Yammer is being promoted as the new social layer of SharePoint. But Microsoft is also tying it tightly into Office 365. In the past two weeks, this has resulted in the packaging of Yammer with Office 365 small business plans, while the price of Office 365 is also about to be slashed.

There are problems with Yammer. But the problem lies not the product itself.

According to David Lavenda, vice president of product strategy at Harmon.ie, the real problem is that many people who have access to it just won’t use it — or any other social network for that matter.

What Is The Problem?

This is not the first time we have come across problems with SharePoint, Yammer and user adoption. And it is unlikely that it is the last time we will hear about it.

In a provocative counter argument, Rich Wood of Perficient explored the issue in CMSWire last October. He contended the rise of Yammer, along with Office, will create a future situation where user adoption will no longer be a concern. According to Wood:

SharePoint itself hasn't hit the tipping point of ubiquity that email enjoys, but some of its core services (translation: document collaboration, search, social) have — and the most recent gateway to SharePoint, Yammer, boasts almost immediate usability for most new users. The world doesn't want to talk about 'user adoption' anymore. The world wants to get on with it, already."

But what if the problem is not about difficulty or learning curves but about culture? What if the problem with Yammer has nothing to do with the product itself and nothing to with usability, but rather with the fact that enterprise workers are holding onto email for dear life and are not prepared to give it up?

Microsoft itself appears to be aware of this. The addition of complimentary Yammer for the new Office 365 plans appears to speak to that. However, if Microsoft’s updated offerings are a step in the right direction, they won't solve the problem of social and collaboration in the enterprise.

Yammer's Progress

Microsoft has done a lot of work on Yammer to make it accessible. In the past two years it has been adding and adding and adding to Yammer. Some of the key points in recent months, according to Jared Spataro, General Manager of Enterprise Social at Microsoft are:

  • Feb. 2013: Microsoft integrated Yammer into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, allowing users to participate in social conversations, share data, and follow updates without ever leaving the CRM application
  • Nov. 2013: Microsoft announced the inclusion of Yammer Enterprise with all Office 365 Enterprise plans. It is now included with Office 365 Academic and Office 365 Midsize Business plans
  • Feb. 2014: Simplified login to Yammer from Office 365, in which Office 365 users are mapped to Yammer accounts. Now, when you click on Yammer from your Office 365 global navigation bar, there is no need to re-authenticate. This summer, we’ll surface the Office 365 navigation bar in Yammer, enabling unified navigation across Office 365
  • Feb. 2014: SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which makes it easy to connect an on-premises SharePoint deployment with an in-the-cloud Yammer network

This final release was a significant one in that one of the big, technology issues has been connecting SharePoint on-premises with Yammer in the cloud.

Happy, But ...

The overall result is a product that businesses are, to a large extent, happy with. So what exactly is the problem? David Lavenda explains it like this:

The companies that we work with are happy with Yammer itself, but are struggling to get people to adopt to it as a social platform. Most of the companies that we work with are SharePoint shops and have Yammer in their roadmaps… but it’s a bit of a struggle to get people to jump on board."

The issue, he says, is that all the  elements that people are working with are disassociated in users’ minds, even if they come together under a single banner like Office 365.