Twitter in the Enterprise: Yammer and other microsharing / microblogging products

November 22, 2008

The last few weeks I had a closer look at Twitter-like solutions that work within the enterprise. This is a summary post of the discussions that I have found on the internet. It is mainly focussed on the new enterprise microblogging product ‘Yammer.com’

Yammer at TechCrunch

Short summary description of Yammer: ‘Yammer Wins TechCrunch 50 with Twitter-like Enterprise Service’

TechCrunch50 Awards Ceremony – Yammer (video)

Short video explaining the functionality of Yammer: Yammer presentation by David Sacks, CEO of Yammer at Techcrunch50

Summary description from the Yammer site:

‘Yammer is a tool for making companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you working on?”

As employees answer that question, a feed is created in one central location enabling co-workers to discuss ideas, post news, ask questions, and share links and other information. Yammer also serves as a company directory in which every employee has a profile and as a knowledge base where past conversations can be easily accessed and referenced.

Anyone in a company can start their Yammer network and begin inviting colleagues. The privacy of each network is ensured by limiting access to those with a valid company email address. The basic Yammer service is free. Companies can pay to claim and administer their network’

Other remarks in this presentation:

- a tag cloud give insight into what people are talking about within the organization

- comparison with email: conversation is shifted from email to Yammer, enabling other employees to find relevant information

- Apple iPhone, Adobe AIR clients are available

- Business model : everything is free; you pay to be administrator to remove users, enhanced security (like IP address ranges, password policies).

Pistachio consulting

‘Pistachio consulting’ has an excellent blog on Microsharing/ Microblogging.

On Yammer, they present  is an overview of all articles related to Yammer, which is an enterprise microsharing solution. Yammer is a ready-to-use solution (Software as a Service)

Downside of this solution is that you have less control, and that the data is not within your organizations’ firewall, but at the service provider. Upside is that you do not have to take care of all servicing yourself (updating the software, backup etc, problem resolution, customer service, etc).

Comparison matrix of Yammer and 14 rival microsharing solutions: ‘Twitter’s “water cooler” collaboration, support and problem-solving qualities have led to much discussion about a similar application for internal “Enterprise 2.0″ collaboration and communication.  Yammer’s success touched off a spate of announcements about similar applications, and Jeremiah Owyang and I have been tracking the growing list. ‘ (Scribd.com site; free account needed to download the comparison sheet).

Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan has a different opinion on Yammer:

‘Twhirl Makes Yammer Irrelevant’: ‘So, to sum that all up: Twitter inside the firewall, private for your business is Twhirl+laconi.ca. Twitter outside the firewall with your business colleagues and friends is Twhirl+Twitter’ – Discussion on FriendFeed about this post

Twirl+laconi.ca: Indeed, this might be a good solution when you want to host the service inside our own organization, within the firewall.

Other (some more critical) voices

Mathew Ingram (Communities editor at The Globe and Mail in Toronto): Yammer: This thing is a prize winner?

NY Times article: Will Microblogging at Work Make You More Productive?

BBC is using Yammer: Yammer goes down, companies all over go silent

Mark Evans: If Yammer has potential as an enterprise tool, the big question is why hasn’t Twitter already moved into the corporate market. For a company scrambling for a business model, you figure that selling a corporate version of Twitter would be a no-brainer.

Good commentary blog post by Steve Boyd: ‘The idea that work activities — like request for meetings, status changes in tasks, peoples comings and goings, and new information about projects — should flow to you rather than sitting in web pages, documents, or emails is compelling.’

‘Yammer is a more-or-less point for point duplication of Twitter functionality, which makes it so odd that Twitter has refused to build this product. That is spectacularly dumb. Here’s what it looks like.’ – Steve Boyd’s own Yammer site:

2849246450_d18a72025a

Steve Mann (SAP) on Yammer (Steve Mann is a 20-year veteran of the high tech industry. Currently he is a Global Vice President of Marketing for SAP, focused on driving SAP’s Social Media Strategies to market. ): ‘In the hopes of becoming part of an Enterprise 2.0 backbone for organizations of all sizes, grouping functionality is absolutely essential. Without it, there’s no way to cleanly and precisely provide direct team support capabilities.’

yammer_sap2

From the NY Times: ‘Now, Brevity Is the Soul of Office Interaction’:

“Every time we put something across Yammer, we’re exposing it to people but not forcing it down their throats,” said Tom Link, chief technology officer of Universal Mind, a Web development company in Westfield, Mass., with 70 employees. “Depending on what they’re doing, people might be paying attention to messages as they’re posted. But if I’m not in the office, I can go back and get the whole company stream for a day and read it in about 10 minutes. I could never do that with e-mail.”

“Companies with many employees who work from home or in far-flung offices may get the most out of internal microblogging, which can help fill the inherent social gaps among remote workers. Even simple updates like, “Going to the dentist” or “Mopping coffee off the keyboard” can make co-workers feel more connected to one another.”

Security concerns

‘Security. Any time a business has employees putting data outside the corporate firewall, there will be privacy and data security concerns. If the Yahooligans could get Gov. Sarah Palin’s private e-mails and post them to the Internet, it could happen to one of your employees.

