“When should we use Teams and when should we use Yammer?” It seems to be a simple question, but the answer is a bit more nuanced than making a binary choice based on which you like better. At any organization using both a community platform and a collaboration or chat tool (it could be Workplace from Facebook + Slack, or Teams + a custom social intranet, for example), employees need to saddle up and prepare for two distinct types of communication. The trick is, how do you – a professional Communicator or IT leader – help everyday employees understand the distinction and gravitate naturally toward the right place when all of the tools seem to include posts, comments, reactions, and mobile apps?
In this fourth installment of our “Which Tool When” series, I discuss broad but not absolute contexts we see in real-world scenarios with our clients. The goal is to help those responsible for promoting the adoption of communication and collaboration platforms with understanding the choices – based on the strengths of each tool and its strategic intent – so that you can help employees improve their instincts to quickly choose the right tool for their workflow and communication goals.
Microsoft frames the choice of Teams vs. Yammer as communicating with “Inner and Outer loops.” That’s too jargon-y for us, and for most end users. We encourage you to think about the specific needs of an employee based on their real life workday – producing work product, seeking, connecting and more. Once you have put yourself in their shoes, it becomes much easier to clarify each tool’s purpose. Key questions for you to consider on behalf of your users are:
Once you’re done browsing these considerations, it will be up to you to craft guidance that is employee friendly to help people make the decision about which tool to use and when.
Are you Collaborating on a Work Product or Promoting, Asking, and Crowdsourcing?
Sure, Yammer stores files, but its ability to collaborate on documents was de-emphasized when Teams popped up. Co-creation of work product is intended to be done in Teams and preferably online using Microsoft 365. Yammer is for a slower pre-work process, and then sharing and publicizing outputs for a broad audience. Teams is best for people working together to create work outputs at the same time.
Are you looking to converse with a broad audience? Or, is it a Party of One/Five/10?
“Who is my audience” is a great way to choose Teams vs. Yammer. When you post content, Yammer audiences tend to be groups of people you likely have a more informal relationship with – they are people to whom you are giving updates, or sharing something with other parts of the business. Sharing in Yammer gives something for other parts of the company to react to, consume or understand as a means of establishing collective awareness. It’s more common for Yammer audiences to be broad beyond your daily working team. This is what Microsoft tends to call the “Outer Loop.”
If your audience when posting is your group of daily work colleagues, Teams posts and channels organize everyone’s work streams in a platform designed for getting work done. Teams has the right features for small audiences, requiring that you focus in the moment on your notifications and channels for near-real-time conversations. If it’s important to today’s project, it belongs in Teams. This is the “Inner Loop.”
Sometimes, work is just about you and your day – you’re an audience of one. If you are seeking a file, or looking for specific work content, then you are the only audience and you’re likely to be starting work on something that doesn’t yet need to be communicated to others. We recommend starting this type of work in Teams, as it is extensible to others when it’s time to collaborate with others. If you’ve entered into Teams or Yammer because you’ve been prompted by an email or push notification about someone else’s communication, then you are someone else’s audience. At this point, it’s beyond your scope to determine where this content will live, so you’ll have to go with the flow.
Who is Hosting and are they Active?
Did your manager or Team administrator set up the Team, never to be seen or heard from again? Typically, Teams are set spaces for working groups. People are added to Teams (oftentimes forcibly) and within them, Channels are streams dedicated to specific deliverables or outcomes from the members of that team. But there is rarely anyone there whose role it is to engage, manage or drive adoption in said team. People are already engaged because they work together, and they also likely have a high level of trust and familiarity with other members of the team.
In Yammer, communities (formerly called groups) have managers. If they don’t, they need them! Someone is trying to catalyze people to have dialogue, take action, and increase awareness of a topic. Yammer communities come with easily accessed engagement analytics for a reason – because communities require more effort to manage given their opt-in nature and oftentimes a lack of clarity around what to contribute. In Yammer, use cases are often designed to reach broader audiences and communicate across the organization, whether it’s publicizing a change to corporate employee donation match or informing about the next date of a Town Hall. In Yammer, you’re more likely to connect with another employee in a different part of the organization about shared experiences or interests. Talk Social to Me does a lot of coaching and engagement working helping bring people up to speed on community management and how to engage people in Yammer. Building community on Teams is a different task, as it relies on known networks rather than unknown networks.
What’s Your Mode: Browsing or Searching?
Are you browsing to understand more about a topic or searching for a specific file? Yammer’s interface is designed to easily produce visual and video communications. Its feed mimics a newspaper or news feed in which employees can browse and click on items of interest. In contrast, Teams almost assumes you are searching for something specific. While the interface can be browsed, Teams doesn’t encourage the same experience. Yes, you can endlessly scroll in Yammer but not in Teams. Yammer targets broader audiences who are consuming information all together — like reading or watching a quarterly executive update.
Yammer communities encourage a variety of post types to prompt a question, poll, praise or to simply “Share something.” This call to action feels social and light.
The Teams interface encourages quick, text-based and transactional communication. Whether you’re in a team or channel within it, the Posts section encourages replies on others’ content or encourages you to “Start a conversation.” The prompts convey more urgency and use the words “Reply.” The paper airplane icon is used to signify speed. Teams lets you know how focused it is by including icons immediately under “Reply” for a broad variety of ways to respond; this is much more subtle in Yammer.
Task or Discovery Driven?
In Yammer, users come to browse or to communicate cross–functionally with others who are also drawn there by shared interests. This platform is designed for more lengthy chains of comments and replies than Teams, which is why content presentation is so different in Yammer. Yammer is more adept at handling images and can act as a living, breathing organizational feed of stories, information and videos. The concept of serendipitous discovery is one of Yammer’s many high points.
Teams is highly task-driven and lacks intentional discovery pathways. Serendipity is pretty sterile within the Teams paradigm, especially with regard to the use of images. People come to Teams because they know that something exists therein – they are on a mission to get something done.
Did you Opt-In or Were You Added?
In the context of Yammer, chances are good that you opted into a community. In Teams, you were likely added due to organizational factors related to your immediate team and your role. Yammer communities prominently feature a “Join” button to convey a more democratic experience that you “choose” vs. Teams where it’s much more common to be added without anyone asking you.
In solidarity with employees, there is a lot of feature overlap between Teams and Yammer. Talking about how to use them in terms of “Loop” proximity isn’t immediately relatable, but we hope these observations are solid enough for you to consider the many dilemmas a user might experience when trying to choose a proper platform. In the end, companies should always produce shared understanding and guidance to all employees about “Which Tool When” guides and scenarios. It’s up to managers and team leaders to enforce it with both words and actions, with a foundation rooted in the platform’s intent and user behaviors.
We hope these insights are helpful as you craft guidance that is employee friendly to help people make the decision about which tool to use and when. We’re here for you if you come up against any roadblocks. Contact us.