But Yammer, the collaboration tool Microsoft acquired for $1.2 billion in 2012, is a viable solution that's poised to address SharePoint's shortcomings, according to Rob Koplowitz, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. The challenge is determining whether the cloud-based solution is right for your business.
"Microsoft's road map for integrating SharePoint and Yammer is getting clearer," Koplowitz said in an interview. Yammer will increasingly provide the user interaction layer while SharePoint plays more of the back-end system-of-record role. SharePoint will increasingly depend on Yammer's front-end capabilities for serving fast-moving enterprise social workloads.
According to a report authored by Koplowitz, Yammer excels in two areas. The first is quickly delivering new features. "The ability to add the next great thing in months or weeks with no need to do a traditional upgrade has allowed cloud vendors to stay on the leading edge of functional requirements," he said. "By staying true to the cloud, Yammer has been able to keep up with the rapidly moving requirements of the enterprise social landscape."
[ For more on the Yammer-Sharepoint integration, see Yammer Co-Founder Discusses Life With MS Sharepoint. ]
The second area in which Yammer excels is in putting user experience front and center. According to Koplowitz, Yammer tests all UI changes -- including adding and removing features --with a large group of users. Changes with a positive response are kept while others are not. "If users didn't like the experience and stopped using the product," he pointed out, "they would also stop paying."
Although both of these pluses are attractive to Microsoft shops that are considering an enterprise collaboration tool, Yammer tends to make the shortlist for other reasons, too. Its easy integration with SharePoint tops the list, but its aggressive pricing is another: Yammer slashed the price of an enterprise seat from $15 to $3 per user per month. And for Office 265 users, bundling can mean Yammer licenses at no additional cost.
"The ability to bundle Yammer into enterprise license agreements creates a recipe for Microsoft to see lots of licenses into the market quickly," Koplowitz said. "That does not necessarily mean that Yammer will be the right answer for all, but it will get on a lot of shortlists."
Whether Yammer is a viable option to supplement SharePoint depends on your business's readiness to move to the cloud. Koplowitz offers these tips for deciding whether Yammer should be part of your SharePoint and social strategy:
Determine whether you are ready for the cloud. Koplowitz recommends assessing your cloud readiness in light of strict requirements because it's difficult to monitor and regulate the information employees share in a social collaboration setting.
"Human resources will be concerned about employee privacy. Legal will be concerned about compliance, and R&D will be concerned about intellectual capital," Koplowitz said. "There's a business value upside to a collaboration tool, but there's also risk. Risk can be mitigated."
If you're cloud-ready, consider Yammer. If you're not yet invested in enterprise social and are ready to embrace the cloud, consider adding Yammer to an existing SharePoint implementation, Koplowitz recommended. Expect aggressive pricing from Microsoft, too.
If you're not cloud-ready, assess SharePoint partner offerings. Just because your business isn't yet committed to the cloud doesn't mean there's no solution for you. SharePoint's native capabilities in the 2013 version may be an option, Koplowitz said.
"The partner landscape for on-premises solutions that integrate run the gamut, from offerings like NewsGator that run natively on top of Microsoft to complementary offerings from leading vendors like IBM Connections, Jive and Neudesic," he said.
Consider other options, too. If your organization requires document collaboration, intranet portal capabilities and enterprise social, don't discount other solutions such as IBM Connections or an integration of best-of-breed solutions such as Box and Jive, Koplowitz advised.