David: You're saying that most collaboration system are more of the old-style collaboration systems?
Adam: I think that enterprise software companies have had a hard time getting the end-user to choose their systems because historically they weren't building them for that purpose.
The shift we're seeing (which is why Yammer is proving to be successful) is that the freemium models are aligning our software development priorities with our users. They have to -- if users don't find value in it, then we don't make money. Our team continues driving the freemium model because we see that it's just better.
David: They've been very successful.
Adam: It makes us build software differently than most companies. We are more like Facebook or Twitter but clearly with the sort of security and control considerations that enterprise software companies have. It’s very data-driven, it’s very iterative, it makes no assumptions, it’s very different from what most enterprises are used to.
David: Ok. Let's see. Your big idea when you started Yammer was to make it easy for people inside of companies to communicate with each other in real time. Over time, how has your goal changed?
Adam: That is still the primary goal, with the exception that as an extension of that goal we are trying to make Yammer more actionable. So this is the place you go to get work done (not just talk about getting work done) and connect to your other systems. So, Yammer itself is more networked with the tools that you use. It's not trying to replace those other tools. They can’t replace your CRM system.
Adam: But it should be more tightly integrated, so you can talk about and have actionable workflows around these other systems.
David: So you integrate it with SalesForce and SugarCRM and ...?
Adam: Yes, and we're going to continue to increase the number of partners. We have over 40 today but we are adding more quarter by quarter.
David: Do you see Box as a competitor?
Adam: Not really. Box is one of our partners. We want more companies to move into the Cloud. That benefits everyone. So if anything, we want more competitors
David: OK. And are you going after partners in any particular way? Like is there any class or group of partners you're going after? Are you going after project management tools?
Adam: We like to go after ones that are strategic. Early on, we went after the big ones, like SAP and obviously SharePoint, Dynamics, Salesforce. These were very strategic. Now, we're looking at just making sure we have a pretty broad portfolio of enterprise class applications. So you're right about project management, but also social CRM …
David: Maybe ERP?
Adam: ERP, CRM, the sort of like social media management tools. We are just going after a really broad range. It turns out there are lots of companies in the enterprise but they're far fewer than in the consumer space, so there is a finite number of partners you can have.
David: Ok. And you're not picking them so much on their technology but the fact that they have the same target market user?
Adam: The technology is important in that there are some that are easier to work with than others. Obviously, Cloud is easier to work with than on-premises.
David: The conclusion of this article talks about Yammer’s integration strategy, and the two things Adam thinks gets in the way of most collaboration. How business models are changing, and driving more value out of employees, how space effects collaboration, and how communication drives everything!
Editor's Note: Look for the final installments of David's interview in two weeks. In the mean time, you might like to read David's The Collaboration Circus