Yammer External Network Roadmap

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As I look "any day now" for Skype integration with Yammer, and as I have strong hopes of more integration in 2017 with SharePoint / Sites and OneNote, etc... I am now thinking beyond my company's main, "canonical" network and about our external networks.

 

ENs can still offer a strong value proposition for Cargill precisely because we have plant locations where it is not feasible to provision our employees with digital identities and corporate email.

 

So, as you replace old Online Now, files and notes functionality in our "canonical" networks, are you going to strip features out of External Networks?

 

That seems both regrettable and logical, as maintaining legacy features only in ENs seems like an unfeasible load of technical debt.

 

Yet I can't wrap my head around how you'd offer the new features in an EN, particularly since a key requirement is maintaining that robust firewall of the EN from the canonical network. And the whole point of an EN is that any email address should work, even absent the more stringent provisioning steps that make sense in any corporate environment.

 

So, what do we know now, and what can be anticipated, about the roadmap for ENs?

 

And asking some of my EN-knowledgeable folks to comment. For example, Becky, let me know if there are some address formats or domains that won't work for ENs; I'm looking at a proposed rollout and would welcome insights. I've been canonical-focused for a stretch, and now I'm a lovely mashup of "forgot it-never learned it-behind the times".

 

@Deleted @Chris Slemp @Steve Nguyen

8 Replies

We have over 700 remote sites (shops!) with 75,000 users where the staff manage issuing their own AD / O365 identities. We have a pretty simple web app built upon delegation capabilities in AD, no central or IT specialists involved in creating the accounts. This gives them access to Yammer and SharePoint, but we don't configure email (yet, Groups means it will come).

Sounds like your solution is working for you, but our complex, often local-resource-dependent plant IT structure precludes a similar scenario for us. Even if there was a killer app for this, I'd say sales vendors shouldn't even bother giving us a call. ENs offer a base of security, prior experience and cost that meet our needs, and even with everything we know about them, they have a fight to get technology governance and risk management approval.

Preliminary thoughts: I haven't run across a format or domain that hasn't worked; my best guidelines are to make sure it makes some sort of sense to your audience. No internal, corporate acronyms in the domain unless you know that the people you're inviting in live and breathe that acronym, and so forth.

 

Unfortunately for us, being unable to do that has resulted in one of our networks having a rather long name, but that's what bit.ly redirects are for, right?

 

One thing I wish ENs came with is a built-in, admin-opts-in-to-use-this auto-approver. Unlike your typical home network, people can't just click and have O365 sniff out their email and decide they're fine. <--Generally speaking. It depends who you have in that EN. Our customers are entirely outside our corporate domain.

 

On a smaller scale EN, the Pending Requests queue will be manageable. If you have an opt-in model--i.e., you're not bulk uploading emails or sending out invites en masse--and you're anticipating a large amount of people trying to join at once, and you want to get them in as quickly as possible no matter if it's after work hours, on the weekend, or over a holiday, it's worth investing in a third party to build in an auto-approval mechanism. This will replace the initial Yammer sign-up screen, generate the follow-up registration email, and get your people in without you having to do a thing.

 

We have this, though we still have people coming in through the Pending queue, based on if we're posting direct links to entice people in: "This customer has a fascinating question that you need to answer!" or likewise. It was a conscious decision I made given the steady but manageable stream of customers opting in (plus I have a couple coworkers I've set up with the authority to approve requests with me). 

Outstanding insight, Becky. I hadn't thought of a provisioning / deprovisioning burden as such, but since we will likely have a case of employees who cycle in and out of our employment, I'd thought we should make strategic use of the public and private groups.

 

Public, being for "fine if this appeared on the front page of a newspaper and was mailed directly to competitors" type information.

 

Private, for benefits info, shift opportunities, safety reminders.

 

I think we'll also confirm policy that we do not enable network members to create their own groups in the company's EN, with limited exceptions (arrange the company picnic? OK).

Becky hit the most important points, but don't forget to apply analytics to the ENs as well. One of the benefits could be that increased visibility into what groups are created / active could loosen those policies you're proposing (move from a "restrict and control" to a "trust and verify" stance).

Waiting on pins and needles for a reply from Yammer to your question above, however. We've been using ENs for a long time, so I've often worried about them, but they've been preserved every step of the way so far. I thought I saw in the announcements of Yammer-O365 Groups at Ignite that ENs would be in scope "eventually," which implies they'll maintain the technical debt to keep them in their current state until they can fully support the scenario.

I'm set for analytics, TyGraph can handle external networks.

I confess, I didn't even think of saying anything about analytics because I've been so happy with tyGraph, it seems natural! :) And I'd heard about it from you, so.

 

So yes. What @Chris Slemp said. It'd be great to have it built-in, but otherwise, anyone hoping to get data easily out of their EN had better look to a third party. 

 

I've never restricted group creation--I can't even find it in the Network Admin settings. I may be overlooking it entirely. (Unless you're saying it's in your policy and you keep reminding people.)

I've always felt that an external network was the unsung hero of Yammer. Indeed the very first network I built for a software company client nearly 3 years ago was an external network for their customers/channel partners. Apart from a few log in issues it took off from day one and is still going strong and being well used. Basically it does the job. Prior to that everything was done over email and it was real pain for them.

 

There are very few other solutions where you can invite customers, suppliers, partners, whoever, into a secure place for them to do SAFARIS (hat tip @Stan Garfield for that one!). "share, ask, find, answer, recognise, inform and suggest" if you don't know.

 

I can also see if being used with Teams where you have a Yammer tab for any external (or even internal) networks so people can use Yammer with a broader audience not directly related to their team or project group and still stay in the Teams interface.