This year’s smileexpo19 saw Microsoft top the bill – or, more specifically, Yammer. Microsoft’s VP of Yammer, Murali Sitaram and Yammer Evangelist Steve Nguyen opened the day revealing the exciting new roadmap for Yammer. And, for an audience of communicators, they really hit the spot. As well as bringing some great weather from San Francisco, they also brought some good news about the new and upcoming developments in Yammer.
So, what did I learn at smileexpo19 that has, finally, convinced me that not only is Yammer here to stay, but that it is responding to the unique needs of professional communicators?
Yammer is a decade old: that’s pretty grown up in technology terms, and pretty surprising when I think back to how often IC practitioners moaned about Yammer with its low adoption levels, low engagement and lack of business focus. In fact, at a smilelondon event back in 2016, when Microsoft were on stage, I tweeted the following:
And in a later session from Workplace by Facebook, this:
How wrong I was!
Certainly, there have been problems with Yammer adoption in the past and we have shared many case study stories and delivered countless workshops on improving this. Also, in the early days, it seemed that Yammer’s raison d’être was to kill email. To be honest this is not ever going to happen, and it was refreshing to hear Murali and Steve stress that there has been a change of thinking: Yammer is here to make things better in the workplace; to build communities that have lasting business impact and to generate, nurture and store knowledge.
It seems 2019 is the year of Yammer’s resurrection and here at simply, we’ve fallen back in love with it.
Three strings to Yammer’s bow
Setting out Yammer’s stall, Murali and Steve summarised the future for Yammer with a focus on three key areas: Leadership engagement; Corporate communications and Communities & knowledge.
In the next decade, it’s going to be more important than ever for businesses to capture the knowledge held in their workforce. In part due to the demographic of the workforce (in the US, it is estimated that 10,000 people per day are eligible to retire), but also the changing nature of employment, the potential brain drain is huge. Here are some of the things that Yammer is doing to help.
Hot off the press: 8 new Yammer features
- Sharepoint webpart for Yammer: with 75% intranets built on Sharepoint in the last 5 years, there’s no doubt that it offers plenty of benefits. It’s great for producing rich content, rich news, sharing documents and events and the like. And of course, your IT teams love it! But what it lacks is having any conversational element. It’s not social. With the SharePoint webpart for Yammer, you can bring the goodness of Yammer into your static SharePoint pages for an immersive experience within your SharePoint intranet.
- Yammer tab for Teams: Teams, which is being pushed hard by Microsoft, is a great place for day to day work for small teams of people. Being able to pull in relevant feeds from Yammer gives the Team a view into what’s happening in a chosen broader, yet related, community. As well as the usual reply and comment options, there’s an added ‘share to channel’ option, so that specific points picked up from the Yammer feed can be brought to the Team’s attention.
- Yammer connector for Teams: Rather than choosing a specific relevant Yammer group to view in your Team, this connector allows you to select keywords and it will search all Yammer groups for any relevant conversations and display these in Teams.
- Question & Answer: Yammer is a great place to find answers, but they can get lost amongst the general chatter. With this shortly to be released function, Yammer will flag up questions from within conversations and highlight them. Best answers can be flagged – either by the asker, or by admins – pinning best answers to the top of the thread. Think a little further and it’s easy to see how bots could link to this (using Azure) making something like FAQs in an HR group work really effectively.
- Live events in Yammer: Live video of events can be streamed and then archived in Microsoft Stream (think internal YouTube) with all the associate benefits. Ideal for those pre-planned, highly produced events and studio broadcasts. Great for a townhall, for example. Combining live events with the Q&A function is useful, with the ability to filter questions before, during and post event. You can archive the entire conversation around the event. Users report big spikes in engagement from live events, especially where leaders are involved.
- Live video from your mobile: Coming soon, this additional feature will enable you to publish live video in Yammer directly from your mobile. Idea for those ‘in the moment’ reports and video blogs with the immediacy and authenticity that help build community engagement.
- Yammer integration with Outlook: Prompted by a question from the audience, Murali shared that this is at the thinking stage. “Email is essentially the modality of corporate life” he said, “but we are looking at how to subtly push you to have conversations in Yammer, even though you are in Outlook.” Wow! This will be a game-changer. Watch this space…
- Data compliance: Where previously there were concerns over the security of data in Yammer, there is now local data residency in the EU with Yammer content soon to be discoverable in the Microsoft security and compliance centre. In regulated industries data compliance is incredibly important so having e-Discovery for Yammer content is an exciting development.
A new way of thinking
Tools within the O365 suite used to be destinations in themselves. Now, Microsoft’s thinking is that the various tools should make their superpowers available elsewhere in the suite, so it doesn’t matter where in the suite you naturally spend most of your time. Yammer provides the ‘behind the scenes’ link that can simplify the often seemingly complex suite of O365 tools.
Traditionally Yammer has focused on the needs of the end user, but now is starting to pay attention to the unique needs of those who need to use the channel strategically (catalyzers) – notably professional communicators. This is great news.
Investing more in Yammer today than at any time in its history, Murali reassured us that Yammer is responding directly to the needs of corporate communicators, having identified our pain points. We can certainly expect many more developments in Yammer as Microsoft continues to bring the power of Yammer to the rest of the O365 suite.
By Alison Boothby