Yammer Buys OneDrum To Add Collaborative Microsoft Office Editing To Enterprise Social Network

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Flush with $85 million in new funding, Yammer is spending some of its newly minted cash today with the acquisition of OneDrum, a Scotland-based startup that allows you to co-author, file share and interact with Microsoft Office documents in real-time. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but Yammer founder and CEO David Sacks jokingly said in an interview today it was less than Instagram’s $1 billion acquisition by Facebook earlier this week. All of OneDrum’s employees will join Yammer, with CEO Jasper Westaway leading the integration of the two products.

OneDrum, which has raised $2 million in funding from Amadeus Capital Partners, UK Technology Strategy Board and Scottish Enterprise; adds secure, synchronized file sharing and collaboration (version management, multi-author document creation and editing, and communication and co-ordination tools) to existing Microsoft Office applications.

While Microsoft already allows Office users to edit and control a document, this is limited to one user at a time, while other users can only observe the changes. OneDrum lets multiple users author and edit the same document simultaneously in real-time. Local copies are stored so changes can be made offline. OneDrum also features communication tools like edit tracking, and instant messaging with unique chat bubbles to allow users can send messages to each other from within the document. Any version of Microsoft Office is compatible with OneDrum.

As you may know, Yammer has evolved into a more comprehensive, Facebook-like platform for social networking within the enterprise. Beyond being just a communications platform, Yammer now includes applications such as polls, chat, events, links, topics, Q&A, ideas and more. An activity feed aggregates stories about co-worker actions within all of their enterprise apps (both on and off Yammer) and allows users to follow content. The next step of this evolution is adding actual business functionality such as editing and file syncing to the platform.

We’re told that OneDrum’s application will be shut down and the technology will be added to Yammer. With the acquisition, Sacks says that Yammer will gain powerful desktop and file sync capabilities, allowing for file folders to be shared across multiple users’ desktops. And users will be able to work together on Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents in real-time.

Here’s how the integration will work. Users will be able to access Yammer files through a folder on their desktop. Inside this folder, users will see subfolders for each Yammer group that they are a member of. Shared folders automatically appear when a user joins a new group; they disappear instantly when the user leaves (or is removed from) the group. Users can drag and drop files into the shared folder to upload them to Yammer; which will also sync them automatically to team members’ desktops.

Users can open Microsoft Office files from the Yammer desktop folder and work on them in their native applications. When new versions are saved, they are automatically synced directly to Yammer and to coworkers’ desktops. Files can then be worked on offline, and then synced as soon as the user returns online.

And with the OneDrum Microsoft Office integration, employees can work collaboratively inside a Word, PowerPoint or Excel file added to the Yammer desktop folder. When multiple co-workers open any Microsoft Office file that lives in a shared folder, it will automatically become co-editable by those users simultaneously.

Character-by-character changes appear as colleagues make edits to the file, while color-coded cursors identify different users collaborating in the document. Edits will also appear in real-time when working online, while offline edits synchronize when connectivity is re-established.

In terms of social discovery, each Yammer file will live at a unique URL (or permalink) where it can be viewed in the browser, followed, shared and discussed. Following a file will notify the user of changes. Users can also view a revision history. These files can be accessed on mobile devices and then shared or emailed from there. And opening or saving new versions will generate an activity story in the Ticker, the scrolling real-time activity feed in Yammer.

However, the addition of content to the Yammer networking platform will raise security concerns from users. But Yammer assures that all data is encrypted using 256-bit SSL/TLS and admins can set viewing permissions based on group access, so when a user is removed from a group or network, file access is revoked accordingly. Admins can mark content as read-only, restricting who can edit a file and a version history tracks all changes to a document and allows a previous version to be reverted.

As Sacks tells us, the acquisition is about Yammer’s broader goal of bringing together all business data in one place, including SAP, Salesforce, Sharepoint, Box and others. OneDrum now allows Yammer to integrate deeply with Microsoft Office. And this should resonate with users, says Yammer’s co-founder and CTO Adam Pisoni. The majority of Yammer users are sharing Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF files.

“Employees spend a huge amount of time working with files, especially Microsoft Office documents,” said Sacks, Yammer CEO. “Through OneDrum, Yammer will incorporate all of that content into the enterprise social graph, making it discoverable and collaborative in a way that has never been possible before.”

Sacks says that Yammer is also planning an in-depth Google Docs integration as well, which would bring similar syncing functionality to the Yammer platform. OneDrum CEO Jasper Westaway tells us that there’s no one winner on business content space but that there will be one winner in social enterprise space. He believes Yammer is that leader.

Yammer will begin introducing OneDrum functionality by Summer 2012 as a desktop client download, with no plug-ins to Microsoft Office required.

The idea that Yammer is becoming more than just a place to share communications within the enterprise isn’t surprising. In February, Yammer’s VP of Product Jim Patterson revealed of the product roadmap: “We’re now working on making Yammer not just a place where you talk about work, but also get work done.” Pisoni echoed these thoughts in a conversation today, saying “Our goal is to be the social layer across all business apps.” With today’s acquisition, Yammer can perhaps check off the integration with Microsoft Office. In February, Sacks told us he was particularly interested in acquiring companies that brought compelling technologies to the platform.

With this in mind, we could see Yammer’s next purchase forward the goal of integrating Google Docs collaboration.