There's Another Big Change At Yammer That Employees Don't Know About

Business Insider

Starting July 1—the beginning of Microsoft's fiscal year—Yammer salespeople won't be Yammer salespeople any more, Business Insider has learned.

They'll be Microsoft salespeople.

The social-collaboration startup, acquired by Microsoft last year for $1.2 billion, appears to be moving far faster than expected to integrate into its parent.

That has prompted layoffs of about 20 employees, as Yammer makes use of Microsoft's far larger sales and marketing operations.

When Microsoft acquired Yammer, the original plan unveiled by Yammer founder and CEO David Sacks and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was to keep Yammer intact, with everyone in the company reporting to Sacks.

Already, the marketing department reports up to a Microsoft executive, out of Sacks's chain of command. In a few months, the same will be true of sales.

It appears that most Yammer salespeople will become product specialists—sometimes called "black belts"—working alongside Microsoft account managers.

To get an idea of how shocking this is to the team, consider what account executive Emma Stephen told ZDNet about Yammer's independent-minded culture in January:

In our hearts we are still Yammer.

Salespeople already know about the pending move, as they seek new jobs within Microsoft's sales force, but Yammer's management has not informed the rest of the company about the plan.

That lack of transparency, more than the layoffs, has employees particularly upset, we're hearing. As a startup, Yammer practiced an open culture, where company matters were shared and discussed widely—typically using Yammer's own software.

Yammer also holds periodic all-hands meetings known as Yammer Time. We understand that Sacks addressed the recent layoffs but did not mention the upcoming changes in the sales operation at today's meeting.

The change in the marketing department was pushed by Yammer executives. It's not clear whether Microsoft or Yammer executives prompted the handover of sales to Microsoft.

Integrating with Microsoft seems sensible, even inevitable. Sacks has made references to taking advantage of Microsoft's sales force in previous interviews. But the pace of change and the way it's being communicated are raising questions about how Microsoft and Yammer are handling the company's integration.

How Microsoft handles Yammer is a question of intense interest outside the company as well as inside. If Microsoft is seen as rushing the integration or mistreating employees, it may make other startups reluctant to sell to Microsoft.

Until the recent changes, Microsoft had been demonstrating a decidedly hands-off approach to Yammer, at least in public. Just last month, Yammer moved into a new headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco. Only one Microsoft executive attended the event, and the new offices did not display Microsoft's logo.

A Microsoft representative declined comment.

Update: We described the frequency of Yammer Time meetings incorrectly. They do not happen every week.



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