A well-meaning effort by Department of Veterans Affairs leaders to fuel productivity and cooperation through workflow tool Yammer ran afoul of department regulations and at times devolved into agency bashing and the potential for data breaches, according to an internal probe.

Steph Warren, the former VA chief information officer, endorsed a free version of Yammer in 2013, even though use of the business social network was unapproved under VA rules. He had been a registered VA Yammer user since May 2011.

In June 2013, Warren even hosted an open chat session on Yammer. He began by stating: “Before I take questions, I want to stress that I am committed to strengthening transparency as we work together to become the best and most secure IT product and service delivery organization,” according to a redacted copy of the probe that was released Thursday.

The investigation examined the department’s unapproved and insecure use of Yammer, a popular collaboration forum. Anyone with an email address ending in “va.gov” could participate in the online community, including employees and contractors 

Many companies pay for an enterprise version of the service that allows tighter regulation of interoffice communications. The Obama administration has negotiated a terms of service agreement with Yammer for a service compatible with federal policies, but it is not necessarily applicable to every agency.

At VA, officials said they did not believe the advantages of administrative controls and central monitoring were worth the $30 cost per user at the time.

As of Aug. 3, about 50,000 VA email addresses…

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