The Implications for Larger Companies

Many companies, especially the larger ones, spend years developing culture and management style. This includes the way management and employees interact.

Socialization of working tools with private social networks can have a profound effect on the culture in an organization. It can change the way employees communicate with each other, change their attitudes, and empower them to try to change systems and procedures.

Microsoft seems unaware or unconcerned that many companies may not realize these implications, and if they are, may not be ready for them.

Integrating Yammer into its MS office products and SharePoint software and allowing it to be implemented in any situation (often through viral adoption) requires the software to be designed for the lowest common denominator.

The result is a "cookie-cutter," "one-size-fits-all" approach to its implementation. This limited flexibility may not be suitable for enterprise businesses, particularly larger companies with diverse and complex teams.

They have different stakeholders in different departments who will have existing systems they will want to retain. Integration with these systems will take time and compatibility issues may arise. The software will have to be modified to suit their specific needs.

Also, as employees start to use this software and understand its potential, they will ask for improvements and more modification will be necessary. Integration will be an ongoing process.

I have certainly found that enterprise businesses want to and need to retain significant control of the introduction, administration and moderation of the communications within the company. They also need communication systems that have flexibility.

Minor shortcomings in these systems which don't address specific business needs are often the difference between a successful or inefficient business network.

Microsoft seems to have ignored these critical requirements. Without addressing these issues, it has shunned the profitable top-end of the market in favor for a lower cost, mass appeal product. This may disappoint or even alienate larger businesses.

This is where the union with Yammer may show some cracks and where Microsoft’s offering could become significantly compromised. It may have bet early by purchasing Yammer, offering the product at such a low price-point and expecting immediate and massive sales.

What Next?

I have no doubt that private social business networks will eventually change the way people communicate in the business world. However, that will take time.

Microsoft’s strategy may now have unwittingly opened the door to new entrants who understand enterprise business requirements and can deliver flexible and customized solutions which better fit the market requirements. Only time will tell.

There is no doubt, however, that the ground around both Microsoft and enterprise social networking is now shifting fast and will continue to do so.

Image courtesy of burakowski (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read a different perspective on the Yammer acquisition, check out Kevin Conroy's Microsoft and Yammer: A Fresh Take