Update: Microsoft lays out more Yammer integration plans

Email interoperability, improved document collaboration and enterprise search, are future areas of focus

Upcoming integration points between Yammer and Microsoft products will include email interoperability, document collaboration, and enterprise search, as Microsoft pursues its plan to make Yammer a common enterprise social collaboration layer across its business software.

The news comes on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of Microsoft's announcement that it was acquiring Yammer for $1.2 billion primarily to boost the enterprise social networking capabilities of its SharePoint collaboration server.

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In addition to the previously announced plans to unify SharePoint and Yammer via single sign-on, Microsoft said it will deliver improved interoperability between Yammer and email.

Today, Yammer users can receive email notifications about changes in Yammer discussions they're participating in, but the alerts tend to be brief, short on context, and in plain text, said Jared Spataro, senior director in the Microsoft Office Division and leader of the SharePoint business.

Microsoft wants to make the notifications richer and more sophisticated so that people who are participating in Yammer discussion forums via email feel "as first-class citizens," he said.

Specifically, this means giving users the ability to follow an entire discussion thread via email and respond to Yammer messages from email.

Moreover, Microsoft will improve the way users create, edit, and share documents within Yammer and Office 365, the subscription suite that in its most sophisticated editions include online versions of Office, SharePoint, Lync, and Exchange, as well as cloud-delivered versions of Office desktop applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Yammer will also get expanded IM and communication capabilities and integrated search capabilities with SharePoint.

The SharePoint search integration will allow SharePoint to index Yammer content and serve it up to users of SharePoint's search engine.

"This is an important step as we continue to deliver on this vision of a more integrated, connected platform," Spataro said.

Microsoft is also working to let Yammer users invite people from outside of their organization and network to internal Yammer groups. Currently, Yammer users have to create specific external networks in order to interact with outside parties.

"We want to reduce the difficulties of working across organization boundaries," Spataro said.

These improvements should be delivered within the next six to eight months.

"I like the direction they're taking. It's encouraging," said Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst.

Making a big bet on Yammer gives Microsoft the opportunity to deliver a more compelling enterprise social interface for its business software while keeping up with market trends, two things that would be much more difficult to accomplish with just SharePoint, he said.

While it has been a year since Yammer's acquisition and Microsoft has only recently started delivering on its integration roadmap, the pace of the effort is as good as can be expected, considering the technology challenges involved, according to Koplowitz.

"Microsoft is being as aggressive as they can be, and the roadmap they have is pretty interesting," he said.

The main challenge involved in the Yammer integration effort is the implicit requirement that to reap the benefits customers must be willing to put at least some of their data on the cloud, since the ESN suite is a SaaS product.

"This is the first time Microsoft has come out with a big [enterprise software] story and told customers it involves taking on a cloud dependency," Koplowitz said.

Earlier this month, Microsoft delivered on the first phase of its Yammer-SharePoint integration road map, allowing Office 365 customers to replace SharePoint Online's activity stream with Yammer's.

Later this year, Microsoft plans to deliver a single sign-on for the two products and to add Yammer to the main Office 365 interface.

Before the end of this month, Microsoft will release a Yammer application for SharePoint that will be available on the Office Store and let users embed a Yammer group feed into a SharePoint site. The application will work both with SharePoint Online and with the on-premises version of the server SharePoint 2013.

There is ongoing integration work between Yammer and the Microsoft Dynamics business applications as well.

Microsoft also gave an update on Yammer's adoption and usage, saying that in the past 12 months registered users have grown more than 55 percent to 8 million and paid Yammer networks have increased more than 200 percent.

Microsoft also announced that the number of partners participating in the Yammer App Directory has almost doubled and now includes Klout, the Web and mobile application that measures people's online influence. The integration with Klout will let users publish their Klout scores and expertise on their Yammer profiles, while Yammer administrators will have the option to generate internal Klout scores for employees based on their Yammer network activity.

Microsoft eventually would like to bring together the Yammer App Directory, which doesn't have an e-commerce transaction capability, and the SharePoint/Office application store. "Having multiple ways of writing apps and places you can find them isn't our long-term strategy," he said.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.