Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

It’s like Twitter, but for…


It is interesting to watch the idea of enterprise Twitter evolve right now. We have everything from totally individual (Twitter) to individuals-in-groups-as-a-service (Yammer) to internal (ESME, and others). Björn Negelman’s intro to the subject sets out some of the issues for using this kind of technology inside the firewall
There must have been lots of startup pitches in the past year that began “it’s like Twitter but for ….” and I expect we will see more products and services emerging in this area. Is this a hyped category right now? Well, yes and no. Undoubtedly there is something substantial going on.
As I sometimes shout at panel discussions, enterprise Twitter is a feature not a product; but that is not necessarily the whole truth. It could be a product that catches on to become a category, as indeed Twitter itself seems to have achieved, but I don’t believe we have seen it yet. Will Yammer reach Twitter levels of usage (not yet monetisation, note) in quite the same way
I think the idea of an external service on its own is not enough to capture the imagination of enterprise users. The simple fact that an external service cannot easily integrate with a user’s internal authentication is a big barrier to adoption. Also, each colleague has to be found and added individually, which means that network effects will not assert themselves until a critical mass of your colleagues are on the service, whereas an internal Twitter service could simply ‘turn on’ accounts for everybody, regardless of whether they use them yet or not
Ultimately, I think it is problematic for Yammer that it cannot hook into the basic internal toolset people use at work, such as AD/LDAP and the internal namespace for links. A good example of this is project teams. If your internal systems know who is in your project team, then this becomes one of the natural groups for enterprise Twitter activity, but right now you would need to recreate these groups each time you use a new externally hosted enterprise Twitter service
There is also a question of identity. Public Twitter accounts convey personal identity. At work, which is pretty much what enterprise means, people may or may not want to use their own ID or their company/group ID.
This is why projects like ESME and seem more interesting than Yammer right now, even though Yammer is a good implementation. We are doing a little R&D in this area, partly looking at how an internal Twitter can act as a more flow-based IM, and partly going back to some of the ideas that emerged from last year’s LIFT workshop, so we’ll see what we can learn. I also expect enterprise Twitter to e a feature that finds its way into various platforms and tools currently being used inside the firewall.

5 Responses to It’s like Twitter, but for…

  1. By Ricardo Sueiras on September 16, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Lee, I think you are right that Yammer has some significant weakness with regards to how it may be adopted within an enterprise. That said, it remains (for me) the closest I have seen to something that is workable. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started plugging some of the issues.
    With regards to ID, I think that this issue may be overstated as we have been using it within our org for less than a week and have a much healthier level of parcipitation that we have managed to muster for others. As one person put it: “I now have Facebook/Twitter for fun, and Yammer for work!” and “Yammer iPhone app is better than most twitter apps”
    Now onto what I see may be it’s biggest issue (or possibly a feature depending on how open an org. you want to be). If I have a Yammer account and I leave tomorrow, I could/would still be able to access and participate within the community – cannot see a revoke feature (and by that I do not mean the manual removal of users by admins which doesnt scale within the enterprise). Personally I do not have an issue with this, infact it may help in certain scenarios (work handover, alumni, etc) but not sure how Risk, Governance etc would feel about the intrusions…
    Anyway, just my tupence

  2. By Lee Bryant on September 16, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks Riccardo,
    I agree that Yammer is useful, and I can see it working fine for the early adopters in a company like yours, but I think the issues / problems will come to the fore at some point and may inhibit second wave adopters. We are using it and we like it, but like you, we are edge cases in the overall enterprise social tools market.
    Your problem of leavers is a subset of the identity issues I mentioned in my post, I think. I think it makes sense for enterprises to provision ‘official’ IDs for use on internal external social tools, which means employees have a clearer idea when they are speaking as a company person or an individual, and also means that decommissioning IDs is easier when required.
    If I were a busy knowledge worker in a large company, I would really want to be able to ‘tweet’ without an extra login, and I would love to have pre-populated groups corresponding to my existing projects. I think these are two of the main features that will drive internal enterprise Twitter apps.
    Would love to learn more about your usage of Yammer over time.

  3. By Ricardo Sueiras on September 16, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Lee, yes upon reflection these are just a subset of the core problem of enterprise integration. If you head over to the Yammer forums, you will get some interesting insights into what to expect in the next releases…..

  4. By Dennis Howlett on September 17, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Thanks for the props Lee. You are right about the weaknesses which is one reason we hung our hat on the SAP community. Love it or hate it, SAP links to 50% of the world’s systems and provides the largest pool of enterprise apps developers we could reach. The interest shown to date indicates this was a wise choice.

  5. By Vitaliy Demur on August 15, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Hello Lee! I represent LADevelopers Inc. ( ), California based software development company specializing in custom Web 2.0 applications for enterprise. We have a lot of experience working with Yammer product and have an established relationship with this company. If you have any issues with Yammer API, or looking to build a custom product based on Yammer API, we can help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.