Microsoft 365 offers a suite of tools that gives digital workplace teams an enormous range of options with which to deliver world-class communication and collaboration platforms. The sheer flexibility, scalability and breadth of features is empowering, but having too much choice can be overwhelming; you can achieve excellent results using different tools, yet some capabilities overlap. ‘Which tool to use when’ is not only a question that employees frequently ask, but also one that teams need to consider as they implement the Microsoft 365 platform.
Yammer vs Teams?
We are often asked ‘when should we use Yammer and when should we use Teams?’. At first glance, this seems quite a straightforward question, but the answer is not always so clear cut, and it may differ from organisation to organisation.
In this article, we’re going to explore when it’s best to use Yammer and when it’s best to use Teams, as well as the cases in which the answer is not necessarily so straightforward.
The inner loop and the outer loop
In the past, Microsoft has used a model involving inner loops and outer loops to explain the fundamental differences between using Yammer and Teams. This entails imagining the people you need to collaborate and communicate with as a series of loops. The inner loop is defined as “people you work with regularly on core projects”: this may be your immediate teams and colleagues, people on projects and others you work with closely. Microsoft recommends using Teams spaces to collaborate and communicate with the people within your inner loop.
Meanwhile, the outer loop is defined as the “broader audience” you might want to inform and engage with. This could be people more on the periphery of your network, members of a community you only have irregular contact with, or even people you don’t know within your company. Microsoft recommends using Yammer with this circle.
The inner and outer loop model is still useful in illustrating the main difference between Yammer and Teams and their respective strengths; however, the increasing growth of Microsoft Teams as the entry and aggregation point for the wider digital workplace and as the centre of unified communications makes the loop model less clear. For example, you may now use Teams to call someone very much in the outer loop and even to engage in external collaboration.
When to use Yammer
Yammer is essentially a social networking platform that facilitates open and less formal discussion across larger numbers of employees, perhaps across a whole department, a particular community or even an entire organisation.
It’s the place where conversations and discussions happen in which anybody is invited and encouraged to contribute, get involved or ask questions. Because the groups and conversations in Yammer tend to be open by default, it’s also a good tool to use when you have an ongoing group dedicated to a particular topic which you want people to discover and then join.
It’s an ideal place for less formal and more “social” communication such as shout-outs and non-working groups, but internal communicators can also use it as a platform to boost more formal internal communications or remind people about events and things they need to do.
Use cases for Yammer include:
- Getting wider feedback and opinions from people across the business on different initiatives
- Establishing Professional Communities of Practice or Communities of Interest around different topics, from engineering to wellbeing
- Setting up Employee Resource Groups (ERG) for discussions and support that help promote diversity and inclusion
- Encouraging questions from people across the business and providing answers from experts
- Implementing user support communities for different technologies where both IT teams and super-users can provide answers to questions
- Creating non-work groups such as sports clubs or spaces for people with particular hobbies
- Providing a place for people to share links and photos
- Sharing employee shout-outs and thank-yous across a wide group of people
- Spreading quick updates and informal reminders for a particular department or location.
When to use Teams
Teams is a real-time messaging, communication and collaboration platform ideally designed for smaller, closed teams with high volumes of communication. Teams is a fantastic platform that works best for teams of, say, less than 20 people who are all working closely together day-to-day on a particular project or as a working group with a specific aim. The focus here is on everyday work, sharing documents and messaging with people you probably already know using a far more efficient option than email.
Generally, a Teams space and its content will be restricted to only members of that space. It is not designed for those broader, community-based conversations that sit better in Yammer. It is also the place where you carry out messaging, audio calls and video meetings with individuals, smaller groups and even external collaborators.
A Teams space can include document libraries, discussions and additional functionality such as Planner tasks, bots and integrations with a range of other Microsoft 365 and non-Microsoft 365 tools.
With Teams proving to be so popular in recent month, with many people spending their working day constantly in and out of it, Microsoft and other technical providers are pushing more and more capabilities through Teams. For example, you can now organise online events through Teams, and the recently announced Microsoft Viva will be delivered through the platform too. You can even access a LiveTiles intranet through Teams.
Use cases for Teams can accommodate:
- Smaller project teams and working groups
- Close-knit and immediate teams working within specific functions for everyday document sharing and communication
- Teams who work together to deliver a specific, repeatable process
- A group whose work is often confidential and who require a space for private discussions and files, for example, a leadership team
- A group who wants to exploit integrations, bots and other capabilities readily available within Teams.
When to use other tools
If you are considering when to use Yammer and when to use Teams, it is also worth defining when to use your other major digital communication and collaboration tools as well. This will give your employees and other communicators a more complete view of their digital workplace options. Here, a common tool is SharePoint and a SharePoint-based intranet. This is likely to be the platform to use for formal news and internal communications. You may also want to consider the role of Outlook, employee apps, digital signage, your HR portal and platforms like ServiceNow and Confluence.
When it gets blurry
We think the distinction between Teams and Yammer and their ideal uses is relatively clear. However, there are times when the decision between the two is not going to be clear cut. Here, some flexibility is usually sensible, allowing the site manager to make the choice or basing the decision on the preferences of the members.
These kinds of borderline cases typically include:
- Where smaller, closed groups are engaging in a lot of ongoing discussions which might be better displayed in Yammer than in Teams
- Where you are introducing Teams, but discussions are ongoing in Yammer and the existing platform is already working well (and vice versa)
- Where a manager of a site has a strong personal preference.
The fact that you can view and interact with Yammer through Teams is an additional complicating factor. This may entail a harder position in deciding when to use Teams or Yammer in your messaging to employees.
When adoption of Teams is very high and people are spending much of their working day with it open, it can be tempting to push more usage of Teams because it’s what people are already using, even though a Yammer community might better suit some use cases. Again, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer here, and taking a pragmatic view is the best option.
Yammer or Teams?
Yammer and Teams are both excellent tools with individual strengths. Whilst the distinction is broadly clear, there is always going to be overlap. If you’d like to discuss either your Yammer or Teams strategy, then get in touch!