Yammer Conversations vs. SharePoint Collaboration Sites

Yammer is an interesting enterprise social technology and SharePoint collaboration sites have been around for many years. For ad hoc collaboration, project sites, etc. which should you use or should you use both? Here are some best practices and recommendations based on our experience working with both technologies.

Yammer is Microsoft’s Future for Enterprise Social

Microsoft has publically stated that Yammer is the future for enterprise social, not the SharePoint newsfeed. You can switch out the newsfeed in SharePoint 2013 for Yammer and integrate yammer conversations into SharePoint team sites.

In most of my conversations with customers, we recommend using Yammer over the SharePoint social experience unless there are specific concerns about using Yammer from a compliance or cloud perspective.

Yammer is Design for Conversations

Yammer is a great surface if you want to encourage conversations, ad hoc knowledge management and social communities within the enterprise. However, compared to SharePoint it has some key weaknesses:

  • Document management capabilities
  • Support for taxonomies
  • User interface customization
  • Enterprise search

From a taxonomy perspective, Yammer supports a limited number of “content types” such as polls, links, conversations, activities, profiles, messages, etc. all related to social collaboration. SharePoint provides a number of additional taxonomy concepts out of the box but more importantly allows you create your own taxonomy concepts and to tag objects based on your own taxonomy needs.

Compared to SharePoint, Yammer is lightweight and lacks customization. If you need a project site which is ad hoc and conversation based, Yammer might be sufficient. However, if you’re running a project site where you need to store documents, align them to your corporate taxonomy, add business process workflows, etc. then you’re going to be limited by using Yammer as a collaboration platform.

SharePoint Provides True Enterprise Collaboration and Document Management

Imagine that you’re running a project and you need a collaboration space for managing the information related to that project. You could create a Yammer group and collaborate that way but you’ll be missing out on a number of features that SharePoint can provide that Yammer doesn’t support:

  • Document management capabilities such as check-in/check-out, version control, auditing, records management, workflows, etc.
  • Web content management capabilities such as creating web pages, adding rich media, adding multiple pages, etc.
  • Adding additional functionality to your site such as calendars, blogs, image libraries, document libraries, etc. 
  • Ability to inject customizations such as third party add-ons or proprietary customizations
  • Ability to radically change the look and feel for your site
  • Ability to template out sites for specific business purpose (e.g. there is no equivalent of the SharePoint “Site Template” concept)

What SharePoint provides you in terms of functionality also comes at a cost – it requires configuration, governance and information management strategies that for some use cases will seem to heavy for ad hoc collaboration. However, if you’re running a project with some level of structure and you want to enforce any level of information management standards, Yammer is going to be limited in its ability to comply.

Best of Both Worlds: SharePoint Team Site Integrated with Yammer

For collaboration, I would recommend using SharePoint Team Sites. You can leverage all the depth of the collaboration features that have been available with SharePoint for years. For those scenarios where you want a more social experience, you can then create a Yammer group and embed the conversation into your SharePoint Team Site.

Christopher Woodill

About ME

Enterprise technology leader for the past 15+ years…certified PMP, Six Sigma Black Belt and TOGAF Enterprise Architect. I collaborate with companies to help align their strategic objectives with concrete implementable technology strategies. I am Vice President, Enterprise Solutions for Klick Health.

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