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SharePoint Social vs. Yammer - With User Interfaces, Looks Can Kill

Social Business,SharePoint Social vs. Yammer - With User Interfaces, Looks Can KillOne year on from their acquisition of Yammer, Microsoft have proudly announced that over 85% of Fortune 500 companies have now deployed both SharePoint and Yammer. Other figures, including a user base growth of 55 percent and a paid network growth of over 200 percent have also been publicized.

But these figures do not tell the full story, as these two platforms are still far from being “the most complete solution in the marketplace.”

SharePoint/Yammer Roadmap: Cloudy with Waves of Integration

SharePoint 2013 brought many advances in native social features, most notably the introduction of micro-blogging and community forums. This has caused a significant overlap in the purpose and functionality of both platforms. Customers are currently faced with the decision to go with one or the other, or both. This will not always be the case.

Microsoft has made clear that the products are destined for total integration. In the mean time, for those planning to run the products side-by-side, there is a roadmap made up of waves of integration:

  • Basic Integration: Replace “Newsfeed” link on Office 365 global navigation with a link to Yammer.com. Yammer App to embed a Group feed, Home feed or Comment feed into SharePoint — released
  • Deeper Connections: Single Sign-On (SSO), Yammer integrated into Office 365 interface — due Fall 2013
  • Connected Experiences: “… incremental enhancements will combine social, collaboration, email, instant messaging, voice, video, and line of business applications …” — due 2014 onwards.

What is Microsoft’s advice to customers? “Go Yammer! Yammer is our big bet for enterprise social, and we’re committed to making it the underlying social layer for all of our products.”

Easier said than done …

Unfortunately for customers, Microsoft’s advice is not accompanied by any substantial guidelines on how to actually run the platforms side-by-side. As a result, a number of industry experts have stepped up to offer their opinions and guide customers.

Generally these posts weigh up SharePoint’s current social feature set with Yammer’s so that customers can make a more informed decision of what they should do. There are two notable contributions.

In “Yammer versus SharePoint 2013 social platforms,” Jeremy Thake compares specific areas of functionality (micro-blogging, notifications, profiles, etc.) and discusses the implications of not being able to easily "switch off" SharePoint’s social features and Yammer’s cloud-only stance.

In “SharePoint Social Versus Yammer: What Makes Sense For You?”, Christian Buckley compares specific features and benefits, concluding that your decision should be based on where you need structured collaboration (site permissions, forms and workflow, managed metadata) or unstructured collaboration (ad hoc, where flexibility and speed are paramount).

Both posts provide a detailed comparison and suggest what factors might influence your decision. However, neither of them address an area that I believe should be pivotal in this decision making process — the platform’s user interfaces.

Why User Interface Matters

A poor user interface can hold back the adoption of any enterprise platform, and user adoption is key to achieving a return on investment.

As a result of the Consumerisation of IT, employees’ expectations from user interfaces are increasing rapidly. According to research by IDG Enterprise, as many as 56% of enterprise deployments are now products with consumer-like interfaces.

Social collaboration tools are particularly at risk of disappointing users as functionally their so closely resembles familiar networking sites with great interfaces.

Speaking specifically on social collaboration tools, IDC Analyst Michael Fauscette explains,

 

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