End of the viral adoption road for social business software?

Yesterday, social software maker Yammer announced it has raised $85 million, bringing its total funding to $142 million. Not shabby for a company with an estimated revenue run rate of some $30 million. The real questions though are what happens next, how does it compete with the likes of Chatter, can it remain as an independent software company or will what it does become part of the fabric of new software going forward?

Great post and analysis by Dennis Howlett (no, that’s not a typo) where he talks to Adam Pisoni, co-founder Yammer, and discusses where Yammer goes next, which I think also has broader ramifications for all social business software vendors.

One of the big take aways is that there is clearly a big shift within Yammer from a company focused on promoting a viral adoption model towards one which is focused on a more sophisticated active change management and system integration. This has actually been evident for sometime, with lots of community management 101 content coming from the Yammer team and obviously plenty of add-ons appearing that enable better integrating with enterprise systems.

A try-before-you-buy model is perfectly reasonable and isn’t entirely unique to Yammer, but while this approach does lower the barriers to entry in reality the software costs are only one part of running a successful pilot or proof of concept (and its worth considering that Jive, IBM Connections, Newsgator, Socialtext etc are being deployed to the enterprise without a freemium model). And as I’m sure Deloitte is finding, flicking the switch on 200,000 global users was the easy bit but replicating success at that scale is whole different order of magnitude from their initial deployment to their Australian practice.

However, overall this is a good thing and reflects my experience of working with organisations where the random, organic approach hasn’t worked (regardless of the platform). But it should also be a wake up call for people who’ve been champions of the viral adoption approach who should realise this is actually quite damaging for some organisations.

Dennis also raises some good points about where solutions like Yammer sit from a vendor management and technical architecture stand point. Personally I think these questions are worth discussing although I don’t believe we can jump to any conclusions just yet. After all, this is a different software marketplace (as we’ve pointed out).

To Dennis’s points I would also add that I think the main danger to Yammer is that it becomes a bit like SharePoint, which is extremely popular but poorly deployed by many. I wonder if “Yammer Governance” will become a hot topic in the near future like “SharePoint Governance”?

What do you think?