users, what it will do with it, or what’s its motivations are. Yammer isn’t particularly popular or well known, so between that and how long MS will actually take to announce anything that most people will forget about the acquisition. But I like the idea that MS is looking to beef up social, and I hope they do something exciting with it and Lync and/or Dynamics and/or SharePoint.