Microsoft, Yammer and Office 365
Written by Steve Ross
In the 2 years since Microsoft acquired Yammer, the business-dedicated social-network has been allowed to operate reasonably independently - accumulating over 8 million users. In July, Microsoft set out its plan to absorb Yammer into the Office 365 suite... what will this mean for what has become known as 'Facebook' for business' - and what does it say about Microsoft's wider plans?
The move to bring Yammer further into the Microsoft fold was accompanied by the announcement that David Sacks, co-founder of Yammer, was leaving the company - after spending 2 years growing his business with its new owners. The change-up signals a new chapter in Yammer's history - one in which its past as an independent social network is forgotten as it becomes part of Microsoft's grander vision for its cloud-based business services. Sacks' departure is not entirely unexpected: since the acquisition in 2012, Microsoft has been integrating the social capabilities of Yammer with its own services, including Office 365 and Sharepoint. By bringing Yammer under Office 365 completely, Microsoft is hoping to take advantage of the social enterprise benefits of the software in a push to control the cloud business landscape.
More than just 'Facebook for Business'
In order to understand Microsoft's plans for Yammer, it's worth taking a look at the role the social network has fulfilled in the past. Yammer is designed as a private and an entirely business-centric service, in which users join their company's network and communicate with colleagues on work-related matters (access is granted via a work email address). A Yammer network can be extended to allow external contacts, like suppliers or sub-contractors, to become part of communications between company employees. Practically, Yammer presents users with a Facebook-esque 'news-ticker', featuring updates and announcements from contacts, and includes private messaging and the facility to create groups relevant to specific colleagues - which can be shared with others when necessary.
Beyond social network staples, Yammer's appeal to enterprise organisations is boosted by its sharing and collaboration features, which allow users to attach and post files, including images and videos, to a repository which others can access. Yammer also allows users to collaboratively work on those uploaded files - and lets Admins lock down or privilege information as necessary. With this in mind, its value to the Office 365 suite, implemented via the cloud, is obvious: Office 365 is designed to facilitate cloud application delivery - including Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Access - Yammer's closer integration within the architecture of the software should make working on those kinds of documents more seamless and straightforward.
The groundwork for this strategy has already been laid: in 2013, a 'Yammer North' team was created at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, while a lead from the Office 365 development team will - it is believed - now be sent down to the Yammer offices in San Francisco to personally oversee the final stages of the merge.
Sharing and collaborating
It is the collaborative aspect of Yammer which Microsoft is focusing on as the network moves to its new home in Office 365 - a move which is part of the company's wider ambition to reinforce its presence in the enterprise. With over 500,000 organisations currently using Yammer - a number which reportedly includes around 80% of the Fortune 500 - there is huge potential for Microsoft to dominate business services across the cloud landscape - and offer business users unprecedented opportunities to connect and interact with each other on a global scale.
Connecting the world
Recent months have seen Microsoft shake-up its approach to business and the enterprise significantly. After the announcement of the layoff of 18,000 employees in July, Microsoft emphatically set its sights on delivering cloud and mobile services to enterprise customers, streamlining experiences and helping to, in the words of CEO Satya Nadella, "empower every person and every organisation on the planet to do more and achieve more".
Connectivity and collaboration are at the heart of Microsoft's new cultural approach to the cloud - and the effects are already starting to show in a number of ways. Earlier in the summer, Microsoft released a beta version of a new real-time translation feature for Skype - a first step down the road to removing the language barriers to all forms of international business relationship. The integration of Yammer with Office 365 indicates that Microsoft is aiming to connect its enterprise users at every possible level - both socially and professionally - by introducing a culture of seamless interaction which will encourage users to exploit the full potential of the cloud.
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