Microsoft acquires enterprise social networking company, Yammer

Yesterday, Microsoft entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Yammer, the “world’s fastest-growing enterprise social networking service”. For the not so insignificant sum of $1.2 billion (in cash).

Yammer is “a leading provider of enterprise social networks. Launched in 2008, Yammer has developed into probably the leading provider of enterprise social networks and now has more than 5 million verified corporate users, including employees at 85% of the Fortune 500.

Yammer’s service enables employees to join a secure, private social network (for free) and then makes it easy for organisations to convert the “grassroots movement” of employees into enterprise-wide strategic initiative (at a cost).

I’m currently working for global services firm ATOS as an engagement manager. A year or so ago, ATOS adopted an enterprise-wide Yammer private social network (probably in an effort to facilitate their Zero Email strategy across the enterprise, along with adopting multiple other communications and collaboration tools). Soon after joining ATOS’s Yammer network I set up a team-based social network to enable my team colleagues to collaborate (certainly those whom I engage with on a daily basis on the portfolio of projects I manage). Yammer has proved to be very beneficial, especially as the majority of the team work from multiple offices/home locations across the UK.

I previously detailed this in my post “Time to toss your Intranet away“.

Yammer certainly facilitates the current trend for people needing to share, discover and connect at work (similar to how they interact in their personal lives).

Larry Cannell, at Gartner said about the Yammer acquisition “It’s a recognition by Microsoft that today’s information worker isn’t just focused on content. They need help working together and building relationships with others.” Spot on Larry. An area that has been challenging many enterprises for more than a decade.

Microsoft Office SharePoint already features some of the capabilities that Yammer provides. Alas employee adoption of the SharePoint capabilities have proven challenging in the corporate environment. An odd paradox, as Yammer (and similar solutions) have been devoured by employees.

Microsoft has not divulged any specifics as to how it will integrate Yammer’s technology into its products. But at least with Yammer, Microsoft will (eventually) improve the enterprise social networking capabilities in its communication and collaboration products (at the very least Office 365, SharePoint, Skype and Lync).

It will be interesting to see what the future holds, not only with these products but across the Microsoft Project space too. A Yammer enhanced version of Project will be an amazing tool in the arsenal of project managers and programme managers alike.

I’ve previously driven adoption of SharePoint and Lync (Office Communicator) to deliver effective communication and collaboration across project environments. These initiatives delivered outstanding outcomes (this was a few years back now, between 2003 to 2009). Yammer’s enterprise social network capabilities would have taken these solutions to another level.

I think Yammer is a winning acquisition for Microsoft. It certainly going to boost Microsoft’s existing product set with extensive social-networking functionality. The next 12 months are going to be interesting, especially with what Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has said:

Steve Ballmer said “The key question is, how do we bring productivity, communications and collaboration from Microsoft into the Yammer world, and how do we surface people’s professional social-networking relationships inside of what people do every day in Microsoft Office and other business applications, and we think there’s just a tremendous, tremendous opportunity in doing both of those things”.

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