Written By: Jim Carroll

from April 9, 2013

I recently sat down with Brian Murray from Yammer to learn more about Microsoft’s latest acquisition.  Before joining Yammer two and a half years ago, Brian worked for the technology consulting practice of Deloitte.  Deloitte was an early adaptor of Yammer and was Brian’s first introduction to the product.  Shortly thereafter, Brian joined the Yammer team as a customer success manager.  The position involved working with enterprise clients to help extract greater value from the tool by achieving greater adoption and overall success.  Brian became the Director of Enterprise Strategy within the Yammer Product Team six months ago and now works as a liaison between internal product and engineering groups within Microsoft ensure the Yammer experience goes across the many Microsoft enterprise software solutions.

Jim Carroll:  A lot of our readers are not familiar with Yammer.  Can you give an overview?

Brian Murray:  It’s good to start by looking at the early days of email.  Email was a communication breakthrough and it created a change in how we all communicated with one another – both in the consumer and enterprise space.

The limitation was that email was linear, or one-to-one, in how it worked.  Then in 2007, social networks became the next big communication breakthrough in the consumer space.  These new modes of communication provided a more engaging tool.  Users could share pictures, see each other, and feel the presence of others.  Our founders believed that these tools (like Facebook) provided a better way of interacting with people and it made sense that it needed to be applied to the enterprise.

Yammer is really a social communication method aimed at the business world.  A social experience for employees to share information with team members in a way that is natural and similar to the consumer focused products like Facebook.

Jim Carroll:  How do most companies start implementing Yammer?

Brian Murray:  One of the things that really lead to our quick success was the ‘freemium’ model.  This was a foreign concept to the enterprise software space.  As a small startup, we had to pursue a different distribution method to break through the large vendors like Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM.  The idea was that anybody could come in and try the product.  All that is needed is a corporate email address for verification purposes.  There is no complex configuration required.  We know that if we build up enough value and activity in the Yammer network that companies will want to upgrade to a premium subscription.  We want them to try it for free though and see value through their own eyes.

Jim Carroll: How does Yammer potentially tie into other enterprise applications such as Microsoft Dynamics, SharePoint, or Office 365?

Brian Murray:  Yammer’s strategy (prior to being acquired by Microsoft) was to develop a lot of the functionality in other collaboration products.  As an example, SharePoint has very robust document management and collaboration capabilities.  SharePoint was just beginning to get into social when Yammer started to grow.  Yammer wanted to compete as a full collaboration suite and was just starting to get into document management.  That is why the acquisition made so much sense to both organizations.

The vision now is a single experience.  The end user shouldn’t have to think about what product does what.  Whether its social capabilities (Yammer), document management capabilities (SharePoint), video conferencing capabilities (Skype), or managing customer information (Microsoft Dynamics), the experience needs to be seamless.  We want Yammer to be the engine that drives social feeds into many enterprise products including Microsoft’s SharePoint and Dynamics.  We are at the start of that journey but there are integrations available today and the overall experience will become even more natural over time.

Jim Carroll:  What is the next step for an organization to take advantage of the benefits Yammer brings?

Brian Murray:  A great action item for anyone reading this article that hasn’t tried Yammer is to visit the site, sign up, and see what it’s all about.  It’s simple and easy to use.  Yammer is also part of the Office team within Microsoft so, going forward, Yammer will be included within the Office 365 suite of products.