The spark for this collaboration was a thought provoking article from Peter Rising’s excellent M365 A-Z series. In Microsoft-land Y is for Yammer and Peter presented a perspective on Yammer which resulted in some constructive discussion on Twitter about the why of Yammer.
You can read Peter’s original blog post which includes a statement apologising for any offense he may have caused. I wasn’t personally offended in any way. What I love about Peter’s post is that it presents a perspective on Yammer that is very common. I don’t even think it’s necessarily wrong. As with all things the answer is an it depends on context, understanding the problem to be solved, and the pros/cons of the ways different tools can bring a solution.
As is the way in the Microsoft technology community we have come together with Peter to share our knowledge and answer the question, Why do we need Yammer?
It’s fair to say that I didn’t warm to Yammer when I first became aware of it in 2014. I struggled to see where it fitted into the Office 365 story. The company I worked for at the time enabled Yammer, we all signed up to it, and quickly agreed that we didn’t know why we would use it, so we didn’t – at least not in my two years working there, I can’t speak beyond that.
At the time, there was no Microsoft Teams. SharePoint Online was still in classic mode with much improvement to come, and we were even further away from things like Viva, and now Loop of course. So, Yammer didn’t have the competing, or complimenting products (depending on your viewpoint) that it does today.
Yammer didn’t seem to spark any genuine excitement from customers adopting Office 365 either, and whenever I was asked about what Yammer was, the conversation would never lead to any firm interest. Looking back now though, it’s clear that a measure of unconscious bias against Yammer was starting to manifest in me, so it’s little wonder that my customers showed no interest in Yammer after talking to me.
The thing was though, Yammer always seemed to endure. Just when you thought there was nowhere for it to go, it found new life for itself. We had the “Year of Yammer” in 2019. By this time, I was working for a large UK Microsoft partner who also did not use Yammer, and did not sell professional services around Yammer because there was a perceived lack of value or interest. We were very much focused on SharePoint and Teams, with the latter obviously enjoying incredible success.
Around this time however, I became aware that Yammer was having some success stories in larger organisations around the world. Senior leaders were finding Yammer an effective way to engage with workforces and to make themselves more accessible to their employees. Additionally, features such as Q&A for knowledge sharing, community engagement across multiple departments or teams, and the ability to share social stories using Yammer were all proving beneficial, and the integration of Yammer into Microsoft Teams has surfaced Yammer to a potentially wider audience too.
So, what did this mean for Yammer I wondered? Had it become a niche product? I still don’t know the answer to this question - it’s not up to me to answer this in fact, but crucially, I now appreciate that Yammer does indeed have a valid place in the Microsoft 365 story, and to disregard that validity is in fact upsetting and disrespectful to my peers who work very passionately to support their customers on their Yammer journey - with considerable success I might add.
So, I’m extremely grateful to have gained this fresh perspective on Yammer, and in closing, the best analogy I recently heard relating to Yammer was that “you wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer a nail”. SharePoint is the screwdriver, Teams is the wrench, but Yammer is the hammer, and the right tool for the job for many organisations collaboration requirements. Just think of that the next time you question Yammer’s longevity as I did for so long!
The more an organization is able to adopt a mindset of transparency, the more likely they will be a successful, well run team.
In Peter Risings great M365 A-Z series, he correctly points out that the transparency provided in Yammer can be found in other M365 tools, and those other tools often have functionality and features that Yammer lacks.
Peter is correct, but in platforms like SharePoint sites, Teams and even email, transparency is something that needs to be created. People need to be invited into a Team to see what colleagues are working on, recipients need to be cc’d (or worse, bcc’d) on emails to get an idea of what is being discussed.
On the other hand, Yammer defaults to transparency. All users, by default, are in a community wide group together. When new groups are created, privacy needs to be turned on. Immediately, people have a valuable connection to work being done throughout the organization.
Now, when people start to do their work and have conversations in Yammer, colleagues throughout the organization are now connected. Even if it’s just, as @Simon Terry refers to it, a “passive awareness” of projects and work, the organization is collaborating better and they are better connected.
