Microsoft and the Plan for Yammer?

by Thomas Vander Wal in ,

So, mid-day Friday the Wall Street Journal confirmed that Yammer agrees to sell to Microsoft. This doesn’t mean the deal is announced nor done, and even if that happens it isn’t over until it is over (as Yogi Berra says).

There have been a lot of people asking why all of this is important and why so many people are abuzz about Microsoft and Yammer. This is big, as one of the big four business software vendors (Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and Oracle, a.k.a. MISO) is taking a big step to take social seriously (IBM has already been incredibly serious about this for years with its Lotus Connections platform and has long lead with innovation to move to the next level). Microsoft has done a great job marketing capabilities for social in the enterprise with Sharepoint. But the delivery and execution on that with Sharepoint by itself has left many customers frustrated and looking to augment or replace it with other solutions. The Yammer focus means Microsoft knows it needs deeper understanding and breath of its social offerings.

Social means many things and they all must be held together at once to do things really well. Social is collective, conversational, and collaborative (as in real collaboration not the meaning-drained buzzword use). Social needs to flow into processes, tasks and teams, sales and marketing support, organization wide communication, innovation, and nearly a hundred or more valuable uses inside organizations. Businesses need much better human to human interactions, workspaces, and forums for doing work than email or other solutions have afforded in the past.

Some items of interest have surfaced by some tech journalists as they look at the Microsoft and Yammer potential deal. Many learning of the rumor and news of Yammer and Microsoft assumed Sharepoint (I certainly did), which makes some sense as it is a big gap. In the TechCrunch interview, Nitin Bharia leaves Microsoft and talks about Sharepoint and Yammer, there is a lot of potential insight from the perspective of someone who “may” have deep understanding of what is going on and the intentions of Microsoft with what they will do with Yammer.

First, Nitin provides the statement, “Microsoft didn’t do a very good job of building enterprise social networking. Sharepoint has built-in capabilities no where near Facebook quality.” This is not the first disclosure publicly that Microsoft still has a lot of work to do if it wants to provide a great social offering in its swiss army knife toolkit that is Sharepoint.

The ReadWriteWeb article about Microsoft and Yammer brings up the John Barrett admission,

“SharePoint began adding social media capabilities with the release of SharePoint 2010, but in April Jon Barrett, Microsoft Australia’s solution specialist of business productivity, told Australia’s Image and Data Manager that “the improved new social media features in Wave 15 would not match the richness of solutions such as Newsgator Social Sites.” (Wave 15 is the internal Microsoft code name for the SharePoint 2013 release.)”

What Will Microsoft Do with Yammer?

Nitin has hunches with what Microsoft may do with Yammer, which include leaving Yammer as a stand alone product as it has done with Skype, which could be really interesting and be good for Microsoft and Yammer as they intertwingle over time. Matt Weinberger of Services Angle has his different angle, “Combine [Yammer] with Microsoft infrastructure, Microsoft Office 365 cloud productivity, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and the synergies start to become apparent.”

These are different viable takes on what may be of value for Microsoft and its road map. But, one thing is clear Microsoft is signaling the understanding how broad and difficult social is when trying to bring it to mainstream people which are the 80% of enterprise employees and customers. Social software is difficult and it seems like Microsoft is getting beyond the idea that it is much more than bolt together features and functionality done by engineers.

Holistic Social Software for Organizations

If you spend time inside organizations as the person responsible for managing social platforms you realize there are a lot of facets to social and how it is woven into the organization. This focus is a really helpful view as it quickly leads to the reality there are many pieces needed to give a good platform for social. There is no one vendor winning, as flexibility and adaptability are needed to meet these varied needs for tools and interactive components across many different personality types, roles, and tactical needs in the organization.

Many of these people have also lived through the increasing frustration with content management systems (CMS) that tried to win by building one solution that in the end was a muddled mediocre unusable pile of bloat. Many organizations have been moving off these CMS to social platforms to replace their intranets and having much more success with that than any CMS has been able to muster in the last 10 to 15 years.

Social software for the organization must take the other path in the fork in the road.