There has been a lot of discussion in the past weeks about enterprise social computing, especially based on the Microsoft stack. Just look at the great posts from Jeremy Thake and Nick Patel. And, let’s not kid ourselves: Microsoft is market leader in that field – Salesforce and all the other potential competitors are quite behind. Microsoft invested a whole lot money and resources in the new social features stack that came with SharePoint 2013. And, bought a market leader, cloud-based enterprise social network called yammer, for 1.2 billion US$. Without intention of beating a dead horse, I just wanted to state my opinion on the topic here, an opinion that comes out of the experience that I have made in the past few months with my customers.
Microsoft has some strong cards in the hands – SharePoint 2013 came with a solid social features stack, which, even with some teething troubles, blends perfectly with the SharePoint content and SharePoint landscape. And there has been a great demand from customers for this. A lot of them are really enthusiastic about the social story with SharePoint.
Why is it that way? For the first time we are able to offer the users a whole, unified experience at one place: they can get all they need and want in their newsfeeds! Documents and sites they are following – so that they know when the content which matters to them changes. What are the people they are following working on at the moment. If used in combination with Lync, they can see if those people are available for a call or a chat. They have their public feed where they can engage with colleagues about different topics. But also, in the site feed, users can have private discussions inside their teams. When something interesting happens there, they are immediately informed about that through the news feed…
And then there are tags. Possibility to tag the all different types of content, and to have a composite view of that content, is a very powerful productivity vehicle… And it’s all about productivity, remember.
Of course it does not have to stop there – SharePoint 2013 brings some decent APIs to build on top of the social story, to expand it even further, and to tailor it according to the user needs, procedures and processes.
So, enterprise social is all about content and productivity. It lives together with the content, it draws its power from the content, and for the most of the customers, it really doesn’t matter without content, and without their corporate context.
And then, there is yammer. It had a great adoption story for being easy to setup and start – it’s just a click away. It is like a facebook, without being facebook. Basically, for whatever reason you would start a facebook group as a private person, you would start a yammer network in the corporate world. But, yammer is unconnected and unrelated to the content. It is a separate system, which needs separate login. It is a closed system, very difficult to build on top, at least at the moment. Further-more, it’s a cloud-only platform (you can’t install yammer on premise, just like you cannot install facebook on premise). And that can be a real drawback, especially for some conservative, “old-fashioned” European companies, which love SharePoint.
So, when will yammer really matter in the corporate world? When will it bring an added value to the customers, other than being facebook without being facebook? The answer is really simple – when it seamlessly blends into enterprise content. Just the way that SharePoint social is doing now. I don’t think that being cloud-only will be a real drawback, at least not in a long run – customers will eventually get used to it, and, the “real” content still stays on premise, so in most of the cases compliance will not be an issue. Yammer needs to step out of its shell, to blend together with content, to enable SSO with SharePoint (and SharePoint Online – Office 365!), and to offer a great developer story. Then, I’ll bet my money on yammer. But these steps just need to be made.
Until then, it is facebook without being facebook. A good start, but there needs to be more to it.