Microsoft made it official this week -- it is taking the enterprise social network provider Yammer under its wing. The news has brought up a number of questions, including what this means for SharePoint. In this week's discussion point we went out and asked a number of industry analysts and Microsoft partners for their views. Here's what they said.

The Question

What does the Yammer acquisition mean for SharePoint? With this acquisition, what gaps do you see SharePoint Social Business Partners competing for? Do you see this acquisition as good for other Microsoft products, beyond SharePoint?

The Responses

Dion Hinchcliffe -- Dachis Group

Dion Hinchcliffe is a internationally recognized business strategist, enterprise architect, and keynote speaker. He is currently Executive Vice President of Strategy at Dachis Group. Dion focuses on the topics of Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Social Business, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), open business models, and next-generation enterprises. His thought leadership can be found on ZDNet, ebizQ, Social Computing Journal, and Musings and Ruminations on Building Great Systems. He co-authored Web 2.0 Architectures for O'Reilly and operates Web 2.0 University. You can also reach Dion at [email protected]

Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer will have limited impact on SharePoint in the medium term. Certainly, from a market share and shareholder point of view, Microsoft must be very cognizant that they should not disrupt their otherwise very successful and widely used software product.

But the analysis is straightforward in the end: Big companies use Microsoft's sprawling and complex document management platform for many capabilities that Yammer just doesn't specialize in. This includes enterprise-class document management and workflow as well as sophisticated search and analytics.

For its part, Yammer is fundamentally organized around the social experience and has primary product focus around lightweight collaboration. SharePoint has some of these features but it's not the core of the product. This provides the differentiation that makes possible the two products ongoing co-existence.

It's clear what Microsoft saw in terms of value: Yammer is successfully viral, good at penetrating small and medium sized organizations, and is better aligned with the social business community, such as it is, in general. Microsoft wants a real seat at the social business table, and this gets them there.

Thus, SharePoint and Yammer can largely co-exist, both at Microsoft and within companies, with each product delivering value in what they're good at. It's less clear what Microsoft's partners will do in response, since many of them essentially plugged the social software gaps in the SharePoint platform.

Yet it's also just as clear that Yammer is not going to be able to meet many organization's needs when it comes to the foundational glue for many workforce operations. The product is not yet rich enough or responsive enough for many enterprise requirements, and for that SharePoint is there to be the backstop for those needs.

In fact, I suspect Yammer will be more successful with SMBs and SharePoint will remain the province of large organizations. Over the near term, I predict Yammer will grow and evolve and become integrated as the social fabric for many -- if not most -- of Microsoft's products. I think this effort will largely be successful, although there will be some confusion in the short term about which product certain customers should invest in.

To oversimplify the comparison a bit, SharePoint will be the informational workhorse of the enterprise while Yammer will become the conversational and collaborative fabric. In the end, the Yammer acquisition will be good for customers and Microsoft, and slightly less good for Microsoft's partners, who have to compete more closely with the company on the same capabilities.

Patrick Brandt -- Telligent

 Patrick Brandt, Chief Executive Officer, drives the corporate strategy and vision for Telligent. A veteran enterprise software entrepreneur and executive, Brandt has a proven track record of leading companies through rapid growth and expansion.

Let’s talk about what Yammer is and what it’s not. Yammer is a niche player focused on activity streams. Basically, it provides social networking for business in the form of water cooler chatter. It isn’t a social platform; social platforms provide a full suite of social tools (including activity streams), integration with other enterprise software, and the ability to connect a company’s internal and external constituents.

SharePoint is a collaboration platform for enterprises and known primarily for its content management capabilities. Yammer isn’t going to reinvent SharePoint as a social platform, and with SharePoint’s three-year release cycle, it will be years before anyone sees any impact. SharePoint Social Business Partners will benefit from this acquisition due to Yammer’s “freemium” distribution model and its ability to increase the size of the market.

Alan Lepofsky -- Constellation Research

Alan is Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, Inc. He is one of the lead analysts on Constellation's research theme, The Future of Work. Alan focuses on how enterprise collaboration software/social business software can help people Get Work Done. Since 1993, he has been designing, marketing and helping customers deploy software solutions that enable people to connect with their peers and openly share information. Prior to joining Constellation, Alan spent 3 years as Director of Marketing at Socialtext and before that, 14 years in a variety of roles at IBM/Lotus.

