Microsoft finally confirmed what’s been expected for a couple of weeks now, that they are buying out enterprise social network Yammer for a cool $1.2 billion. A hefty price to pay for a four-year old company that I would argue is still a reasonably unknown quantity to many. So what is the deal with Yammer?
What is it?
For those unfamiliar, Yammer is an internal social media platform that allows employees to network, manage tasks and workloads and essentially be connected to every other person within the company seamlessly. Its ease of use owes to an interface with a striking similarity to that of Facebook, and by all accounts the purchase finally gives Yammer a legitimacy that allows us to truly look to the future and start thinking about the possibilities such a tool would give businesses.
Why did Microsoft move for it?
It’s another string to Microsoft’s bow, and the integration possibilities for an efficient, social, internal network sound seriously interesting. Given how the appetite for social continues to grow and Microsoft’s monopoly on the modern workplace through Word/Excel/PowerPoint etc, perhaps the real question is why didn’t Microsoft move for it sooner?
Perhaps a generalisation, but in my experiences I’ve seen few people out there who don’t have a horror story or two to share about SharePoint (cumbersome being a frequent complaint), so the introduction of the socially-accelerated Yammer should be a welcome upgrade.
What’s does it mean?
For me, what’s particularly interesting is the current dichotomy between efficiency and attention span. While their use is necessary to our industry, the likes of Facebook and Twitter are a big issue for many businesses as they detract from actual work. Will enabling more of these conversations be a hindrance?
It does appear, however, that there’s large potential for this software to make our lives a lot easier, especially those in a global network. When you tie this potential networking solution in with the prospect of full integration with Microsoft Office, signs point to it being an incredibly useful tool.
Something also to consider is its potential consequences for e-mail. The current trend is that e-mail is seen as pretty slow by today’s standards – in fact it’s acceptable to sit on an email and reply to it a couple of days later, workload permitting. With a live network connecting every employee, it’s a lot harder to ignore and in theory, it should make large scale projects spanning several offices much smoother. It establishes a clear paper trail, capturing conversations and a wealth of valuable data – although multiple people working off the same document has its inherent problems.
It certainly is a far cry from the days of passing coding across the office via Yahoo Messenger!
What are the obstacles?
Adoption has been slow to this point, but you would have to think that the legitimacy that Microsoft brings will spark a big surge in uptake.
The real barrier for me will be motivation. Other than a fear of being left out, there’s no compulsion to join social networks, but employees may feel differently about having this new social network thrust upon them, whether they like it or not.
Who’s going to be using Yammer?
I struggle to see smaller to mid-size agencies being able to see the full benefit, especially for the cost involved for the premium service. However, for a global network with offices in various markets, its potential is vast – reportedly Barclaycard, Cisco and Diageo are among those already using the service.
Will it be a success?
To set the record straight, this isn’t Facebook raising eyebrows with its Instagram acquisition. Despite the gaudy price, and the general trepidation when it comes to mixing social media with B2B, the $1.2 billion vote of confidence from the world’s biggest tech company should be the catalyst for Microsoft to push on and dominate the Enterprise arena too.
Peter Petrella is a Creative Director at gyro
Follow him @peta_beta