Yammer Review

Lync and Yammer

Over the past couple of years I’ve been working with SharePoint at various sites, and more recently with Lync and Yammer. Now these are two products that mainframers may not be that familiar with and I thought people might be interested to know more.

Microsoft Lync was called Microsoft Office Communicator. It’s an Instant Messaging client – like MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger – that can be used either with Microsoft Lync Server or Lync Online, which is available with Microsoft Office 365. In fact it is an up-to-date version of Windows Messenger which was used with Microsoft Exchange Server.

As well as running on PCs, Lync 2010 has Windows Phone, Android, and iOS apps. Lync provides instant messaging, Voice Over IP, and video conferencing facilities, and uses Microsoft Outlook contacts stored in a Microsoft Exchange Server. Office can show whether other people are working on the same document, and Lync allows file sharing.

What makes it so useful is those really unimportant e-mails that you don’t need an audit trail for can be replaced by Instant Messaging conversations. That cuts down on the number of e-mails that need to be backed up each evening and eventually stored on the off-chance they’re important. And, of course, you can type or you can talk. And you can set up meetings with people in offices around the country and video conference – assuming your organization has the bandwidth to do so.

Lync and Sharepoint integrate to an extent – they’re both from Microsoft. For example, there’s an “online presence indicator next to an individual’s name wherever their name appears in a site collection in SharePoint”. “Assist in providing colleague suggestions for use in My Sites, My Profiles, and People Search”. And “through Lync, provide access to SharePoint people and skills search including names and skills and a link to the user’s My Site”. Thank you to J D Wade, who’s blog at http://wadingthrough.com/2012/04/04/lync-and-sharepoint-integration-more-than-presence-information/ was the source for these examples.

Yammer is described as an enterprise social network service. It was launched in 2008, but, more importantly, Microsoft bought it last year. Yammer acts like a corporate Facebook service. It allows people to send message to other individuals or to groups. Only people with the same domain name in their e-mail address can access the corporate Yammer network. As well as access from a PC, there’s Android Windows Phone and iPhone apps available.

Chris Wright, in his blog at http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/five-yammer-features-that-sharepoint-users-are-going-to-love-020339.php, lists features of Yammer that SharePoint users will like. Chris says “SharePoint has never really had its own ‘messaging’ system, so the Yammer Inbox fills a real gap”. Chris adds: “Yammer polls are a nice quick way to ask a question of people in your community, and will add a lot to the sense of community SharePoint is trying to foster”. Looking ahead, Chris says that documents held in a Yammer feed can be edited in Office web apps. He says: “This is a great example of a few of the features SharePoint is bringing to the table to improve Yammer (rather than the other way round)”.

We know that Microsoft plans to integrate Yammer with SharePoint and Office 365. It appears that Yammer will eventually replace SharePoint’s newsfeed. It seems there’s a plan to share documents with Yammer using SharePoint. And Yammer users will be able to upload and store documents using SkyDrive Pro. A file preview and edit capability with Yammer will work in conjunction with Office Web Apps. There’s even talk about translation capabilities being added to Yammer. Eventually Yammer and Lync (and Exchange) will be integrated. 

From what I've seen, the integration of Yammer with Office 365 is excellent. You can see your Yammer feed at the same time as, for example, your Outlook e-mails.

The integration of Yammer builds on Open Graph – an open API protocol for following objects external to a social network site used by Facebook. IBMers are perhaps more familiar with OpenSocial 2.0 for IBM Connections. Both provide a way for people to follow things.

What makes Yammer and SharePoint integration so interesting is that staff can use a the type of social media they’re familiar with from home in a business situation. If I can see you’re meeting client A tomorrow, I might ask you to check how he thinks project X is going. Or I might even just want to say hello to someone who is an occasional customer. Yammer is a business tool that is fun and easy to use – certainly compared to the more heavyweight Web parts etc of SharePoint.

The fact that Instant Messaging and social media can be included in a business environment shows that these tools are maturing. And, like BYOD, it shows end users are driving the environment they want to experience at work. I wonder how long it will be, with IBM’s pushing of social media tools, before something like this is available to everyone on z/OS.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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