Integrating SharePoint and Yammer

I am a huge fan of Yammer, and it has become part of my daily collaboration habits. However, I am also still using SharePoint 2013’s native social capabilities. In my mind, they are two different things – two separate use cases. Many of my customers are still confused about when to use one over the other, and I’ve authored numerous articles trying to help explain, such as this one for Microsoft’s DigitalWPC website. One of the most asked questions I hear is – when will Microsoft provide an on premises version of Yammer?

cbuck certifiedMicrosoft has stated loud and clear that there will never be an on-premises version of Yammer – but they are working to make them work together. Of course, with the “cloud-first” development strategy that Microsoft now has in place, we will definitely see deeper integrations between Yammer and Office365 in the coming months. And with Microsoft committing to a continued on prem release cycle (a new version of SharePoint on prem every 3 or 4 years, as with previous versions), we know that future releases of the on-prem platform will have richer social capability and, assumedly, tighter links to Yammer. However, Yammer will always remain in the cloud.

In the future, I speculate that some employees may never go out into a Yammer.com/Company site to collaborate, but find all of the same capability embedded into their on prem environment. The ability for remote workers to access those conversations will still (as I see it) be able to access those conversations outside of the firewall, but there will be stricter governance and administrative controls in place to provide visibility and controls over what can be shared, how, and by whom.

So the question for many of my customers today really comes back to: What integrations are available today? Details have not been too clear from Microsoft overall. For the free version of Yammer, not much. But for the paid version, there are a few options, including the ability to push content from SharePoint into Yammer, a newsfeed embed code that can be dropped into team sites, or your ability to replace your primary newsfeed with your Yammer newsfeed. Inside of Office365, there is tighter integration of Yammer and your document libraries, with the More option on a document allowing you to create a conversation with link to that document over in your Yammer feed. You can then follow that conversation – and therefore follow the document. It’s not exactly a replacement for a Follow on a document like in SharePoint on prem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

My own vision for integration is that some of the core social capabilities inside SharePoint are displaced by Yammer – but that Yammer capabilities will more closely mimic how SharePoint on prem social features work, which were designed for the enterprise. This would mean stronger ties of the hierarchical security in SharePoint with existing and new capabilities in Yammer, allowing managers to enforce permissions across both platforms. And some kind of shared management of taxonomy. Neither one a small task.

In my mind, management of SharePoint groups would automatically add and remove membership or features within Yammer – and Central Admin (and relevant APIs) would give you a single dashboard into managing across both platforms. Essentially, for enterprise-scale integration of SharePoint and Yammer to meet the needs of security and governance-minded on prem customers, Yammer needs to follow the governance rules surrounding team sites and content. There must be reporting and auditing capability across both systems, showing what content is being accessed and by whom, and giving the admins the ability to restrict content-sharing within secure areas inside of SharePoint, security trim conversations based on permission level, and so forth.

These are some hard problems to solve, but in my opinion, are necessary to align SharePoint and Yammer for the enterprise.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.