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8/23/2011
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Yammer Integrates Salesforce.com Updates In Activity Stream

Integration via open APIs aims to break down "social networking silos" at companies using multiple social-enabled apps.

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In a move illustrating the growing importance of social computing capabilities for existing enterprise applications--and some of the problems that may come from the use of multiple social-enabled apps--Yammer has developed a new integration with Salesforce.com.

Built using open APIs from Salesforce.com and Yammer, the integration will allow users to follow any native Saleforce.com object from within Yammer's activity stream. The idea is that Yammer's activity stream becomes a central hub for feeds from Salesforce.com and other business applications. In May, NetSuite announced integration with Yammer.

Yammer says this kind of integration breaks down some of the silos that are forming around business applications that make use of social collaboration capabilities, with each business app essentially hosting its own social network.

Yammer CTO Adam Pisoni said social networking in the enterprise has provided a "self-organizing communications layer," but that the next evolution needs to be integrating social capabilities with all of the business applications people use. "If we ended up in a world where every one of your business apps has its own silo of social network, then you lose the main benefit, which is to be able to communicate across these apps and across the entire company," Pisoni said.

Yammer's activity stream API enables any business application to publish activity into Yammer as long as it has the consent of the company administrator, according to Yammer. Yammer used its API, along with Salesforce.com's Force.com, to develop the integration.

Pisoni said Yammer and Salesforce.com did not work together on this integration. "One of the great things about this world of open APIs is we don't have to work together," he said. "Salesforce could have just as easily written it themselves, or anyone could have, for that matter. We leveraged their API and our API and just did it."

Salesforce.com's Kendall Collins, senior VP and general manager for Chatter, said the Yammer integration "is yet another example of why Force.com's ecosystem is exploding--developers are building social apps with the No. 1 open cloud platform. And Chatter is the social standard that 100,000 companies are choosing. It's exciting to see the industry embracing this momentum."

Chatter is Salesforce.com's own social network application, which connects users at an organization and allows them to share business information.

Frost & Sullivan analyst Jake Wengroff sees Yammer and Chatter as competing directly against each other, and guesses that Salesforce.com may be less than pleased about the Yammer development.

"Make no mistake: Yammer competes directly with Salesforce's Chatter," said Wengroff, Frost & Sullivan's global director of social media strategy and research. "Both have 'freemium' business models and aim to be the leader in enterprise social collaboration. Salesforce is perhaps none too pleased that Yammer used Salesforce's Force.com cloud platform for building business apps in order to pull leads, deals, campaigns, and other typical Salesforce content into Yammer streams. Such is the fate of companies who are competitors who both have open APIs."

Pisoni said Yammer will be rolling out SharePoint activity streams "in the near future," and that others are on the way. He added that he sees this model of aggregated streams as the antidote to what might be called social network sprawl. "There really are two possible futures for social networking in the enterprise," he said. "One where you have many different social networks that are embedded in your various business applications, and the other where you have this horizontal social network which really expands all of your business applications."

Rob Koplowitz, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said the kind of horizontal social network--or social layer--offered by Yammer, Jive, Socialtext, and others is beneficial to enterprise users because it will allow them the greatest exposure and access to information and expertise with the least number of locations and interfaces to deal with. Not every vendor will jump onboard the model, Koplowitz said, but it will likely streamline information consumption moving forward.

"The fewer places I have to go to access information, the better, for two reasons: fewer interfaces and critical mass," said Koplowitz. "If I'm sitting in Yammer and I'm getting notifications from Salesforce and NetSuite, but I have to get notifications from SAP someplace else, that's a problem. What I really want is a critical mass of users and a critical mass of information in the fewest places possible. That's what makes social networking so effective. That's why we're all on Facebook--because that's where everybody is and that's where all of the good information is. The same dynamic will hold true in the enterprise."

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