Yammer Gets Major Facelift
Update to enterprise social media service takes cues from Facebook and Google Docs; adds activity stream integration with six cloud services.
"This is likely the most significant Yammer update to date," said Adam Pisoni, Yammer CTO and cofounder. "The big thing we're launching is the enterprise activity stream ticker, which is a lot like the Facebook ticker." Yammer is also adding Web-based document authoring and editing, with real-time collaboration in the mode of Google Docs and wiki-like linking between documents. In addition, the new release improves file management.
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Like the Facebook ticker, Yammer's version shows a stream of the most recent activity updates from people and applications you are following in a corner of the screen, while the main news feed shows the posts deemed to be most important. The stream of updates can now include events from the newly integrated cloud applications, as well as previously announced integrations with NetSuite, Salesforce.com, and Microsoft SharePoint.
Pisoni said Yammer wasn't so much imitating Facebook as following a parallel product development path, although he added, "when we see things they've done that seem to be impactful, yeah, we want to leverage that in the enterprise space."
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In a large enterprise, as in an active public social network, items on the ticker will tend to scroll past quickly, so that not everyone will see them. However, just as on Facebook, the most compelling updates will tend to attract comments that will boost their ranking on the main newsfeed, Pisoni said. "The ticker helps things go viral, go discoverable, allows people to see what's going on," he said in an interview.
"One of big things we'll be pumping into the activity stream is content from the new Yammer Pages," Pisoni added. This "next-generation wiki" includes a rich text editor similar to the Google Docs word processor, in which users can work on a document simultaneously, seeing each other's changes appear on the screen instantaneously. Linking between documents is enabled by an autocomplete function, allowing authors and editors to find and link to other documents in the system.
"Many of the customers we're presenting this to never had Google Docs, so they're seeing real-time collaboration for the first time," Pisoni said. These collaboration features are significant because "up to this point, Yammer has been about ephemeral communications, where you could talk about work but not necessarily get work done," he said.
Yammer Files now also allows sharing, following, and commenting on files uploaded into the system, and those updates will also be fed into the activity stream to make file updates and comments easier to discover.
Edith Harbaugh, senior product manager at TripIt, said her firm decided to integrate its travel update feeds into Yammer, and also Salesforce.com's Chatter, as the enterprise social networks with the broadest reach. TripIt allows travelers to create a consolidated itinerary based on airline, hotel, and restaurant reservation confirmations they forward to the service by email, and it has previously done integrations that allow sharing of travel plans on public social networks.
Integrating with an enterprise social network "is a matter of delivering the information to the right people," Harbaugh said. TripIt wants people to have the freedom to share their travel plans with just their friends, just their coworkers, or both. "You might want to let your friends to know you're going to Vegas and not your co-workers," she said. On the other hand, notifying coworkers of your visits to a given city might create the opportunity for an impromptu business meeting, she said.
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