Microsoft Bundles Yammer With Office 365, Recruits Partners For Enterprise Social Sales Blitz

Microsoft, which shelled out $1.2 billion to acquire Yammer last June, is launching a full court press to get enterprises using the social networking technology.

As a first step, Microsoft has changed its licensing to include Yammer Enterprise in its Office 365 Enterprise plans at no extra charge. Yammer Enterprise, which costs $3 per user per month when sold standalone, was previously bundled with Office 365 Enterprise only for customers with Enterprise Agreement volume licensing plans.

Office 365 Enterprise customers will also no longer be required to buy Yammer licenses for users on external networks, Mike Grafham, Yammer's "head of customer success," told CRN in a Wednesday interview. "We're trying to reduce friction in organizations collaborating with each other," he said.

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Microsoft has two Office 365 Enterprise annual subscription plans, one that costs $8 per user per month and another with desktop versions of Office apps that costs $20 per user per month.

With licensing barriers removed, more Microsoft customers will have access to Yammer, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be using it. Microsoft has decided to train its channel partners to act as evangelists for a technology that is sometimes described as a "Facebook for enterprises."

Microsoft's new Yammer Customer Engagement Partner Program, launched Wednesday, casts Yammer as a tool for improving how work gets done in organizations. Through workshops and online training, partners are shown how to sell and position Yammer as a way to improve cross-department communications, Grafham said.

The new program teaches partners to identify departments within companies that are most likely to benefit from Yammer, according to Grafham. They also learn about Yammer's "freemium" model, which lets organizations try out a free version of the software and then pay for higher-end features if they find it useful.

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, an Oakland, Calif.-based Microsoft partner, said Yammer is very different than traditional Microsoft products. He described the new partner program "as completely experiential" because it's not focused on memorizing terms, features, and functions.

"Instead of telling a customer the cool things Yammer does, the Yammer partner training gets us to focus on how organizations have benefited from using Yammer," Morimoto said in an email.

To get certified, partners are trained on how to deploy Yammer in their own organizations, which lets them experience the business benefits of the product firsthand, Morimoto said. Convergent Computing is also showing customers how to use Yammer as an integrated tool in their existing SharePoint, Lync or Office 365 implementations, he said.

NEXT: How Microsoft Is Driving Yammer Usage In Enterprises

While many companies have deployed Yammer, getting people to use it has been challenging, Peter Walke, an enterprise social architect at Rightpoint, a Chicago-based systems integrator and Microsoft partner, told CRN.

Yammer has its own in-house consultants, called Customer Success Managers, who are tasked with driving Yammer usage in companies. But there aren’t enough of them, which is why getting partners involved will help, Walke said.

Grafham said the key thing about Yammer is that it's a collaboration tool that spans all of the departments within a company, not just sales teams.

"The methodology we talk about is going into organizations where there is an opportunity to get communications working differently within a department," Grafham said. "When you start talking to customers, you find pockets of people that are doing things differently."

Yammer has spread in similar fashion inside Microsoft, Grafham said. "We're finding that the Yammer team and people inside the Microsoft organization that understand social networking are connecting up to each other. Their behavior on the network is driving the others," Grafham said.

In June, Microsoft said its Yammer user base had grown by 55 percent to 8 million in the year since the acquisition closed. Yammer's sales of paid networks rose by 200 percent, Microsoft said, though it did not reveal an actual sales figure.