Social Business, Social Collaboration, Making the Most of SharePoint AND Yammer
With every announcement Microsoft make about their roadmap for SharePoint and Yammer integration, there comes a flurry of excitement and activity from customers and industry experts alike.

However, a year on from the acquisition, there remains little in the way of practical advice on how to run the two products side-by-side in the time between now and full integration. This article:

  • Outlines what I consider to be the five most viable options for running SharePoint Social and or Yammer at present
  • Evaluates advantages, disadvantages and hosting requirements for each option
  • Provides recommendations for organizations in this decision-making process

Options Overview

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Before we discuss each option in a little more detail, I should outline some assumptions made:

  • User familiarity with Yammer is an advantage. Jared Spataro has recommended “Go Yammer!” as it will ultimately “power the social experiences in SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics, and more.”
  • Using Yammer for social is an advantage. Yammer’s micro-blogging capabilities (which include polling, praising and posting events) are better than SharePoint’s
  • Having a single tool for social is an advantage. Providing multiple tools could confuse users and compromise governance

Option 1 - Yammer for social, some integration with SharePoint

This option is available to SharePoint Server customers only

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This option takes advantage of the only integration Microsoft currently offer between SharePoint on-premises and Yammer, in the form of the Yammer App for SharePoint. It allows organizations to “replace the social features in SharePoint Server 213 with equivalent Yammer features ….”

Although employees are able to use the Yammer website and mobile clients for full functionality, they will regularly use a stripped down version of the feed directly from the SharePoint interface instead.

Advantages:

  • Users become familiar with Yammer
  • Users can post to Yammer from the SharePoint interface
  • Users have a single tool for social

Disadvantages:

  • In order to use full Yammer functionality, users need to navigate between the SharePoint and Yammer interfaces

Tip: Microsoft’s Integrate Yammer with on-premises SharePoint 2013 environments whitepaper can be used as a technical guide on how to remove SharePoint social features and replace them with the Yammer App.

Option 2 - Yammer for social, no integration with SharePoint

This option is available to SharePoint Server customers only

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This option is similar to Option 1 in that it removes social features in SharePoint.

However, only the Yammer website and mobile clients are used for social as the Yammer App for SharePoint is so limited in functionality. The SharePoint interface is used for traditional workloads but has no social features.

Some integration is sacrificed for more regular use of Yammer’s full functionality.

Advantages:

  • Users become familiar with Yammer
  • Users have a single tool for social

Disadvantages:

  • Users cannot post to Yammer from the SharePoint interface

Tip: Again, Microsoft’s Integrate Yammer with on-premises SharePoint 2013 environments whitepaper can be used as a technical guide on how to remove SharePoint social features.

Option 3 - SharePoint and Yammer for social with guidelines

This option is available to both SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online (Office 365) customers

This option takes advantage of both SharePoint’s social features and Yammer’s full functionality.

As users are often faced with multiple options, e.g. posting a company-wide announcement on the SharePoint Newsfeed or the Yammer homepage, clear guidelines must be set and adhered to.

Advantages:

  • Users become familiar with Yammer
  • Users get the best of both SharePoint’s social features and Yammer’s full functionality

Disadvantages:

  • Users have to use two tools for social
  • Failing to follow guidelines could lead to user confusion

Option 4 - SharePoint and Yammer for social with guidelines and feature restriction

This option is available to SharePoint Online (Office 365) customers only

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This option is similar to Option 3 in that both SharePoint’s social features and Yammer’s full functionality are used.

However, it restricts the functionality of the SharePoint Newsfeed (found on the MySite). “People can still access their Sites page, and they can continue to follow SharePoint sites, documents and tags there. However, they no longer have the option to send a message to everyone.”

Removing the ability to send a message to everyone, combined with adding Yammer to the suite bar encourages users to adopt Yammer.

However, clear guidelines must still be set and adhered to, as sending a message to everyone isn't the only area of overlap, e.g. documents can be uploaded to Files in a Yammer Group or a Document Library in a SharePoint Site.

Advantages:

  • Users become familiar with Yammer
  • Users get the best of both SharePoint’s social features and Yammer’s full functionality
  • Users are encouraged to use Yammer over SharePoint through feature restriction

Disadvantages:

  • Users have to use two tools for social
  • Failing to follow guidelines could lead to user confusion

Tip: Microsoft’s Pick your enterprise social network: Yammer or Newsfeed? article can be used as a technical guide on how to restrict SharePoint’s social features.

Option 5 – SharePoint for social

This option is available to both SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online (Office 365) customers

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This option can be seen as the opposite of Option 1. It ignores Yammer for now as integration is limited and having two tools for social could confuse users and compromise governance.

Advantages:

  • Users have a single tool for social

Disadvantages:

  • Users do not become familiar with Yammer

Recommendations and Conclusion

At this stage there is no one-size-fits-all option for SharePoint Social and Yammer. As the roadmap advances and integration improves, decision making will no doubt be made easier. For now, organizations must consider and balance a range of factors, like the examples below:

  • SharePoint Hosting: Options 1 and 2 are only available to SharePoint Server customers; Option 4 is only available to SharePoint Online (Office 365) customers.
  • Current Usage: If SharePoint social features are already being heavily utilized by your users, you might be more inclined to consider Option 1. On the other hand, if Yammer is already well-used and SharePoint social features are not, you may consider Option 1 or 2.
  • Adoption: If SharePoint has a bad reputation with end users in your organization (as it so often does), you may want to consider options including Yammer which generally enjoys "voluntary option" (thanks largely to its simple and consumer-like interface).
  • Business Priorities: If Document Management, for example, is a high priority, you may not want to take the risk of people storing documents in Yammer, which has limited functionality in this area compared to SharePoint. Likewise, if rapid decision making is a priority, you may want to take advantage of the polling capabilities available in Yammer which surpass SharePoint’s survey features for speed and ease-of-use.

Crucially though, organizations shouldn’t shy away from this decision making process. As the Microsoft Office team have made clear, Yammer is not an "if" but a "when" for SharePoint customers.

Full integration looks to be some way away yet (the only indication of time from Microsoft is 2014 onwards) and many organizations will potentially benefit from running the two products side-by-side until then.

By selecting the right option and communicating clearly with end users, innovative organizations will be able to harness the strengths of both SharePoint and Yammer long before others.

Title image courtesy of Andrey_Popov (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Chris's thoughts on SharePoint and Yammer, see SharePoint Social vs. Yammer - With User Interfaces, Looks Can Kill