By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2011-02-10 Print this article Print


Yammer 2.0 launched in September 2010 with the addition of several new features that include new ways for users to interact and augment the microblogging capabilities of the previous version. Yammer Basic is available at no cost. Yammer Premium costs $5 a month per user and provides a host of features including advanced administration, single sign-on integration and custom branding.

To use Yammer, a user need only go to the Website and start the registration process using a corporate e-mail address. The registration process is completed by clicking on a link that is received in the corporate e-mail system. Yammer Premium can be synchronized with Microsoft Active Directory. After users were added to the system, it was quite easy to send them invitations to joining groups and to send them direct messages. The Yammer user console neatly displays member details, pending invitations, who is online and the time and date of their last status update.

During tests I mainly used Yammer from the default landing page. The neat, clean layout is sparse and easy to navigate. Tabs at the top of the page make it easy to navigate to features that go beyond the essentials of microblogging and social collaboration. Questions, polls and events are segregated onto separate tabs to highlight and given a special icon in the activity stream to more easily distinguish them from other posts. Yammer also provides a mobile client for Apple iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. I would like to see Yammer proactively create a Windows Phone 7 client.

Yammer Basic comes with the rudimentary ability to remove user accounts. With the premium version comes the ability to issue guest passes, provision or block new accounts, delete content and manage applications that are added to the Yammer platform. During tests, it was easy to see how many users were logged on to the system and to get a basic idea of what they were doing.

I was able to find out quite a bit about the test social network from various apps and reports in Yammer. Apps let me break down overall usage to see the most prolific posters and the most followed threads in the social activity stream. Clicking on various app tabs showed aggregated similar social data including all the events, questions, polls, files and images that were being tracked by the system. It was also easy to see group membership and activity as well.

The clean interface and interactive extras recommend Yammer for organizations that want to take a fairly structured approach to the social network experience. The polls and events tabs, in particular, will likely suggest to users how they can use the activity stream to foster group collaboration.

Implementation Considerations

After spending time with both services, some general observations emerged. For one thing, corporate e-mail is emerging as the root authority for user identity and access control. Passwords and account management chores are handled inside the framework of the e-mail system, not an unreasonable method for streamlining user administration.

Guiding the questions about cost and suitability are the basic requirements for enterprise social collaboration tools. User profiles that display contact and skills, user groups, secure communication and file sharing and mobile access are just some of the basic features of any social network tool worthy of implementation. Some systems co-mingle legacy application and directory integration. The suitability of social tools in an enterprise setting also raises generational concerns as older workers learn new ways to communicate and new workers adapt free-wheeling private social methods to the work place. And all social network tools require a clearly stated acceptable use policy, usually similar to existing e-mail and Internet use guidelines.
While there is an emerging set of "table stakes" or basic features that are required for IT managers to even consider a social media platform, there are a number of important distinguishing features on which to base a buying decision. Regulated or privacy constrained organizations that don't yet have a standard method for securely moving data in a cloud environment may need to maintain a hardware appliance on premise. While I don't think this will be a long-term solution for companies that operate in a competitive market, it is the case that the IT industry and government regulators are at the cusp of finding secure ways to store data in the most cost-effective manner. Today, that sometimes means on premise.
IT and line-of-business managers must take a shared interest in the tools that come with a social media platform to promote user adoption. The amount of user training, no matter how slight, must be factored into the implementation plan. Users must have the skills to effectively use the platform or implementation will fail.
I recommend that IT managers find a C-level executive to champion the enterprise social networking project. Social media in the enterprise contends with well-established communication methods including e-mail, instant messaging, on-premise legacy collaboration tools such as Microsoft SharePoint and IBM Lotus Notes. These legacy communication methods are primarily for direct one-to-one conversations. If you decide that social collaboration tools have a place in your organization, it will take technology plus executive leadership for the project to succeed.

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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