Yammer Gets Bronx Cheers from the Blogosphere. Why?

Yammer, as much of the free world seems to now know, won “best of show” at TechCrunch50. Yammer is an enterprise 2.0 company. The blogosphere had a fairly negative opinion about this. I read a number of these posts, and the table below outlines the reasons Yammer was viewed negatively:

Links to source posts: Dennis Howlett, Rafe Needleman, Rob Diana, Mathew Ingram, Svetlana Gladkova, Chris Cardinal, Chris Brogan, Jennifer Leggio, Bernard Lunn, Joe Duck, Stephen Baker, Mike Gotta, Fred Wilson, Duncan Riley, Liz Gannes

It’s a diverse collection of bloggers, and they each bring different perspectives. But there was enough commonality that I bucketed the reasons into the five groups you see in the table.

The reactions surprised me a bit – although there were positive reactions too. Let’s break down these five buckets.

Another Twitter Clone

Understandable reaction. We’ve seen Plurk, Identi.ca, Rejaw, etc. So I get the weary “Yet Another Twitter Clone” reaction.

Key difference here is the market Yammer is pursuing: enterprise. That makes all the difference in the world.

  • For Identi.ca to succeed, people would have to stop using Twitter (see Louis Gray’s post for analytical back-up to this point)
  • For Yammer to succeed, the more people use Twitter, the better.

Twitter ain’t enterprise, and I’d be surprised it gets there anytime soon. But using Twitter makes people understand the value of microblogging, which in turn helps Yammer.

Twitter/Others Will Do This

Given Twitter’s problems with keeping the service stable, I’d be shocked if they had also been putting in cycles figuring out how to go after the corporate market.

The other key difference is this. Enterprise is a different world than consumer. Probably one of the better explanations of the differences was by Mike Gotta, in discussing microblogging inside the enterprise:

“Within the enterprise, it is highly probable that IT organizations will classify these tools as messaging platforms (I would BTW). As a messaging platform, these tools would have to support security, logging, audit and archival functions to satisfy regulatory, compliance and records management demands.”

To succeed in the enterprise, you really need to focus on the enterprise. Twitter is having a field day in its growth in the consumer world. Wachovia just added their Twitter account to the website Contact Us page. Keith Olbermann is now on Twitter. Twitter should really focus on the consumer market, and own that.

Yammer is more likely to bump up against SAP’s ESME and Oracle’s OraTweet.

Extortion Revenue Model

The extortion is based on the fact that Yammer is free for sign-up and use. But if a company wants to control it, access to the administrative functions costs money. So companies will feel compelled to pay in order to manage the goings-on inside Yammer.

I’ll admit it’s a pretty creative enterprise pricing model. It seems to address two issues that bedevil enterprise software vendors:

  • How do I get a company to try my software
  • How do I prove employees will use it and get value from it

Companies don’t pay until they’ve seen employees use it and get value from it. Not bad, and it really wouldn’t be that hard for a CIO to tell employees to stop using Yammer (and block the site).

It is sneaky, but it’s also a clever way to address the adoption and value proposition issues that enterprise software vendors will always face. Atlassian Confluence achieved a solid share of the wiki market via viral adoption. Atlassian doesn’t have sales people – it’s all word of mouth.

Workers Won’t Adopt

This is where Yammer faces the toughest road. Getting people to microblog. Twitter is available to the hundreds of millions of people around the globe who might be interested. And it’s gotten a very small percentage of them.

Inside the enterprise, you need a much higher adoption rate. People already on Twitter are natural adopters, but a lot of employees will still have the “why would I do that?” reaction.

The “sell” has to compare Yammer to existing communication modes:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Forums

Note that relative to Twitter, Yammer has immediate context and built-in users. Context comes because the internal messages will generally center around work that colleagues have a stake in. In other words, they care more about each Yammer message than they do about individual tweets out in the wild.

The other thing is that managers at the departmental level can join and start using Yammer. On Twitter, if you don’t follow an A-Lister…so be it. On Yammer, if you don’t follow your boss…you’re going to miss something.

Cloud Computing Is Scary

This is an ongoing issue for the entire cloud computing/web apps world. Amazon S3 and Gmail’s recent outages highlight the issue.

Salesforce.com experienced outages back in late 2005 and early 2006. They were a blow to the software-as-a-service sector, but the company appears to have righted the ship since then.

