News dropped in few days ago (see Get ready for Yammer) when Microsoft announced their plans to make Yammer, their enterprise social network, available with all business plans in Office 365. This also comes as a result of the completion of the transfer of Yammer network inside Microsoft’s data centers, but also integration with Azure Active Directory (at the core of identity management in Office 365).
The rollout of Yammer across all Office 365 tenants will occur in the next two months, in three waves:
- 1st wave: has begun and includes Office 365 customers with a business subscription who purchased fewer than 150 licenses that includes Yammer
- 2nd wave: starts March 1 and includes Office 365 customers with a business subscription who purchased fewer than 5,000 licenses that includes Yammer
- 3rd wave: starts April 1 and includes all remaining customers with a business subscription
At first this might not seem like a big deal, but when you consider the extent of a 1+ billion in revenues (as of 2013), this could be a game changer for in any cloud-hosted social strategy, or so they wish. If by reading this your initial thought is that this sounds more like a desperate measure, you are not alone.
When the product has been initially acquired for more than 1.2 million USD back in 2012 it was meant, at least in Microsoft’s vision, to become the new Facebook for Enterprise. A lot of people thought, at that time, that finally Microsoft could be a serious contender for in the “Social revolution”. In the past 5 years, almost every respectable organization has tried formulating its Social strategy and particularly, for those having invested heavily in SharePoint as part of the Enterprise Content Management strategies, the natural desire was to benefit from such investments.
I remember very clear discussions taking place 3 years back when experts in the industry, trying to position Yammer as part of their social strategies to deploy SharePoint or Office 365 and the reply was clear - no further investments on the social aspects in SharePoint will be made and that Yammer will take over that. But plans didn’t really worked out that ever since, despite massive investments from Microsoft in all areas, from Technical events to marketing incentives and more - Yammer still failed to take-off.
Why you might rightfully ask, few reasons – the Clients (native apps or Web UI) make it very difficult to switch between networks, conversations, and not even close to the UX experience in today’s modern web applications, there is no integration with SharePoint On-Premises and the Office 365 is limited to a sort of single sign-on with added OneDrive for Business integration and I could go on.
As a consequence, all customers of SharePoint On-Premises customers (versions from 2010/2013 and, unfortunately, valid even for the recently announced 2016) have found themselves at the mercy of ISVs developing social products and some did well for a while.
But today’s reality changed drastically, since the 4th revolution, represented by “digital transformation” is upon us more than ever. Organizations are joining the transformation as part of their continuous improvement process, and this affects everyone. The new Digital workplace and collaboration strategies require even better, and more cohesive integration of People, Processes and Technology. Simply put, Yammer just doesn’t rise up to the expectations of tomorrow.
So why does Microsoft think that Yammer might have a chance? If we consider the state of the cloud today, everyone (from organizations to private individuals), is using a form of cloud (most obvious being file-sharing, business email, or online banking). Most of our customers are either exploring the cloud (e.g. hybrid deployments being currently under scrutiny) or have already made the move to Office 365 (be it for the price of Office licenses, Skype for Business), while the remaining one are playing with the idea –it is not a matter of IF, it is simply a matter of WHEN.
Office 365 already has the new Groups, meant for ad-hoc collaboration, which today represent the focus of most collaboration efforts, even said to become the factor of demise for the much-dreaded Team Sites, with its native email integration, document conversations and the latest planner. This effectively covers most of the features advertised by Yammer too, but …without the integration.
History has proven that Microsoft is able to re-shape its strategy and reposition itself right when everyone thinks the game is lost. What do you think?