Yammer’s security statement

Technical

http://www.programmableweb.com/api/yammer: links to API description, blog

Other platforms: Present.ly

Enterprise Twitter heats up with Present.ly

Other platforms: ESME

ESME means Enterprise Social Media Experiment. ‘ESME is a secure and highly scalable microsharing platform that allows people to meet and discover one another in a business process context.’

ESME is an open source development; developers from companies such as SAP and Siemens are contributing to it.

The interesting part is that this platform is very much focused on delivering a solution that can integrate well into the overall enterprise software landscape. This is no surprise when we see that most of the contributors have strong background in SAP.

More on this platform later, in a separate post.


Microsharing and Twitter

October 26, 2008

Twitter is an internet tool that is increasingly used for ‘Microsharing’.

twitter_logo_s

Microsharing according to Social Media Agency ‘Pistachio’:

What is microsharing?

Let’s start with the best-known microsharing application, Twitter. Twitter is a collection of remarks. It’s what a group of people–a very dynamic group of people who are connected and becoming more closely connected everyday–find remarkable. The connections between people, the ambient intimacy.

Microsharing reduces the emotional and intellectual distance between people and helps them become more engaged, connected, effective and collaborative.

Microsharing is hard to understand at first, and frequently seems trivial and foolish, but it generates tremendous value and opportunity for participants who really get it and who push to discover its hidden potential.’

For me, the key benefit of this tool is indeed the ‘reduction of emotional and intellectual distance’ on internet platforms. It is very easy to:

  • find people with whom you want to exchange ideas, and
  • actually start conversations online.

It seems to be more easy starting an online conversation compared to e.g.:

  • commenting on a blog post from someone else, or
  • by commenting on a forum.

Therefore, the trend I am seeing in 2008 is to increasingly incorporate Twitter-like functionality in forum and blogging software platforms (e.g. WordPress.com)

Business benefits

Twitter is a great example of a platform that facilitates ‘organizing without organizations’ (Clay Shirky: ‘Here comes everybody’).

With the emergence of Social Media tools such as Twitter, the costs for people to organize themselves in (ad-hoc) groups is greatly reduced. Therefore, business problems that until now were not addressed can now be tackled.

This also means that Twitter (or Twitter-like tools) will enable cross-unit information sharing within large organizations in a very cost-effective manner. Within large organizations. special attention must be placed to issues such as information security, reliability, compliance, integration with other enterprise communication platforms (e.g. Microsoft Exchange, back office tools etc).

For the enterprise, several Twitter-like tools are emerging that take these specific requirements into account: www.yammer.com, ESME and others.

Enhancing my own blog ‘Web 2.0 and Management’

Using both my blog and Twitter, starting online conversations about specific topics is more easy:

  • post on my blog (or comment on a blog from another user); and
  • ‘tweet’  links to my blog post or comments on Twitter.

I have also added the twitter stream to my blog (right lower side of the blog)

Good post: ‘9 Benefits of Twitter for Bloggers

How to start with Twitter

Here is how I have started using Twitter:

  • Create an account at twitter.com
  • Use twitter search for some interesting topics and people to ‘follow’
  • The best way to start with Twitter is to also have a blog (e.g. on WordPress.com). This is your ‘home base’ on which you post topics of you special interests.
  • Post references to your blog posts on Twitter (‘tweet’ it) to elicit conversations about the blog post.
  • Start ‘following’  people that have a blog with a shared interest. Increasingly, blog authors indicate their Twitter name on their blog.

Some people on the internet from which I have learned a lot about Twitter are:

  • Chris Brogan: one of the real ‘gurus’ on Social Media. He really known how to combine tools such as blogs and twitter to grow his ‘audience’, and deliver real value to them!
  • Darren Rowse (‘Problogger’): very experienced blogger, has lots of advice on how to start a blog
  • Davied van Berlo (Dutch): ‘evangelist’ on Web 2.0 for Dutch government agencies

Some blog posts on ‘How to start with Twitter: Guide to Twitter for Business

Useful Twitter tools

Twitter is not only an internet tool, but a platform. A whole ‘cottage industry’ has grown around the Twitter platform, providing additional functionality. Some of these Twitter applications that I find very helpful are:

Statistics:

  • twinfluence : ‘twInfluence is a simple tool using the Twitter API to to measure the combined influence of twitterers and their followers’
  • tweetstats : ‘Graph your Twitter Stats including, Tweets per hour, Tweets per month, Tweet timeline, Reply statistics’

Search:

  • Twitter search : Fulltext search on all public tweets (e.g. search on @jeroendemiranda to find tweets addressed to me by other twitterers)

Adobe AIR applications:

These tools are alternative user interfaces for Twitter (i.e. instead of using you browser). You must install Adobe AIR software as a prerequisite:

  • Tweetdeck : ‘It aims to evolve the existing functionality of Twitter by taking an abundance of information i.e twitter feeds, and breaking it down into more manageable bite sized pieces.’
  • Twellow : This is a directory with Twitter users.

Other sources for information

If you want to follow reactions, tune in to my twitter feed at twitter.com/jeroendemiranda


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