Microsoft Dumps Yammer Brand

Collaboration Platform Looks for More Success Under as Viva Engage

In a predictable development, Microsoft decided to dump the Yammer name and rebrand the app as Viva Engage. The first hint of the change came in August 2022 when Microsoft renamed the Yammer Communities app for Teams as Viva Engage (Figure 1). The next came in November 2022 when Yammer introduced video and photo stories to its Storyline feature and revealed that the files used for stores ended up in the VivaEngage folder in user OneDrive for Business accounts. Not everyone is quite as nerdy as the Office 365 for IT Pros team is when it comes to tracking change, but there you have it.

The Viva Engage app in Teams
Figure 1: The Viva Engage app in Teams

Microsoft’s PR announcement says that “For over 10 years, Yammer has been the social fabric for Microsoft’s productivity cloud, bringing community and conversations into the apps that people work in daily.” That’s wishful thinking of the kind often engaged in by Microsoft marketing people attempting to make more of Yammer than it ever achieved.

More correctly, since the acquisition of Yammer in June 2012, Microsoft has tried on many occasions to make Yammer more than an also-run in the Microsoft 365 app stakes. After being told that Yammer would make email redundant, the Exchange community ignored the prediction. Exchange Online powers Microsoft 365 at an ever-increasing rate with usage that Yammer could only dream about. Teams came along in 2016 and ate the lunch Yammer wanted and is the social fabric for Microsoft’s productivity cloud. At least, 280 million Teams users can’t be wrong, can they?

Year of Yammer

Despite loudly proclaiming that (insert any year from 2012) would be the “Year of Yammer,” it’s only recently that Microsoft started to make some headway, helped in no small part by Microsoft’s determination to build Yammer into as many places in Teams as possible. Nice as it is to have Yammer power the Q&A app for Teams, true progress only really started when Microsoft decided to embrace Microsoft 365 groups and to bring Yammer networks into alignment with the rest of Microsoft 365 with networks configured in Microsoft 365 native mode.

Native mode networks date back to 2020, but it was only on September 1, 2022 that Microsoft bit the bullet to set a retirement date for older Yammer networks (MC424414). Upgrades are happening now and due to continue through October 2023. All the Yammer networks I access within Microsoft’s own infrastructure have still not transitioned, largely because they’re used by external people.

What Now for Yammer

Microsoft is now beginning a rebranding exercise to eliminate Yammer from the Microsoft 365 vernacular and replace it with Viva Engage. Yammer fans who engaged in “YamJams” and the like will have to find a new term to describe their meetups, but the basic technology will remain the same. Microsoft describes some new functionality in their blog, most of which is incremental and builds on existing capabilities (for example, Answers seems to be like the Teams Q&A app on steroids).

Customers won’t have to pay more to use the rebranded Viva Engage/Yammer.

Microsoft did make one odd reference when they talked about “the existing Communities app for Outlook.” I had no idea what this app was until MVP Kevin Crossman pointed out the Yammer logo in the OWA app rail. Basically it’s a way to have the Viva Engage app display in OWA. The app doesn’t feature in Outlook desktop and I have never used it in OWA. If your organization uses Yammer/Viva Engage, I can see how that capability would be both interesting and beneficial. For most Outlook users, discovering Viva Engage in their app rail will be a “mah” moment of the kind when Microsoft introduced the ability to respond to email with an emoji.

A New Chance to Make a Difference

I always thought that Yammer was a missed opportunity for Microsoft. Had they dumped the Yammer database soon after the acquisition and replaced it with the Exchange (ESE) or SQL databases, the task of aligning Yammer more closely with the rest of Microsoft 365 and picking up features like compliance, retention, data loss prevention, and so on would have been much easier.

Maybe Microsoft would never have developed Teams if Yammer had been a fully-functional part of Microsoft 365. But it never was and Yammer became a sideshow. It’s been an important app for some customers but you’d wonder about its long term future as a supplier of software components to Teams and Viva. The Yammer superpowers (note to self, no software has superpowers) proclaimed by Microsoft marketing have waned. Perhaps the change and refocus will make Yammer more valuable. We’ll know after another decade.

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