Yammer CEO: We're consumerizing the enterprise

David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, believes social networking will become ubiquitous collaboration layer across full range of enterprise software

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Knorr: Rather than internal communications, much of the emphasis I hear these days is about using social networking to stay close to the customer.

Sacks: That's why we added a feature called External Networks. We had over 20,000 external networks created last year. So external networks are definitely taking off. We ultimately think that companies will have multiple social networks: They'll have a core one for their employees that will be an internal network, but they'll also create an external network for partners, customers, vendors, suppliers, consultants, their entire ecosystem.

We built our product so that you can create a new external network in about 30 seconds. Deloitte, one of our customers, calls it a 30-second extranet. There's a simple drop-down menu called My Networks, and you can toggle between them. With one account, you can toggle into potentially dozens of different networks.

Knorr: So the external networks are primarily for B2B purposes? Say, you might establish a social network within a company that's a customer?

Sacks: Exactly. That's how a lot of people are using them -- for joint ventures with another company or partnerships. We actually created an external network for our customers -- the Yammer Customer Network -- we have all of our customers participating in it, like a customer forum. But it's private. You can only get in by invitation.

Knorr: There are so many different ways to collaborate. How have you seen customer behavior evolve and how have you responded?

Sacks: When we first started, Yammer was labeled "enterprise microblogging." That's a little bit of a misnomer because we were never micro, we never had a 140-character limit. And we weren't blogging because it's not public. It was always a form of social networking, but it really revolved around the feed and profiles.

Over time what we've done is add applications around it, so we've become a more fully featured platform for enterprise collaboration. Last year we added much better file sharing, file directories, and Yammer Pages, which is our next-generation wiki. You can collaboratively create documents with other people with Yammer. We've added Groups; I think Groups is another really big area. The way that people collaborate in companies is in teams, projects, departments, so we've invested a lot in making Yammer Groups work as team workspaces.

We've spent a lot of time on things that matter for IT that as an end-user you might not see, like being able to integrate with Active Directory or single sign-on. We integrate with SharePoint, so we actually make SharePoint much more social and engaging.

Knorr: Is a significant portion of your customer base doing that?

Sacks: Among the big companies, yeah, because it's so easy to implement. SharePoint doesn't have feeds, really. If I want to post a message publicly, I have to go to someone's profile and I can post a note there, but if they want to reply to me, they have to go to my profile and post a note; there are no threaded conversations. There's no sense of a feed you can talk into in SharePoint, so we see Yammer as pretty complementary to SharePoint 2010. And it's very easy to integrate.

We also have a product called Yammer Embed where we give you an embed code on feeds, and you can just copy and paste that into Salesforce or any app that's HTML-based.

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