Yammer and SharePoint: Evolving Together

Author’s note, September 2018: When I originally reported on Microsoft announcing SharePoint will be the default file storage location for Yammer, the estimated date for release was August 2018. While this did not happen (it was an estimate, after all) there is news. The Yammer team is seeking a few customers to preview this new feature. Which likely means they are pretty far along. There is no new estimate of general availability but my guess is by end of the calendar year. Here is the roadmap item on the Office 365 Roadmap.

If you are attending Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, John Bacus, a Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, will be giving a demo of the feature. His session is on Wednesday, September 26th at 2:00 PM. Check out session BRK3219 for more details.

I am just back from a wildly successful SharePoint Conference North America held last week in sunny Vegas and I’d like to report some news on the Yammer and SharePoint front in case you missed it. While I was bummed at the length of the barbecue line at the B-52s concert held poolside, I was not disappointed at what I heard from Dan Holme (@danholme) and Steve Nguyen (@espnguyen) on the state of Yammer, specifically its better together story with SharePoint.


Empower and Connect

Yammer’s mission is to “empower and connect every person across an organization to maximize their impact.” In order to deliver on this, and to maximize their own impact (to steal a phrase) Yammer is teaming with other Microsoft technologies, including SharePoint. This is a good thing. Why? Because Yammer’s core value prop is the conversation modality. The public or private conversation that you can have with people inside or outside of your organization. But it needs friends to extend its potential.

With that in mind, here is what I hear when I read the above mission statement: empower (people) and connect (them through conversations) to maximize their impact (to deliver business value). All the words in parenthesis are mine, put there for emphasis. Yammer can transform an organization when in the hands of innovative, determined change agents. Now imagine that same capability mashed with care with SharePoint goodness and you can see the value it can bring to customers.

Three Key Points

Core Investment Areas

The message is clear: Microsoft recognizes the strong business value for customers by investing in what Yammer does well and lean on SharePoint for its content management strength. Yammer is spending its time and betting on the following areas:

  1. Employee engagement and connections
  2. Being the social layer of Office 365
  3. Being enterprise-grade with security and compliance

Employee engagement and connections

A key focus area is to strengthen that all-important two-way conversation. To make it rich and relevant. To make it live and breathe. if you are familiar with the concept of a YamJam, just note that it is about to get a big boost. Coming soon: the ability for users to hold live townhall events using Stream, in Yammer. This is a big deal. Known as “Broadcast Meetings in Yammer” this road map item can be found here, under the “In Development” area. This is not just for traditional top down meetings; imagine the power of learning among and between colleagues.

The Social Layer of Office 365

This is where we really see that “evolving together” story unfold. Soon, SharePoint file storage will be turned on by default for Yammer. When you store a file via Yammer, that file will be stored in SharePoint. This feature will begin shipping in August 2018. You’ll want to have Office 365 Groups enabled to take advantage of it. This makes a lot of sense. Yammer should be about the conversation among colleagues and making connections. This lets SharePoint do what it does best, hitting on its core capabilities of enterprise-grade content management.

Yammer understands the need to make content in your feed engaging. The Yammer team is working hard to bring rich previews of SharePoint documents into Yammer. No stated timing on this yet, but I plan on keeping on eye on this for the customers I work with over at tyGraph.

Finally, in the works, is a significant improvement to the social experience in SharePoint, a native Yammer feed, described as very much like the feed in Yammer, but in SharePoint. This crossover moment is the strongest signal yet that Yammer is becoming the social layer.

Enterprise-grade Security and Compliance

Along with the splash of live video for townhalls and the social layer in SharePoint, Yammer will continue to invest in being enterprise-grade with security and compliance. Yammer has already done work to provide user management using Azure Active Directory (AAD) and the ability to create dynamic groups based on AAD properties. One further example, the “Erase User” functionality, described as the ability to erase a user’s name and personal information as well as their usage data in Yammer is here, just in time for GDPR.

By the way, the SharePoint Conference in Vegas? That is a thing again. Hope to see you there in May of 2019. In the meantime, I will continue to report on these evolving changes. I’d be interested to hear what new capabilities are you looking forward to?

Microsoft Teams: A Review of What’s New for April 2018

April saw a handful of new features released for Microsoft Teams. In this post, I’ll take a closer look at the uses for four of them and add a brief mention of the others.

First: two ways to get to “What’s New”

In my blog on the command box, I mentioned that a good keyboard shortcut to know is “alt-k”. That will get you to the top of the Teams UI. From there, if you type “/whatsnew” you will see the latest the Teams team has added or changed.

Whats New

A second way: click on your profile picture in the upper right, then “Help” and there you’ll see “What’s New” on the top line.

“Here is the chat I wanted you to see…”

No question, Teams has a strong chat feature, and if you are like me and my colleagues, we can get chatty in a hurry and I often find myself needing to point a teammate to a specific post. New this month is the ability to go to a specific chat message, copy a link and then drop that link off to colleague so they can quickly hop to the linked post.

To copy a link is super simple, just click the ellipsis of the desired post and click “Copy Link” and you’re set.

Once you post the link, you’ll see the name of the OP (original poster) followed by a colon and a chunk of the message plus the Team name, Channel, and date time stamp of the original post. See example below:

CopyLink feature

Two new ways to get chatting

Speaking of chatting, Teams added two ways to kick off a chat with a teammate. Have you ever been reading through a channel and wanted to chat with a specific person in a thread? All you have to do is mouse over their profile picture and their contact card will pop up. Message box is at the bottom of the card. Type your message and hit reply. The message will show up in either a new chat or an existing chat with that person, (re: Chat area in the left navigation pane).

The second way is to use the command box. As mentioned above, you can get there quickly with an alt-k. Once in the command box, at mention them, by typing the “at” key, “@” and their name; hit return and you’re ready to message.

The key to both of these shortcuts is that you don’t lose context. An important concept that the Teams team and other product folks are getting a handle on is the critical nature of keeping you, the user, contextually close to your current task. Losing context means having to endure the “switching cost” of leaving one task and picking up another. Like leaving email to fact check something on the web only to lose a half hour catching up on the Kardashians.

Team Owners, show the team where to start with favorite channels

If you are a team owner, you can auto-favorite up to ten channels for your team. So, let’s say you have eight channels in your team, but three of them are critical for teammates to have. You can auto-favorite them so they show up for all team members. Just know that your teammates can unfavorite them later.

One more new feature worth noting

You now have the ability to get a reminder if your team is expiring. But, I’m jumping the gun a bit here. You first have to have the Azure Active Directory policy that allows an expiration date to be set, turned on. This is a premium feature of AAD. There are two references you should check out if interested. Here is one on the Office 365 Group Expiration Policy  and you might want have a look at this one too, the quickstart on AAD Premium.

Finally, as I usually mention, I am interested in how others use collaboration tools like Teams and Yammer. If you have something to share, drop me a note. Thanks for checking out my blog.