Julian Wraith

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Yammer: Twitter for the Enterprise

Now Twitter is one of those things. Either you get it and you love it or you just plain hate it. I personally love it. I could tweet all day long except I don’t have time. It is a little too far to go to tell people exactly what I am doing but it does not stop some people. I personally, just give general updates on my general activities and you too can follow me on Twitter.

Twitter is a form of micro-blogging and basically offers people you know or people who want to know you the chance to stalk you.

Twitter is very public with even direct replies being visible. This is an open way of sending messages and you have to be careful as when you tweet something it is then visible to the whole world. Unfavorable Tweets that are about your employer or a customer should not be in the public domain. Add to this that some people’s Tweets are pushed to Facebook and then we have a recipe for making big holes for you to climb into.

Well, to make your life a little safer, Yammer has introduced a system similar to Twitter only with security. People who have the same email address domain as you (e.g. someone@sdltridion.com) can join a closed network where you can blog to each other what you are doing. Looking on the surface there is nothing very special here but used to enhance connections between people doing the same things in organizations, this tool has distinct advantages.

Getting started

This is surprisingly simple as you only have to enter your email address to start the signup process. Once you have confirmed that you got the email they sent you, you can create your profile and join the network. Once you sign in you are given the chance to invite people you know from the organization and that’s all there is to it.

Working with it

There are four ways to post to it, you can use the Yammer website, download the desktop application, the blackberry or iPhone application. You can do pretty much anything you can do with Twitter such as reply on posts, follow people, invite more people and search through the history.

Advantages

So why would this be interesting? Well knowledge sharing is a about a two main areas; sharing knowledge in a documented way (explicit) and sharing knowledge person to person (tacit). In the case of the latter it is important to build relationships between people. People feel they have a relationship to someone based upon what they know about them and on this they can build trust. How many times do we think we know a celebrity based upon what we we’ve read about them? In a business sense, this might be knowing what someone is doing in the office, what projects they are working on or what activities they are doing in common. This is where micro-blogging can help people connect and share information easily. This tool helps build such networks and relationships around an organization which will ultimately lead to better ability for the organization to work and share effectively

Costs?

There are two versions of Yammer; one free and the other not. For free you get all the micro blogging features in a closed network. However, you can’t control the network you have created (such as removing a fired employee). If you want to do that, your organization can take ownership of the application for the very modest sum of $1 per user per month.

Security

Well, there are two aspects of this. Firstly, anyone from your network can post anything they like and anyone from the organization can be watching. Users themselves need to watch what is said and those they do not use the medium to whine or complain about life. Additionally, you are posting to an outside network and thus it should be common sense not to post anything that would be deemed legally sensitive. Whilst Yammer ensure on their site that it is secure I can’t help feeling that this will be the major blocking factor for many organizations.

Conclusion

I like it, but I feel that many organizations are not really ready for such a system. Should they be then I feel that they would reap the benefits of having this short line of communication between their employees. Most employees will not abuse Yammer and in most cases an organisation’s fear of abuse is usually is greater the actual threat of abuse. If any such abuse takes place it can be dealt with by the administrators.

The free version is really good for friends or family and the subscription model is an absolute must for organization. Without administrators the risk of former employees still being able to access the network is just too high.

Screenshots

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