I firmly believe that Yammer and Teams are complementary products. As an example, consider our situation.
How we use Yammer
We use Yammer as the focal point for our 80 or so communities of interest aka Practices. These communities represent the combined knowledge and talent of the 16,000 staff at Mott MacDonald. Those communities can be large, with in excess of 1000 members, whilst others are small. Every community is treated equally as their common goal is to open opportunities through connected thinking. Within these communities, we see three collaborative patterns:
#1 Communities work out loud
The community works out loud sharing their hopes, fears, aspirations and knowledge in the Yammer Group. They make the most of serendipitous discovery. i.e. the ‘classic’ Yammer use case. They use an associated SharePoint site to manage their content which in turns enables wider discovery through Search and Delve.
#2 They form teams to get things done
Teams form within the community that focus upon particular ideas, topics, activities or events. More often than not they need somewhere to meet, work and converse away from the main community. As their work progresses they share progress back into the main community until finally they are ready to publish the results of their efforts. Sometimes these teams are incubators for new communities and we allow them to undergo their own virtual Darwinism with the survivors emerging as new communities. For events, the group responsible need to establish communications streams and areas to share that allow them to focus upon preparation and delivery of the event.
#3 They govern as a network
We require that each community be supported by a small team – typically a pairing of senior influencers and emerging stars. Their role is to coordinate, manage and cajole the activities of the community. Each team feeds into a network of Champions and an overarching Board of Group Sector Leaders responsible for the entire community ecosystem. The teams, champions and board need somewhere to occasionally work, say to plan a new initiative, meet, or develop reports but most of their time is spent within the communities themselves.
It works but could benefit from improvement…
Before the arrival of Teams and Yammer integrated Office 365 Groups we would have catered for patterns 2 and 3 through a hotch potch of spaces. Some teams would use separate Yammer groups, others combinations of SharePoint and Yammer or a mixture of collaboration over email with a SharePoint site or someone’s OneDrive for the content. None of the modes has been particularly productive or effective. Though it has been a struggle to put a finger on why. Perhaps this was down to a shift in the style of the conversations (to faster, more clipped, less formal), a shift in the team dynamic, reduction in size or the dilution through distribution of the content and conversations.
Capitalising on teams
The arrival of Teams gives us the opportunity to take a different approach
#1 Using Teams to support community governance
We could form a single private Team for the management of the communities. Privacy is considered important for this team for operational reasons but we will encourage them to be more open. Using a Team has the advantage that it is easy to switch from being private to public. In the Team, we could create a Channel per community to act as dividers for the content and conversations but with 80+ to look after coupled with low volumes content and conversation we might not need to be that granular. In fact, clustering the teams together into sectors would be more likely and easier to adopt. We could form a channel for the Champions and one for the overarching Board. In doing so we would reserve the General channel for any other business. By placing the management teams, Champions and Board into one large Team they should find it easier to share experiences, coordinate activities and become more cohesive as a unit. The shared OneNote with a section per Channel will help establish divisions (where required) and they can use it for their meeting notes, knowledge capture etc.
#2 Using Teams to bolster teamwork
On demand, we will form a public Team per community to host the team. If the activity is particularly detailed we may even create a Team for that specific purpose. Each team will be given a Channel and members can take advantage of the awareness features like the publishing of Team Meetings and group calling to stay in touch and keep up to date with other related items or areas (teams) of interest. The awareness features and shared permission model will help to reinforce the binding through the community. The simplicity of the SharePoint site associated with the Team will help people focus on the work in progress. In turn this will serve to reinforce the position of both the communities SharePoint site and our global Document Centre as the repositories for approved, published knowledge and information. This will allow the communities to review and augment content at the most appropriate time with structured metadata to enhance its discovery.
#3 Connected communities and teams
We will add to each Team a tab that displays the associated Yammer Group for the community. This is possible using the website tab option and adding the URL to the Yammer Group. (It would be easier if Yammer was one of the published tabs). This will provide Team members with an easy way of pushing information into and pulling from the Yammer Group as well as keeping them in touch with wider conversations. Similarly we will include a SharePoint Document Library tab that links to the Yammer Groups SharePoint site. Finally we will wire up the Yammer Connector to push both announcements and relevant topics into the conversations. An added benefit for those normally trapped in Outlook is that they could then use the Team app as their ‘single pane of glass’ into the communities which will help them transition away from closed email centric collaboration.
We will continue to use Yammer for the communities and in doing so use Yammer in the way it is intended. It also overcomes two key sticking points:
- the scale issue faced by Teams as a team is limited to no more than 999 members.
- By being consistent with our architecture our staff should find it easier to understand the “how” and “why”.
- the need to share the Office 365 Group identity between the Team and Yammer.
- By using the connectors and tabs we overcome the invisibility of the Team’s Office 365 Group to Yammer and it also neatly focuses the team on not competing with Yammer.
Overheads will remain
Introducing Teams will generate an overhead three manual requirements to:
- manage the membership of the Team
- We will look to link up our dynamic groups service which is driven from staff profiles in Delve.
- manually add Yammer as a tab and set up the connector
- The excellent work of Wictor Wilen and Guillaume Meyer gives us a taste of what is programmatically possible.
- persevere with the currently sub-optimal push-pull of content from the Yammer Groups associated SharePoint site
- The possibilities for management, push-pull etc. will improve with the third wave of Yammer’s integration with Office 365 Groups. At that point we will look to upgrade the Yammer Group to a connected Office 365 Group, adjust the membership mechanism to use the Office 365 Group identity etc. In doing so we might need to conduct a one-off migration from the existing SharePoint site to the new connected site as this would reduce friction around the push-pull and user experience.
Yammer and Teams – better together
Through combining Yammer and Teams we should be able to form a neat constellation of communities and supporting teams that connect our thinking.
(I’m sure there is a more artistic way to represent this. A management ‘Team’ as the Sun at centre, orbited by a ring of Yammer Communities, each with a moon or several moons of ‘Teams’ and it’s SharePoint site.)