Yammer looks a lot like a work-friendly Facebook, and it's yielding new enterprise users as a result. Here are 5 things you need to know about the social networking site.
1. It's a good intranet alternative
Most companies have an intranet meant to facilitate employee collaboration and act as a portal for company information. But employees often use it so infrequently that they forget their passwords. Lawrence DeVoe, chief technology catalyst at Initiative Media, deployed Yammer last April, starting with 10 invites, and within three weeks had gained 400 users. Today, the Yammer population at the company has grown to 1,400. And DeVoe says Yammer cost less than half of what was spent on his previous Intranet tool.
2. It facilitates crowdsourcing
Instead of sifting through email threads with too many people chiming in, with Yammer you post questions and observations and respond to others in a Facebook-like interface, getting quick-and-dirty answers. Employees can look up topics and browse the history of posts and groups. Administrators can export data from Yammer posts into Excel files and do their own analysis. For experts who are popular email targets, they can post once instead of being emailed over and over again.
3. Communication gets streamlined
Yammer can be a resource for new hires to get information and training, and executives can use it to open up communication with employees. DeVoe says his leadership team were some of the first Yammer members, using it to "get a pulse of the business" and for their monthly video newsletter. Eventually his corporate communications department dumped mass email for Yammer. Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research, says Yammer allows for top-to-bottom and side-to-side communication. "There's a bottom-up ability to democratize communication, and it's good as long as executives are on board."
4. More support is available for a fee
Yammer comes in two versions, free and paid. The paid version provides more administrative and security controls and Yammer-assigned customer success managers that oversee implementation and fulfillment.
5. It integrates with other applications
Koplowitz says because Yammer is in the cloud, "it is very well equipped to do integration with other cloud [applications] like SharePoint." Yammer also easily integrates with Salesforce.com, Active Directory and NetSuite. Trent Gavazzi, CTO of Availity, has integrated the Yammer API with an internal application that keeps track of ongoing projects at his company. "We've completely shifted how we work together with this initiative, and that's made a huge difference," he says. "We are sharing information in a way we wouldn't have in the past."