In time honored Gartner fashion, I'm now using T4E as a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) to describe 'Twitter 4 Enterprise' style services that are coming out the woodwork at a rapid rate of knots. This time around it's Yammer, which provides a private form of messaging for use inside the firewall. It has already been covered by TechCrunch where Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com is reported as saying:
I really like this company the best.
The name is not very corporate. It reminded me of what I’m having for Thanksgiving. Maybe you could use a Yam for a logo.
I can understand why. According to the features blurb:
After claiming your network, you can configure your own security requirements by setting stricter password policies, forcing browsers to use secure sessions, or restricting use to your office or VPN.
This means that Yammer should be inherently more secure than other forms of messaging system which will comfort some IT shops. However, as profy points out:
...in the current situation it [SocialCast] will be a solution for only a tiny group of companies like CNET where staff may get excited about the latest and greatest technology products simply because it is a job for many employees to be excited over such products.
Here the situation is actually very similar and I can only see companies arriving to adopt such solutions once they are widely adopted by employees out of their own free will. Besides, companies that already realize they needed a solution for in-company microblogging have already come up with one: they simply used Twitter but kept the timelines private so that only employees of the same company could see each others’ updates and communicate around them in such a private mode.
Talking to the uber geeks at SAP TechEd about this and having had a quick peek for myself, I got a collective shrug. They're not impressed and don't see this as a hum dinger of a feature. Neither do I. What happens for instance when you need to cross the firewall and introduce business partners?
Yammer seeks to sidestep the business v consumer argument of Twitter by suggesting that Yammer is asking the question: "What are you working on?" rather than the more Twitteresque: "What are you doing now?" Nevertheless, adoption doesn't magically happen simply by changing a few words.
All this comes back to things I have said before. Content without purpose and context is meaningless IM with an Enterprise 2.0 moniker slapped on it. Yammer is going some way towards dealing with the context element but is going nowhere with purpose. This requires tying services to some sort of business process for enterprise decision makers to see and understand a contextual reference. In other words, it needs to solve specific use case problems in a way that efficiently ties between people and process. Without that, there is no way I can see adoption occurring in the viral manner Yammer espouses.
Even assuming that services like Yammer solve these issues (disclosure: I have an involvement with ESME which address the issues I've outlined in an SAP context and is launched today as an alpha release service) acceptance and adoption is not a slam dunk given. In both geek and business process sessions at SAP TechEd, very few people had heard of Twitter. Less than 5% I'd guess in audiences of up to 80 people. Even those that had, and especially people drawn from the business process expert community, were struggling to comprehend how such services might work in a business context.
The other problem is Twitter itself. While many commenters are referring to these new services as T4E and variously accepting or rejecting the notion, decision makers are not attracted by the notion of social anything. Again, Yammer attempts to deal with this by positioning the service as communications and not social networking. That's fine as far as it goes but commenters have already drawn the inference to consumer services. Enterprise is barely ready to accept the possibility that anything developed for consumer is appropriate for enterprise which leaves services like Yammer with a real imposed perception issue.
Fortunately, the world is a whole lot larger than the Silicon Valley echo chamber. Those new services that figure out a way of positioning themselves such that they avoid the negative connotations that social anything brings will do a lot better than Twitter clones or variants.