There has been a great deal of debate about whether social media inside the workplace is a fad or delivers real business value.  There are several reasons why social media has got such bad press.

The moniker “Facebook for the enterprise” has not helped, as Facebook is seen as a great way of wasting time outside work. Secondly, the “make it available and it will be used” implementation approach, or “provide and pray” as it is called, is successful in less than 10% companies. Finally, the lack of strong ROI driven case studies put social well down the pecking order when it comes to strategic investment.

But the market has just had a huge validation. Yammer was acquired by Microsoft for $1.2B. That’s ‘B’ for billion. Yammer will be tightly integrated in Microsoft Sharepoint.

“Microsoft Sharepoint is where people do work. Yammer is where they talk about it. Although Sharepoint has the ability to allow this, its interface is not as user-friendly as that of Yammer,” says Richard Edwards, an analyst at the international research company Ovum.

Taking risks

From where I am sitting Microsoft’s Yammer strategy is a risky punt.  There are 3 key risks which could scupper any chance of success:

  • Firstly, any collaboration in the workplace needs context. The discussion must be about getting a problem solved (ie part of a process) or improving a process. Therefore a tight integration with a BPM platform to give a process context is critical. Yammer does not have this.
  • The next issue is that few companies have a clearly understood and communicated set of end to end business processes. But many major corporations are now working on this as a priority, driven by a compliance need, competitive pressures or a move toward shared services. So there is often no process context.
  • Finally, those processes need to be adopted across the organisation. Without end user adoption and a mechanism for continuous improvement, what is documented and what is actually done will rapidly diverge.

So implementing a social product before you have got a real handle on your operational processes is simply putting ‘Lipstick on a pig”.

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3 thoughts on “Is Microsoft paying $1.2bn to put lipstick on a pig?

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