With the ink still drying on the $1.2B check, many people are already asking questions about the future product roadmap between Microsoft and Yammer, particularly with respect to SharePoint. The problem is the next release of SharePoint is already in code freeze, so while the acquisition may spark hopes that Yammer will "fix SharePoint's lack of social features" we're unlikely to see things like the Yammer newsfeed showing up as a native feature in SharePoint anytime soon. What's more likely to happen first is that we'll see Yammer updated with deeper Microsoft integration. For example, I'd like to see instant messaging and screen-sharing added via Skype and/or Lync. I'd also like to be able to create links in Yammer to content stored in SharePoint such as files in a Document Library (and SkyDrive) or a page in a blog or wiki. Yammer already offers activity stream integration with Microsoft Dynamics, but perhaps they will now be able to have deeper integration such as linking to records in ERP or CRM versus just broadcasting events. One of the areas I'm curious about is what they will do around identity management, as both Yammer and Microsoft have profiles and directories. I hope to see much more than just user/group syncing with Active Directory.

In the short term I don't think Microsoft partners such as Attini, Beezy, Blue Rooster and NewsGator have much to worry about. They have developed solid solutions that provide added benefits to SharePoint that are not available in the core product today. I don't foresee Microsoft limiting their access now that Yammer is part of the MS portfolio. However they will have to keep innovating and delivering features that will go beyond what an integrated Microsoft and Yammer can provide. The advantage these partners have is that their release cycles will not be bound to Microsoft's. That means they will always be able to deliver "the next big thing" years before Microsoft can put it into the core product.

Ramin Vosough -- Neudesic

As Vice President of the Product Group at Neudesic, Ramin is responsible for sales and market strategies for Neudesic Products which include Neudesic Pulse Enterprise Social Software and Neudesic Neuron ESB. Prior to joining Neudesic Ramin served as Vice President at IntraLinks where he lead the strategy for cloud-based ECM products for emerging vertical markets, as well as a six year tenure at Microsoft where he served as Industry Director in the Unified Communications product group. Ramin also held senior management roles in the corporate strategy team at Sprint leading emerging technology alliances for collaboration, cloud computing, and mobile solutions. He holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of California, Irvine, and currently resides in Irvine, CA.

Neudesic is excited to see continued investment in the enterprise social space. And this consolidation further demonstrates that significant technology players are now seeing the value of enterprise social in effectively disrupting the way we work. Yammer’s free model has also helped to educate many organizations about this field who now turn to us for a more compelling social experience.

While the Yammer acquisition may help Microsoft compete in the enterprise social field, we are in the business of addressing customer needs. And customer needs today extend beyond the cloud and far beyond any one platform or system. Bolting an enterprise social tool onto an existing infrastructure will not solve real, dynamic business challenges in driving efficiency and real-time collaboration.

Our goal with Neudesic Pulse has always been to provide enterprise social software that enables collaboration wherever customers choose -- through a range of mobile devices, applications and systems; on premise or in the cloud; inside of SharePoint or outside of SharePoint. This acquisition may help address some SharePoint-specific features but, longer term, customers need a much more integrated and intuitive solution to their everyday business communication and collaboration challenges.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe -- 451 Group

Alan Pelz-Sharpe is the Global Research Director for Content Management and Collaboration at the 451Group, a major analyst firm, headquartered in New York with offices in Boston, San Francisco, London & Budapest that analyses the business of IT innovation.

I think many assume that Yammer is specifically being acquired to fill SharePoint "social" gaps -- and though there is some truth to this I think it is part of a broader Microsoft approach to broaden the reach of it's social community, and that it ties in with last years acquisition of Skype. Certainly this isn't good news for the likes of Newgator who have built a good business off the back of gaps in SharePoint's social offering, but Microsoft always fills gaps, and any vendor who bets the house on those gaps remaining open is in for a shock. That being said, it will take time for Yammer to be fully integrated with the Microsoft stack.