I talk about the benefits that Yammer transparency brought to our organization in this blog article from 2016. Working in a way that colleagues I knew well, and colleagues I did not know at all, saw our work in progress was definitely a scary proposition. However, once they saw what we were working on, people throughout the organization brought information and expertise to the work I never would have had access to otherwise.
While we still host an external Yammer network for almost 17,000 users, we recently moved away from Yammer for employees to a third-party intranet platform. Immediately, we felt like we had gone into a “cave.” Opportunities for unexpected collaboration and connection were suddenly gone. Information was now being pushed out to staff, with less opportunity for input and conversation.
Certainly not everyone understood the power of Yammer, or how the transparency that is at the very heart of Yammer conversations and connections could be such a positive part of their work. But for those of us who had realized those benefits, we now need to work harder to collaborate. We need to seek the projects out. We need to find those connections.
More from Larry about Yammer:
Some companies have strategically decided to move company wide conversation from Yammer to Microsoft Teams. Yammer is still existing but with far less active usage. What has changed in my own daily life work life and observation about Enterprise Social Networking?
Miss you, Yammer!
More from Ragnar about Yammer:
When you look at your online network for your company or for your customers, do you see users—or do you see people?
It can be a little too easy to get caught up in thinking of human beings as “users,” “assets,” or even “data points.” I’m not knocking data; it can be a glorious, beautiful thing (if you think the way I do about Power BI), but even if it isn’t so glorious, we need it to help support and prove the worthiness of our endeavors.
But one of the magical things that happens with Yammer is it helps you remember the most important part of any network: The people in it. It’s because Yammer isn't about teamwork the way we tend to think of teamwork, where it’s a designated set of employees working on a project. Sure, you can have your curated communities and dedicated project work in Yammer; that’s not even an issue. But Yammer is also designed to widen our scope beyond our often heads-down approach to our work, and far beyond the finite circles of people we tend to surround ourselves with. It's designed to make people feel a true part of the greater goals, ideas, and aspirations of the organization they’re within.
If your organization truly embraces an open-door policy, Yammer lifts that to the next level, keeping its wealth of knowledge and culture available for whenever someone taps into it, whether they’re reading a useful post from before they were hired or learning from a brand-new discussion.
At the outset, Yammer is a tool in a suite of tools. Because Yammer is meant for people, it comes alive when people use it. It’s available to supplement your company culture, to aid your other channels of communication, to provide a means for all your employees—and customers, if you run an external network! —to connect and collaborate.
With care, thought, and planning, you can use this living tool to help people thrive.
More from Becky about Yammer:
Where would you go to say something to every person in your company? If you said, email, you’d likely get a note from the Exchange admin imploring everyone not to reply all. If it were Microsoft Teams, you might not get everyone. Yammer is the place where every person has a voice.
Yammer is democratic in that every person’s next great idea, burning question, or strategic thought has a home. I remember a time where comms was limited to those who owned the platform, say your corporate intranet, where a few voices gave one-way messages without discourse. Yammer changed that. The Yammer platform gives everyone in the organization the means to engage in threaded conversations, asynchronously. Maybe this is well known, but one of Yammer’s superpowers is that a well-nurtured Yammer community draws out those who don’t always have the opportunity to speak up in team meetings and calls. We need that now more than ever. We need everyone’s voice, every person and their ideas.
Chemist, author and activist, Linus Pauling once said,
“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”
I think of this quote often when I reflect on why Yammer is a mainstay and a value creator. Everyone has a voice, those voices have ideas, those ideas lead to change.
Yammer is a employee communication tool right? Maybe you have lots of those communication tools already and this one looks chaotic, complex and a little too messy for your tastes. What if Yammer had a different more much powerful role than just communication? What if Yammer enabled you to better manage the talent and capabilities of your organisation to execute strategy.
Organisations work hard to set and manage their strategies. In a competitive marketplace, aligning execution against that strategy and delivering your best capabilities into that execution can be critical. However, people are sneaky. They know things the rest of your organisation doesn’t know. They have capabilities that they have not shared or perhaps they have not even understood yet. Most importantly, many people are simply doing their job well and don’t pay attention to your communications and all the execution challenges in your organisation strategy.
