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1/10/2012
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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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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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