What Tool When?

When to use Microsoft Teams and when to use Yammer

When UK-based consultancy company Chaucer began using Microsoft Teams in early 2018, employees immediately asked; “Why do we need Teams when we already have Yammer?”

The answer was easy, says Chaucer’s Knowledge Manager, Sarah Parry.

Microsoft Teams is for collaborating within your own team, when you know who you’re working with and you’re working together on live documents.

Yammer is for open knowledge sharing. A place to ask questions and find answers, or access knowledge across the entire organisation, not just within your team.

Sarah Parry, Knowledge Manager, Chaucer.
Sarah Parry, Knowledge Manager, Chaucer.

“Teams is great for collaboration when you’re in a team and you know who your team is,” Sarah said.

“You set your team up, you know exactly who’s there, you’re collaborating live on documents, you cut out a load of email and you have a lot of collaboration going on in the team.”

“That is very different to Yammer. Yammer, we have open groups, none are private, because if I find a private group then I’ll go to them and say, ‘Why have you got a private group? Do that on Teams’.”

With open Yammer groups, knowledge is shared across the organisation. You search for something and find an answer.

“That’s what Yammer is all about,” said Sarah.

“Teams is the opposite. Teams is saying; ‘This is our team, this is where we share stuff that we need to keep within the team’.”

Sarah said there are many documents and conversations that will always need to stay private so that work is done in Teams, not Yammer.

“You can move between the teams and groups and that seems to be working for us,” she said.

Even with a clear distinction as to what platform to use when, Sarah said working in Teams has still presented challenges, especially around security before the recent introduction of private channels, which has led to many ‘teams within teams’ groups established.

“We’ve ended up with so many teams, so many configurations of people working on stuff,” she said.

“If there are groups where there’s nothing happening, then I suggest to the members that we archive them, so the content can still be referenced, but the users can focus on the Teams where people are working.”

Global professional real estate services firm RealFoundations uses the same differentiators as Chaucer when it comes to using Teams and Yammer.

Like Chaucer, it has a Working Out Loud culture and began using Teams alongside Yammer in March 2017.

Teams is where employees do their day to day work, with a defined group of people – their team.

Yammer is where you ask questions to find answers and share knowledge. It’s the company water cooler.

Naomi Souza, Director of Presence and Assets, RealFoundations.
Naomi Souza, Director of Presence and Assets, RealFoundations.

“Yammer is that virtual water cooler that you go to when you’re not quite sure who might benefit from the interaction or who might have the answer that you’re looking for,” said RealFoundations’ Director of Presence and Assets, Naomi Souza.

“Our Yammer network is pretty mature and we’ve got 40 or so groups, so it’s very clear that that’s where you go to have those conversations or ask those questions or share that information.”

“With Teams we are saying it’s a defined group of people. You know the people you need to work with, you know exactly what you’re working on and generally there’s some sort of time limit on the team, although some teams will go on forever.”


At a personal level, much of Naomi’s team in based in Chennai, India, while she is based in Texas, US, along with some other team members.

Some of RealFoundations’ team in Chennai, India.

Regardless of where they are physically situated, the team works together every day and every team member begins their day with a #WhatI’mDoingToday post on Teams, so every person knows exactly what everyone else is working on.

“I wake up every morning at 5am and I say; ‘What are my people in Chennai doing today? Does that look right? Okay, nobody is working on this, we need to get somebody on that.”

“My team wakes up and they start doing the same thing. For every piece of work that we’re doing, whether it’s supporting a business development pursuit or working on an ad or posting on social media or teaching someone about Office 365, we have a thread, a conversation in Teams, where we say; ‘Okay, here’s what we’re working on’ and we’re tagging people to say; ‘Hey, you need to look at this.”

By doing this, every piece of work is captured in Teams.

“Everybody has the benefit of seeing what we’re working on and then when that thing is finished, that file lives there and we’ve got all of those documents organised really nicely to refer back to,” Naomi said.

RealFoundations was one of the early adopters of SWOOP for Teams and immediately began using the SWOOP Personas available for Teams, alongside the SWOOP Personas for Yammer, to benchmark each employee to see their online behaviours.

“We benchmark twice a year on Yammer with SWOOP and in our performance review process we say; ‘This person is an Engager, this person is a Responder, this person is a very senior person and they’re an Observer, we need to work on that.’,” Naomi said.

“As Teams is now ‘the place’ where we at RealFoundations do our work, to be able to have that same data and personas in Teams is fantastic.

“With SWOOP for Teams, we now have a more complete view of practitioner contributions to our collective knowledge repositories.”

Back to a personal level, Naomi spends most of her time working in about 10 different teams. SWOOP for Teams allows her to see her most and least active teams, something she said becomes quite fascinating.

Naomi said while it’s clear Teams is where day-to-day work is conducted and Yammer is a knowledge sharing platform, choosing which platform to use also depends on the audience and intended use.

Because RealFoundations is always working with clients, Teams caters for document management and the ability to integrate that into the team, along with planning and task allocation tools.

“If it’s more of a global discussion or announcement that’s going to go on Yammer because that needs to go out to a larger audience and if it needs to be a scoped, or a more intimate discussion, then we try and bring that into Teams,” Naomi said.

She summed up nicely the question of what tool to use when.

“We go to Teams to work,” Naomi said.

“You have your documents there, you’re going to have your meetings there, you can plan your work using Planner, whereas Yammer is the place you go to talk about things.”

RealFoundations and Chaucer have been recognised by SWOOP as world leaders in collaboration in SWOOP’s Global Yammer Benchmarking Reports.

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