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Microsoft Talks Up Yammer, Describes Upcoming Features

Perhaps in a bid to assuage concerns about the future of Yammer, Microsoft recently shared its progress around the enterprise social networking solution, including its ongoing integration with Office 365 and new features currently in the works.

Angus Florance, a senior product manager on the Yammer team, appeared in a Microsoft Mechanics video this month to describe new Yammer controls for IT pros. A migration network tool will let IT pros create a single Yammer network from two domains, Florance explained. In addition, it will be possible for IT pros to force the use of the Office 365 identity when using Yammer, if that's wanted. Yammer use stats will start to show up in the Office 365 management portal, letting IT pros drill down to see details at the user level.

In general, the two big Yammer capabilities to come include Yammer integration into Office 365 Groups, as well as integration into Skype for Business. It's not exactly clear from Microsoft's announcement when those future capabilities will arrive.

Current New Capabilities
Currently, Yammer now meets the same compliance criteria as other Office 365 applications, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft also improved Yammer access via Web browsers, as well as via Office 365 mobile applications, Florance explained. In the browser, Yammer conversations now feature a message counter that will tick down numerically as users read through a thread. At the end of the conversation, the user gets prompted to switch over to the next group of Yammer messages.

In mobile and Web clients, there's now a right- and left-swipe capability that lets users prioritize messages. The Yammer external groups capability now shows a globe icon to indicate that a conversation has been broadly shared.

Office Web Apps now show embedded Yammer conversations. Users of Delve, Microsoft's enterprise search-based solution that surfaces organizational and contact information, now can start Yammer conversations. In addition, the Office 365 Video service currently has a Yammer commenting capability. Nothing was said about Microsoft Stream, though, which was unveiled this month as a potential replacement for the Office 365 Video service.

Yammer Isn't Dead
Microsoft's Yammer talk this month suggests that there's no lack of commitment on Microsoft's part in its drive to integrate the social networking solution across Office 365 applications. An announcement by Microsoft this month that its new Office 365 Network community portal wouldn't be based on Yammer was interpreted as a possible retrenchment, for instance. However, members of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional community don't appear to see it that way.

Yammer isn't part of the new Office 365 Network portal because it just didn't permit public searches for content. It wasn't the right tool for the portal, explained Naomi Moneypenny, chief technology officer at Synxi and an Office 365 MVP. She recently highlighted eight reasons why she thinks Microsoft will be sticking with Yammer as an enterprise social networking tool.

Similarly, Microsoft MVP Christian Buckley has offered a middle ground argument about whether Office 365 Groups could eventually replace Yammer. The two applications have somewhat different purposes, but Groups could get favored somewhere down the line.

"While Office 365 Groups will not replace Yammer functionality, the reality is that Groups will likely displace Yammer," Buckley wrote.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has certainly set the stage for further Yammer use by adding it to most Office 365 business subscription plans. That push was announced back in February. At that time, Microsoft had projected that Office 365 Groups would get Yammer integration in the first half of this year. However, it seems that time estimate has slipped a bit.

Yammer also appears to be strategic in the way Microsoft now builds its products. For an overview of its impact within Microsoft, see the Redmond article, "The Yammer Challenge."

About the Author

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