With all the buzz surrounding Microsoft Teams, you could be forgiven for assuming that Microsoft would like you to abandon email, Yammer and other tools in the Office 365 suite and use it for all your day to day communications. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Microsoft Teams is a great choice for replacing tools like Skype for Business in your environment, for all of the following reasons:

  • It makes rapid, fast paced team discussions much easier
  • It allows you to easily co-author documents with your colleagues
  • It enables you to bring in integrated tools and bots into a single interface – and can even replace your organization’s phone system.

Teams isn’t designed as an enterprise social network, though. And like any tool used for the wrong purpose, if you try and make it act like one, the people in your organization won’t find it as useful. Just like email being over-used for purposes it was never designed for, Teams is best left to fulfil and succeed at what it is best at.

Microsoft’s Enterprise Social Network, Yammer, is designed for open communication and collaboration across an organization.

An enterprise social network can be used to break down barriers between departments and business units and allow organizations to discuss and share ideas without needing to traverse the traditional hierarchy many companies have.

One of the best ways to see where Yammer might be suitable in your organization is to conduct some user research to understand how people are struggling in their roles today, and then map Teams, Yammer and other tools in the suite to solve business user’s pain points.

But before you begin understanding how to effect change using a standard approach, like Prosci, it’s worth understanding some of the key reasons why you should consider Yammer rather than Teams for certain types of conversations.

Use the right “loop”

Microsoft use a loop model to help demonstrate where you start a conversation.

The Inner loop is the people you communicate with regularly – your inner circle of colleagues. You work with them day-to-day as a team, or as projects. The communications between you are informal, and you will be working closely together to accomplish a common goal. Teams is a great place for those conversations.

Conversely, the Outer Loop consists of other people in your organization, who you have a connection to, but they aren’t necessarily part of your team. They’ll be the people you might need to involve in what you do, but they aren’t the people doing it. For example, you might work on documentation in your team in Microsoft Teams, but need to share it and get review from another department. Or, perhaps you need to gather feedback from teams across the business or share news widely. Yammer is the place to be open with people across the organization and gather their input. Use it to break down those traditional barriers.

See relevant information, not just recent information

Email and Microsoft Teams are great at showing you what’s new. Click on your activity or open your inbox and it’s sorted usually by date. Whilst technologies like the Focused Inbox help reduce that clutter, it can be easy to miss important conversations in Teams and Email because current events take priority.

Yammer doesn’t just sort by what is most recent. If you’ve used other social media, you’ll be familiar with the concept of showing you what the social network deems as most relevant. In the context of our personal lives, that might be to show us information about the people we interact with most or the topics or views we hold most dear.

In the work context, Yammer helps to do the same thing. The graph helps to show useful, relevant information from people working on similar things to you, groups with relevant information rather than just what was commented on last. That means the time you spend in Yammer is more valuable – as you aren’t just trawling through threads. And because time-sensitive information might be in Teams instead, your less frequent visits to Yammer aren’t an onslaught of all the latest news – you can dip into relevant conversations, have your say, and then get back to work.

Use it for executive engagement

Your organization’s executive team isn’t likely to abandon their duties and spend the day pursuing the company social network – but it is important for them to understand the value of it and use it where it adds value to them and fellow colleagues.

In the traditional model of top-down communications, employees might receive emails from the CEO letter them know about the latest changes, or have their message posted on the intranet or even a paper newsletter. In those cases, there’s often not two-way feedback. People know that even in the case of a direct email to the company from the boardroom, it is probably sent from a PA or secretary sending on their behalf. And who knows what might happen if you reply to the CEO and bypass your management when sharing your views?

When we consider Teams, it’s also impractical and not necessarily productive for the executive team to join a variety of Teams across the organization. A better way of getting the barometer for company feeling – and to make sure employees know it’s a forum that they should be professional and can share their views – is to use Yammer.

By coaching executives on how to spend a small amount of time getting the most relevant information out of Yammer, liking or commenting on threads they will add value to – and sharing their insight on the social network, you’ll have more success. Yammer will be the place where employees can get noticed for the great things they do, and your C-level executives can look very engaged without needing to spend too much time away from their duties.

Share what you are doing with people outside your team

Whilst Teams is a great place to work in real time on a document or work together with your inner circle, sharing what you are doing as widely as possible often benefits everyone.

Some organizations adopt a culture of “working out loud” and Yammer can be a great vehicle for this. In some organizations, the culture is already there – or can be changed – to allow for open sharing across teams to share knowledge.

It might be that the company you work on already know that the silos people work in are already a problem, and (as one business exec put it) “it’s time to break down the doors”. This can’t always be readily achieved – especially if the reward structure, like bonuses or competitive atmospheres between teams or offices – doesn’t match the behaviour you are trying to drive. But for some businesses it’s quite common for different offices, or different teams doing similar tasks, to come up with their own best practices and not share them with others. They may already be crying out for tools to accomplish this, and Yammer is a great tool to use to meet those needs.

Ask questions your inner circle might not know the answers to

You already know that the team you work in doesn’t know everything – but it’s still quite easy to slip into “not invented here syndrome” or a variation of it; or even go outside for guidance when the right people might be in your organization – you just don’t know it.

Yammer is a great place to ask questions about topics when the company has people with the knowledge – they just don’t all work in the same department. Yammer groups for specialist subjects can be a great place to ask those questions, find answers to similar topics and build and create organizational knowledge organically.

With improvements like Microsoft Search, people won’t just need to go to Yammer to find those answers in the future either. They can search across Office 365 and the answer from Yammer will surface.

Before you send an instant message to someone in another team to ask the question – consider asking them over Yammer, if you can – in a relevant group. That way, the next time someone else needs to know the answer it will be available for others. Making Yammer part of the organization includes using it regularly and building up the value over time, and this can be a great way to do so.

Yammer or Teams, it’s important to get your people on board. If your organisation is leaning towards Teams, check out How to get your team ‘on Teams’ a helpful, people-focused eBook outlining a practical approach to adoption and Teams management.

About the Author

Steve Goodman

Technology Writer and Chief Editor for AV Content at Practical 365, focused on Microsoft 365. A 12-time Microsoft MVP, author of several technology books and regular Microsoft conference speaker. Steve works at Advania in the UK as Field Chief Technology Officer, advising business and IT on the best way to get the most from Microsoft Cloud technology.


  1. Noel Peberdy

    This is the most insightful comparison of Teams vs. Yammer I’ve come across. We’ve been using Yammer for years and love it. We’ve deployed it in our (relatively small) company as well as in medium size corporations with teams spanning the globe – focused on addressing demand and supply disruptions in real time. I’m skeptical whether Teams can do the same – but honestly don’t know.

    Thanks for an excellent article. It’s been the first one not to parrot the official Microsoft line ..!

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