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Earlier this week, Jared Spartaro, Senior Director Microsoft Office Division, laid out some fairly interesting plans for Yammer, especially with regard to its use as a messaging solution:
Jared Spartaro, Advancing the enterprise social roadmap
“Connected experiences” is our shorthand for saying that social should be an integrated part of the way everyone works together, and over the next year we’ll be introducing innovations designed to make Yammer a mainstream communication tool. Because of the way we develop Yammer, even we don’t know exactly what that will look like. But what we can tell you is that we have an initial set of features we’re working on today, and we’ll test and iterate our way to enhancements that will make working with others easier than ever before. This approach to product roadmap is fairly new for enterprise software, but we’re convinced it’s the only way to lead out in space that is as dynamic and fast-paced as enterprise social. To give you a sense for where we’re headed, here are a few of the projects currently under development over the next 6-8 months:
SharePoint search integration. We’re enabling SharePoint search to search Yammer conversations and setting the stage for deeper, more powerful apps that combine social and search.
- Yammer groups in SharePoint sites. The Yammer app in the SharePoint store will allow you to manually replace a SharePoint site feed with a Yammer group feed, but we recognize that many customers will want to do this programmatically. We’re working on settings that will make Yammer feeds the default for all SharePoint sites.
- Yammer messaging enhancements. We’re redesigning the Yammer user experience to make it easier to use as a primary communication tool. We’ll also be improving directed messaging and adding the ability to message multiple groups at once.
- Email interoperability. We’re making it easier than ever to use Yammer and email together. You’ll be able to follow an entire thread via email, respond to Yammer messages from email, and participate in conversations across Yammer and email.
- External communication. Yammer works great inside an organization, but today you have to create an external network to collaborate with people outside your domain. We’re improving the messaging infrastructure so that you can easily include external parties in Yammer conversations.
- Mobile apps. We’ll continue to invest in our iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 apps as primary access points. The mobile apps are already a great way to use Yammer on the go, and we’ll continue to improve the user experience as we add new features to the service.
- Localization. We’re localizing the Yammer interface into new languages to meet growing demand across the world.
Localization and mobile apps are necessary, but uninteresting. I am much more interested in the trend toward Yammer and email interoperability. In particular, the notion of interaction with a threaded Yammer discussion in email starts to touch on the idea of social email I’ve explored before, although in many ways it might be the complement to what Yammer has planned:
Imagine a social tool in which an ongoing email thread — for example with a business customer or prospect — could be treated as a social object, like a document with several sections. Social email users could share that object with others in their workgroup, for example, annotating the thread, and assigning someone in the group to follow-up with the customer. In a sense this would be treating email as the lowest common communication channel — one that doesn’t require adoption of some new tool — while the workgroup would be communicating among themselves at the highest common communication channel: a social coordinative tool in which email is content, not context.
Allowing an email user to fully participate in a Yammer thread is good, and a step forward. But the capacity to treat an email thread as a social object in the Yammer stream — like a complex document, a poll, form data, or a sales report — and to still be used in the obvious email way — so you could reply to a single message, or forward a message to someone via email — that would be a much more significant breakthrough.