Microsoft Teams and Yammer – better together or one fits all?

There is a lot of confusion around the use of Teams and Yammer, especially when it comes to the use of both in the same company. The initiative to write about this topic ignited after reading an exciting blog-post called “Yammer? I don’t need it – Teams is enough for me” published on LinkedIn. You can find the article and the discussion in the comments right here!

After reading the article, I wrote a comment with my point of view, which kind of triggered a conversation with multiple people. So I decided to dig deeper into this topic and give you a basic overview.

Many people say, Yammer and Teams cover the same part of our day to day work life and vary only in small sections. But if you look under the hood, you will notice very fast, there are many differences and even a different primary objective to both of them. Before facing the differences, let´s have a look at the definitions for both collaboration tools.

Enterprise Social Network – Yammer

Yammer fits into a category called Enterprise Social Network, and it is really as easy as it sounds. It is like a social network for organizations! It is here to connect to colleagues, building groups, and socialize with the organization itself. It is a place where the management can get in touch with the staff, and even your external partner/customers can be invited to separate sections.

Those ESN tools are more likely implemented to provide a central place where information can be gathered and shared with all employees. This way, organizations aim to harness synergies and endorse employees to contribute to work-related problems other colleagues might face at the moment.

From naked figures, ESN is also an exciting topic! Back in 2015, McKinsey Digital published a study in which 1.500 companies and their adoption and diffusion of social technologies have been tracked. It turned out, so-called power user organizations reported about 5 to 6,5 percent value-added in the years considered! And even in the company’s with a lower level of penetration, the value-added was increasing.

When facing innovations, social technologies are helping to spark innovative ideas inside an organization more than other tools. There are more interesting points covered in this study, and I really admit you to read the full story!

As you may have noticed, all mentioned use cases do not insist on knowing the people or even working closely with them. It´s more like running through a hallway and hearing colleagues talk about their work while passing them, just in a digital way.

Unified Communications – Teams

A unified communication platform combines different ways of digital communication in one place. Beside different possibilities for communicating, there are often more features supporting a comprehensive user experience.

Often the included communication options consist of chat, voice, video, and of course conferencing. Supporting features are, for example, desktop sharing, presence indicators, co-authoring, and file sharing. Of course, there are a lot of other features you can mention here, but let´s leave it that way.

If you also consider current studies, it shows off that an excellent unified communications platform is necessary to offer a modern workplace to the employees. In German research called „Arbeitsplatz der Zukunft“ which can be translated to „The future workplace“ organizations and employees are questioned on different topics. In one question, the employees have been asked, in a situation with entirely similar job opportunities which aspects are essential for the personal decision. Of the top 8 answers, 50% can be solved or at least supported with a unified communications platform. I think this fact, against the background of the struggle for talent in the labor market, shows how vital solutions like these are. You can read the complete study right here. Unfortunately, it is only available in german.

As you may notice, most of the described features Microsoft fitted in their product Teams and therefore created a textbook example of a unified communication platform! But to use this tool and to share and use information with colleagues, you need to know them or at least know a place where to get to find your information.

So what is the difference?

As I described in the last two chapters, there are a few differences in how both tools work and what they aim for. The article contained a really good quote at the beginning, the pretty perfect matching quote: „Yammer is the universe and Teams is your neighborhood “ – In my opinion, it is brilliantly broken down into the essential!

Working in Teams means working with specific people I know, and I work with continuously on a project or in longterm departments. The tasks and goals are precise, and we are working towards our objective. Obviously, when working on already determined tasks and goals, you are working more closely with those people and more often because you are working in the same department or things like that.

In Teams, you will never know what people in other departments are working on, and maybe they are facing similar problems? Perhaps a technique or method you are using can help them to fix their problems! – You and they will never know because both are working in their own Teams focusing on reaching their goal, working on their “own” issues.

That’s the crucial point where Yammer enters the room. In case both teams communicate their current problems and solutions on a platform like Yammer in a place, everyone can access those synergies will be exploited! That is one reason why McKinsey found out that tools like Yammer can help to add value to your business

We don’t need Yammer. We’re too small.

Fair enough – that´s a good point smaller organizations often come up with. I think it is totally okay when coming from a background without tools like Yammer and Teams not to see all the advantages from the beginning. It took some time for me too!

In case you think you do not need Yammer and this kind of social engagement across all departments, you can start with an org-wide Teams team. Build up some channels for frequent communication and add some useful Tabs. Watch how this Team is being used and how your employees behave. In many cases, after some time, people will recognize the scenarios when Yammer fits right in!

The decision is not forever, you can also reassess the situation after a few months after the verdict against a tool. Both tools require a rethinking of your own way of working, so if the employees have adapted to the new way of working with one of the tools, the other tool may come across open arms!

Let´s bring it on – how can I decide?

My experience from conversations with customers has led me to the conclusion that many companies have underestimated the possibilities of both solutions for too long. Now they hope to cover everything with one tool and kill two birds with one stone. But please don’t fall for that idea!

To summarize the functions and objectives:

  • Teams: Build for working with a smaller circle of people you know on tasks and projects which are determined.
  • Yammer: Build for 1:many communication and org-wide announcements or greater groups of people to communicate and not to collaborate on specific projects/documents!

Of course, you can achieve each goal with the other tool using workarounds, but that is not the way we want to go!

Teams will not satisfy the needs for social collaboration beyond current projects. It is simply not made for that kind of collaboration. Yammer is not prepared to collaborate in those ways; Teams enables us to do.

The only decision is with which tool do you want to go first for – Yammer or Teams?

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