Social business will ultimately succeed because so much of the rest of business is being automated, Yammer co-founder and engineering general manager Adam Pisoni said at the E2 Conference Wednesday. He also shared insight into Yammer's strategy now that it is part of Microsoft -- and part of a collaboration tools ecosystem that includes SharePoint.
"What's left for humans, for us, is non-routine work," Pisoni said. "I think the same thing is behind the rise in mobile. We've automated so much of the desk work that's what's left is a lot of on-the-go non-routine work." The new generation of collaboration tools help enable everything that requires human judgment and human intervention, he said.
In a keynote stage conversation with InformationWeek's Fritz Nelson and a follow-up interview, Pisoni argued the work environment is changing dramatically. "There are some fundamental problems with the way work is structured in companies that are finally coming to a head," Pisoni said. "Social can be part of the answer -- I don't think it's the whole answer."
In particular, he made a connection with studies showing that many employees feel disengaged. "Employees recognized before the people who run organizations that they were being ineffective," he said. "Their job descriptions, their playbooks, the narrowness of their roles, the databases they were confronted with, the ineffectiveness of their own jobs -- they couldn't answer customer questions, they couldn't get the information they needed to do their own jobs. That is the reason there's disengagement."
They need "a true Enterprise 2.0" revolution that makes the digital workplace much easier to navigate, he said. Yammer's real competition is not Jive or Chatter but "entrenched management and culture" that opposes change in the workplace, he said.
Pisoni said Yammer's priorities have not changed since its acquisition by Microsoft. In particular, he said Yammer is "not at all" likely to rethink its freemium strategy, which allows millions of users to sign up for free -- and often without getting permission from the company IT department or anyone else. Those who find value in the software have the option of becoming paying customers, which in Yammer's model is required to assert corporate control over a collaboration network.
"We believe in freemium as much as before, because it does one special thing that changes the game," Pisoni said. When users can get access to an application for free, software developers are forced to design it in a way that resonates with users or they will be unlikely to upgrade to paying accounts. In the traditional software development model, "you wound up building what your buyer wanted, which wasn't necessarily what your user wanted," he said. Pisoni was riffing on a similar theme expressed by John McGeachie, sales director for Evernote's business edition, that "enterprise software has been optimized for the buyer, not for the user."
When an audience member at the keynote session said he was confused by Yammer's positioning relative to the on-premises edition of SharePoint, Pisoni said, "Yammer will never be on premises because we cannot develop in the rapid, iterative, innovative way we need to."
Microsoft now allows customers of the Office365 cloud version of SharePoint to enable a Yammer social feed in place of the native one introduced in SharePoint 2013. But on-premises deployments tend to move at a much different pace, with many companies just now implementing SharePoint 2010, and Yammer can't waste time on backward compatibility, he said. "It's an impossible scenario to say 'innovate faster' on something you can't innovate faster on."
In a follow-up interview, Pisoni clarified that there are plans for tighter integration of Yammer feeds with new releases of SharePoint on premises for those customers who see the value in a hybrid solution that includes Yammer in the cloud and SharePoint on a local server. However, customers should expect that "we will incrementally innovate and see what resonates" rather than trying to achieve complete SharePoint integration overnight, he said.
Regular, incremental software releases are fundamental to Yammer's approach to building cloud software, Pisoni said. "There will be no one day when you turn on Yammer, and suddenly everything's going to be different," Pisoni said. That incremental approach "is dissatisfying to the press and analysts who want to say, 'just tell us what it's going to look like when it's done,' " he said.
The cloud development strategy hasn't changed since the Microsoft acquisition. Instead, Yammer is helping the Office products group learn to pick up the pace of development with its cloud products, he said.
E2 is a production of InformationWeek's parent company, UBM.