1. YUNO @Yammer?

    Avelient is giving Yammer a shot again. During the testing phase, I’ve been collecting observations about the product and thought I’d write up a more compressive outline of our experience.

    First, I should mention that we tried yammer in early 2011 but ultimately did not use it because the functionality wasn’t interesting, or because it simply replicated infrastructure that we already had in place. However, with the latest round of updates to Yammer, we’re back and giving it a longer test internally.

    What I Love About Yammer

    Bridged Communications – The primary goal of Yammer seems to be to bridge several different communication mediums and bring them into one channel. For example, I was looking for a way to cut-down on the amount of internal emails and chat conversations that pollute our team’s time everyday. Yammer seems to have created a framework that is ideal for channeling content in a great way.

    Passive Communication – Most communication mediums like chat are disruptive. They rely on friction to grab people’s attention and then engage in conversation. That said, some questions or message are not “disruption worthy”. For example, yes, I want to know when a client’s website went live, but I don’t need a group message interrupting my sales call, or dinging my “new mail” warning. I want these types of notifications to be passive — something I can check when I have time. This is by far the biggest problem that I am looking to have solved and so far, I think Yammer is doing a bang-up job.

    Familiar UI – This is a bit tongue-in-cheek because one of the first things my team said was, “what is this, a copy of Facebook?” and of course, there was a few jokes about it, but if you contemplate it, this actually quite ideal because so many people are familiar with Facebook that the learning curve to Yammer is maybe 2-3 minutes of clicking around, and then boom, you are good to go. Kudos to the Yammer team for recognizing this — I assume that they did ;)

    Simplicity – When I first loaded the application, my initial though regarding the design was that it was too simple. HTML5, and CSS3 have really spoiled me in terms of what I expect when I see an app. The ability to load in beautiful, textured depth, and animations to a web-interface is so tempting. That said, when the rational mind is given time to digest it the design, I think the Yammer team has done a great job creating a product that does not require a long time to load, has less server quests, and that is compatible with a wide-array of devices — I think their design team has shown great restraint, in an effort to allow scale to take precedence. Maybe they can offer a “Sexy” version in the admin some-day :)

    Wish List / Room For Improvement

    The following items are observations based on my experience with the product. I do not know that they represent everybody, but in the interest of seeing improvement on a product I am coming to like, I will offer these unsolicited comments and hope that it helps improve the product.

    Integration & App Wish List

    It’s encouraging to see the apps that are able to integrate with Yammer, and I see a ton of potential there. I’d love to see the following potential integrations:

    • Google Apps (Calendars could sync with “Events” functionality) – If I could schedule internal meetings via shared calendars and functionality built into Yammer, I’d die a happy man.
    • Highrise / 37 Signals integration. I’d love to be able to hit up our Highrise account for client contact info, or for discussing a deal or project in Basecamp. This may simply not be possible – 37Signals doesn’t really have the friendliest API, but it’d be an awesome wish list item.

    Adobe Air Apps suck, always.

    I realize that there are some real reasons why the Yammer Desktop is an AIR app, and while it’s not the worst I’ve ever used, it comes with the usual AIR related setbacks. For example, the app will tell you that there are notifications, but you have to click into the app to refresh it and actually show the notifications. I’ll be honest and say that this is a totally petty item, but I love native applications and would just love to see a solid, native app developed!

    The Questions feature is important, but completely useless.

    I am not sure that this feature was thought out too well. A person can go into a group and ask a question, but the only real functionality change from a normal post is that it says “Answer” instead of “Reply”? It seems like the only real purpose of the Questions feature is to change the text that is used to present the question, to me, this means that the functionality has no teeth.

    • Why not show the question with some type of visual queues, like was done with announcements. Questions are important, and if they stand out from the stream of other messages, that might help them get answered.
    • Make “Answer” mean something. When an question is answered, show it as resolved somehow! People shouldn’t have to keep checking a thread of comments to see that a question has been answered. Maybe the requester can mark as “Answered” when they feel their question has been successfully answered.
    • Once a question has been dealt with, there is no way to archive it, or remove it from the group. Why? People should be able to archive questions to a section of Yammer that allows them to refer back to it later. People ask repetitive questions, why not be able to simply refer to a past Q/A thread?

    Praise is cool, but broken.

    When I saw the Praise feature, I thought that it was genius. There is nothing that I dislike more than getting a bunch of “thanks” emails back, spamming my inbox. The idea that I could go into our Production group and thank the guys for handling an update at a later time was a great little personal touch. That said, using the Praise feature is a pain in the ass. I cannot post a Praise message unless I select everyone associated with the praise. Why not let us offer praise to a department, or to the whole company?

    Functionality Needs To Match Expectations

    This part is a bit hard for me to explain — I may not be qualified. However, As a new user, I spent a lot of time exploring the functionality inside of Yammer, and I’d say that the biggest problem I have is that going in as a new, unbiased user, I felt a lot of disparity between what I expected from certain pieces of functionality and the reality of how they preformed. Basically Yammer serves up some awesome ideas, things that when you see them, make you think, “Hey, great idea!”, but when you attempt to use the functionality it doesn’t come close to how you’d expect them to work.

    I am sure that the Yammer team eats their own dog food, but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the reason I am coming to use your product is that it is supposed to streamline and remove friction from the day-to-day communications of my businesses — but if you are adding a different set of frictions, it’s not ultimately really helping. I would rather have a feature that works very well, but that comes out 6 months slower, than a feature that is rushed through and adds daily-stress to my communication.

    Overall Thoughts on Yammer

    I think the app is well made, I am genuinely excited to use it. Yammer has great potential for helping us streamline our internal communication in a meaningful way. Hands-down, I am most excited about this service and what it will do for our company than just about any new service we’ve on boarded this year.

    I’d love to get other’s comments & thoughts on Yammer. Send me your thoughts via Twitter or the comments below.