Yammer: a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Last week I talked about visiting the Yammer on Tour (YoT) event in Amsterdam. Somehow it is still playing my mind. Not that I changed my mind about it but mostly because I’m wondering why it is so popular among the Dutch. If the announced number of 500.000 payed Yammer accounts in The Netherlands is right that would mean Yammer has a more than substantial penetration of the Dutch labor market of about 8.5 million… A penetration most software providers would kill for and more importantly one obtained without much marketing.

So why is Yammer so popular here?

First of all I think the Dutch are very outgoing and adopt social tools at an incredible speed because of that. Having an opinion and speaking your mind is something that is embedded in Dutch culture and taught from a very young age. The whole social revolution just taps into that. Something that is clearly visible with the adoption of all social platforms, not just Yammer.

But there are other factors here too I think.

The Back-door-factor:

  • As Yammer doesn’t really need any IT department involvement to be kick started within an organization (anyone can just start a company community free of charge) you see a lot of instances where adoption is done bottom up. IT is not involved until a large part of the organization is already using it and is therefore put on the spot. Seeing it being used and accepted and not having had any time to investigate the need or workings for such an application they simply go with it and more or less accept it as is. All the factors and barriers that would otherwise have had to be passed in a software platform acquisition process are suddenly completely bypassed.

The gullibility factor:

  • Yep, it isn’t nice to say about my own fellow country men but I feel gullibility plays a big role here too. I don’t know how it came to be but at a certain point some government institutions started using Yammer for their internal social communications. It didn’t take long for more to join, and more and now several really big and important governmental institutions are using it. Institutions that are handling highly sensitive personal and financial information. The Dutch in general put a lot of trust in their government so other companies seeing this and thinking “Well if they use it it must be safe” joined in and before you know it you’ve got a lot of companies seeing this as a perfectly safe option.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it isn’t or that non of the organizations really investigated it. But I do get the impression a number of them really didn’t look into it too hard.

The idea of information, in this case possibly even my personal information being discussed and shared over Yammer servers located in the US with the US data security regulations – regulations we all know do not necessarily comply with EU legislation – makes me twitchy at best. And as Yammer stated themselves, they are not planning to open any EU data center for the foreseeable future….

How delicate this is was demonstrated when at YoT someone, working for one of the these government institutions got up and asked “How do we control that information shared on the Yammer network stays compliant with the information in our regulatory systems, as we want to make sure our people are consistent in their communications to the outside world when using information obtained through Yammer?“. The answer was (correctly) “Yammer is not for sharing the information but only sharing the location where it could be found“.
The fact this question was asked though already shows that this really is an utopia.

I do believe that most people at all these institutions are probably using it responsible, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t just a short way out for a lot of these companies and institutions. They see the need (and yes, there definitely is a need for social business here in The Netherlands) and jump in at the first option they see swimming by.
If that really is a feasible option though remains to be seen. Yammer seems to be mostly a Facebook like tool and doesn’t offer much more then a really nice way to start the internal conversation. Social business though is about more than that and gets its real value from collaboration. Something Yammer in my eyes still falls short at.
Not to mention the problems they could get themselves in for not complying with EU privacy act regulations…..

Not surprisingly thus that some of these major institutions, recognizing the sensitivities and lack of collaboration, are now turning to other tools like IBM Connections to handle their social business needs. How the smaller ones will fare though remains to be seen. It isn’t easy changing social platforms once you’ve chosen one.

7 thoughts on “Yammer: a wolf in sheep's clothing?

  1. A little rewrite on the corporate DNS can put a quick end to any external social site. Of course it should then end at something alternative like Connections

  2. Another viewhttp://cio.co.nz/cio.nsf/opin/BB52AE07ED50154CCC25795C00672584"Yammer adoption shows that some CIOs are losing their status as a monopoly provider of IT services to the enterprise. The genie is out of the bottle so the onus is on CIOs to either embrace new solutions or view them as expressions of user requirements and provide something even better.?

  3. Another view:  http://cio.co.nz/cio.nsf/opin/BB52AE07ED50154CCC25795C00672584"Yammer adoption shows that some CIOs are losing their status as a monopoly provider of IT services to the enterprise. The genie is out of the bottle so the onus is on CIOs to either embrace new solutions or view them as expressions of user requirements and provide something even better.?

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