Will Yammer Ever Get Anywhere Soon?


Yammer’s New Vision

Today, I published an article on Petri.com about Yammer’s new vision, or at least, the vision as I interpreted things after listening to Yammer GM Murali Sitaram speak about where he wants to take the product over the next 15 months or so.

Yammer is an odd duck in the Office 365 portfolio. Those who “get” Yammer are very enthused about the effect the product can have within a company in terms of encouraging and fostering communication from anyone at any level. When deployed correctly, with training, and supported by people who know how to exploit Yammer, the evidence from companies like Air France, British Airways, Ernst & Young, and Marks & Spencer is that Yammer can do a very good job.

Regretfully for the product, Yammer has never been well integrated with the rest of Office 365, and this has led to difficulties for tenants who try to figure out how to use the product. Microsoft didn’t help by over-hyping Yammer’s capabilities in the 2013-2015 period when, according to the marketing line of the time, Yammer was the answer – now what was the question? This approach didn’t make Yammer many fans, especially in the Exchange community, where we were told that Yammer would displace email.

Why Yammer Persists

Talking to some analysts at Ignite, the feeling I got was that Yammer exists for three reasons:

  1. It is the only answer Microsoft has when customers consider competitors like Facebook @Work. If people can use Facebook, they can use Yammer.
  2. It is much more scalable than the other collaboration platforms Microsoft can propose for Office 365. Neither Office 365 Groups nor Teams can support very large communities such as those you might find in large multinational companies (100,000 and above). In fact, if you don’t want to use Yammer in these environments, then the choices for company-wide communications are probably SharePoint (Hub and Communication sites with news) or traditional email distribution lists.
  3. It has a loyal installed base that is unlikely to be satisfied by the possible alternatives if Microsoft pulled the plug on Yammer.

As it happens, I use Yammer every day in a network hosted by Microsoft to communicate with other Office 365 MVPs. To me, it’s just another tool, albeit one that struggles in a world of other competing communication platforms. On any given day, I have to flit between email (several accounts), Teams (several tenants), Yammer, and Twitter just to communicate, let alone keep up to speed with what’s going on.

Yammer for All

Remember, Yammer is enabled for every enterprise Office 365 tenant. If Microsoft succeeds with the steps outlined in their vision statement, then Yammer might become more attractive to more Office 365 tenants because it has a good shot of becoming the social layer for Office 365. That being said, no product can succeed without a clear view of the goal it should meet, suitable training for end users, and good support, so even if Yammer upgrades its connections to the rest of Office 365 and solves some of the longstanding concerns about its compliance capabilities, it still needs effort to deploy and manage.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one grand pronouncement by a new general manager doesn’t bring automatic success to a technology that’s been looking for its place inside Office 365 since Microsoft bought it in June 2012.

Our coverage of Yammer is in Chapter 11 of the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. We probably don’t cover Yammer in sufficient depth, but that might change if the Yammer developers deliver on their grand strategy.

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