The question comes frequently from customers: When do Microsoft employees use Microsoft Teams and when do they use Yammer?
The company’s 151,000 employees use Teams as their primary client for calling, holding meetings, chatting, and collaborating with colleagues, says Frank Delia, a senior program manager in Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO).
Think of it as the place for your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
“It’s the single screen where employees can have a conversation right alongside their work in real time, whether coauthoring a document, attending a meeting, or collaborating on projects across apps and services,” Delia says.
Yammer, on the other hand, powers communities that connect people across teams and organizations across Microsoft.
“It allows leaders to engage with employees at every level while enabling organizations and departments to communicate at scale,” Delia says.
Diving a bit deeper, those Yammer communities then empower employees to share their knowledge, find experts, and get answers from their peers—all while fostering an inclusive culture where they can connect with each other around shared interests and experiences. It’s the place where people can have company-wide discussions, engage in the company’s cultural transformation, and connect in communities that cross the boundaries of their day-to-day work.
“If you’re trying to reach a large audience, then Yammer is a good interactive platform to do that,” Delia says. “Our CEO sponsors a Yammer community that brings people across all levels of the company into conversations about our company strategy.”
In contrast, when someone wants to collaborate with their direct colleagues, they do it in Microsoft Teams.
“Teams is well suited to work for a team trying to accomplish a specific task,” Delia says. “It’s a hub for teamwork.”
Yammer is inherently open (go here to check out Yammer’s superpowers), and content is discoverable by default.
“People who haven’t joined a community can discover conversations and be @mentioned to solicit their input,” Delia says. “Teams is about a defined group of people chatting—if you aren’t explicitly added to the group, you won’t see the conversation. Yammer conversations reach people who otherwise wouldn’t see the conversation.”
Delia says Microsoft employees are finding smart ways to use Teams and Yammer together.
“Every team is different,” Delia says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to collaboration.”
When people at Microsoft need help on something and don’t know who to turn to, they will go to Yammer to ask the broader employee community for help. Many employees might jump on the thread to troubleshoot the problem. Often, an expert will get @mentioned by someone watching the conversation and join the thread with an official explanation or promise.
The two organizations that build Teams and Yammer use each other’s products every day.
“Even the Microsoft Teams development group uses Yammer to share the latest product information and in-turn get feedback from their ‘fans’ in the Microsoft Teams Yammer community,” Delia says. “And vice-versa on the Yammer side.”
Throughout Microsoft, product teams work in Teams and use Yammer to connect with people across the organization to answer questions, solicit feedback, and crowdsource ideas for new features, Delia says. Yammer communities act as a ‘front door’ for each team.
Each product has its own strengths.
“Yammer came from a sense of openness, and a desire to have single conversations on important topics,” Delia says. “Because I can find or a colleague can share a Yammer conversation even if I’m not a member of a community, I don’t have to follow everything. It allows our community to work together to solve challenges.”
Answering thorny questions
What happens when a thorny question comes up on a Yammer thread?
That’s when the conversation may switch to Microsoft Teams. The experts can move the conversation into a designated Teams channel where they can talk candidly with their fellow subject matter experts about how to answer the tough question, agree on how to respond, and then head back to Yammer to share their best answer or preferred solution.
“Bringing those topics into Teams lets us have internal conversations to work out details that we can then take back to the broader organization on Yammer,” says Pranav Farswani, a program manager in CSEO. “In this way, they really do work well together.”
Eva Etchells, a program manager on CSEO’s End User Readiness and Communications team, is one of those who uses both Yammer and Teams to get her job done.
“My whole thing is to live in Yammer,” says Etchells, who sits on the team that answers common IT-related questions that employees post in Yammer. “We’re a catchall for all the work issues people have—sometimes we’re the librarians for the company.”
Etchells says she uses Teams to find and contact subject matter experts who know the answers to specific questions, and she then invites them to provide answers directly in Yammer.
“Not everybody is in Yammer,” Etchells says. “Our most important job is to make sure the questions our employees have get answered, and we use both Yammer and Teams to do that.”
Soon the two communication platforms will be even more closely linked—Microsoft is getting ready to roll out a dedicated Yammer application for Teams. “That will bring all of the goodness that happens in Yammer into your Teams hub,” Delia says.
The goal is to continue to blend the two products together in ways that make it easier for Microsoft employees and external customers to collaborate with each other.
“Teams is for working with people you know, chat, calling, projects, and so on,” Delia says. “Yammer is for community building, organization-wide conversations, and finding knowledge, information, and answers from people that you may not know or even know how to find.”