You can’t manage or even access what you don’t know. An open enterprise-wide community platform like Yammer is a way to engage your whole organisation in strategy and its execution. It is also a way to create communities that enable your employees to bring forth and share their knowledge, insights, capabilities and efforts. All that chaotic bottom up conversation in your Yammer network today that looks like mess that is your employees trying to share their capabilities with you. The lack of focus in those discussions is likely due to the fact that you haven’t provided enough scaffolding to those efforts through community management and quite possibly that employees can’t see the strategic goals of the organisation at work there. They may not even understand the fancy strategy at all.
Help your employees to do their best work on the challenges that matter most to your organisation. Shape the activity in your Yammer network to drive value for execution of your strategy. You can do this by:
Let’s explore a simple example. If your customer-facing team receives feedback from a customer today that their services aren’t meeting market expectations, how do they engage the product team to pass that along? Where do they understand whether this is by accident or perhaps a key strategic decision? Do they have the opportunity to share their own ideas and invite other employees to bring forward their ideas and capabilities to help create something better. Could employees organise together a better solution to the issues raised using information and talents that you don’t know they have and bring that solution to market through collaboration? Yammer enables each of these critical strategic conversations across an enterprise community in one place, provided that community is supported to focus on the strategic value and how strategy is executed.
In a rapidly changing and complex world, you need to be leveraging hidden information, capability and talents to succeed. The bottom-up, open and enterprise-wide conversations in Yammer are how you enable your organisation’s adaptive strategy, even if that looks less controlled than usual. If strategy could be understood and executed entirely in a corner office, you wouldn’t need to worry about the knowledge, talent and capabilities of those eager and enthusiastic people across your organisation. Wouldn’t it be more powerful to leverage their talents and conversations to create sustainable value for the organisation?
Find Simon at simonterry.com and read his bio at the end of this article.
In 2019, during Microsoft Ignite, I had the pleasure of seeing the #YearOfYammer launch as Yammer highlighted its value prop cementing it as THE place to build, curate and foster community across organisations.
Lots of people in the Microsoft Ignite Hub were excited about the new design, integrations with Outlook, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, and features like live events, short video capabilities, pinned posts and more! -- all which helped to clarify how important communities are.
Being at Ignite that year was also very nostalgic for me because at that time seven years ago, I celebrated YamJam ‘12 and the introduction of Yammer into the Microsoft family. It was also the beginning of creating long friendships of like-minded professionals that grew from acquaintances to family – a #YamFam if you will: @alison, @stevesomers, @johnpan, @noahchander, @pheebkat, @sociallube, @bryonycole, @jess_ismore, @thenatatat, @themaria, @nmoneypenny, @sotweets, @ashleygross, @steven, @noahsparks, @deanswann, @melanie, @rolandhume, @Louise_Rae, @kristinmlawson, @mattontell, @adamp. @davidsacks.
Years later Yammer has the same mission: finding expertise and knowledge, enabling leadership connection, bring business value. Now Yammer can even better leverage the power of Office 365.
Supporting communities is what Yammer does best and I’m proud to be part of the IRL #YamFam born online, comms/tech professionals trying something new and now has spanned a decade of continuous learning, laughs and friendship.
So excited for the future of Office 365 and the next 10 years of ESN love. There is so much opportunity to help organizations realize their goals, enable culture and support customers via digital, modern workplace technology. Looking forward to more connections, helping others and contributing to the journey. See you on the way!
We live in a world where your perspective is not my perspective. We can have a very long debate about how algorithms shape those perspectives, but for now I want to focus on one algorithm that we almost universally agree on – permission.
In a corporate world there is information that only some people should rightly have access to. Only people who work in payroll should have access to people’s bank details. Other types of information we restrict because we think it is irrelevant to others. For example, I’d find it odd if my team’s friendly discussion about what we did over the holidays was broadcast to everyone in the company.
Notice I’ve said nothing about technology … yet.
What most technology does is offer one solution to both problems. The same basic permission model that limits my bank details to the payroll team is used to create a shared chat space for my team to discuss our holidays.
