How to administer YammerBy Mary Branscombe
Users like Yammer because they can just start using it, businesses like it because it’s private — and if you have to look after information you’ll like it because you can control it.
Yammer is a private social network. Anyone can start using it without paying anything, but they can only talk to people from the same company (or partners, if they explicitly make an external Yammer network). It’s like Facebook in that you can make quick updates, see what other people are talking about and see who has mentioned you in their posts. But you can also connect it to objects inside your business, like documents in SharePoint, so you can see exactly what people are talking about when they’re discussing work.
As a cloud service, Yammer doesn’t need much looking after, but if you pay for it, you get some simple but powerful admin tools. If your company uses Office 365, you might get asked to look after Yammer as part of running that, because it’s an option in the latest version. If you want to, you can replace the SharePoint newsfeed social network page in Office 365 with Yammer, which also adds a new “post entry” to the search results and document libraries in SharePoint online. That lets users send a message to a Yammer group about the document with all the usual #hashtags and @mentions of colleagues. The discussion happens in Yammer, but the document stays safe in SharePoint.
To turn on Yammer inside Office 365, go to the SharePoint admin center in the Office 365 portal and choose “settings.” Under “enterprise social collaboration” choose “use Yammer.com service.” This replaces the newsfeed link in Office 365 with a Yammer link (warn users that this will open in a new browser tab rather than inside the Office 365 site). If you want to integrate Yammer with SharePoint 2013 on premises, you have to remove the SharePoint Server social web parts, hide UI controls for social features and install the Yammer app for SharePoint to show the home, group and comment feed inside SharePoint sites (there are step-by-step instructions at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/p/?LinkId=309363).
Just switching on Yammer for Office 365 or adding the app to SharePoint 2013 doesn’t give you admin tools for Yammer. For that you have to have an enterprise Yammer plan; currently that’s only available if you have a Microsoft enterprise agreement for at least 250 licenses (if you’re a smaller company, Microsoft has a plan on the way but hasn’t announced a date yet). When you have the right plan, your nominated admin users get admin rights for all groups on your Yammer network (including marking certain posts as official content and controlling who can view or share content), and you can choose who to make a network admin — which lets you handle everyday admin tasks across the network — and who needs to be a verified admin (they can integrate Yammer with Active Directory Sync and single sign on systems, configure security settings, handle retention and archiving, and read messages in private groups).
When you’re an admin, you get an extra option at the bottom of the navigation bar on the left of the Yammer site; click “admin” to see the four groups of settings you can change: design and configuration, user management, content and security (all three of these open the same admin page) and success center (which takes you to training, support and verified admin options like integration and data export).
Most options are fairly self-explanatory, but it’s worth checking what’s enabled by default. You don’t want to go overboard turning things off, since the point of Yammer is how much communication it enables, but you’ll want to know that by default users can attach files and images to messages and replies — and that disabling attachments doesn’t delete any existing files. Similarly, if you leave the “email a file” feature turned on, users can share files and Yammer notes with colleagues and external partners, but they’re doing it through Yammer where you can track it rather than through random unprotected cloud sharing services. The atom feed option that lets users export Yammer feeds is off by default; if someone wants to add a Yammer feed to their internal blog you might let them do it, but they could also add it to an external site so you need to think about your policy here.
The translation tools are off by default as well; this uses Bing’s translation APIs to translate messages in 33 languages into the default language for your Yammer network, and if you’re at a multi-lingual company it could be really useful. An administrator has to turn this on because while it’s free, it means accepting a terms and services agreement first.
If your company needs to limit who can speak officially with other companies, you might also want to limit who can create external networks and make users get admin approval before they join another company’s external network with their work email address. And if you need to keep an eye on specific subjects, verified admins can track specific keywords in your internal network, including patterns like credit card and social security numbers.
The admin tools also let you customize the look of your Yammer network. In the design section you can change the color of the header, upload your company logo (it needs to be 160 pixels wide, 45-100 pixels high and if the logo is white, put it on a coloured background so it’s visible) or set a specific logo to use in Yammer emails.
When employees leave your company, they lose access to your internal Yammer network when they lose their company email account. If you have contract employees who might come back to work on another project, you can deactivate their account until they’re working for you again — their profile, messages and file uploads stay in the network. You can also permanently remove users with the choice of keeping or deleting their messages and content, or you can block users by email address. This is less about limiting access to Yammer — which is more useful when lots of people are talking — and more about stopping people accidentally posting from group email addresses, which makes it hard to see who’s in the conversation.
For security, you can also restrict access to the Yammer web interface to the IP range of your internal network, or force users to change their password regularly.
If Yammer takes off in your company, you might need to archive the content (especially if you’re covered by compliance regulations like HIPAA). Verified admins can set the Yammer data retention policy and export Yammer data for archiving, or you can look at third-party tools. Proofpoint Archiver, for example, converts posts, comments, polls, chats and other Yammer content to email, so you can archive it and perform ediscovery along with the rest of your mail using your existing archiving solution. If you need to take control of Yammer, it has the tools to do that, but you do need to pay to turn them on.
Mary Branscombe has been a technology journalist for over two decades, and she’s been the formal or informal IT admin for most of the offices she’s worked in along the way. She was delighted to see the back of Netware 3.11, witnessed the AOL meltdown first-hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and has been a freelance tech writer ever since. She’s used every version of Windows (client and server) and Office released, and every smartphone too. Her favourite programming language is Prolog, giving her a soft spot for Desired State Configuration in PowerShell 4. And yes, she really does wear USB earrings. Find her on Twitter @marypcbuk.
About the Author
Mary Branscombe has been a technology journalist for over two decades, and she’s been the formal or informal IT admin for most of the offices she’s worked in along the way. She was delighted to see the back of Netware 3.11, witnessed the AOL meltdown first-hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and has been a freelance tech writer ever since. She's used every version of Windows (client and server) and Office released, and every smartphone too. Her favourite programming language is Prolog, giving her a soft spot for Desired State Configuration in PowerShell 4. And yes, she really does wear USB earrings. Find her on Twitter @marypcbuk.
Author's Website: http://www.marybranscombe.com