Overall, my major concern with this acquisition is the price paid, which seems very high (as did the price for Skype) but that aside, I think its a good move. Microsoft tends to plan long term, not quarter by quarter and though this can be used against them when facing hype driven trends, overall I think Yammer, Skype, Dynamics (MS's CRM system) and SharePoint will all be pulled closer together to provide solid offerings to meet future Social Business requirements.

Benjamin Mestrallet -- eXo

Benjamin Mestrallet is Chief Executive Officer of eXo, a company he founded just out of university to serve its first customer, the U.S. Department of Defense, in 2003. With eXo’s expansion to five continents, he now oversees the company’s growth, marketing and sales strategy from San Francisco. Benjamin holds an advanced master’s degree in management science from the University of Paris IX Dauphine.

The fact that Microsoft is purchasing Yammer clearly means three things:

  • First, SharePoint has failed to deliver the enterprise social capabilities that organizations are increasingly demanding.
  • Second, Yammer has been very successful at attracting individual users, but they’ve continued to struggle at the enterprise level, where IT organizations still have legitimate concerns about security, integration and manageability.
  • Third, Microsoft is willing to spend 1.2 billion dollars to play catch-up in this space. Yammer may enable Microsoft to offer a freemium social service, but it’s going to have a hard time cost-effectively attaching SharePoint to that service because Yammer is multi-tenant and SharePoint is not. They’ll sort out the integration eventually, but probably not quickly.

All of that makes for a strong validation of eXo Platform 3.5, eXo Cloud Workspaces, and the eXo vision of social intranets -- featuring fully-scalable, enterprise-grade, social capabilities -- built from the ground up and delivered today in a single, integrated stack for a single price.

Do you see this acquisition as good for other Microsoft products, beyond SharePoint?

I think there are indeed a lot of potential synergies with other Microsoft products, such as Office 365, Dynamics, Skype, and even Windows Mobile OS. Organizations need social integrated with the applications people use every day, and accessible from any device.

Yammer + Dynamics would be an interesting response to the Chatter + Salesforce combination. We use Salesforce at eXo, and the introduction of Chatter had a noticeable impact on sales efficiency. The real challenge, whether the app is Office, Dynamics, Skype, or others, is integration. It will require a lot of work -- and a lot of time -- to reach the level of integration that already exists between something like Chatter and Salesforce.

To Microsoft's credit, though, they're finally starting to understand the market trends, and they've tried to take action. Unfortunately, integrating tools after external growth is always a nightmare, and my take is that Microsoft will fail.

Mike Synder -- Sonoma Partners

Mike Synder
Based in Chicago, Mike Snyder is co-founder and principal of Sonoma Partners. Recognized as one of the industry’s leading Microsoft Dynamics CRM experts, Mike is a member of the Microsoft Dynamics Partner Advisory Council, and is a Microsoft Dynamics CRM MVP. He co-authored several books about Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Microsoft Press that have sold more than 50,000 copies worldwide. Before starting Sonoma Partners, Mike led multiple product development teams at Motorola and Fortune Brands. Mike graduated with honors from Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management with a Master of Business Administration degree, majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship. He has a bachelor's degree in engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He enjoys ice hockey and golf in his free time.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer is exciting for customers who want to embrace the social enterprise. Yammer should prove to be a great long term solution and push SharePoint past the portal and into enterprise social networking. Yammer’s technology can help round out SharePoint’s social networking capabilities and ultimately, users will be able to have one platform for both sharing and collaboration. These enhanced social networking capabilities could move the unstructured conversations of SharePoint toward a more organized workflow.

Yammer technology will also bring strong cross-platform mobile support for non-Microsoft devices like Android, Blackberry and iOS. Most importantly though is the potential Yammer has to work as the sole social software across all Microsoft products including Dynamics CRM and Office. This social integration would allow all Microsoft products to work better together.

Editor's Note: Our thanks to everyone who responded to our question. I'm sure everyone have a different opinion of Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer -- we encourage you to share yours in the comments.

Next week we tackle the topic of responsive design, so if you have an opinion you want to share drop us an email [email protected]