Yammer wants to embed social computing

New Enterprise Graph aims to put social everywhere

Yammer announced a new product yesterday that it hopes will break down social silos and allow companies, and developers, to embed Yammer social tools everywhere. Whether it's Yammer in particular that customers want to be "the" social vendor remains to be seen, but Yammer is definitely on the right track by trying to make social a part of the work fabric, rather than a separate place users must go to "be social."

Gartner analyst Sue Landry, speaking at the YamJam Yammer user conference this week, explained that there was a danger in leaving social as a separate application. "The first stage of social network began with self-contained social networks. The situation was where you have a social network where people go to get social done, but the rest of the work day is living in email or SAP or Oracle or a home-grown critical business application," she said. The danger in this approach she explained, was that you risked creating social silos within the organization.

She said the trick to making social work was to move beyond this first stage to a place where social was invisible because it was built into the fabric of what the employee was doing throughout the work day. In other words, instead of leaving your main work program to be social, it was part of your work program and using it would therefore be effortless.

I've talked to people who have complained about this very idea, that if being social means using another program, they aren't likely to use it, no matter how useful it might be. Making social part of work means it's more likely employees will be social.

Which brings us to Yammer's approach to this, what they are calling the Enterprise Graph, which uses Yammer Embed to build these social objects into program pages including an embedable feed that provides a contextual social feed within a program or business object and embedded "Like" and "Follow" buttons to let users follow or like whatever they happen to be looking at, much like you see with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) "Likes" embedded in websites. Programmers can also embed whole pages so a profile could be embedded within a feed. Finally, Yammer is building an "App Directory" of applications which have Yammer social support built in.

It's also important to keep in mind that Yammer is part of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) now and that means that its moves have to be analyzed through that prism. How open is Microsoft to embedding Yammer in competitive products, for instance? What Yammer has going for it now though is it can work with Microsoft engineers to embed this functionality in SharePoint, Office and Microsoft Dynamics CRM (which Yammer announced is already being outfitted with Yammer integration).

Yammer definitely has the right idea with embedding social within the context of work, but just understanding that and providing the tools is only part of the equation. The embedding must be done in an intelligent and elegant way. And it has to be open outside of the Microsoft ecosystem. If it can achieve all of these elements, it will be going a long way toward achieving the enterprise social holy grail, but it remains to be seen just how well all of this will hold together and how much of the competition is already working on similar solutions.

For more information:
- see the Yammer press release

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