A week after announcing new features for the popular Yammer business social tool at its own YamJam conference, the recently acquired Yammer team showed up at this week's SharePoint conference to explain how the two products connect today - using SharePoint web parts and Yammer's open graph interfaces- and how they will integrate more closely. Ultimately, they'll turn into a single service.
With the upcoming SharePoint 2013, a document from a SharePoint library can be part of a conversation in Yammer where you can see who wrote the document and who else is interested in it. You can open it the Office Web apps or sync it to your PC with SharePoint's new SkyDrve Pro syncing options to work in Office.
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Yammer gets closer to SharePoint
Yammer CTO Adam Pisoni told TechRadar. "I can be in a collaborative editing session from my desktop in the Word client with someone who's editing a document in Yammer," adding, "You can store the file in SharePoint and talk about the file in Yammer. We're trying to give you Yammer inside SharePoint and SharePoint inside Yammer."
As part of that, Office 365 subscribers will get Yammer free with SharePoint Online early next year (the free and Enterprise versions of Yammer will remain available separately). Users will be able to sign into Yammer with the same account as SharePoint and further down the line they'll see the news feeds from SharePoint and Yammer together.
There will also be a Windows 8 app showing your Yammer feed in much the same way the People app shows your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The point of business social networking isn't to make all your applications like Facebook; it's to give you more ways of collaborating with your colleagues and finding information alongside the more structured tools like accounts and reporting systems that you already use.
Have Yammer conversations about files and projects
As Microsoft Office corporate VP Jeff Teper points out, "A business application, no matter how much investment you throw at it, will never answer all your questions," Just as you use Excel to knock up a quick chart to understand figures from your accounts, you should be able to have a quick chat about a business opportunity you're working on in Dynamics.
But a simple social network isn't efficient enough for business use, which is why you want to connect conversations to the objects in your business you need to talk about – like invoices or customers – and you want to have something more powerful than just a stream of updates.
"In Yammer you can start having conversations about these objects and the data is no longer locked up in other systems," Teper explains. "You have these ad hoc conversations, but behind the scenes Yammer is stitching them all together in a way you can navigate. It's not just this sea of disconnected information. If it was a stream of consciousness that would be just as bad as a centralised list with one person in the company deciding the three things we all need to know… "
Pisoni calls that 'self-organising data' and he wants to close the circle by bringing that out of Yammer and back to the other software you use. "People are just seeing the beginning of what we can do with social," he told us "Lots of companies are radically changing the way they organise and the way they empower employees with social and that's with burden of it being a destination, [a separate thing] you have to go out of your way to use. [If you want to keep] social as a destination it can remain that with the separate Yammer tool, but wouldn't it be awesome if that could be part of document creation and how you work over email?"
Yammer for Microsoft Office 2013
That's where Office comes in (and why the Yammer team are so enthusiastic about the Microsoft acquisition). "It has to become a natural way for us to work, it has to be seamlessly woven in to tools and fabric of all apps we use today," says Pisoni – pointing out that the tool business use day in day out, is Office. And the simpler interface of a tool like Yammer could unlock features in more complex apps like Lync.
"Office has so much goodness in there; they're sort of mired down with implementation details and complexity but there's goodness in there. In order to do social we have had to do really good user experience and be data driven, and we want to bring those [strengths] to Office."