Yammer: The Failure of Building a Consistent and Trustworthy Product

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It’s now been 4 months or so since my company left Yammer, an ‘enterprise social network’ that’s really an internal twitter-like web application that allows team-based collaboration and the like.

We had been using the system since February of 2010 and used it for nearly 2 full years. Over that span of time we had 10’s of thousands of messages and essentially built our entire business through the system, tracking our projects, product development, internal communication, and more.

When I say everything went into this internal social network I mean everything – moving from Yammer to another solution (we currently use Socialcast) felt nothing less than a divorce because our entire lives were situated on this service.

We experienced the birth of a few of our kids (with tons of pictures, videos, and more), the ups and downs of marriage, personal struggles, and more. It was at times a locker room for little boys and a counseling arena for grown men.

As you might imagine, when we decided that enough was enough the decision wasn’t easy – it was like we were chopping off an arm.

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So why did we move? The answer is very simple: Yammer doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.

The product team re-designed and re-developed the platform countless times during our use, removing features, adding features, removing them again, and all the while breaking the core user experience that attracted us to it in the first place. I could probably have dealt with a number of things but the service was so shaky that our confidence was shaken as a direct result.

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Enough was enough and we had to leave; apparently they haven’t changed at all since we left – I logged in one more time this morning and found a freaking chat window on the bottom right so that you can “live chat” with people as well. Are you kidding me? Really?

Yammer simply has no idea who they want to be or they’ve lost their way as they’ve attempted to copy the perception of “success” of some of their competitors. It’s too bad really because they had something golden, really.

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It’s a simple reminder to all product developers and product companies that you need to stick to your core competency as a company and iterate on the things that have made you a success and build-out strategically and wisely and not abandon that core competency for the sake of competition or the bottom-dollar.

(They repeatedly emailed us or even called us asking us to upgrade, which is fine, but their differentiation between the free and paid models were incredibly thin. There appeared to be little thought to strategic segmentation.)

We liked you Yammer, a lot. You failed us time and time again. I hope to tell everyone instead about Socialcast, a far more consistent and robust application that doesn’t appear to be screwing things up every other week.

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Socialcast isn’t perfect but that’s ok – there isn’t a perfect solution for our needs but it’s working fine and so far it hasn’t broken. Ever.

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With much better pricing and a feature set isn’t limited by pricing (Yay!) it’s got features that Yammer wish they had that actually make sense.

Like these analytics that are really neat:

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Thank you Socialcast for taking my team, a bunch of Yammer-refugees, and creating a place where we can re-build. Please don’t divert from your core competency – you’ve built a damn good product so don’t screw it up.