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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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marc112
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marc112,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2014 | 9:33:30 AM
The best way to avoid this kind of situations
The best way to avoid this kind of situations is to forbid your employee to create any social network accounts using the company's email without getting the permission of the business owner first, you can't risk to have your business damages by such an account. Also, using the BPM systems to manage the business information would help you keep a close watch on what's going on, reducing the security risks.
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."
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