It’s Yammer – but not as we know it

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Yammer is back – and this time you’ll love it.  80 IC professionals packed a meeting yesterday in a converted courthouse in the heart of London’s Soho. They had come to “Fall In Love with Yammer” at a roadshow organised by intranet house WM Reply. Along with simply’s own Yammer Breakfast last month, which was also sold out, it is all evidence that Yammer is firmly back on the menu for internal communicators in large organisations.

But this is not just a PR charm offensive by Microsoft – this time they really have a story to tell.  Yesterday it was the turn of Chris Slemp, Customer Success Manager, Modern Workplace at Microsoft UK (on the left here with Marc Wright, author of this article). Chris was tempting the crowd with new features that are making the grandaddy of social channels a serious contender in the face of competition from WhatsApp, Slack and Workplace by Facebook.

In the audience were a mixture of Yammer fanatics – those who have stuck with the product despite the rather quaint user experience – and the confused who thought that Yammer was going to be replaced by the shiny new kid on the block Microsoft Teams with its fancy video feed and integrations with SharePoint, Outlook and the rest of the O365 suite.

But what they heard – and you can get the story from the horse’s mouth in our interview with Dan Holme, VP of Marketing for Yammer – is that Microsoft are investing heavily in Yammer’s resurrection. There are a host of features that make it as good – if not better – than the latest generation of competitors. Here is Dan’s overview:

Yammer – Dan Holme from simply-communicate on Vimeo.

Before I get into the features, let’s look at the philosophy of why Microsoft are rebuilding Yammer as a key part of the digital workplace. Basically it is all about engagement and communication – and it is a tool aimed squarely at the internal communications community.  Collaborative tools like Teams, WhatsApp and Slack are great for replacing email and allowing teams to ‘work out loud’ on distinct projects.  It has long been recognised that these channels are easier to use than email and are considerably more productive.  The problem is that they create a lot of noise.  When you log on in the morning it is tempting to dive into your various groups and feeds just like you would jump into the conversation at the queue for the coffee machine. Indeed on mobile devices you could well be doing this before you even arrive at your desk.

Good news for collaboration, but bad news for communications and engagement.  As Gatehouse’s 2019 State of the Survey Report revealed: the biggest challenge for the internal communications profession is the level of noise.

Microsoft recognise this problem and have imbued Yammer with what they grandly call ‘superpowers’ to build communication and engagement. So while Teams is a bottom-up (or side-to-side) feed, Yammer is becoming much more of a top down channel.  While Teams is for the ephemera of getting a job done today, Yammer is about the larger themes that people will want to come back to days, weeks or even months later.

Put another way: MS Teams is about sorting out a problem with a fault in the factory line while Yammer is for discussing the rise of veganism among the consumer base.

So what are these new features – and what do they mean for internal comms?

Streaming video in Yammer This is a big deal for communicators. It means that you can stream your town hall by the CEO and staff can interact in realtime on a dedicated Yammer Group. This was a killer feature of Workplace by Facebook, but now Microsoft has caught up. They have made the decision to separate video streaming from Yammer and for teams.  Thus means that you have an automatic platform for disseminating key meetings that can be targeted to particular populations, where they can interact on the Yammer feed – and which will be there forever. So at a stroke you have a personalised video channel that can be curated for specific groups – plus a dedicated archive. So when a new joiner joins a department they can view the previous significant announcements, and read what colleagues thought about them.

Yammer tab in Sharepoint. Sounds like a small thing but finally Yammer and SharePoint are now properly integrated. If you have not tried the new SharePoint Modern version you are in for a treat. It’s as good-looking and easy to publish as WordPress, and soon you will be a able to embed personalised Yammer feeds into it. Or you can with between the two in seconds using the tab function.

Yammer tab in Team. This is an interesting one. Imagine you are running a Yamjam for the Finance Director and someone asks a question where you are going to need some expert advice. You can click on the teams tab where you have set up your panel of subject Management experts, discuss the issue with them and then re-enter the Yammer conversation with the best and most appropriate answer. This us what Microsoft mean by inner loop (Teams and Yammer loop (Yammer).

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella drinks his own champagne on this one: “Now, Yammer, as I said, is my outer loop.  In fact, religiously, every day, I get a Yammer Digest in Outlook, I click on it, I go to Yammer, I see the News Feed, and it always sort of scares me what I’ll read here.  But, nevertheless, it’s the 100,000 people at the company basically talking about anything that’s top of mind for them.”

There are more goodies coming down the tracks which are even more significant but we can’t reveal them yet. However GM Microsoft Yammer+O365 Groups Murali Sitaram and Yammer evangelist Steve Nguyen are coming to smileexpo on May 13th to give the keynote on some truly exciting developments.

They are heading up a stream of workshops that will explore six Yammer case studies including Syngenta, Centrica, Siemens, Avios, B+Q and Virgin Trains. See the dedicated website for the full picture and details on how to reserve your place.