getting messy
With Microsoft Teams and Yammer covering a lot of the same ground, things could get messy PHOTO: Quino Al

Let’s be honest: enterprise social networks (ESN) have always struggled. 

From the start, people have questioned whether an ESN could really deliver on its promise of better communication, collaboration and operational efficiency. While plenty of examples of organizations, large and small, who have benefited from an ESN are out there, there never seemed to be real critical mass in the market. 

Even in the cases where companies claimed benefits, ESNs mostly succeeded in enhancing narrow processes such as HR onboarding or sales opportunity management. The projected widespread adoption of the ESN never panned out.

Enterprise Social Networks Play Defense

Now, ESN software vendors find themselves assailed on two sides. 

Social collaboration features typical of an ESN are now embedded into all types of software. Evernote and OneNote have the sharing and commenting features but specific to freeform documents. Microsoft Office has embedded these ESN-like features in Office365, Skype and SharePoint. Task management, software development ... you name it. Social collaboration features are baked into all kinds of software.

Meanwhile, the enterprise chat applications such as Slack and HipChat are attacking from the other direction. Enterprise chat offers simple but powerful offline persistent communication that can operate in real-time as well. Customers can usually use enterprise chat to share files, photos and all types of other media with team members. It’s easy to use and easy to set up.

In fact, enterprise chat has become so ensconced in some professions, software development for example, that Microsoft has developed its own Slack clone called Microsoft Teams. Early reviews have praised Microsoft Teams as being sufficiently Slack-like to have all the best features of Slack while having natural integration with Microsoft products.

Survival of the Fittest Suggests Yammer Must Go

Which raises the question “What about Yammer?” Yammer, the ESN that Microsoft paid US$1.2 billion for in 2012, is looking like an orphan these days. Its audience is basically the same market as Microsoft Teams and Microsoft SharePoint. Yammer hasn’t had a decent update in eons

It is too general to be the basis of enhanced processes, unlike Jive and SAP Jam (or Microsoft SharePoint for that matter), and too old and tired to be attractive to the Slack crowd. Hence, Microsoft Teams.

Will Microsoft Teams sound the death knell for Yammer? Most likely. Yammer is the animal that never evolved while Microsoft Teams is the successor species. 

Given the collaboration features inherent in Microsoft Office and the availability of an Office-focused Slack-like creature, what is there for Yammer to do other than die out?

Add to that the sheer number of companies that tried Yammer only to abandon it when the promised rewards never panned out. Giving it away for free didn’t help Yammer. It wasn’t even worth “free.”

So, it’s time for Microsoft to put Yammer out of its misery. Accept it as an expensive technology acquisition that didn’t really pan out and put it out to pasture. By my estimates, I would give it six months to a year before we hear the announcement that is, I believe, inevitable.