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1/10/2012
05:13 PM
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Yammer And The Freemium Trap

Suppose your organization doesn't want employees using an unsanctioned enterprise social network in the cloud. How do you shut it down?

Unsanctioned Yammer instances become more of an issue when they have had time to grow and accumulate content--perhaps including content that never should have been shared outside the firewall.

I have heard a few stories along those lines, although, honestly, they're second-hand accounts, and I'd like to get something more on the record. If you've had a painful experience with Yammer, and are willing to talk about it, please let me know. Meanwhile, I'll take it as an article of faith that some organizations would like to have the right to shut down a service that functions as if it were an internal company collaboration space--but, in fact, is not.

To test exactly what the policy is, I used my shiny new Yammer account to send a simple question through Yammer's online customer technical support system: "How can an IT organization that does not want to sign up as a Yammer customer delete a network created by employees without authorization?"

Within 15 minutes, I had my answer, presumably boilerplate from a frequently asked questions list.

Hi David,

Since the content in a free network is owned by the individual users, per our user policy, it is not possible to delete an entire network. However, users can delete their accounts individually by signing into Yammer on the web and completing the following 2 steps:

1) Delete messages: Delete all of their messages one by one by going to More > Delete below each post. 2) Delete their account: Go to "Account > My Settings" and click "Delete Account" in the lower right corner.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Maybe they would give a different answer if you threatened to sue. If not, I suspect there will be a lawsuit over this if there hasn't been already. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed is another question. A lot of cloud services offer free accounts, activated upon verification of an email address. I guess what makes the Yammer case feel a little different is that it represents itself as a workspace for a whole company, associated with a company domain, as opposed to functioning as a personal productivity tool.

Still, it is not as though Yammer hacks its way onto your enterprise network to establish this corporate workspace. Your employees go to yammer.com and sign up of their own free will. If you don't like it, you can ban yammer.com at the firewall and forbid its use as a matter of corporate policy.

Ultimately, the best way to keep employees off an unofficial enterprise social network is to provide an official one that is as good or better.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

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BDawson
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BDawson,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2012 | 7:21:29 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
You say any user can suspend accounts, but you fail to mention that you can only suspend 1 Account Per Month as an end user. Basically forcing you to pay in order to take 'real' control.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/18/2012 | 5:42:16 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Thank you for that clarification. It's good to know there is a mechanism for dealing with the former employee issue, as easy as making sure the email account is deleted. That was not clear to me.
Phoebe Shin Venkat
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Phoebe Shin Venkat,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2012 | 4:30:17 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
The freemium version of Yammer was useful in being able to build momentum around enterprise social networking - it's very unlikely that our president and other key stakeholders would have approved to pay for yammer if he was not able to view employee usage and product features. I understand there's concern about sharing confidential information, but that issue exists across all types of communications vehicles. I could start a private group on LinkedIn (or any other relevant platform) and share confidential information with all types of folks. Within Yammer, you can only share with other employees.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/12/2012 | 11:22:11 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
To be clear, they told me there was no way as a non-paying customer to delete accounts as an admin.
themaria
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themaria,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/12/2012 | 11:18:53 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Hello David et al -- I work at Yammer, and wanted to take a minute to clarify the user deletion / suspension process. When an employee leaves a freemium network, any user can suspend this former employee. Specifically, what happens is this user receives an email that says "your account was suspended, click here to reactivate." The employee then can reactivate, but only if he / she receives the email. If this employee doesn't have the company email anymore (which they shouldn't), the suspension will time out, and the user will be permanently deleted. As far as deleting the content that this user had produced -- we don't recommend doing that, because it defeats the purpose of Yammer being a knowledge repository. Actually a big use case for Yammer is getting implicit knowledge out of people's heads and email inboxes and into a digital space where others can benefit from it.

Of course, premium accounts have admin capabilities that allow the admin to delete the user manually, and even automatically provision / de-provision accounts via the AD Sync. This way, you don't even have to think about it.

Please let us know if you have any further questions! You can reach me at maria (at) yammer-inc.com, or our helpdesk at help (at) yammer.com. We are also available and listening in a variety of social channels.

- Maria Ogneva, head of community, Yammer
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/12/2012 | 7:52:53 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
As a business strategy, the viral growth model seems to be working quite well for Yammer

http://www.marketwatch.com/sto...
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/12/2012 | 5:27:56 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Their support organization told me there was no way to take administrative control and remove accounts. You have to convince the individuals to log in and remove their own posts and accounts. I did have someone tell me that if you make a big enough stink, you can eventually get Yammer to change its tune (see the post below quoting from a contact who works in the security-sensitive aerospace/defense industry)
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/12/2012 | 4:52:54 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
I asked Wayne Shurts at Supervalu what he would have done if his CEO had instructed him to shut down the Yammer collaboration space, rather than embracing it. His response was that he would have tried to convince his CEO that was a bad idea.

Shurts said he understood what I termed the "allergic reaction" some organization might have to finding out their employees are active on on unsanctioned collaboration service. "That's why we quickly moved to pay for the service and have it all safe," he said. "My advice, rather than fight it would be to embrace it, You're never going to stop people from talking, or sharing ideas, so be smart about it and embrace it."

Doing so has led to a "much more open style of communication and transparent style of leadership" that has benefited the company.

From that perspective, the companies who seek to shut down a Yammer instance might be making a mistake. But we all have the right to make our own mistakes, and I don't think your company's standard response to organizations that want to opt out is winning you any friends.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/12/2012 | 4:41:04 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Another perspective from one of my contacts on Google+: "We were one of the first to execute a complete shutdown within Yammer and it was initially resisted by the Yammer staff but we eventually prevailed in being removed from the system (with blocks to prevent reentry into the system). It is not a matter of being "easy" or "hard" for Yammer to execute this action - but rather their preference to keep a foothold in what may eventually become a "relationship." If they can be convinced that keeping that foothold will sour any potential future relationship, they will likely do the right thing and execute a cleanup of their service and a "shutdown" for your enterprise."
SMUKHERJEE2102
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SMUKHERJEE2102,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/12/2012 | 1:00:55 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Yammer is a good product, and in future business social networks like ApnaCircle, Viadeo etc will need to follow its path towards gaining more acceptance in the corporate world, besides exploring this area of revenue generation!
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