How Microsoft is using Yammer inside the company

Microsoft bought Yammer last summer and already has deployed the technology widely in-house as part of the company's Intranet makeover.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft officials have discussed publicly the company's planned timeline for integrating its Yammer enterprise social-networking technology with products like SharePoint.


Now they're also starting to talk about how Microsoft employees themselves are using Yammer inside the company.

Several recent blog posts on Microsoft's Enterprise site are highlighting Microsoft's "Next Generation Intranet" project, in which Yammer now seems to be playing a starring role.

Here's the back story: Microsoft's IT department realized the company's Intranet was more of a one-way communication vehicle (broadcasting from management to the masses) than a true, two-way one, company officials said. They also found the self-provisioning of SharePoint sites inside the company was leading to duplication of effort and a costly duplication of services, like search, social, video, etc. To give a sense of scale, Microsoft has more than 170,000 full-time employees plus contractors; 360,000 distribution lists and more than 200,000 SharePoint sites with about 30 terabytes of content distributed among three data centers, according to a post on the Microsoft Enterprise blog.

A make-over was needed. The plan took on an admittedly lofty working name of "Next-generation Intranet." Microsoft made some tweaks around the SharePoint My Sites to accommodate aggregated social feeds, profiles, search and recommendations as part of internal dogfooding of SharePoint 2013.

And then Microsoft bought enterprise social-networking vendor Yammer in June 2012.

The Microsoft IT team looked at how Yammer employees were collaborating and "compared notes with the product teams and others in the industry." The team identified four ways Yammer brought value to collaboration and engagement scenarios. And it came up with some guidance as to when it makes sense to use SharePoint with/vs. Yammer.

From a guest post on the "Office of the CIO" blog by Chris Slemp, principal solutions manager and Certified Yammer Administrator, in Microsoft IT:

"What we’re providing with a combination of SharePoint Online and Yammer is a set of options that vary a little in complexity, depending on their needs. If they’re working largely on their own deliverable and just need to share it with just a few individuals or broadly, we’ve encouraged employees to think of 'share as the new save' and to store their docs in SkyDrive Pro, a new feature of SharePoint 2013. Since broad availability in October 2012, we’ve seen growth in SkyDrive Pro usage to 95,000 personal sites.

"Employees that need to collaborate now have two options: a SharePoint Online site (which already number 18,000 and growing) or a Yammer group. Teams that rely primarily on document management features favor SharePoint sites, and those teams that are more focused on the conversations lean toward Yammer groups. Increasingly, we are providing options of embedding Yammer feeds into SharePoint sites for people that want a mixture of the two."

Microsoft is in the midst of making Yammer the news feed inside SharePoint for Office 365/SharePoint customers, not just its own employees, as officials have acknowledged. That integration is happening this summer, Microsoft officials have said, and is likely to be part of a June/July Office 365 update.

Microsoft's IT department came up with some other internal guidance, too. The IT team is "encouraging mobile employees to use the Yammer application for Windows Phone 8 so they can check their main feed, then just swipe over to view and interact with their groups." It also is enabling Yammer external networks, so that Microsoft employees can collaborate with people outside the Microsoft Yammer network. (Some of these networks are sponsored by Microsoft for use in collaborating with customers and partners). The team also is planning to enable external sharing via SharePoint Online, primarily for project teams with heavy document management needs, according to the blog post.

"Our goal is to balance collaboration and IT control, which SharePoint Online does for us. It helps reduce the risk of employees posting high-business impact and medium-business impact materials on consumer online services like SkyDrive and DropBox," the post noted.

Microsoft used Yammer internally to keep its employees connected (and from Tweeting or Facebooking externally) information around its most recent company meeting. During the course of that meeting, "we saw more than 9,000 posts by 2,700 unique individuals during the 6-hour event," said Slemp.

The latest internal count: There are 94,000 Yammer accounts inside Microsoft, with 17,000 "engaged" users and about 25,000 messages posted per week.

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