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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?

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Some organizations have an allergic reaction to Yammer, the cloud-based enterprise social network with the freemium business model.

Anyone can sign up for a free Yammer account, with nothing more than a verified email address at a particular domain. Yammer groups all of the free accounts that share an Internet domain into a private social network--a great collaboration option for lots of small businesses and some larger ones. The company behind the domain only has to sign up as a paying customer if it wants to assert administrative control over that collaboration space. That's how it worked when Supervalu adopted Yammer as the grocery chain's enterprise social network. A group of employees started using the tool on an ad hoc basis, the company's CEO found out about it and saw the possibilities, and the unofficial collaboration environment became the official internal social network.

On the other hand, some CIOs and other company leaders see this as a problem. They find out after the fact that employees are collaborating and discussing all sorts of company business on an unsanctioned cloud service. When they learn the only way they can get administrative control over this environment is to sign up for a commercial account, they are pissed.

Suppose I don't want a commercial account, I just want to shut this thing down? Yammer's official response is that I can't do that--as far as they are concerned, these are a bunch of individual accounts that just happen to share a common email domain.

I know this because I discovered that there is a Techweb Yammer group associated with my email address (dcarr@techweb.com), populated by other employees of the Techweb division of our company who at some point were curious enough to sign up for an account. It looks semi-official, but it's a rogue social network with no official standing. I also used this example as part of my presentation for a BYTE webinar on "The Rise of Social Networks in the Enterprise".

Our parent company UBM has an corporate social network based on Jive, but as far as I can tell has made no particular effort to shut down the Yammer alternative. Nor do they need to. Because all of our employees and all of the most active discussions are on the official collaboration environment, this Yammer instance is a sleepy backwater, mostly forgotten even by the people who do have accounts.

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DSACKS941
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DSACKS941,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/11/2012 | 6:47:59 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Hi David - We appreciate your perspective on this, but as you could probably tell from your conversation with Wayne Shurts of SuperValu (http://bit.ly/zw23jV), CIOs are beginning to recognize that social is different. It requires voluntary participation -- you can't force people to share. Our customers understand that there is a huge benefit to having your employees organically choose and adopt their internal social network since their voluntary and enthusiastic participation is the key to success. We have countless examples of customers who have embraced this, including a large online retailer whose IT executives allowed employees to choose between Yammer and their existing solution (they chose Yammer). One of our largest customers initially chose a Yammer competitor but came to us two years later after millions of dollars and significant time spent in a failed attempt to push engagement. Because a voluntary Yammer network in a different geography was thriving, they came back to Yammer and ended up rolling it out company-wide on a short timeline with great success. You may remember that in 2010, Gartner predicted over 70 percent of IT-mandated social media initiatives will fail (http://www.gartner.com/it/page.... CIOs now see voluntary (viral) adoption as a way to set up a social initiative for success and the freemium model as a great way to de-risk the value proposition for them so they don't have to pay anything until the adoption of the product in their enterprise is proven.

Regards,

David Sacks
CEO, Yammer
Lawrence De Voe
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Lawrence De Voe,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/11/2012 | 9:52:25 PM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
I can understand where these concerns are coming from, but in my own experience, Yammer's Freemium offering was a huge benefit. The model allowed us to run Yammer in pilot mode at no cost when we were considering an Enterprise Social Media platform for our business (and the momentum our Pilot created carried us forward through a successful Premium rollout).

There are a lot of technologies like this out there that can be misused: personal cell phones, iPads, email, photocopiers, Facebook, Google+, Dropbox, YouSendIt, etc. As a technology leader, if you discover that a significant segment of your business is deriving value from an unsanctioned technology offering, you've uncovered an opportunity. Either you have a corporate alternative in place and you have a chance to migrate these users into the corporate fold, or you have stakeholders and sponsors for a new project to help make your business more successful. The business landscape today is full of opportunities like this for us to do better as technology leaders.
Cynthia B
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Cynthia B,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/12/2012 | 7:25:47 AM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Benefits of Yammer aside, if a company does not want its employees on Yammer, all that the company needs to do is send an email to the employees banning Yammer, and then have someone - let's call him Bob the Destroyer - join @unfuncompany.com's network. Bob the Destroyer's job is to take names. You post to Yammer, you get fired.

I imagine that such an approach would swiftly kill the offending Yammer network.
FZEBITZ250
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FZEBITZ250,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/12/2012 | 8:12:04 AM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
An onther issue with the freemium account is that when an employee leaves a company he can still access the company Yammer-feed. Seen from a company perspective this can be quite scary, if some of your employees are to join your competitor, but still have access to all the information shared. In that case all you can do as a CIO is to hope that Yammer is only used for social talk and not business.
JMATKINSE14
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JMATKINSE14,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/12/2012 | 10:28:09 AM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
That's not true, In the Freemium version users are allowed to remove people who have left the organisation from their network
FZEBITZ250
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FZEBITZ250,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/12/2012 | 11:12:51 AM
re: Yammer And The Freemium Trap
Thank you, that is good to hear.
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!
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."
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 | 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)
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