Microsoft made it official this week — it is taking the enterprise social network provider Yammer under its wing. The news has brought up a number of questions, including what this means for SharePoint. In this week's discussion point we went out and asked a number of industry analysts and Microsoft partners for their views. Here's what they said.
Dion Hinchcliffe — Dachis Group
Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer will have limited impact on SharePoint in the medium term. Certainly, from a market share and shareholder point of view, Microsoft must be very cognizant that they should not disrupt their otherwise very successful and widely used software product.
But the analysis is straightforward in the end: Big companies use Microsoft's sprawling and complex document management platform for many capabilities that Yammer just doesn't specialize in. This includes enterprise-class document management and workflow as well as sophisticated search and analytics.
For its part, Yammer is fundamentally organized around the social experience and has primary product focus around lightweight collaboration. SharePoint has some of these features but it's not the core of the product. This provides the differentiation that makes possible the two products ongoing co-existence.
It's clear what Microsoft saw in terms of value: Yammer is successfully viral, good at penetrating small and medium sized organizations, and is better aligned with the social business community, such as it is, in general. Microsoft wants a real seat at the social business table, and this gets them there.
Thus, SharePoint and Yammer can largely co-exist, both at Microsoft and within companies, with each product delivering value in what they're good at. It's less clear what Microsoft's partners will do in response, since many of them essentially plugged the social software gaps in the SharePoint platform.
Yet it's also just as clear that Yammer is not going to be able to meet many organization's needs when it comes to the foundational glue for many workforce operations. The product is not yet rich enough or responsive enough for many enterprise requirements, and for that SharePoint is there to be the backstop for those needs.
In fact, I suspect Yammer will be more successful with SMBs and SharePoint will remain the province of large organizations. Over the near term, I predict Yammer will grow and evolve and become integrated as the social fabric for many — if not most — of Microsoft's products. I think this effort will largely be successful, although there will be some confusion in the short term about which product certain customers should invest in.
To oversimplify the comparison a bit, SharePoint will be the informational workhorse of the enterprise while Yammer will become the conversational and collaborative fabric. In the end, the Yammer acquisition will be good for customers and Microsoft, and slightly less good for Microsoft's partners, who have to compete more closely with the company on the same capabilities.
Patrick Brandt — Telligent
Let’s talk about what Yammer is and what it’s not. Yammer is a niche player focused on activity streams. Basically, it provides social networking for business in the form of water cooler chatter. It isn’t a social platform; social platforms provide a full suite of social tools (including activity streams), integration with other enterprise software, and the ability to connect a company’s internal and external constituents.
SharePoint is a collaboration platform for enterprises and known primarily for its content management capabilities. Yammer isn’t going to reinvent SharePoint as a social platform, and with SharePoint’s three-year release cycle, it will be years before anyone sees any impact. SharePoint Social Business Partners will benefit from this acquisition due to Yammer’s “freemium” distribution model and its ability to increase the size of the market.
Alan Lepofsky — Constellation Research
With the ink still drying on the $1.2B check, many people are already asking questions about the future product roadmap between Microsoft and Yammer, particularly with respect to SharePoint. The problem is the next release of SharePoint is already in code freeze, so while the acquisition may spark hopes that Yammer will "fix SharePoint's lack of social features" we're unlikely to see things like the Yammer newsfeed showing up as a native feature in SharePoint anytime soon. What's more likely to happen first is that we'll see Yammer updated with deeper Microsoft integration. For example, I'd like to see instant messaging and screen-sharing added via Skype and/or Lync. I'd also like to be able to create links in Yammer to content stored in SharePoint such as files in a Document Library (and SkyDrive) or a page in a blog or wiki. Yammer already offers activity stream integration with Microsoft Dynamics, but perhaps they will now be able to have deeper integration such as linking to records in ERP or CRM versus just broadcasting events. One of the areas I'm curious about is what they will do around identity management, as both Yammer and Microsoft have profiles and directories. I hope to see much more than just user/group syncing with Active Directory.
In the short term I don't think Microsoft partners such as Attini, Beezy, Blue Rooster and NewsGator have much to worry about. They have developed solid solutions that provide added benefits to SharePoint that are not available in the core product today. I don't foresee Microsoft limiting their access now that Yammer is part of the MS portfolio. However they will have to keep innovating and delivering features that will go beyond what an integrated Microsoft and Yammer can provide. The advantage these partners have is that their release cycles will not be bound to Microsoft's. That means they will always be able to deliver "the next big thing" years before Microsoft can put it into the core product.
Ramin Vosough — Neudesic
Neudesic is excited to see continued investment in the enterprise social space. And this consolidation further demonstrates that significant technology players are now seeing the value of enterprise social in effectively disrupting the way we work. Yammer’s free model has also helped to educate many organizations about this field who now turn to us for a more compelling social experience.
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