Monday, July 25, 2011

How will Google+ affect Yammer?

When Google+ came out, there were some people who immediately proclaimed that Facebook was dead, or that LinkedIn was dead, or whatever.

But I think I have found one firm that will be adversely affected by Google+.

I forget when I first tried Yammer out, but it must have been a year or two ago. When you want to join Yammer, you create an account with your work email (not a Hotmail or Gmail account). Once your work email is verified, Yammer knows which company you work for, and you are then allowed to network with others in your company and do all of the wonderful things that Yammer presumably lets you do. So I joined Yammer with my then-current email address...and found that I was the only one in my company who had joined Yammer. Some time later I checked again, and was still the only person in my company who had joined Yammer.

Note to the wise: a one-person network is not all that strong.

So where were my co-workers? I found a bunch of them on Facebook, although our Facebook conversations tend to revolve around Facebook games and leisure activities (not that my co-worker Jim would carry a virtual Cafe World cake while riding his Harley).

But after a few days of using Google+, I found a few of my co-workers on there. I eventually created two circles - an "internal" circle for Google+ people who worked for my company, and an "external" circle for Google+ people who used to work for my company, or who for some reason or another was interested in my company's business.

To be truthful, both Facebook and Google+ have this feature. Whether you call them groups or circles, these both allow you to (a) share items with a select group of people, and (b) read items from a select group of people (although the latter capability cannot be filtered to show only items of interest).

So if everyone is on services like Facebook and Google+, why bother to join Yammer? Well, if the company is behind Yammer use, and encourages it, Yammer can yield significant benefits, according to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Yammer:

[F]or a 21,000 employee organization with a network of 7,000 Yammer users on a three-year license at list pricing, the study concluded that Yammer yielded a risk-adjusted return on investment (ROI) of 365 percent with a payback period of 4.3 months and $5.7 million in net present value.

According to Forrester, the next big opportunities for enterprise are: innovation, collective decision-making and better access to information and expertise across organizational and geographic boundaries.

But, you may ask, can't the company provide Office Communicator and other tools for that? Perhaps, but the advantage of Yammer, Facebook, and Google+ is that they are accessible from any computer, anywhere. If you want to collaborate with a co-worker at 3am on Saturday while you're in a hotel room in Cabo, Yammer will let you do that.

And oddly enough, Yammer spends the bulk of its time in the Forrester discussion by talking about non-quantifiable benefits. Well, heck, I can spend a lot of time talking about non-quantifiable benefits of providing coffee bar energy to Kim in Cafe World. It benefits our work relationship and allows us easier collaboration on proposals. (And no, I haven't written to Kim, "If you provide me those screen shots of the new product, I'll give you 100 servings of the Vegas Buffet.")

But while Yammer provides you with a well-defined solution, you have to expend some effort to get employees on Yammer in the first place. You don't have to expend a lot of effort to get employees on Facebook, and as time passes you won't have to spend a lot of effort to get employees on Google+.

So which collaboration tool has the longer life?
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