Goodbye SharePoint social, hello Yammer

Microsoft goes all in with Yammer; investment payoff begins to show at SPC14
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LAS VEGAS--It's been over a year and half since Microsoft bought enterprise social company Yammer for $1.2 billion and at this week's SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas the investment appears to be paying off.

Microsoft is effectively abandoning SharePoint social, saying the basic social features shipped in SharePoint Server 2013 will see no more major updates. Instead, Microsoft is urging customers to adopt Yammer as it goes beyond the obvious and more fully integrates Yammer into its suite.

Yammer-SharePoint integration has been an evolution that's picked up speed as of late. In February, the company unveiled simplified login to Yammer from Office 365, last week's release of SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 allowed on-premise SharePoint deployments to use an in-the-cloud Yammer network via the navigation bar and this summer the company will update the Office 365 navigation bar with Yammer.

But the future--in line with the conference's incessantly-beating mantra "work like a network"--is a seamless experience across Microsoft products, evidenced most clearly in what Microsoft is calling inline social experiences.

"We're weaving social into the apps that matter most by creating Inline Social Experiences in Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, and any other app, service or line-of-business system that is important to your business," writes Jared Spataro, Microsoft's general manager of enterprise social, on the Office Blog.

The next phase will bring Yammer conversations to documents in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. That means customers can do things like view Yammer conversations alongside PowerPoint Online presentations. Later, it will bring Yammer to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and down the road Yammer will be integrated with Lync and Skype as well. 

Microsoft is also latching on to the value of small groups--a concept at the core of the Yammer experience. Now, anytime a group is created in Office 365 it will automatically get a corresponding inbox, social feed, calendar and document library, says Spataro. The Yammer feed will run constantly along the group's inbox.

"What they've done with the Yammer piece is bring it into context of how people work," said David Smith, research director at Aragon Research.

"If it comes into the context of my email, into the context of my business process, then it's not something where I have to go to it. It comes to me. Social has to come to the individual," said Smith. "When the individual has to go to social, adoption just ceases."

Trek Bicycle Corporation has been using Yammer for years, said Steve Novoselac, the company's technology director.

"Yammer is the future. I got it a long time ago," he said.

But with Trek still using Exchange on premise, Yammer has been seen as a separate tool for the company. Novoselac said Trek is formulating its strategy to move email to Office 365 and the recent announcement of Yammer integration only sweetens the deal.

"I think if we moved our email to Office 365, then I think it would be more apparent that it's there," said Novoselac.

"People have excuses for why not to use it. Anywhere Microsoft can integrate it in deeper with the other systems and tools it's going to eliminate the excuses people can use," he added.

In discussions with IT pros at the conference, the inline integration of Yammer is the most anticipated of the new features announced. If the buzz is any indication, Microsoft's investment is showing return.

Smith says Yammer's impact on SharePoint is actually going much deeper than customers may realize. Yammer has been a catalyst for cultural change, he said.

"What Yammer has done for Microsoft, it's taught them how to--it's cloud scale--do more agile development and more product releases quicker, you know, more feature releases," said Smith.  

"I think the breadth of announcements, the move to the cloud, a lot of that's due to the energy that Yammer brought in."

For more:
- read Spataro's blog post

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