Don’t invest in SharePoint social…

(I think I am getting better at outrageous headlines to drag you in to read the post! … please don’t leave)

I recently read Jeremy’s post about picking SharePoint social over Yammer “for right now” and wanted to weigh in on why I think they are not making the call I would have.  It’s all just personal opinion of course and Jeremy and I are close friends and no doubt he will attempt to convince me otherwise over a few beers shortly 🙂

In my humble opinion the only reason you should consider using SharePoint 2013’s social features over Yammer is if your organization is 100% unable to use a cloud based service.


Because there isn’t a future in SharePoint on-prem social features.  It’s just not what Microsoft does when it changes direction.

When Microsoft takes a bet on something big there are never two options to pick from. There is only one option and the rest is dead to them.  Rightly or wrongly, whether you like it or not, for good or bad … that’s just the way it works.  This basically means that after that speed it approximately takes for one synapse to fire Microsoft and all its muscle (sales and otherwise) stopped selling on-prem social and started selling the new cloud social story like it was never any other way.  You won’t hear anything pitching on-prem social over Yammer and it will only be used as a fall back position if the organization cant use the cloud for whatever reason.

“What should I use for social?  Yammer or the SharePoint newsfeed?”  My answer has been clear: Go Yammer!  Yammer is our big bet for enterprise social, and we’re committed to making it the underlying social layer for all of our products.” – Jared Spataro, Senior Director – SharePoint, Microsoft Corp – 19th March 2013

Update 19th March 2013:  If you want more of a nail in coffin then look no further then Jared’s latest update on the Enterprise Social Roadmap. The quote above is from this post Yammer and SharePoint: Enterprise Social Roadmap Update. If you read that 90% of the post is dedicated to Yammer with a fraction dedicated to “If you are old and clunky and stay on-prem then here is a skinny bone to chew on”.

“Cool” you might say.  “That doesn’t change what you can and can’t do with the product.  On-Prem is still my bag baby!”

If you look at the features, pros and cons and line them up side by side on-prem SharePoint social will win the sprint today … by quite a long margin.

But mark my words … it won’t win the marathon.

Here is my prediction for the next couple of years.  SharePoint on-prem social features might be lucky to get a few new features. Maybe a some in the next update, maybe a few the one after.  But where we really quit the crap and bring on the meat will be in SharePoint + Yammer integration. This is obviously not rocket science given MS just spent $1B+ dollars on it. Everything social in SharePoint Online will be ripped out and replaced/backed by Yammer with deep integrations that don’t exist today.  100% effort will be put into this experience as a first class citizen vs. the on-prem story… sad face … I like on-prem too … but like I mentioned above on-prems dead baby.

Eventually there will be no Yammer. It will just be SharePoint Online with a lot more rocking social features built by a team that deeply understand Enterprise social.  MS didn’t buy Yammer for their customers (they were mostly already SharePoint customers anyway) … they bought them for the kudos in enterprise social and the team of people who get it. Microsoft needs to win enterprise social big time and Yammer are the A game.

So why would I say don’t invest in on-prem social with the SharePoint features you get in 2013 if you can at all help it?

I would put money on there not being a great upgrade story on-prem to whatever comes next in the cloud … if at all. There could be one IF you are using SharePoint social features in 365 today … maybe.

Maybe I will have to eat my hat some day when I look back at these words … but if I were made to pick a winning horse today I would be betting on Yammer and having a smoother path to niceness with future releases.

Sure, this might mean having a muddled and semi painful story now as Jeremy points out in his post. This might mean you need to educate users around using Yammer, doing some work to federate for authentication purposes so you don’t have two logins, doing some integration work to make it easier to post stuff to Yammer from SharePoint etc.…   at least until MS pull the next round of SharePoint integrations with Yammer out of the hat and make things a lot less confusing etc.…

But at the end of the day I would be ok with that vs. being backed into a corner that you cant get out of or have a harder time getting out of.  Even if that means living with a less integrated experience today.

Who knows … I could be 100% totally wrong (in some ways I wish I will be) but maybe I wont and I hope to have saved a few of you from writing a kilotonne of migration code trying to get all those posts, likes and follows moved over to Yammer … but having said that I am sure AvePoint will have a nice migration tool ready for that eventuality anyway … so maybe all this is moot 🙂 PS: AvePoint migration tools rock by the way.