Salesforce.com has a market cap of $6.9 billion. Yammer doesn’t.

But Yammer doesn’t have the database-of-record mission that Salesforce.com does, so the threshold for Yammer is lower. Still, ideally for Yammer, people will message about critical issues for their companies, not just what they’re having for lunch. So Yammer’s scalability, security and reliability will be important.

Cloud computing still has a sell-job of its own, but I like the way Anshu Sharma put it:

“No one (at least not me) is suggesting that on-premise software will disappear – its just that growth in enterprise software will come from SaaS and not on-premise (which is growing at about 4%). Venture capitalists like Emergence Capital and Humbold Winblad are voting with their dollars!”

A lot of action is around SaaS, it’s a question of how long the adoption curve will be. Yammer is counting on this one.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Gartner puts out updates on something it calls the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. The hype cycle tracks the market views of various technologies, which go through predictable cycles:

  • Technology Trigger
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations
  • Trough of Disillusionment
  • Slope of Enlightenment
  • Plateau of Productivity

In July 2008, Gartner released its latest view regarding the hype cycle. This one included both microblogging and cloud computing, Yammer’s model:

Courtesy marketingfacts on Flickr

Courtesy marketingfacts on Flickr

Neither microblogging nor cloud computing is anywhere near mainstream uptake. Gartner pegs that at a 2 to 5 year horizon.

The companies that are in now, though, will be best positioned to figure out what drives the Plateau of Productivity. It takes time to learn a market, get some positive customer stories and gain a wider customer base.

I’ll be watching Yammer.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.


About Hutch Carpenter
Chief Scientist Revolution Credit

20 Responses to Yammer Gets Bronx Cheers from the Blogosphere. Why?

  1. Rob Diana says:

    Let me clarify my post a bit. I have no problem with what Yammer is doing, and adoption in the enterprise will be difficult. My issue was more with Yammer winning the TC50. Saying they were the best of the bunch was a stretch, but that does not mean they won’t be successful. I think a majority of the “Yammer negativity” has been centered around the award, not Yammer the service.

  2. Eric Rice says:

    And not listed is how it was ‘best in show’ at a conference of innovative startups. Which is kinda sad that out of all the really innovative apps, a twitter client was the best.

    Hype can hurt.

  3. Excellent post Hutch. I think the reviewers saw this as one of the few very practical applications, though I remain skeptical this can’t easily be outdone by Twitter. For example two CNN anchors have caught the Twitter bug now and brought it into mainstream parlance. There is little chance they’ll be switching..

  4. Eric – the “Another Twitter clone” reason really speaks to the “lack of innovation” reaction.

  5. Thanks Joe. Twitter definitely has paved the way for the value proposition, so I see what you’re saying about judges’ reaction.

    Twitter is slowly leaking into the mainstream conscious with CNN usages and stories by the mainstream media. I’m still not convinced they’ll be addressing the enterprise market yet, just because the requirements there are so much more than out on the consumer web.

  6. Good post – agree with your points. Another thing in Yammer’s favour – they have the most pro-active help I have ever seen. They actually watch Twitter, and respond directly. I have never seen either an Enterprise or Consumer vendor do this! See my latest post on Yammer.

  7. Full URL for post mentioned in previous comment: http://delarue.net/blog/2008/09/yammer/

  8. Great post Hutch. I really did scratch my head when they were announced as the TC50 winner. Twitter has paid some serious dues with regards to scaling issues and when they decide that enterprise is their next target will be a major force. Your article has me wanting to take another look at Yammer though- perhaps I’m still missing something.

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  11. Regardless of the TC50 thing, most of the author’s observations are pretty much on the money. With ESME we’ve gone after the juggernaut – or should I say jugular – that is SAP. It makes a huge amount of sense to win the backing of developers in that world because that’s the company that touches 50% of the world’s enterprise systems.

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  13. sulthana.fds says:

    I have no problem with what Yammer is doing

  14. ChookyDroro says:

    Nice template. Where can i download it?

  15. ChookyDoro – dunno. I picked it from the wordpress.com templates.

  16. Reading this blog post again a year after it was written. Still a great piece. Interesting to see how after a year Enterprise Microblogging has already moved from Technology Trigger into the Trough of Disillusionment.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Please preserve publishing your articles are Very good.

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