Microsoft tries to head off Facebook at Work by turning on Yammer by default

​Microsoft is turning Yammer on by default for eligible Office 365 commercial customers over the next few months.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is stepping up its push to get more business users to engage using its Yammer enterprise social networking service.


As of today, February 2, Microsoft is beginning to turn Yammer on by default for all of its eligible Office 365 commercial customers. This will happen in waves over the next couple of months.

The move comes at a time when more than a few Microsoft customers and company watchers have been wondering whether Microsoft was still committed to the enterprise social service that it acquired in 2012 for $1.2 billion.

Since that time, Microsoft has been working to refocus Yammer around a teamwork-sharing model, and folding a number of its core technologies directly into Office 365.

With the rise of startups like Slack, with which Microsoft recently inked a Skype integration deal -- as well as the expected, full-blown launch of Facebook at Work later this year -- Microsoft officials seemingly have decided to put more energy into trying to market Yammer.

Last summer, Microsoft officials said the company would continue to offer a standalone Yammer client for those who wanted it. They also outlined a roadmap for Yammer, which included commitments to bringing Yammer more tightly into the Microsoft fold by moving Yammer into Microsoft's own datacenters and integrating Azure Active Directory with the Yammer service in order to ensure it met various compliance and security criteria.

Microsoft is still aiming to tie Yammer into Office 365 Groups by June 2016.Once Yammer is integrated with Groups, Microsoft will encourage users to take advantage of "cross-suite scenarios," such as moving Yammer conversations to Skype calls; schedule meetings using Outlook calendar; access files via OneDrive; create tasks in Planner all from inside a Yammer group.

As of last week, Microsoft made good on its commitment from last year to allow Office Online users to do multi-user coauthoring in Yammer. A spokesperson said the company had no updated timing on when Microsoft will allow invited outside participants to be part of Yammer groups.

According to Microsoft's blog post today, every Office 365 user with a Yammer license will be able to access Yammer from the Office 365 app launcher or start a Yammer conversation from SharePoint, Office 365 Video Portal and, soon, Delve and Skype Broadcast.

Office 365 customers who do not want Yammer turned on by default can shut it off, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.

"Similar to SharePoint Online and Exchange Online, Yammer is enabled by default for all users who are assigned an Office 365 license. IT admins who are not ready to fully adopt Yammer in their organization, can un-assign Yammer licenses for those who should not access Yammer from Office 365," the spokesperson said when I asked.

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