Jon Orton

ATLANTA — Everyone understand the risks of all work and no play.

But the Microsoft executive tasked with product marketing for the company's enterprise social networking service claims too much play is a serious risk to productivity.

Yammer Is 'Laser Focused' on Work

In a candid interview with CMSWire during the Microsoft Ignite conference here this week, Group Product Marketing Manager Jon Orton defined Yammer as the enterprise social network built for work.

"We are laser focused on helping people get work done. We're not so much about building cute things. We're more about practicality," he said.

The latter comment was an indirect jab at Yammer's biggest competitor, Slack, the workplace collaboration tool whose bots and witty quips have given it an aura of lightness and fun.

Yammer, in contrast, is positioned as an enterprise workhorse, a product tightly woven into the Microsoft ecosystem to give teams secure, reliable collaboration options across multiple applications.

Yammer Integration With Office 365 Groups

Microsoft reiterated that point yesterday through an announcement about a new Yammer integration with Office 365 Groups. The integration gives users access to SharePoint sites and document repositories, a shared OneNote notebook, and task management with Planner.

Orton said these options and more would be rolling out in phases over the coming months.

"One thing industry-wide that people are recognizing is that when it comes to collaboration, one tool does not fit all. Yammer's special place is connecting people across the company whether they prefer traditional group email or real-time video and group Skype. It's a more complete solution for enterprise collaboration," he said.

Rethinking Yammer Sales and Marketing

The integration underscores deeper thinking about Yammer's marketing and positioning. Essentially, Microsoft is shifting from selling it as a stand-alone product to a component of its flagship Office 365 suite.

Starting Jan. 1, it will eliminate the Yammer Enterprise service tier. However, Orton stressed, Yammer itself will remain available, with many levels of integration with the Office 365 services.

Orton described that decision as a natural product evolution. Earlier this year, Microsoft turned on Yammer by default for all eligible Office 365 customers. Since then, the vast majority of Yammer customers use it as part of an Office 365 subscription.

In a blog post, Microsoft explained:

  • With Office 365 applications such as SharePoint and OneNote becoming an integral part of the Yammer experience, users will need an Office 365 subscription that includes these services. As such, the Yammer Enterprise subscription will no longer be available for purchase on a standalone basis; customers can transition to an Office 365 plan such as K1 or E1.

Yammer Is 'Here to Stay'

"Yammer is a critical component of Office 365's collaboration strategy. We've been doing a lot of work over the past few years to integrate it deeply on the backend to meet security compliance and trust commitments to our customers.

"Now we're extending those integrations to groups," Orton said. "Yammer is growing, not going away."

What Yammer Customers Can Expect

Customers who enforce Office 365 identity will receive the new integrated experience first.

When new groups are created in Yammer, they will automatically have access to tools like SharePoint, Planner and OneNote.

Microsoft will launch Phase 1 later this year. Subsequent phases will automatically migrate existing groups in Yammer, address remaining Office 365 tenants and deliver integration with Outlook Calendar as well as enhancements to SharePoint and Planner, the company explained.

Microsoft: A Collaboration Leader

Gartner consistently recognizes Yammer as one of the leading vendors of Social Software in the Workplace, Orton said.

"We definitely have industry leadership. We want to continue to build on that leadership by continuing to invest in the product and stay out in front. It's really less about making it an awesome stand-alone product than optimizing its integration with other tools.

"We want to make Yammer the place people go to collaborate and share ideas, even with people which whom they might not normally have options for interaction."

Title image by Asa Aarons Smith