Technology has traditionally applied the ‘bank details’ solution to the ‘holiday discussion’ problem because it conveniently solves another related issue – information overload. I really don’t want a notification every time anyone in my company writes a chat message about their vacation.
There’s nothing unusual about being a member of many Teams. having access to many SharePoint document libraries, or being on different e-mail distribution lists. But rarely do we pause and think about what those memberships do to our perspective. It means that my perspective is unique. It means that my perspective is guaranteed to be different to yours.
And once you understand that, you can start to understand why Yammer can be polarizing.
You see, it’s not about you. It’s almost irrelevant whether you found value from Yammer. You have one unique perspective on the answer to the question of value. What matters is whether, collectively across your organisation, people found value. And that could be as simple as one person connecting with someone else who had relevant knowledge, experience, or insight.
Yammer’s detractors inevitably make the tenuous leap from “it’s not valuable to me” to “it can’t be valuable to us”. To disprove that statement there only needs to be one person who found value. Or if not one, two. Or if not two, a small number. Or maybe even a large number (in which case, you’re sadly in the minority). If one connection made a difference, then it’s valuable.
Yammer also polarizes because its advocates don’t appear to be concerned with (your) information overload. For information that doesn’t need to be restricted, Yammer people default to sharing. They’ll share the vacation discussion, not worrying whether it creates ‘irrelevant’ content.
This apparently dismissive attitude hides a nuanced understanding of how information propagates. With the right @-mentions and posting to the right groups, the information gets to where the author intended. People outside that audience aren’t bothered by it, but it becomes discoverable for anyone deliberately looking (yay Graph search). Just like that, we’ve solved the ‘holiday discussion’ problem without resorting to a ‘bank details’ permission solution. Neat, huh?
A final thought on why “Microsoft insist[s] on persisting with it”, to quote Peter’s words. It is once again because your perspective is not my perspective. The business problems, cultural hurdles, power structures and personalities of every organization are different. I used to work for a company that had a thriving Yammer community but the CEO openly refused to join. Some organizations will naturally gravitate towards Yammer, some won’t. We still haven’t found the magic formula that predicts success with enterprise social.
The one thing you can be sure of is this – in a data-driven company like Microsoft they will have many customers who use Yammer with great success (whether or not they’re allowed to publish those case studies).
Start with the assumption that Microsoft justifies an enormous and sustained investment in Yammer because of the collective success of their customers using the platform. If you aren’t using it effectively now, then the relevant question becomes:
“My perspective is not the same. Why is that? Do I want to try and emulate their success?”
Find Benjamin on LinkedIn and read his bio at the end of this article.
It is January 2022, which means it is a new year and time for a fresh article expressing scepticism with Yammer. Articles and blog posts that bash Yammer seem to have common themes over the years, though thankfully the “Yammer is Dead” trope seems to finally been put to rest.
But, just as these folks should not paint with too wide of a brush, neither should I. We need to look at the piece and try to reach common understanding. And while Peter’s original post is what is sparking the latest reaction, we do acknowledge Peter’s positive attitude when the initial feedback to his article arrived via Twitter.
I found a few points in Peter’s post to be worthy of exploration.
I’m genuinely curious about the statement that none of his clients have ever expressed interest in deploying Yammer. Peter also mentions SharePoint Communications sites in the same section. While I do think Communications sites have their place, there isn’t any sort of discussion forum or other conversation medium that’s available in those sites. Which makes me wonder if any of Peter’s clients have asked about communities of interest or communities of practice.
In my experience, communities of interest/practice are pervasive inside companies, and are an increasing focus lately as companies “walk the walk” on diversity and inclusion programs for their employees. So, having a place that’s open and discoverable and where those employees can ask questions, provide feedback, share stories, and connect with each other is more relevant than ever. SharePoint Communications sites are fine for the Diversity team to post their policies and support programs, but I haven’t seen a scenario where you can build a community in a SharePoint site. If someone has done this, I’d really like to learn more.
If we’re not looking to SharePoint for communities, then we return to evergreen “Teams vs. Yammer” conversation. Which to choose for communities in your organization?
