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Yammer Conspicuously Absent at Future of SharePoint Event

The SharePoint and Office 365 community now have plenty to chew on now that Microsoft has articulated the future of its collaboration software and service. It's no surprise that Microsoft wants as much collaboration as possible to take place in the cloud via Office 365 and SharePoint Online but the company reassured the SharePoint Server community that this wasn't the last on-premises version. Clearly absent from any emphasis was Yammer, the enterprise social networking feature Microsoft acquired four years ago, which remains a silo in the Office 365 service.

Yammer was barely mentioned during the two-hour event, which took place in San Francisco. Watching the event via webcasts at Microsoft's Technology Center in New York during a gathering of more than 200 SharePoint customers, partners and ISVs, it was pretty clear Yammer was left out of the core discussion about the future of SharePoint and Office 365.

"When they bought Yammer they disrupted the enterprise social industry," said Yaacov Cohen, CEO and cofounder of Harmon.ie, a software provider that offers tools for SharePoint and Office 365 integration, which organized the New York conference. "Jeff Teper is driving the strategy and Yammer is a silo service." Teper, known as the father of SharePoint, last year was asked to lead the group again and is now corporate vice president for the OneDrive and SharePoint teams.

Indeed, anyone watching the presentation by Teper and his team for anything new about Yammer had to have felt left out. Yammer was mentioned in passing perhaps two or three times at most. Teper did mention it once when describing how Microsoft is incorporating Groups into all functions of SharePoint and Office 365.

"The core idea of groups is that we have a list of people that are on a team and they can use all the resources in Office 365," Teper said in the early part of the presentation. "They can use Outlook, SharePoint and they can use Yammer, and they can use Skype for Business. A group is simply a list of people that's designed to reduce the friction of collaborations across modality and SharePoint is the place where that group goes to work. We're going to give every group in Office 365 a new, fast and mobile SharePoint site."

A spokeswoman for Microsoft said in an e-mail that Yammer remains on the Office 365 roadmap, and pointed to last week's feature upgrade, which adds support for external groups. "Yammer continues to play a key role in Office 365. Earlier this year, we announced the completion of our foundational work to bring Yammer fully into Office 365. And later this year, we'll complete the integration of Yammer with the Office 365 Groups service."

Nevertheless, observers were surprised there wasn't at least somewhat more emphasis on Yammer. "I heard them mention it once," said Julie Walleshauser, a solutions engineer at Metalogix. "It seems like more social features are being put into SharePoint but more through Office 365 and the Graph API."

Pat Esposito, a consultant with Blue Dog Technology, was also disappointed more wasn't said about how Yammer fits into the future of SharePoint and Office 365. Many of his clients use Yammer, he said, but doesn't believe just because it was left out of this week's discussion that Microsoft won't live up to its plan of integrating it with Office 365. "They still have a lot of work to do but I don't think that means it's going away," Esposito said. "I think they still have two years of work to do before it's fully integrated. If you need a site to go to or a group, where all you want to do is have a threaded conversation, Yammer is the place to start. But I have a feeling we may see the brand diminished. It's hard to tell because they're not being clear about it."

Ruven Gotz, an MVP and director of digital workplace and innovation at Avanade, said his company is a user of Yammer and many of the consultancy's clients use it. Gotz was also hoping to hear more about the plans for Yammer but said not to read too much into it. "Groups is definitely the future," Gotz said. "The question is whether and how Yammer integrates into groups. That's an important aspect."

Questions about the future of Yammer began to surface earlier this year, when Microsoft's Customer Success Managers (CSMs) were let go. Many on the original Yammer team have also exited, though that's not unusual when a startup or small company is acquired. Experts say the fact that Yammer is based on Java and other open source code could be impacting any integration effort.

Esposito noted that the radio silence may not portend the worse for Yammer, or at least the notion of delivering threaded discussions to SharePoint and Office 365. Last year at this time at Microsoft's Ignite conference, many in the SharePoint community were alarmed by the lack of emphasis on SharePoint. Said Esposito: "No one said anything about the future of SharePoint there."  

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/06/2016 at 1:11 PM


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