SharePoint Social Versus Yammer: What Makes Sense For You?

Christian Buckley

Christian is a 7-time Office Servers and Services MVP, internationally-recognized technology evangelist and collaboration expert, and the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Daniel

    Completely agree with the structured vs unstructured argument. However with Sharepoint you have the opportunity to add unstructured social with a tool like NewsGator. SharePoint and Yammer which results in two data sources is always going to pose data governance and management challenges so trying to keep it all in SharePoint makes sense to me. This will of course be influenced by whether you are onprem or Office365.

  • Daniel, great point. My focus was SharePoint and Yammer, but you’re right — NewsGator provides an even more robust and integrated solution for on prem deployments. I think the Yammer story will become more compelling over time as Microsoft adds more integration, and expands their social footprint across other tools and systems, but for most structured collaboration systems, SharePoint social features (and tools like NewsGator) continue to be the better fit for their immediate needs for all of the reasons I outline above. And where organizations do NOT have structured collaboration requirements (that is, auditing, compliance, and regulatory requirements) then Yammer probably makes the most sense.

  • For many companies Yammer is an issue for as long as it remains an “online only” version.
    – If you’re in a highly regulated industry you may be limited in your hosting choices. Our security teams required us to use an internally hosted solution.
    – If you’re in Europe data sharing regulations mean that any hosting of data by a US company is problematic due to a conflict with the US FISA and Patriot Act legislation – which Microsoft/Yammer would have to comply with.
    That plus the “One of the problems with SharePoint has always been that the marketing enthusiasm has outpaced the deployment reality” mean that Newsgator (and similar tools) on top of SP will remain a solid choice for large companies.

  • The biggest obstacle of enterprise collaboration (and even beyound that, cross-enterprise collaboration) is the e-email protocol, which remains the dominant medium of communication and task management in nearly all corporations.
    The main problems of the e-mail protocol are as follows:
    E-mails cannot be linked to objects (for example groups or pages in many social media, in corporate environment these would be projects, organizations and so forth), and hence cannot be accessed through these objects.
    E-mails are by default private, hence they cannot be searched
    E-mails are not (indefinetily) stored centrally, hence they cannot be searched
    I would be technically fairly simple to replace all internal email in a corporation with a more open communication system like Yammer, but the change resistance is just too high. To mitigate that, the single most important action that Microsoft should do is to make Outlook as the main client for accessing Yammer & Sharepoint social features.
    In the speed of operation, Outlook surpasses any browser based application, and if most white collar employees spend 30%+ of their worktime with email, we just cant afford a 50% drop in productivity for the sake of collaboration & knowledge sharing.

  • Completely agree. Having participated in the Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston last month, I was pleased to hear from Microsoft leadership some recognition that some percentage of SharePoint customers will *never* move to the cloud, for real or perceived issues. MS seems to have adopted Gartner’s numbers from earlier this year, stating that 35% of current on prem customers will never move. For those customers, the SP2013 social features — or tools through vendors like NewsGator — will provide more than enough of the features they’re looking for.
    Of course, moving forward, I do think we’ll see an increase in the adoption of cloud solutions, and specifically cloud-based social platforms, but companies who had previously thought they would not, could not use them. But time will tell.

  • I am ot one of those people who see Yammer and other social platforms “replacing” email, but I do see them dramatically decreasing email usage. And there are many vendors out there, such as, who are bridging the gap between social and email to unlock this massive corporate data silo.
    But I do think you are right about needing to have the ability to attach an email to a collaboration thread, transforming it into a readable/trackable/shareable artifact (document) within a social conversation, just like you can push a document or link from SharePoint into Yammer. Two-way sharing becomes more complex, but at least paving the way to move email communication over to social would be a great start.
    And now I’m sure we’ll hear from a handful of vendors who enable just that…

  • Great points Christian. I’ve advised folks to use Yammer in more of a workgroup setting where information gathering and brainstorming is more unstructured. When you are talking about governance and structured content, on-premise always makes more sense. Newsgator provides some great options from a 3rd party perspective but many forget SharePoint itself is a platform to leverage and customize to meet the needs of the business.

  • “I am (n)ot one of those people who see Yammer and other social platforms “replacing” email, but I do see them dramatically decreasing email usage.”
    Microsoft sees the matter same way as you do, which is unfortunate, because of this the development of Sharepoint social is not progressing to the correct direction. In practice MS is creating an additional layer of communication (= additional layer of work), instead of replacing an existing one.
    In the civilian side, email is already long gone, and no-one even questions this fact.
    According to Salesforce reps, they have managed to abolish internal email in within Salesforce. If this is indeed true, they are most likely the first corporation to succeed in that – and because of this, they are far ahead MS in the mindset when developing Chatter.
    MS of course has a lot of email related products which they do not wish to cannibalize, just as Kodak chose not to do when they invented digital camera.

  • Amos, not sure where you’re getting your data, but email is not gone on the civilian side in any definition of the word. While the number of emails we send and receive each day has decreased, it is still a system-critical platform for almost every organization. The pure social communicators are, at this point, an exception.
    Its easy for a company to abolish email by removing the platform from the system. So did Salesforce organically move away from email, or was it by management decree? I’ll put my money on the latter.
    And then how many of those employees go online to check their Hotmail or Gmail accounts during lunch? A good number, I’d also wager.

  • I am a big fan of having options. Not every tool or methodology will fit all companies. That’s why its so important to understand your company culture, and do what works best for your teams.