Org-wide Teams do have features that support communities, especially in smaller organizations. Being org-wide, everyone is a member and so there is no barrier to entry to be able to view conversations that are happening (lurkers), or to jump in to ask questions or answer them. If everything is done in just this one team, with each community of interest being a channel, I could see how this might be a way to address the use case.
The problem with org-wide Teams with lots of channels is that you have no way to easily check in and see what’s new, without having to go to each channel. And, sure, there are definitely times where that’s useful and important, but more commonly users just want to check in to see what’s new. That’s where Yammer’s Feed comes in. Land in Yammer, have the algorithm present you with conversations from your organization based on activity and your communities, who you’re following, and what’s having lots of engagement.
And what about the noisy notifications from Teams when someone @ mentions the name of the Team when posting to their channel?
That’s a great feature in a Team for a project when you are all working on a problem and need to get someone’s attention right now. It is less useful in a Team that includes tens of thousands of users in a large company (equivalent to CC: all in email). Most companies that implement MS Teams don’t activate an Org-wide Team, though. The current product limitation of 10,000 users in an Org-wide team limits its use for many of Microsoft’s customers.
So, what about running a community of interest in a non-Org-wide Team? That’s possible, though now you’re having to deal with Teams’ poor discovery and search functionality. There’s a barrier to entry with a user looking to join some communities, though – even if they can find them. You have to join the Team before you can view the posts. Want to take a peek to see if the community is right for you? There’s no way to do that.
It is entirely possible that these barriers with Teams can be worked around by stakeholder or support teams within the company. That's a non-trivial amount of work, though I suppose it might be less work that standing up Yammer. Maybe.
For those who tried Yammer in the past, I'd encourage them to take a fresh look at what's happening in there today. The "New Yammer" that launched in 2020 wasn't just a fresh coat of paint (though it certainly looks nice). As part of that launch and since then, the Yammer team has been delivering a host of community management feature that address specific use cases. In addition to great support for photos and videos being attached to posts, there have been significant feature improvements in the New Yammer:
Pinned Conversations; Close Conversation; Post Delegation (Post on Behalf Of); Community branding; Report a Conversation; Essential Announcements; Topics separated from Hashtags; Nested Replies; Feed controls for admins; Conversation-level analytics
Peter's screenshot of Yammer was a fresh, newly created community, which he posted to illustrate how the product doesn’t resonate with him. But the screenshot of a newly created community is not the best representative example of what Yammer is and why people should care (the same could be said about a screenshot of a newly created Team Site in SharePoint).
The image below is from Yammer's January 2022 product update blog post and does a better job of showing why some people love Yammer. It's a community for new hires that is welcoming and warm. It puts people up front and includes a friendly cover photo that energizes new hires. The new posts are at the top, easy to read. This is a place where I can feel comfortable asking questions and connecting with others.
Not every company needs Yammer, but it fills an important slot in Microsoft’s product offering. Yammer is the solution for increasingly relevant use cases that aren’t well addressed by other products in the suite, yet is sometimes met with shrugs or scepticism. Why? While Microsoft thankfully hasn’t been hitting their customers over the head with Yammer since around 2015, some in the community haven’t let go of those days. Yammer seems to be treated as some sort of threat to well-being or world-order, and I am honestly curious why this attitude continues to be seen. I am open to having the discussion and learning about those other perspectives.
Find Kevin on LinkedIn and read his bio at the end of this article.
On it’s own Yammer is a place to create and nurture online community conversations within an organisation. The power of Yammer is, and always has been in it being nurtured by and contributed to by the community. Just like any technology or tool we put in place there needs to be a purpose. The purpose of Yammer is in bringing everyone in an organisation together and democratising organisational communication and collaboration.
Within Microsoft 365 the purpose and position of Yammer has evolved since Microsoft acquired it in 2012. While initially it seemed to sit on the side not fulfilling it’s potential, a number of significant improvements to the platform and tighter integration has solidly positioned Yammer in the Microsoft 365 toolset. Like a lot of Microsoft 365 tools, there is a crossover of features that can feel confusing. The important bit is to step back from the products and ask not the Why of Yammer, but what problems are you looking to solve with communication and collaboration.
