Last year, Microsoft acquired Yammer for $1.2 billion in order to strengthen their position in the Enterprise Social Networking space. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft released SharePoint 2013 with improvements to the social and collaboration features, creating obvious overlap between the product offerings. Microsoft has released a roadmap for Yammer integration into SharePoint, but today people are wondering if they should use Yammer or SharePoint for enterprise social networking. This article will help you understand Yammer and outline some considerations about when it's more appropriate to use it.
Yammer's technical architecture is different than SharePoint's, and it's important to understand these differences at a high level in order to understand how best to leverage the tools. Yammer is a strictly cloud-based service; there is no on-premises offering. Yammer has its own Identity Management service, which means that users may have different passwords for Yammer and SharePoint. And Yammer also stores its own user profiles, which are distinct from a user's SharePoint profile. These architectural differences have a big impact on the product and its adoption:
Single Sign-On between SharePoint and Yammer is a planned feature but not yet available
SharePoint makes it easier to pre-populated user profiles from data stored in other systems, such as Active Directory or PeopleSoft. Pre-populating user profiles is one way to increase adoption of an Enterprise Social Network
Yammer is faster to setup. Pre-populating profiles and configuring identity integration are time-consuming tasks. Yammer makes it very easy for anyone to start leveraging its collaborative features. This is another way to increase adoption.
Yammer's feature set is also a little different from SharePoint. Yammer provides more robust micro-blogging, with the capability to add attachments and polls. SharePoint's offers, on the other hand, are much stronger in document collaboration, with features like co-authoring, alerts, and star ratings. Both products have feeds, but they are implemented differently:
SharePoint Feed. The SharePoint feed follows the "all about me" idea with feed that shows all the information relevant to a person. This is a highly efficient tool for the user that prevents the need to browse an intranet to get frequent updates on key topics. However, a user or administrator will have to spend time setting up this feed to follow all relevant content.
Yammer Feed. Yammer's approach is to automatically create a Company feed and create additional feeds for each group. By default, Yammer starts out with a tool to for the company to communicate with its employees. And by creating a feed for each group, Yammer provides a starting point for a knowledge base for each group without investing any time.
The product differences discussed will vary in importance depending on your company. But as a general recommendation, if you are unsure of which technology to choose for Enterprise Social Networking, we would recommend Yammer. Microsoft has invested heavily in Yammer and is working to close the feature gap. Yammer has had considerable success gaining adoption, which can be the biggest challenge for a social site. Over time, SharePoint will be able to supply much-needed governance to Yammer, but Yammer is more likely to gain initial traction.