Microsoft's $1.2 billion purchase of Yammer, the social media platform, was controversial, but for some organizations, it offers distinct advantages. Here we'll explore the pros and cons of SharePoint's Yammer and the debate
Microsoft's June 2012 acquisition of Yammer got attention, and it was meant to. After its shaky deployment of enterprise-level social media in SharePoint 2010, Microsoft was signaling to the business community that it was serious about enterprise social media and rational enough to realize that the world wouldn't wait for Microsoft to create the right tool in its own time.
At that time, Yammer had displayed a growth curve comparable to that of Facebook, with revenue doubling every quarter and business adoption shooting from zero to 3 million in 24 months, with more than 75,000 companies adopting it. By the time Yammer came to Microsoft's attention, those numbers had more than doubled again.
The acquisition made sense on several levels, not the least of which is that Yammer is cloud-based, and Microsoft is pushing its server products in that direction. Azure-based SharePoint, Office and BizTalk services have now entered the market; Yammer as the front end to a SharePoint social media deployment makes sense -- to some degree, anyway.
The pros of SharePoint's Yammer
Yammer boasts the same advantages of SharePoint online. As a cloud-based technology, it requires no hardware investment or subsequent maintenance; it can be deployed rapidly; security and administration are covered; and the platform scales as needed without intervention.
With Yammer, you have the advantages of SharePoint integration, but you can't tweak what you've got.
Using Yammer with SharePoint is similarly simple. For Enterprise SharePoint Online/Office 365 users, a Yammer Web part, or reusable component, exists that integrates feeds from each, and embeds Yammer access in the SharePoint site menu ribbon. A lighter Web part can be placed in a SharePoint team site or My Site to accept a Yammer page feed. And a hybrid search part can bring Yammer search results to SharePoint search. It is inelegant but functional.
Since Yammer lives in the cloud, not on-premises, it's available beyond the company intranet, a boon for field use and for reaching customers. It's more mobile-friendly than SharePoint has yet become (another boon), and can simplify enterprise communication by reducing dependency on company email.
Web parts can also be used with SharePoint 2007 and 2010, which had limited social media functionality. If your organization isn't adopting SharePoint 2013 soon, Yammer is probably what you're looking for if you want to implement social media in the enterprise.
The cons of SharePoint's Yammer
Cloud-based Yammer suffers many of the shortcomings of generic cloud-based SharePoint. Any cloud-platformed, service-based technology has the double-edged sword of virtually unlimited scalability (architecturally essential for a multi-tenant environment) and limited customizability (even the smallest change can have far-reaching consequences, and custom components diminish scalability).
With Yammer as a social media platform for business, you have the advantages of SharePoint integration and content access, but you can't tweak what you've got. If you need to customize -- for instance, to host specialized app components within social media sites -- Yammer is impractical.
What about Jive?
But what about Yammer versus a competing collaboration platform known as Jive?
For more on SharePoint
The chatter about Yammer and SharePoint on the Web often includes mention of Jive, one of Yammer's more popular social media cousins. Jive has 12 years in development -- twice as long as Yammer -- and has a cloud-based incarnation. But because Jive predates cloud technology by many years, it has matured into a developer-friendly technology that can be integrated with other platforms (including SharePoint) without much difficulty.
In addition, the Jive platform includes functionality that Yammer doesn't -- data analytics, most importantly. And with its recent Producteev and Meetings.io acquisitions, it's adding chat and video conferencing functionality that Yammer will have difficulty matching.
Pound for pound, Jive outperforms Yammer and might have been a better choice for a Microsoft acquisition. Possibly, but we'd have likely waited a good deal longer for a productive SharePoint integration. In these kinds of marriages of convenience, you can't always get what you want. But you can get what you need.
This was first published in December 2013