Real collaboration is multi-faceted and multi-modal. One can’t point to a single way of communicating and interacting as the way to collaborate.
This philosophy applies to the tools that aid collaborative efforts. Online and offline communication, rich media and textual content, and one-to-one and many-to-many sharing modes each have a place in collaboration. Collaboration is a dynamic, complex, and personalized set of interactions and, as such, there is no single overriding method or tool that encompasses all situations. Structured and social collaboration features work best together, providing a wide range of choices to fit different situations.
The Drawbacks of Single Focus Tools
The problem with most collaboration tools is that they are single minded. Some are good at sharing files, others distributing rich media, while another group of collaboration systems focus on freeform communications. Yet others provide repeatable workflows to help keep collaboration from descending into chaos. In the early days of collaboration systems that worked fine.
As organizations are trying to leverage the full potential of collaboration, single focused applications are becoming a hindrance instead of a help. Collaboration software needs to become a toolbox not a single tool and most products have headed off in this direction.
SharePoint + Yammer: Complementary Solutions
Microsoft SharePoint is no different. The stress on document management and workflows, supports certain types of collaboration very well, specifically systematic and structured collaboration. Workflows and document management create the scaffolding for teamwork. It is not, however, good at fostering dynamic, social collaboration. Luckily for Microsoft SharePoint users, there is a close sibling in the Microsoft family that covers the bases that SharePoint does not, namely Yammer.
Yammer provides the social collaboration features such as social networking, microblogging and rich media sharing that SharePoint doesn’t, in a way that most consumers would find familiar. By itself, Yammer is mostly adept at free form interactions that drive decisions. Structured work is not Yammer’s forte. For example, most enterprise social networks lack sophisticated document management, and that’s true of Yammer. This limits certain types of sharing where version and access control help create a controlled environment in which to collaborate.
Together, however, Yammer and SharePoint represent a more complete collaboration toolbox. Their features are complementary, with SharePoint providing structured sharing and Yammer open and dynamic sharing.
Yes, it’s true that not every situation calls for both structured and social collaboration. Within an organization though, the need to support many types of collaborative situations makes having a full integrated toolset a necessity. By themselves, each lacks enough tools to cover an organization’s collaboration support needs. Collectively, the SharePoint and Yammer cover many different ways to collaborate, both structured and social.
The evolution of both SharePoint and Yammer are inexorably tied to each other. Each needs to continue to develop along complimentary paths otherwise both will fall behind.
Title image courtesy of djem (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read more of Tom's thoughts on the state of SharePoint in Will Your e-Discovery Vendor Support Your Move to SharePoint Online?