Microsoft is making Yammer available to all its Office 365 business plans.
In a blog post outlining its plans, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, described Yammer as a core element of Office 365. But reactions to the move have focused largely on whether this strategy will help Microsoft deal with the growth of Slack and the soon-to-be-launched Facebook at Work.
Microsoft bought Yammer for $1.2 billion in 2012, but didn't make its plans for the platform entirely clear. Since then, Microsoft has promoted the concept of Yammer as the social layer of SharePoint and Office 365.
Over time, the company started offering it with some premium enterprise Office 365 plans. But the effort seemed piecemeal and even random.
However, Koenigsbauer claims Microsoft has been working behind the scenes to evolve Yammer to a social application for businesses that tightly aligns with Microsoft environments. By activating Yammer for every eligible Office 365 tenant, new and existing, Microsoft is allowing "all Office 365 customers to gain the full benefits of Yammer," he said.
What It Means
Every Office 365 business user with a Yammer license will be able to launch Yammer from Office 365. They will be able to start a conversation through SharePoint or the new Office 365 Video Portal. In coming months, Microsoft will add Delve and Skype broadcasts to the list of integrations.
The idea is to enhance Office 365 collaboration options. By this summer, Koenigsbauer points out, Yammer will also be connected to Office 365 Groups. That will enable users to turn their Yammer conversations into Skype calls, schedule a meeting using Outlook calendar, access files in OneDrive and create tasks in Planner.
Office 365 Groups provide an integrated experience for teams. It lets team members link together email conversations, file storage and manage calendar events.
David Lavenda, VP Product Strategy at Harmon.ie — a company dedicated to improved collaboration – welcomed the tighter integration, but pointed out that it raises a number of questions.
“First of all, the Yammer experience is still largely disconnected from email (Exchange) and from document management (SharePoint). While each one is a tile in Office 365, they are all basically separate tools with separate back-end services. Sure you can work with attachments and hook in emails to Yammer, and you can see Yammer updates in email, but that just multiplies the number of places documents and emails live,” he said.
He also noted that Microsoft already has a number of enterprise collaboration platforms available to its users — and that adding another is going to add complexity to the tools landscape.
Microsoft has Yammer, SharePoint NewsGroups and the recently-added Office Groups, he continued. "Each one has a separate user repository and storage facility for messages. While each one has its strengths, users are largely left to fend for themselves in figuring out which one to use for each situation,” he said, suggesting that Microsoft should clarify how these pieces will fit together and detail its overall strategy for messaging and collaboration.
Benjamin Niaulin, VP of marketing for SharePoint from Sharegate, also expressed reservations because Microsoft has yet to reveal its long-term strategies.
“If Yammer is going to be leveraged by new SharePoint Team Sites for threaded conversations or be part of Groups in some new ways, it would make sense to have it on by default,” he said.
“I think the reason the SharePoint people dislike Yammer so much is because we were told there would be no more investments in SharePoint Social and that now we need to look at Yammer. But Yammer has had no integrations whatsoever with SharePoint and we don't see any coming either, so I can understand the frustration.”
Yammer will roll out across Office 365 in three waves.
- Wave 1: This has already started and includes Office 365 customers with a business subscription who purchased fewer than 150 licenses that includes Yammer
- Wave 2: Starts March 1 and includes Office 365 customers with a business subscription who purchased fewer than 5,000 licenses that includes Yammer
- Wave 3: Starts April 1 and includes all remaining customers with a business subscription