Yammer and enterprise networking

News of Microsoft’s $1.2bn acquisition of Yammer hit my desktop at the same time I was reading a news piece about the ‘death of email‘.

It’s enterprise networking tools like Yammer that incentivize the media to proclaim the demise of email. These platforms bring social networking functionality into the workplace, allowing colleagues to share and collaborate in a way that email doesn’t allow. I know, because for the last six months many within my company have been using Salesforce Chatter, a similar enterprise networking tool. And yet, while I appreciate the benefit of these tools I really find it hard to accept that they will usurp email anytime soon.

After six months of using an enterprise networking platform I have to admit that my usage has slowed, with a greater percentage of my communication reverting back to email. I’m sure the technology will improve, and I’ve not used Yammer so can’t offer a comparison, but my experiences of the technology (vs email) so far:

1) Archiving is almost impossible. Folder management in email clients such as Outlook is hugely useful for categorizing and storing emails. Enterprise networking prioritizes the ‘now’.

2) 1-2-1 messaging requires effort. In email, the default state is a communication to a single person(s), within enterprise networking platforms the default state is communication to a group of followers. Creating a direct message or locking security around certain communication types requires additional work.

3) Attachments aren’t handled well. Enterprise networking platforms are great for sharing links but once you get to attachments things slow down. These platforms are largely cloud-based so you’re at the mercy of the bandwidth gods. Email clients sync and hold attachments locally for when you’re ready.

4) Things go viral when you don’t want them to. I’ve seen instances of draft documents being sent out to ‘groups’ and before you know it they’ve been ‘shared’ across half the company.

5) The outside world is still on email. There is no single, dominant enterprise networking platform so communication to the outside world has to happen through good old email (for now).

6) It attracts egos. I haven’t come across any obvious trolls on our enterprise networking platform, but I frequently see people contributing to topics who really shouldn’t be; more often than not it’s because the want to be ‘recognised’ as a contributor to the ‘conversation’. More often than not their contribution is just noise.

7) The signal to noise ratio can be high. Sure, Salesforce Chatter lets me discover interesting content and colleague projects that I would never normally be exposed to. But these are in the minority. People moan about spam being the death of email – it’s nothing compared to the noise on badly admin’d networking platforms.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Completely agree. There are some solid efforts to replace email but it isn’t going to be Yammer, Jive or Chatter. Email is around for a while, IMO mainly for point 5).

    I thought that Google Wave had something to it, I think that kind of approach is more likely to win as most email threads are just ‘news feeds’ of comment and discussion around decisions, rather than definitive documentation of the actual decision.

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