It’s safe to say that a survey of any organisation asking about communication would highlight some common complaints and challenges. Too many tools. Too many emails. Hard to know what’s important. Leadership communication is infrequent, impersonal, one-sided. Communication is a Yammer super power. It helps break down barriers so that leaders can share their authentic voice, frequently and with an open dialogue. When I worked at NEXTDC we used Yammer to dramatically shift corporate communication from email to Yammer with great success. A critical factor in that was the leadership support. With the behaviour driven by leaders, encouraged, supported and demonstrated the shift worked. The answer is not necessarily to move all communication to Yammer, but to clearly position Yammer’s role and what people can expect there.
Communication and collaboration are closely related, and collaboration is at Yammer’s core. There are countless examples of how organisations have benefited from creating spaces where people can share ideas and collaborate across an organisation, breaking down silos and geographic boundaries. Of course, in Microsoft 365 this raised the question about why you might choose Yammer when you have Teams. This is where a Yammer super power comes into play, the super power of community.
Microsoft 365 is a collaboration powerhouse. It’s built for collaboration from SharePoint, to Teams to the Office productivity suite, emerging products like Loop and of course, Yammer. The answer to whether Yammer is the right tool for collaboration is less about Yammer and more about what you, your team and your organisation need. Taking a step back and thinking about the problem to be solved is the best way to answer the Why of Yammer.
More from me about Yammer:
If you are seeking resources to support your existing Yammer community or think Yammer could be a solution for your communication and collaboration needs, check out these resources.
During his 25+ year career in IT, Peter has worked for several IT Solutions Providers and private organisations in a variety of technical roles focusing on Microsoft technologies. Since 2014, he has specialised in the Microsoft 365 platform, more recently shifting my focus to Microsoft 365 Security and Compliance. In October 2020, he was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award in the category of Office Apps & Services.
Larry has managed internal and external Yammer networks since 2014 for the Union for Reform Judaism, and became a Microsoft MVP in 2019. He has spoken on webinars and at conferences about Yammer throughout the United States and Canada, and won awards from SWOOP analytics as one of the most engaged Yammer networks in the world for 2018 and 2021.
Becky is a Microsoft Office Apps & Services MVP. She directs strategy and engagement for customer and staff networks on a variety of collaborative platforms and spaces, including Yammer, Teams, and SharePoint. Becky has published four children’s books so far: “What’s At the End of Your Nose?”, “Dr. Guinea Pig George,” "The Squeezor is Coming!", and "Hush, Mouse!" She has also contributed science fiction and dark fantasy stories to anthologies.
With a wealth of experience in enterprise social media, Ben has brought Collabital to life - a product which fosters innovation in the workplace. Passionate about being creative and making work fun, this entrepreneurial challenge brings together his understanding of psychology, software development, and business.
Kevin’s passion is delivering web-based solutions that enhance the productivity and experiences of colleagues inside organizations. Thus, his work experience with intranets, content management, and internally-facing collaboration and social platforms. He enjoys developing and delivering training materials.
Lonya is passionate about helping others learn new ways of working via digital communication channels. With over 10 years of intranet experience and multiple SharePoint, Yammer, Microsoft 365 certifications, she has positioned herself as an expert in digital workplace channels. She has been recognized as a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) in the Office Servers and Services category since 2016 for her work and advocacy of Yammer, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.
Dean is a technical visionary and strategist with ongoing success architecting and delivering platforms and processes based on emerging technology. Skilled at product management, business development, and cultivating customer acceptance of products. Dean is a Microsoft MVP in the Office Apps and Services category, first recognized in 2018.
Since 2009 Rebecca has been working with individuals and teams to understand and enhance the way they work, through process improvement and technology. She’s an experienced and innovative digital workplace professional with a focus on user experience, employee engagement and change management. She was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award in 2019 for Office Apps and Services.
Simon Terry provides consulting, advice, and speaking to global clients on Future of Work technologies and practices, including learning, leadership, collaboration and innovation.
Ragnar works at Quest as Partner Channel Manager. Microsoft awarded him with MVP. He was member of Hybrid Work Tour with Microsoft Germany. Ragnar is Working Out Loud Pioneer, Yammer Advocate, Blogger, Podcaster and Video Live Streamer.
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