When Microsoft said it would buy Yammer for $1.2 billion last June, many in Silicon Valley scoffed that the deal was a costly disaster in the making. Microsoft wanted to join forces with a hip maker of social networking tools for businesses that delivers its product as an evolving Web service. The culture clash was expected to result in Yammer’s employees being overburdened with bureaucracy. The prediction was they would flee in droves. “We were quite concerned about this coming together of two worlds,” says Adam Pisoni, Yammer’s co-founder and chief technology officer.
As the companies worked to close the deal, Pisoni flew to Microsoft’s Redmond (Wash.) headquarters to seek reassurance from Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer and Kurt DelBene, head of the Office business. Pisoni was taken aback by what he found: Microsoft had spent the last couple of years revamping its engineering teams’ processes to be more like Web startups. “We have to remember our roots and go back to building what’s good for the consumer,” Pisoni says Ballmer told him.