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Gartner to Orgs: Skip SharePoint, Go with Yammer for Enterprise Social

Organizations that are "Microsoft shops" and trying to decide between Yammer or SharePoint for social networking should choose Yammer, research firm Gartner advised in a webinar Thursday.

While Microsoft could have "a game-changing platform with Yammer," a lot of work still needs to get done to make the integration work and it might take a year, according to Gartner research director Larry Cannell. The rationale comes from Microsoft itself; Cannell cited Jared Spataro, senior director of the Microsoft Office Division, as saying that organizations should "go hard with Yammer" for social networking.

Cannell was clear on that point while also noting that Microsoft's public statements have generally been "confusing and superficial" about Yammer's role. In essence, Microsoft appears to have two competing products now on the social networking front with SharePoint and Yammer. Microsoft added Yammer to the Microsoft Office Division in July 2012 after buying the company for $1.2 billion. Yammer doesn't just overlap with SharePoint, but also with Outlook, Exchange, Skype and Lync, Cannell said.

Given Microsoft's past emphasis on Yammer for social networking, Cannell advised against using SharePoint for social networking as its features could get deprecated in the future. He noted that Yammer and SharePoint currently have overlapping workloads, including user profiles, search, intranets, lists, OneNote, and blogs and wikis.

Microsoft's integration of Yammer centers on Open Graph, which is an open API protocol for following objects external to a social network site. Open Graph was first introduced by Facebook, but Yammer adapted it for enterprise use, Cannell explained. A competing protocol is Open Social 2.0, which is backed by Jive and IBM. The idea behind both protocols is that they can support the creation of maps of information, which can be "powerful stuff," he added. In essence, they create a social map, which can help people follow things.

In the near term, Microsoft's integration plans with Yammer include adding identity and single sign-on capabilities. The plan is to strengthen server-to-server integration for a much richer exchange of identities, Cannell said. File integration will be another area of improvement. The goal will be to share documents with Yammer using SharePoint. Moreover, Yammer users will be able to upload and store documents via SkyDrive Pro.

Microsoft pointed to its progress in integrating Yammer into SkyDrive Pro last month. It also indicated that it is working on file preview and edit capabilities with Yammer in conjunction with Office Web Apps. Both of those capabilities are planned for a rollout this summer. Translation capabilities will be added to Yammer by late spring.

Microsoft officials previously have suggested that Yammer capabilities may be added to Dynamics CRM. Possibly that topic will arise at the Microsoft Convergence event, kicking off next week.

The bottom-line message of Cannell's webinar is that Microsoft's opaque plans for Yammer shouldn't give pause to organizations deploying social networking solutions.

"This is not the time to reevaluate the social software market," Cannell said. "If you have something that works, stay with it."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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