What's next for Yammer

Microsoft is starting to make changes to Yammer to make it more team/group-focused and more tightly integrated with some of its other products and services.

If you had asked me right after Microsoft's Ignite conference earlier this year what was next for Yammer, I might have said "eventual disintegration."

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But it turns out there is a Yammer roadmap and Yammer does have a future as a standalone offering, despite the fact that Microsoft has been mining its enterprise-social-networking unit for its various technologies -- for example, Groups -- which Microsoft has incorporated into the core of Office 365.

Microsoft bought Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Since then Microsoft's Office team has learned quite a bit from Yammer, including how to more rapidly iterate. And it modeled its Office Graph technology on Yammer's Enterprise Graph concept.

Microsoft also learned that people tend to be more comfortable sharing information in groups rather than more broadly across an entire organization. That's a big reason why Microsoft officials began talking up the idea of "Yammer for teamwork." That was shorthand for moving Yammer from being focused on broad network sharing to more selective sharing.

Microsoft is intending to continue to offer Yammer as a standalone product for those who prefer to use it that way, officials said at Ignite. But changes were definitely in the offing.

On August 13, Microsoft unveiled some of those changes, starting with a redesigned user interface, plus updates to Yammer's mobile updates.

Among the coming changes to how Yammer works:

  • Discovery feed replaces current home feed to give users a continuous stream of updates across Yammer discussions
  • Real-time group activity indicators alert users of activity from other group members
  • An immersive group experience makes locating and collaboration across a group's documents more seamless
  • A group workflow experience for quicker switching between group views after task completion

These updates should be available to all Yammer users by year-end, according to today's blog post.

Mobile Yammer updates announced today include new photo-sharing and markup; integration with OneDrive and Dropbox; inline at-mentioning; and the ability to search and invite coworkers via email. These new features will be delivered "over the coming months," according to a blog post.

In calendar 2016, here's what's on the official Yammer roadmap:

  • Deeper integration with Office 365
  • Wrap up the foundational identity work with Azure Active Directory so that Yammer can leverage Office Graph signals for better people and group suggestions
  • Use Office Online for multi-user coauthoring in Yammer
  • Hook into the Office 365 Groups service to enable cross-workload scenarios with OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote and Skype
  • Deliver on external groups promise, which lets users invite outside participants into their Yammer groups

In short, Microsoft is bringing Yammer deeper into the fold, but doesn't intend to bring it so deeply in that Yammer ceases being an independent entity -- at least for the foreseeable future.