So … What is Yammer? My Simple View

By Jeff Shuey posted 07-22-2012 04:21



You may have heard that Microsoft is buying a company called Yammer for $1.2 Billion dollars. You may be wondering what this means. You also may be wondering just what Yammer is. Below I have provided a very simple, yet I think apropos, description of what Yammer is and why Microsoft was willing to dole out $1.2B dollars to get their hands on it.

First … a little background: The week the Yammer acquisitionwas announced my family asked me ... at the dinner table ... what Yammer is. Usually they don’t ask me much of anything about what I do at work. Not because they don’t care, but usually because I tell them WAY more than they really wanted to know. So, I was a little floored when they asked.

Then a day later we were out with some other families and a few of the moms and dads asked me the same question.

Note: I had already written a blog post on the pending Microsoft acquisition of Yammer … which, of course, they don’t read those either.

I'll bet you are dying to know what I told 'em, right?

imageMy reply started out with a typical techy type reply. With the Rube Goldberg type description. However, I could tell I was losing them rapidly.

So, I shifted gears and said:

 "Yammer is a way to allow employees to collaborate on projects while BYPASSING the IT department"

While this may seem like a completely asinine way of thinking. To the employees that want to get things done, that NEED to get things done, yet don’t have the time (or patience) to ask IT for help while possibly being put on a long waiting list … Yammer filled a gap.

In this sense Yammer was leading the way in the Consumerization of IT (COIT). Yammer helped the downtrodden employee to take a proactive stance by providing a solution that bypassed the typical IT organization hierarchy.

  • Was this right?
    • Maybe, but that’s not the point of this article. The point is … Yammer made it possible for employees to take actions that enabled them to be more collaborative, more productive and to get their jobs done more effectively.
  • Was it risky?
    • Sure, but again … that’s not the point of this article. Sure, posting documents in the Yammer cloud was fraught with risks to document security and governance and so much more.
    • This will be Microsoft’s problem now. Microsoft has much deeper pockets than Yammer. I suspect there will be some low profile data breaches that we’ll never hear about. I also suspect there will be some larger more visible breaches. How these are handled will set the trend for the entire industry.
  • Did it work? Absolutely. To the tune of $1.2B dollars.

 Yammer is a way to allow employees to collaborate on projects while BYPASSING the IT department

I have been using the description ever since. I think it is quite apropos. What Yammer did exceptionally well was to allow employees to setup their own "sharing networks" without having to ask permission or to wait for IT's blessing.

While some may dismiss this idea as wrong and risky ... I think it defines and describes why Microsoft was willing to shell out over $1B to get this technology and seek to get this "free wheeling, solution oriented" customer base in their camp.

What do you think?

  • How do you describe Yammer?
  • Will Yammer change the way Microsoft does Social Computing?
  • What else do you see that Yammer did to help companies and/or employees?

Coming Up: For my next post I’m going to be writing about how Yammer is different than Facebook. I am also starting a mini-project with a goal of providing a more detailed look at how Yammer is different than Facebook with SB Chatterjee. Stay tuned for these. Also, please feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments or via my contact points below.

#CoIT #sharepoint #social #Reputation #cloud #microsoft #Collaboration #SharePoint #community #computing #RubeGoldeberg #Acquisition #Yammer


07-30-2012 15:56

Great post! As a technology leader who has deployed Yammer across an enterprise, I am often asked to describe Yammer. I originally started with the "Yammer is Facebook for our business" line, but that often caused issues with people who were worried that it would be a time waster. I've tried to move to describing Yammer as a really user friendly set of collaboration tools for our business. Because our employees generally like to use it, it's helped develop a more connected and engaged workforce globally.
I think Jeff's points about the consumerization of IT are very much on target and are driving an increasing number of the decisions we make as technology leaders. I would like to express a more nuanced view of Yammer's relationship with technology in an organization based on our experience implementing it.
While Yammer can be deployed as a self service solution by a business working around their technology team, I have found that deploying and supporting Yammer for the business has been a big win organizationally. We've deployed a collaboration system our employees like to use. Engagement and utilization are high and we can easily find stories of value on the site on a daily basis. The feedback we get from users at all levels is very positive - and this is goodwill the technology organization gets to work with elsewhere. Yammer is a great opportunity for the technology team to lead.
Yammer already has a lot of synergies with the Microsoft stack, and so I think this acquisition by Microsoft is a really interesting opportunity. I think the hybrid portals we can make today with Yammer's "embed" offering that let us integrate Yammer and SharePoint are a good start - but am looking forward to how this integration will likely deepen over time. From a security perspective, we have implemented AD synchronization with Yammer for provisioning and de-provisioning users today - this is another area where IT involvement is required and another chance to lead - but the good news is it's relatively easy to implement and maintain.
So now, when someone asks me what Yammer is, I tell them it's how we help our employees connect, stay engaged and informed, and collaborate globally on our clients behalf.

07-24-2012 12:02

First of all, I love how Jeff used the family conversation situation to explain the MSFT-Yammer acquisition. I can definitely relate to that, especially the part about telling my family WAY more than they ever wanted to know! I enjoy reading Jeff's blogs.
At a former employer (a MSFT Global ISV) we tried to implement collaboration using SharePoint's native 'social' tools. That did not work out; it was abandoned by the employees for lack of decent tools that we'd all come to expect from FB or LinkedIn or Ning etc. But Yammer or any other 3rd party option were forbidden.
Then I joined ibml (, and we implemented IBM Connections. And we did this with IT's full participation. It's working just fine!
IBM's latest Connections release is not perfect by any means but IBM managed to offer the right mix of social features (individual profile pages, status updates, personal networks, following people etc) with business (communities, forums, activities, shared file folders) and then integrated it all with our email and calendars. And because it's IBM, it's as secure as one could hope for.
If (BIG IF) MSFT can successfully integrate Yammer, like IBM has done with Connections, it could be successful.
But as Jeff and others have continually stressed, you need a lot more than 'good social software' to enable true enterprise wide social business! FWIW some lessons I learned:
1. Leadership counts. Our CEO was passionate about our Connections rollout and took the lead. (So did our CMO - me).
2. Authenticity counts. Let's face it, some corporate cultures are more political (i.e. 'fake' or 'fearful') than others. ibml already had a 'collaborative culture' with a culture of openness.
3. Avoid Big Brother tendencies. While it makes sense to apply existing corp communications standards to your social, don't overcook that. Let the Community be the Community. Allow some room for enthusiasm and personal expression.
4. Test Internal before you go External. Make sure it's working before you add your customers or partners in. We're taking baby steps there but excited about opening it to our ecosystem!
Good luck!
Dan Lucarini
Chief Marketing Officer