PS: The real moment I will freak out about Social in the enterprise will be when Facebook finally gets around to releasing an Enterprise offering walled garden style social experience for organizations.  I have thought for a while now that it would be “any moment now” … but nada so far.  If that happened and they offered light weight document collab etc.… it would be a game changer.  But maybe zuck is holding off while him and Steve continue their wee love fest while trying to stiff Google. Time will tell I guess.


20 thoughts on “Don’t invest in SharePoint social…

  1. Jeremy Thake

    Obviously being ex-Microsoft there are things you know about how Microsoft operate that most don’t so appreciate your opinion on this direction. Our decision at AvePoint was based on the fact we are live now on SharePoint 2013 now and the Yammer integration wasn’t good enough as explained in the blog posts for right now. There is no indication on when ON-PREMISES will be improved so we made the call not to wait.
    Appreciate your compliments on our products too mate.

    1. BIll Ryan

      Great conversation… I agree with Chris on this subject. Microsoft has stated that they are going to make Yammer the only activity feed going forward (by Q3 of this year). One of the major reasons Microsoft purchased Yammer was they realized their implementation of Activity Feeds would not be well received. The fact that you have to have a minimum of 6GB of storage needed to get Social working in SharePoint 2013 is a non-starter for a lot of organizations.
      Organizations that are moving forward with Social will need to move towards Yammer anyway so why start with the SharePoint Activity Feed in the first place? It seems like a no-brainer decision to me…

  2. Bruce

    Forget SP2013 social and forget Yammer. Newsgator have got the premier social story that fully integrates with SharePoint right now. Don’t wait – they are way ahead of game and will continue to be.

    1. Chris Johnson Post author

      Hey Bruce … again i would say that falls into the same category for me. Investing in something without a clear path to the future of the MS social stack. It *might* be OK if you are OK with being stuck on another social stack … but I recommend people think about how to get ready for the new wave of improvements that we are likely to see in the next 12 months. I personally have no beef with Newsgator (it saved SharePoint’s bacon in many a RFP) but am interested to see their 365 story soon.

  3. Peter Bjellerup

    I agree with the headline and with your conclusions – in a world where these two would be the only alternatives. But why bother about them at all when you can get a full social and collaboration ecosystem in IBM Connections right now? And with a mobile interface which is fuller than any social intranet on the market that I am aware of! And if you want to integrate with files stored in SharePoint, you can easily do so if you want to. On top of the “people-powered” integration of social bookmarks, that is.

    1. Chris Johnson Post author

      Hi Peter, this is a totally different topic all together. I was talking about picking features within a vendors products. You are talking about switching vendors. People have loads of reasons for using one product over another …. and I think you saying they should switch just for “better” social features is short sighted. What about everything else that SharePoint offers that these other products don’t. I wouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater like that 🙂 But i am the wrong person to comment about IBM products … i would rather pry my teeth out with a spoon than use Connections 🙂 I’m bias/fanboi on the SharePoint side on this one sorry 🙂

  4. Felice Gianneri

    Everything does seem to point to the death of on premise for social but, considering that 2/3 of SharePoint licensing revenue comes from on-premise customers, I doubt Microsoft will cut them out in the short term….my guess would be that Office 365 will get proper Yammer integration over the next few months in line with the new 90-day cycle release and that Yammer features will be part of SharePoint 16, similar to what just happened to FAST.

    1. Chris Johnson Post author

      Felice, I agree … on-prem product will be supported for a long time to come … all im saying is that I dont believe it will see the innovation that the online product will.

  5. Johan Bager

    First, thanks for the valuable comments Jeremy. After SPC, I was left with questions re social, but the energy of the conference, left me desiring OOTB possibilities. In Avepoint’s case it makes sense to pursue the SP path as you have considerable in-house expertise. Personally, I don’t want to wait for the next release in typical MSFT fashion so, like Bruce, I would suggest Newsgator. However, smaller businesses likely will find licensing fees out of reach…that likely leaves them waiting for O365v2 and Yammer. Suggestions?

