Which department banned Yammer?


blog Our favourite local e-government specialist Craig Thomler has a fascinating post over on his blog about a Federal Government department which has recently blocked 700-odd staff from using social networking site Yammer. Quoth Thomler:

In the federal department mentioned above (with 700 or more users, including senior managers), the growth of the service was extremely rapid. Presumably this is because it provided functionality that staff could productively use in their jobs.

However, after a short consideration, the service was banned and blocked from the department. I’ve heard several versions of why this occurred, with the most common view being that introduction had not followed the correct process and usage was growing too fast to be manageable … I am aware of several other agencies who have been threatened with or had to shut down trials of services such as Yammer due to ICT security concerns.

Now we can see why using Yammer might be a security problem in a number of sensitive government agencies and departments — the Australian Taxation Office, for example, or the Department of Defence, or maybe Foreign Affairs and Trade.

However, there are countless departments and agencies where using the site should be a no-brainer — there isn’t that much of a security risk, considering Yammer’s stellar security policies and track record — and we know from Yammer’s use at Australian organisations like Suncorp that it aids greatly in internal communication.

For those of you not familiar with the site, think of it as Twitter, but behind the firewall. Only those with the right email address can join the Yammer network of any given organisation, sort of like Facebook before it got all big and open (well, as open as Facebook ever gets).

So this one is probably just another example of the corporate control machine exerting itself to stop innovation, or maybe a departmental secretary who saw a rogue Yammer message and went haywire. Our only question is — does anyone know which department this is? Thomler didn’t say.

Image credit: Yammer


  1. Tools like this provide a challenge for IT management because they prevent a consistent strategic approach to systems. Having said that I am increasingly of the view that it doesn’t matter. The best systems will rise virally from the collective will and spread virally. It is counterproductive to stop it. Embracing it is more powerful, and in the long run less dangerous methinks.

    And what is best for one person / team / department / job function is not necessarily best for another.

    • Totally true — you know when you see a technology being used by staff irrespective of the IT department’s wishes (think Firefox, internal IM messaging and so on) that it is a technology worth looking into. The challenge is to channel the technology or manage it in a way that avoids risk as much as possible, while not giving up on the productivity benefits.

  2. Looks like an interesting technology. Our companies SurfControl software seems to be blocking it by default though.

    “This website has been blocked because of its content category: Business/Economy;Social Networking”.

    • *sigh* no doubt due to out of date thinking from the IT department :(

      Social networking makes employees more efficient and productive, not less … especially corporate-focused social networking.

      • Usually it is not the IT management that wants to block that. I mange firewalls/filters etc for a few clients and the common request is “Manager of User X, wants site Y blocked. Due to them spending to much time on it”.

        • Very true Craig – Renai shows his lack of experience in actually running an enterprise IT environment by continuously referring to “IT” and “IT department”.

          All the “IT Dept” does is do what the CEO, CFO or COO directs. I’d find it unlikely that an “IT Dept” could block something for very long without a nasty countermand that the business actually really wanted to do. Note there is a significant different between “someone in business” vs “the business”. Sadly many CEO/CFO out there would like someone else to be the bad guy so they’ll keep their heads down while “IT Dept” takes the flack for them…

          PS Renai – well done for restraining yourself on publishing a “Gone to Google” story for the last week. Keep it up.

          • “All the “IT Dept” does is do what the CEO, CFO or COO directs.”

            lol — I’d suggest most CEOs, CFOs and COOs have little idea of what is really going on inside their IT department. Sure, they know about the big things. But about the small things? Not really.

            You are right, however, that in a lot of cases a command to block this sort of service could come from the top and only be implemented by the IT department.

            As for ‘Gone Google’ stories — I’ll publish them when they happen. I don’t just make shit up ;)

  3. I hate to be obviously plugging our own services but I will :)

    Some of the security and compliance issues organisations are having with services like Yammer are addressed by the Cleartext platform;


    Our messaging platform embraces IM, Group Chat and Enterprise Microblogging but all designed to mirror the functionality we’re all familiar with in managed email security solutions.

    We filter and archive all content traversing the Cleartext platform which can include Yammer, GTalk, Jabber and Facebook messages for example, as well as the private network we host for our clients.

  4. I would like to comment, but cant.

    However, say a government department has access to customer financial data. The last thing anyone wants is for that data to be cut and pasted into any app. This is why many departments heavily lock down computers and software platforms.

    And if my work experience is any guide, a Wikileaks would be impossible in many departments as USB and DVD/CD drives are either disconnected or locked down so hard that managerial approval is needed to access an encrypted USB thumbkey

  5. Could I suggest the reasoning is actually far more mundane, but fundamental, in that public sector managers do not want their staff collaborating.

    The typical public service manager’s position relies upon them being at the apex of the knowledge tree and anything that undermines their position, such as collaborative working, has to be shut down before it becomes a threat.

    In that context, it’s not surprising that sites like Yammer are blocked.

  6. Renai

    One thought, Yammer doesn’t actually exist “behind the firewall” as you write in your article.



      • It depends on whether the company “claims” the account or not.
        The only “firewall” for Yammer if the company doesn’t claim the account is you need a validated internal email address to create an account.
        IN the event the company does “claim” the account, there are additional rules and restrictions which can be managed from within the company as well as added features see:

  7. Interesting post. I think it is important to point out that social collaboration inside any organization is going to be key for productivity moving forward. However, especially with the government agencies, steps need to first be taken to make everyone feel that they have a secure system and that they can actually host and own the data on-premise. It also shouldn’t be overlooked that enterprises and government agencies need more than just micro-blogging.

    The organization I work with, Jive Software, has been working with the US Government for a few years now both for public communities like Army Knowledge Online and very private internal ones. Specifically, the US Intelligence community is already leveraging social business software to connect many formally disparate security agencies. They call it A-Space:


    Billy Volpone

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