When I first heard the news that Yammer had won TechCrunch50, I scratched my head. Yammer? Is that the “enterprise” twitter application? Yes, it is. There was nothing better? According to the conference, no, there was not. Thankfully, I am not the only one who feels that way. Eric Eldon at VentureBeat feels the same way. Steven Hodson of WinExtra feels it made a joke of the conference. Eric does go on to say that they could be successful, because businesses may want the simplest way to get started. That may be true, but the conference is not about “what service will be successful”, it is about what service is the next big thing. Steven had the same concern:

That’s right – yet another Twitter clone wins the top prize at a conferences that is supposed to showcase the best that Web 2.0 startups have to offer.

Personally, I just do not understand it. Granted, it is Twitter for the enterprise with a business model built in, so I can understand that the TechCrunch crowd was excited. But my question still remains, was there nothing better? Two interesting services that made sense for me were Swype and Dropbox. Dropbox even has a subscription model for those people interested in revenue. What made Yammer so special? I really agree with Steven Hodson’s sentiment. TechCrunch50 is about the best startups that the web can create, and preferrably can make significant revenues.

Square Peg and Round Hole

Given this idea, why would Yammer be the big hit when the technology is not really new, just evolved. It adds limited benefit to corporations that can already install forum software, enterprise instant messaging with “IM conferences” or even “team room” software. Are we trying to force-fit some of the newer services into the enterprise? Is this a problem of a square peg and a round hole? I understand that enterprises need to consider social media as part of their business, but how does Yammer fit? If I approached management with the idea that we should install Yammer, they would not understand what I was talking about. Twitter is not yet mainstream, and it would need to gain some level of acceptance in enterprises before business would remotely consider paying for “control” of Yammer.

Management Are Like Lemmings

Why do I think even Twitter will take some time to gain enterprise acceptance? Enterprise companies move slow. We are not talking about Zappos, the internet footware darling. Obviously, an internet company will use an internet service. That is how an internet company can stay in the lead, investigate new services and technologies to get the edge. Enterprises need to know that something is proven in the enterprise. Management typically asks, what other companies are using it? If you name one company, they want to know five companies. If you name five companies, how much does it cost? If it is not expensive, what business benefits could it provide? If there are significant benefits, then you get the cost analysis of the software.

Once all of these questions are answered, then the software needs to be approved by the various departments that will “interface” with it, meaning those with the users as well as those that administer the software. Typically, this process takes a long time even for cheap software. Cheap software may only take 3 months to get from interest through approval, and maybe another month for the initial installation and configuration. If Twitter is not mainstream, and there is probably another 18 months before that type of acceptance, how long before Yammer gets on the radar for many enterprises? So, Yammer is a company that will likely take two or three years to start getting acceptance in their target market. And they win TechCrunch50? I just do not understand.