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 – 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 – even though it has some serious architectural issues (posts in SharePoint lists?!), and some teething troubles, SharePoint 2013 came with a solid social features stack. It blends very good with the SharePoint content and SharePoint landscape. And there has been a great demand from customers for this type of social-on-top-of-content features.
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. 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. Yammer needs to step out of its shell, to blend together with content, to ditch the separate file storage and use SharePoint in the background, to solve the identity problem (you just cannot have one identity for Yammer, and another one for the rest of the Office 365!), and to offer a great developer story. As a developer, I predict that Microsoft will need to rebuild Yammer from the ground, if they want to make it work.
It will eventually happen, I don’t know when, but it will. Then, I’ll bet my money on yammer. But these steps need to be made.
Until then, it is facebook without being facebook. A good start, but there needs to be more to it.