Getting started with Yammer

Yammer has been around for years but a while back it was purchased by Microsoft. It’s kind of like Facebook, but for businesses, and now that it’s included in certain Office 365 plans, I’m increasingly finding myself talking to customers about it as they look to see what it can offer.

The thing about Yammer though, is that it’s (still) not very tightly integrated with Office 365.  It’s getting closer in that Yammer can be used to replace the SharePoint newsfeed and that you can now log on to Yammer with Office 365 credentials (avoiding the need to have a directory synchronisation connector with an on-premises Active Directory) but it’s still very loosely coupled.

Yammer has a stealth model for building a user base or, as Microsoft puts it, the “unique adoption model” of Yammer allows organisations to become social. Most companies will already be using it in pockets, under the radar of the IT department (or at least without their explicit consent) because all that’s needed to sign up to Yammer is an email address.

As soon as two or more people with the same domain name sign up, you have a network, in Yammer terminology.

Yammer Basic

The free Yammer Basic service allows people to communicate within a network, structured around an activity feed, which is a rich microblog to track what colleagues are doing, get instant feedback on running conversations, share documents and information on projects people are working on. Users can like posts, reply, and use hashtags/topics for social linking, flag a post and point to someone in a reply. They can also create/respond to polls to get ad-hoc opinion on an issue.

Yammer Groups allow for scoped topics of conversation – for example around a project, or a social activity. Users can follow other users or groups to select information that’s interesting to them – and Yammer will suggest people/groups to follow.

Yammer Enterprise

When an organisation is ready to adopt and manage Yammer centrally, they can add IT controls (essentially, bring it under control of an administrator who controls the creation of groups, membership of those groups, and many other settings).  This is done by upgrading to the Yammer Enterprise product, either as a standalone service or, more typically these days, integrated with an Office 365 subscription (typically an enterprise plan, but other plans are available).

In theory, activating Yammer on your Office 365 subscription is a simple step (described by Jethro Segers in his Office 365 tip of the day post). Unfortunately, when I tried with a customer last week it took over an hour (with the page telling me it would take between 1 and 30 minutes, so be patient! It also needs the domain name to be verified in the tenant, which may already be the case for other services, or may require some additional steps. The whole process is described in a Microsoft blog post from the French SharePoint GBS team.

Each Yammer network has its own URI. In the case of a company network it will be yammer.com/companyname, based on the email address used to create the network.  If multiple domain names are in use, they can be linked to the same network but the network will always be private to the company that owns it. Also, I found that one of my customers had two domains registered in Office 365 so we used the one associated with the parent (holding) company for yammer, and until we repeat the process to bring in the other domains, users are authenticating with their @holdingcompanyname.com addresses.

External networks

External networks can be created for collaboration outside the company – e.g. to business partners and I have started to create them with my customers for collaborating around projects, getting them used to using Yammer as we work together on an Office 365 pilot, for example. Access to external networks is by invitation only, but can include users from multiple organisations. Each external network has a parent, which retains overall control.

Wrap-up

In this post, I’ve described the basics of Yammer. I’m sure there are many other elements to consider but this is enough to be getting started with. I’m sure I’ll post some more as I find answers to my customers’ questions over the coming months and some of my colleagues hosted a webcast on Yammer recently, which can be viewed below:

For more information, check out:

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