How to admin Yammer in Office 365

Love it or hate it, Yammer is a tool that admins need to reckon with, and there's an admin center to do exactly that

A flag with Yammers logo hangs in the companys San Francisco
Blair Hanley Frank

I’m not a huge fan of Yammer. But that’s just me -- well, me and most of Exchange-loving friends. We grew up in an age of email, so many of us prefer that “serious” communication go into an email -- an unignorable, fully archivable, and trackable email.

But many people, especially the younger generation, like messaging-style communications popularized in the enterprise by Slack and HipChat. And like it or not, Yammer is free with Office 365 subscriptions, so some organizations are using it for communication and collaboration. That means IT admins need to consider the settings available to them, as well as what features are not included and thus may require a third-party assist.

Microsoft provides some guidance on how to administer Yammer, but I recommend you jump in and go through all settings yourself so that you know what you can and cannot do with it. To get into the nitty-gritty of administration for Yammer, log into the Office 365 Admin Center, look to the bottom left for the extended admin centers, and choose Yammer. It has its very own admin center (shown in Figure 1).

Yammer admin fig 1

Figure 1: The Yammer Admin Center provides a variety of configuration options for your Yammer users.

I was surprised to see the number of options at my disposal. For example, there is a policy option (shown in Figure 2) that lets you provide an acceptable-use statement for your company, then require employees to accept that policy before they can work with Yammer.

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Figure 2: You can set policy requirements such as an acceptable-use policy.

The various settings focus on getting users into the system. You can invite people, perform bulk updates, and do directory integration, for example.

But what many admins want to know is how to block users from accessing Yammer. There are a variety of options to do so. For example, you might go through Microsoft’s PowerShell script to disable Yammer in Office 365.

Or you might leave Yammer enabled, then go through and disable the Yammer services from the Office 365 admin center. This is a very tedious process where you select the user and drill down to his or her license, look for the Yammer Enterprise setting, and disable it, as Figure 3 shows. If you’re doing this for one person, that’s fine. But if you need to do this in bulk, PowerShell is the easiest method. A remote PowerShell connection lets manage your Office 365 users in bulk.

I believe your usage of the one-off GUI methods will be rare compared to that of the bulk process through PowerShell.

Yammer admin fig 3

Figure 3: Disabling Yammer for an individual user requires multiple clicks (and a bit of time if you don’t know where to look for the setting).

If you're concerned about Yammer from a security or compliance perspective, the admin center provides security settings (shown in Figure 4). They work in concert with Office 365’s built-in security for authentication and IP range restrictions.

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Figure 4: The security settings in the Yammer admin center offer options for increased security.

One noteworthy Yammer security feature is the Monitor Keywords feature, which lets you monitor key words or phrases. Using this feature might help avoid people posting sensitive information like credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.

If your concern as an admin is getting the same kind of paper trail you get for email, you can use Yammer’s data-export features. With them, you can do a comprehensive data export report, use the data export API for recurring exports, and determine data retention.

You can supplement those data-export capabilities with third-party tools such as Smarsh, an archive and indexing tool for e-discovery of Yammer conversations, and TYGraph for Yammer, a Power BI tool that helps measure active contributors and group activity so that you can see how Yammer is being used.

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