The initial focus of Microsoft’s “Future of Productivity” road map has been on Office, SharePoint, and other products, but Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer has marked an interesting shift in the company’s vision of productivity.

On the surface, the $1.2 billion purchase suggests Microsoft is staking its claim in the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) race. With this purchase and the intense effort to integrate Yammer into Office 365, Microsoft seems to recognize the value of open sharing of information across the enterprise. Whether Microsoft will be able to dominate the ESN scene is up in the air, but the company should get kudos from learning from past mistakes and not being late to the ESN dance.

In fact, Microsoft just announced that ABB, a massive global power and automation technology company, will deploy Office 365 and Yammer to its 145,000 employees worldwide. In a company press release, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner highlighted the importance of this partnership:

“ABB’s decision as a global technology leader to deploy Office 365 and Yammer will help it realize its vision for empowering employees with new ways of working via enterprise social and the cloud. When you remove barriers to productivity and innovation and enable employees to collaborate and communicate even more freely and seamlessly across organizational and geographical boundaries, incredible things happen.”

It’s too early to tell Microsoft’s stake in ESN dominance will succeed. According to Gartner Research Director Larry Cannell, it could be market changing, depending on how long it takes Microsoft to deliver the full product. He suggests that companies should not abandon any current ESN products that are fulfilling current needs for Microsoft’s Yammer solution based on promises of future integration. He advises companies to wait until Microsoft proves it can deliver.

What this news means to you

So what does Microsoft’s move to integrate Yammer and Office 365 mean for the rest of us? It proves that ESN is now a must-have business solution. ESN adoption will require new job roles — a moderator, a community manager, and a content creator — and responsibilities. If you ignore adding these critical roles, you might kill your ESN before it even takes off.

You also need to consider who owns what on the ESN. For public social media, the battle for control has, for the most part, been won by marketing and PR. However, it gets more complicated in an ESN. IT may own the platform, but HR and corporate communications frequently own the message. And what about department silos where groups collaborate and produce ideas and products? This is not an easy battle to win.

Another consideration when launching an ESN initiative is how to implement social governance. Rules and regulations are necessary for effective social participation and, with a more open way of collaborating and sharing information, establishing straightforward rules of engagement becomes mission critical. Employee profiles, activity streams, and document sharing all carry more responsibility when shared under the corporate umbrella.

The big question to consider is: How will your organization benefit from using ESN? Once that question is answered, the details about ownership will be much easier to figure out.


Businesses are looking for ways to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing, and Microsoft’s investment in social collaboration proves that eventually all software will become more social.

Do you agree with my take on Office 365 and Yammer and what this means for ESN? Let us know in the discussion.