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Yammer Pros and Cons

February 22, 2009

yammer-logoOn no, you say… not another social networking site.
Well, this one is different. It has the power to break up departmental walls within your company and get people to communicate and collaborate in real time.
Did I get your attention yet? Keep reading.

What is Yammer?

Yammer is an enterprise communication tool that gives your company’s employees a chance to collaborate and discuss ideas in real time. Yammer is a corporate version of Twitter because it limits the reach of your Yammer communication network to your company’s employees only. This greatly limits the amount of unrelated background chatter you are generally exposed to on Twitter. Since only your co-workers are allowed to enter the network and participate in the conversation, information exchange is more focused on company-related issues, often breaking departmental walls, flattening the organization and hopefully increasing productivity and value.

Yammer is just like Twitter, but better.

Yammer, just like Twitter, allows you to send short messages to people who chose to follow you. You can also choose to receive messages from employees you want to follow on Yammer. The general question you are answering on Yammer is “What are you working on?” But the message exchange following the initial post is what proves to be of great benefit to those who get involved. Since your company’s employees are already a community outside of Yammer, it is easier to get Yammer conversations started and knowledge exchange flowing. Yammer groups (both public and private) can be formed, RSS feeds can be shared and discussed and files (incl. images) can be uploaded. All of this growing knowledge base is fully searchable and easy to view/interact with using a  web browser  or by downloading a desktop, Blackberry or an iPhone app.

How does the back-end work?

Unlike traditional enterprise tools which must be installed by IT, Yammer utilizes a SaaS (Software as a Service) model allowing anybody to start a network and invite others to join. This means that Yammer setup takes less then five minutes and makes it an ideal tool for piloting social networks within your company.
Oh, did I mention that the basic Yammer network is FREE?

Yammer long term… What about security?

Let me start by mentioning that

  • data transfer to and from Yammer servers is encrypted using a security protocol called SSL
  • access to the network is limited to empoloyees with a valid corporate email address and the sign-up process requires a confirmation from that email address before the network entry is granted.

While your company’s data is stored in its own database on Yammer’s  servers and your company retains full rights to it, Yammer data is not encrypted while in storage and there are other security and “terms of use” issues that need to be explored  by your  IT department before this solution is fully adopted by your company. Yammer realizes that  and for these companies it offers a suite of advanced usage and security tools (including IP range setup,  session settings,  and bulk-management of content and members) . These tools are offered for a fee – the main  monetization model for Yammer Inc.
Not comfortable with a SaaS model? Just a few days ago Yammer introduced a version of its software that can be licensed and hosted by companies inside their corporate firewall.

My Experience with Yammer

I signed up for yammer a few weeks ago and worked to evangelize it among my immediate network of coworkers. After a few weeks there were a handful of users and very little traffic. Then I had a meeting with the research and development team and a few of their members offered to help out by trying the service.  Since that time (about two weeks ago) the adoption rate increased dramatically with new Yammer members joining daily.

Who joins?

According to my unscientific observations early adopters of Yammer tend to be technically savvy and happy to be considered the “hip” crowd who is eager to try new “things.”
The network has been in existence for about six weeks with steady growth happening in the last two weeks. So far the ratio of men to women who joined is ~2:1. Men also tend to post much more frequently than women :( .
Approx. 60% of those who have joined the network choose to remain in the background and listen rather than post. This might be associated with the fact that the network is still very young and new users need time to familiarize themselves with the tool and overcome the fear of public speaking online.
Several power users have already emerged. Some of them are avid Twitter users and they took it upon themselves to form some basic rules of engagement, giving usage tips and encouraging others to participate. They tend to post several times throughout the day and sometimes even over the weekend. Generally though the conversation dies down after 5pm on week days.

What do people talk about?

One of the first issues that was raised and discussed on Yammer was security followed by several posts informing users that even though Yammer is a private network it is a pilot program and users are not to reveal any sensitive information they would not be comfortable talking about in a public forum.
So far Yammer conversations have been focusing on

  • Giving Yammer usage tips and resolving technical issues associated with Yammer setup and installing a desktop app.
  • Talking about online collaboration tools and their effect on productivity. Living in e-mail hell has been mentioned plenty of times.
  • Discussing posts submitted by a member who has been “yammering” live from an internal off-site event.

Generally folks are eager to share expertise and help those who ask.
Most conversations start and continue throughout the day, but few of them span more than 24 hrs.

