Move over, Slack. Yammer now lets internal and external team members to collaborate and communicate.

Microsoft has long promised to extend Yammer beyond the firewall, especially since it wants Yammer to become the social layer of SharePoint.

In an announcement last night, it made good on its promise with a new feature that enables enterprise users to communicate and collaboration with customers, partners and suppliers. It also enables the team to share content with the appropriate permissions and extend access to networks and external messaging features.

Collaboration Doesn't End at the Firewall

In a blog post about the change, Microsoft Engineer Kaushal Mehta noted the obvious: "Sometimes you need to work closely with customers, consultants, partners or suppliers outside your organization."

The external groups capability builds on the existing ways to work with people outside the enterprise, such as external networks and external messaging. Microsoft noted that network security is maintained by listing all external groups in a distinct section under the Groups menu and using indicators in the UI alerting users to the presence of external team members.

In addition, external groups require express permissions, and controls in Exchange prevent sensitive information from being sent outside the company without authorization. Group administrators have to approve external members, and admins are able to see what files and conversations are accessible to external users.

There are a couple of limitations: You can't add external users to groups created before this release. And this is separate from the Office 365 Groups service, which enables Office 365 users to communicate and collaborate with external users. Yammer external groups will be introduced into the Office 365 external group service by the end of the year.

Slack vs. Yammer

Slack and Yammer are part of two different ecosystems targeting two kinds of business users.

Yammer, along with Office 365 Groups, is part of a wider Microsoft strategy to turn Office 365 into a personalized portal for employees.

Slack is a messaging app for teams to communicate and collaborate. While it enables internal workplace communication, it is also being used to build tight-knit online communities.

Slack’s success has pushed many enterprises to start comparing the two, even where such comparisons are inappropriate.

Title image "A Hidden World" (CC BY 2.0) by thirdblade