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Is Microsoft's Yammer acquisition a problem solved for CIOs or a trap?

Microsoft’s acquisition of what just might be the most sweetly disruptive, cloud-based social networking company out there has much to say to CIOs — right? The software giant’s purchase of Yammer for $1.2 billion, it almost goes without saying, puts a king-sized imprimatur on the value of social networking platforms in enterprise computing. The union might not rise to the level of the hype about social networking platforms being like the ERP of the millennium’s first decade. But it should put to rest any CIO doubts about getting behind social business, as we call it now. Giving employees access to information anytime from anywhere on any device — and doing all that with a built-in social layer — is a CIO mandate.

For those CIOs who have puzzled over how to layer social networking into business applications and to connect social platforms with back-end systems, Microsoft would seem to have solved a big problem. The route between a vision for a socially enabled workforce and the integration required to actually do that is paved with hard decisions. And now here comes Redmond — with SharePoint, Office, Project, Office 365 in tow — ready to take on the integration riddles. And with Microsoft at the controls, Yammer’s recent decision to build a connector to SAP systems could shift into super high gear.

But as I was reminded this morning by Rob Koplowitz, the Forrester Research analyst who covers social platforms, Yammer’s strategy with regard to other vendors has been agnostic, not orthodox. Yammer has provided connections on the back end to competitors like, and on the front end, it has met the user on the user’s device of choice. And so the question for CIOs was, and still is, where to make their bets to make social business a reality. Is Microsoft solving a big problem or laying a trap for IT? In a user-first, bring-your-own-device era, will IT be seen as advocating for monopoly over monopsony?

“Microsoft has a pattern of liking Microsoft devices first and best,” Koplowitz said. CIOs need to watch whether Microsoft adopts Yammer’s agnostic approach to endpoints, mobile in particular. Last week we were abuzz with news about the Microsoft tablet, he said. Now comes their social news. “I hope they don’t connect the dots.”

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