Is Yammer a Disruption at Work?

This question was actually asked on Yammer. Some who responded associated Yammer with an instant messaging tool (e.g. Jabber) that most users keep open in the background and which helps them keep in touch with their remote coworkers. Some complained that Yammer clogs their inboxes with notification emails, but this issue was quickly resolved by a post explaining how to adjust email notification settings. The conversation soon evolved to the more general issue of managing collaboration networks so that unwanted chatter is minimized while relevant info. is pushed to the top. The consensus was that there is  opportunity to further refine this tool (i.e. make it “smarter”) to help users manage the background chatter effectively.

What’s next?

Lots of eyes are now focused on monitoring the networks, its growth, level of engagement and the impact it has on individuals and their work relationships. Is Yammer the app “du jour”? Hope not. I definitely enjoy using it and have interacted with many individuals in my company I would not have interacted with if it were not for Yammer. There are several follow up meetings on my calendar that resulted from folks sharing their expertise on Yammer. What’s next for Yammer? Time will tell.

Additional Yammer Resources

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2009 10:41 am

    good discussion. yammer does have potential to be a great collaboration tool; I personally have connected with several people on two projects that I never would have had contact with otherwise. thanks for inviting me to this trial run! see you in the Yam Space. (mmmmmm….. I like yams……)

  2. February 27, 2009 3:02 pm

    Nice post, I had some thoughts from an enterprise perspective re: security, compliance, etc.

    http://mikeg.typepad.com/perceptions/2009/02/socialtext.html

    Did you look at Socialcast? Or others?

  3. February 28, 2009 4:54 pm

    Also worth checking out is Broadcastr. You simply start it up on your VM server, integrate it with your corp directory and you’re up and running; inside your firewall. http://www.broadcastr.net

  4. Rob permalink
    April 25, 2009 4:52 am

    Great post, very balanced. We’ve just started using Yammer at work and I’ve been really impressed. I wrote a little bit about our experiences here:

    http://robwood.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/im-yammering-away/

    I think its best quality is that in big organisations it’s great for connecting people who need to work together but don’t already know each other.

  5. Aneta Hall permalink*
    April 27, 2009 2:55 am

    Hi Rob, thanks for your comment. We continue to explore Yammer. I am particularly interested in scaling Yammer to be an enterprise-wide solution while minimizing mindless chatter associated with large number of users. Continues to be work in progress. Let me know how your network grows.

  6. Jenn Hubbard permalink
    August 10, 2009 10:08 pm

    Interesting results. We’ve found similar take-up with Snipia (http://www.snipia.com) but that microblogging service has a few pros and cons. Pros are that there is more control than Yammer and you have tasks and confirms, subteams, etc. The downside is that Yammer is a bit more ahead in terms of general robust features and the external app is a huge advantage. Don’t think snipia has that. Also socialcast is a new kid on the block.

  7. Aneta Hall permalink*
    August 11, 2009 7:50 am

    Jenn, interesting observations. The thrill in all of this is experimenting with something that very few have done in Enterprise 2.0.

  8. anand permalink
    March 4, 2011 4:24 pm

    I have contacted Yammer to see if they will be releasing a self hosted version but not heard a reply from them. I have done some research and currently there are a few business social network software that has microblogging. For example socialtext and Akeni Social Network are good options.

  9. July 30, 2011 1:36 pm

    Hello Aneta, its been 2 years since you wrote this post. What are your views on Yammer now? I’ve just been introduced to it at my organization and have mixed views about it.

  10. Aneta Hall permalink*
    August 1, 2011 6:56 am

    Hi Sarah,
    you are right… I am past due with an update to this article. While I prepare my longer response here is my update in the nutshell: Yammer project at PB (my employer) has been very successful with over 30% of PB knowledge workers now using the platform to break business unit barriers and to collaborate. There are many choices you have in terms of technology behind an enterprise microblogging solution, but in all honesty it’s not about the technology, but about the community and I would spend them most time figuring out ways to engage the group vs. contemplate the right technology. Best of luck!

  11. Tom permalink
    November 1, 2012 12:24 am

    If everyone in your organisation was on Yammer, and you turned off email. Would it work?

    Any companies out there tried something like that?(with or with out it?)

Trackbacks

  1. microblogging at work, have you had a look at yammer? « Learner Bytes
  2. 5 Ways to use anything but email for collaboration. « idisaster 2.0

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