Monday, June 18, 2012

MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Activity Feeds and Yammer.

The news is hot off the press - Microsoft has agreed to buy Yammer for $1.2 billion. Yammer is one of the more mature enterprise social networks available on the market right now. There is already some speculation of how Microsoft is going to use (or misuse) this great tool, but the focus of this post is a little different. I am going to try and see how the existing activity feeds functionality stacks up against the Yammer platform. I understand it might be a little unfair to compare an eight month old feature will a full fledged platform, but my goal is not to beat up on a work in progress feature but to get excited about Yammer, and see what it can bring to our implementations.

Both are social collaboration tools for business. They are private, and enable efficient communication by sharing news and information in a common (or semi-private) setting, rather than say using email or chat. The the user is in control of the information that he deems is most pertinent to him.

As we know, Activity feed provides users a way to follow records that might be of interest. The Feed
itself is done by using one of the default rules, or using workflows to create the feed based on an event trigger. The record wall in CRM is a bit analogous to a scaled down Ticker in Yammer.

Let us walk though some of the main business features of Yammer and see what CRM Activity Feeds has to offer:

CRM 2011 Activity Feed
Social Networking
Users are CRM 2011 users. Can mention an user to get them into a conversation. Can create a conversation thread. Personalization is available using picture upload feature.
Yammer provides User profiles, and a searchable member directory. The Org Chart gives you a peek at the company structure. Gamification is in play, with recognition badges for employees and leaderboard stats for thing like replies and liked messages. Users can create Polls, organize Events and ask question over the network. For conversations that are confidential, Private Messages enable a private dialog with one of more coworkers.
Team Collaboration
There is no concept of teams or groups for the Activity Feed itself. Access to records in the feed is controlled by CRM security. Activity feeds are at the organization level.
Groups can be leveraged to collaborate on files in the context of projects, get feedback and track versions. The concept of Pages is used to display team goals, compile notes, and draft documents together online. Broadcast announcements to your group, see popular files or Pages and enable sharing between related groups.
Content Collaboration
Cannot share files or attach files in a conversation. CRM records can be mentioned. No search available as of UR9.
Files, Versioning and Pages help teams work together seamlessly. In addition, one of the great features is a full text search, which provides categorized results immediately as search terms are entered. Files can be emailed directly from the team workspace.
Mobile Access
Access to Activity Feeds through CRM Mobile app
Yammer has native apps for the following:
iPhone and iPad
Windows Phone
Andriod phone and tablet

In addition, there is a windows desktop application available.
External Integration
Possible using SDK - need to write code to use the CRM webservice.
Yammer is tightly intergrated with multiple productivity applications. Dynamics CRM is one of them, with updates on accounts, opportunities, campaigns, leads, and more funneled to the Ticker. These records are then surfaced in Universal Search results.
There is a whole bunch of them listed here, from Sharepoint to TripIt.

This hopefully provided a primer on the high level feature list of Yammer. The more I play with Yammer, I will get a better picture of its complete feature list. Yammer contains a lot of what I felt was missing in Activity feeds, and is a complete enterprise social network experience.

The idea is to See and Engage: See what your team is doing, and engage them in the most efficient way to achieve your goals.

Now the question is how Microsoft is going to go forward with this fantastic addition to its portfolio. While Yammer has benefits in multiple areas, I am of course most interested in Dynamics CRM. It will be interesting to see how soon they integrate and how tight the integration really is. Another thing to keep in mind - Yammer is completely a SaaS offering, and has resisted the on-premise install path.

Here is a post on the benefits of Yammer for MS by Jukka Niiranen.

Please visit the Yammer site for more details.

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