Microsoft-Yammer Deal Could Help Socialize SharePoint

As rumors continue to swirl about Microsoft’s reported acquisition of enterprise social networking business Yammer, one top industry executive says Yammer’s got its flaws, but it could help improve Microsoft’s SharePoint document sharing platform.

Microsoft and Yammer continue to refuse comment on plans for Microsoft to acquire the enterprise social networking company for a reported $1.2 billion, but that hasn€™t dampened the speculation about what such a deal might mean.

Tom Kelly is the CEO of Moxie Software, which delivers an enterprise social media platform that uses crowdsourcing and collaboration as a way of assisting sales and improving customer support for about 600 global business customers. He says the interest by Microsoft in acquiring Yammer€”along with the recent buyout of similar ventures by large enterprise software companies€”validates the nascent enterprise social media space.

€œSocial enterprise software is without a doubt becoming mainstream in the thinking of both customers, enterprises and, of course, all the major players are reflecting that both in their development strategies and their acquisitions,€ Kelly said.

Just within the last month or so the acquisition activity has been brisk. snapped up Buddy Media for close to $700 million to complement its existing Chatter social media platform. Oracle added Collective Intellect and Vitrue to its portfolio of social media-related acquisitions. SAP acquired Ariba for $4.3 billion, although that€™s more of a collaboration company than enterprise social media. However, many of these platforms combine collaboration (a la Microsoft Lync/SharePoint) with social media (a la Facebook). VMware announced a new pricing strategy for its Socialcast enterprise social service, offering a full-featured suite of services free for up to 50 users.

Despite a Wall Street Journal report June 15 that a deal had been made, both companies told eWEEK June 22 by email that they decline to comment €œon rumors and speculation.€

While applauding Yammer for its success€”it has raised $140 million in venture capital since its founding in 2008 and reportedly has more than 200,000 companies using its services€”Kelly described Yammer as largely a €œmicroblogging platform€ with some unique features for user profiles and for creating groups within Yammer. He also said most people do not think of Yammer as a secure platform that enterprises would want in a social media solution.

However, Kelly added that Yammer still brings a lot to Microsoft and that Microsoft has the resources to make the most of a Yammer acquisition. For instance, Yammer would be ideal for integration with Microsoft€™s SharePoint offering.

€œThe SharePoint solution, which is a document-centric solution, while it€™s a very powerful and good solution, is not sufficient to meet this growing demand for social capabilities and it€™s not sufficient in its present state,€ he said.

Kelly seeks to distinguish Moxie€™s offering from others in the market. With its Moxie Spaces cloud collaboration application, the focus is on using social networking to address customer problems during the sales cycle and in after-sale customer support. The product uses crowdsourcing to share a problem with multiple people with the organization, making it more likely that one of them will be able to offer a solution. He described some of the other social media companies acquired by Oracle, and the like as €œpoint solutions.€

Companies are getting into social media not just in a €œme-too€ rush to jump in on something popular, but to integrate social media with core enterprise IT systems, wrote Forrester analyst Melissa Parrish.

€œWhen I talk to marketers about their requirements for these platforms, one of the things that comes up high on everybody€™s list is integration with other enterprise systems,€ Parrish wrote in a June 4 blog. €œThe two systems that get mentioned the most [are] non-social analytics and non-social CRM.€

Moxie€™s Kelly concurs, saying that if a company is not collaborating on its social media platform to deliver marketing, engineering, sales or customer support they€™re missing the fundamental value proposition of enterprise social networking.