  6. Brian Kellner

    Hi Chris – interesting post. NewsGator’s goal is to make sure customers can move forward at whatever pace they want and be able to leverage their investment at each step. So we already offer a really nice Yammer integration (along with Salesforce Chatter, Dynamics CRM, Twitter, etc) into SharePoint and a really easy path from 2010 to 2013. Our customer base is primarily on-premise, so what they say about O365 is that they are looking for hybrid stories without a ton of work around federation, authentication, etc. So that’s our first real focus in terms of O365. I’m curious to see how customers form their strategy around solving their immediate problem and giving themselves a good path forward. That’s our goal at NewsGator. I look forward to seeing the rest of the comments on this post.

    1. Chris Johnson Post author

      Thanks for commenting Brian! Great to see NewsGator offering customers a great on prem story today with tie-ins to the cloud where needed. I totally agree with your point about customers living in a hybrid world for the next few years. Like I mentioned in the post i’m interested to see NewsGator’s strategy for 365 around that when it’s ready. Having customers using SharePoint on-prem + 365 will mean its really important to have your offering spanning those environments so they don’t fragment their social strategy further. It’s a really interesting space and, like i mention above, i’m keen to see how things develop over the next while. Thanks again for commenting!

  7. Pingback: My SharePoint links February 8, 2013 | Jeremy Thake's musings

  8. Nik Patel

    I like what you have written for long term vision but not every organization can wait for future.. Like Jeremy said, if you need On-Prem social right now, Yammer is not ready. I would blame Microsoft for this. Just like last release, You want to avoid FAST over Enterprise Search, you want to avoid Yammer over SP2013 Social for On-Premises..

    For cloud, having Yammer is no brainer, It doen’t add any extra cost, it’s already free if you have SharePoint Online.. Question is On-Prem and that’s where confusion starts.. To me, Yammer is not great story for On-Prem, it’s not integrated properly with SharePoint. Newsgator has better story with SharePoint 2013 On-Prem.

    1. Chris Johnson Post author

      Hi Nik, Thanks for your comment. I agree with your sentiment if you are taking a short term view. However my point in the post was that i don’t think that is a smart move. Short term pain now for long term payoff is a better bet in my opinion. But it’s just my opinion. I’m not a fan of backing myself into a corner if i can help it.


  9. Nik Patel


    Although it is understable that Yammer is future and Yammer is clear winner as cloud solution, On-Prem story really concerns me. If you’re investing in SP2013 On-prem and building Social Intranet, Yammer doesn’t add much value. Until Microsoft has unified feeds and deep integration, it’s too much customization from customer perspective..

    In fact, Microsoft does recommends (with grain and salt) in SPC175 – Overview of Enterprise Social session at 1.06.40 mark that, use Yammer for cloud solution but stick with SP2013 social for On-Prem for near future.. Trade off is organization needs to understand the risks for future Yammer investments and quick updates in cloud over On-Prem..


  10. Sean O’Leary

    That would be very interesting if Facebook got into the enterprise social/collaboration game. I could see it happening, especially since they need an additional revenue source given the disappointing IPO.

  11. Chris O'Brien

    Hey Chris,

    I definitely agree with your thoughts about everything centralizing around Yammer, and I’ve also been recommending that our company does not do any significant customization work around SP2013 social because this will be the loser. However, the one bit I’m not sure about is the lack of a provided migration approach in the future (from SP2013 social to Yammer) – sure, MSFT *might* make it a partner opportunity, but I’d kinda be surprised. It would be pretty galling for clients to have to pay for 3rd party tools (at the mercy of vendor pricing), simply due to the fact that Microsoft’s strategy was, ahem, unclear for a time and there were two options with huge overlap and no real guidance.

    Most companies would say their social data is increasingly important, and losing all those comments (etc.) during a migration would be a big deal. So, given the “backward compatibility is sacred” mantra that has been a feature of product strategy at Microsoft historically – well, I for one am hopeful 🙂


    1. Chris Johnson Post author

      Hey COB, I 100% hope you are right on the migration side of things, I really do. Time will tell. There is so much other integration work to get done and I hope migration doesn’t get left behind.

  12. Pingback: Integrating SharePoint Online and Yammer – An app for that! | Chris Johnson's loosely typed thoughts...

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