In case you needed confirmation from someone other than us that Social Tools are a growing part of the enterprise space, Microsoft is finalizing a 1.2 billion dollar purchase of Yammer today. For those unfamiliar with Yammer, the platform is a web based service that is intended to mimic all the functionality of Facebook for your organization. In my experience Yammer’s implementation is simple, in and of itself. You create an account for your organization, free of charge. Once created only users with your organizational email address are able to sign up for your organization’s page. After that it is nearly identical to Facebook. The idea is that administrators can monitor posts by employees and ensure that everything is on the up and up. However, the tool lacks any variety of reporting functionality that I could find and ultimately represents another site for your IT department to try to monitor, and for your users to remember a login to.
At first glance, if you were to somehow combine some of the functionality of Yammer with a Microsoft SharePoint site, you might think you could provide some improved functionality. However, if you have ever interacted with a SharePoint site in any administrative capacity, you know that implementing any features of the intranet platform is far from simple. No one can truly say what will come of this acquisition, should it finalize, but one thing is for sure, Microsoft is finally acknowledging the importance of social tools in the enterprise space. Granted, Passageways and a variety of other companies have been acknowledging this fact for some time, and as a result this move will undoubtedly be too little, too late. As usual, Microsoft is more than likely showing up too late to a party that has been raging for years. You need only look at Microsoft’s other ventures to discover their history of slow to move realizations (the Windows Phone, the alleged “iPad killer”, even SharePoint itself hasn’t seen a drastic change in years).
So before you get too excited about the prospect of SharePoint finally including some social tools, take into consideration the people that have already been experimenting with these ideas. The successful implementation of social tools within an organization does not spring from the ability to just creep around on your co-workers looking at pictures and chatting. Social tools can be used to quickly communicate within your organization on vital updates from within your existing intranet. The ability to receive notifications based around important document changes, portal improvements, or even updated dashboards that display vital metrics keeps your employees engaged and using the intranet regularly. Following your direct reports offers a new way to communicate and reinforce the importance of your intranet project. Facebook and twitter might not have a place in your organization, but controlled, intranet centered social tools like these mentioned most definitely do.
The move to purchase Yammer is an exciting one for Microsoft and the enterprise space in general. However, it doesn’t change the fact that SharePoint requires more dedicated resources to implement than the majority of organizations are prepared to provide. Yammer might be a slick looking platform to have fun and play with your co-workers, but in the end is it really any different than Facebook itself? Bravo for Yammer for making a clean exit in this sale. We should all look forward to what this acquisition means for the enterprise world. However, if you are looking for a company that has already been there and done that, you needn’t look any further than Passageways.
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