#YearofYammer: Yammer isn’t just a communication tool

Yammer isn’t just a communication tool. Forget the fancy new features. Focus instead on what Yammer is here to do for your organisation.  Yammer is a strategic talent and capability coordination tool and if you aren’t using it to power your strategy you are losing massive value.

If it looks like a communication tool…

This #YearofYammer is a big one for Microsoft’s organisational collaboration product. However, there is a danger that in the rush of the exciting new UI and features in the new Yammer, we lose sight of the core potential of the product.

One issue that has bedevilled discussion of Yammer over the last few years has been a relentless focus on it as a communication tool. Workplace by Facebook launched with a strong emphasis on real-time communication. That tool was never clear on its position in market, tried to create a new category, to compete with Slack and ESNs simultaneously and deeply muddied the market in both the team chat tools and wider organisational collaboration platforms. Yammer and the other ESNs could not help but be drawn into a discussion of the state of their communication features. The launch of Microsoft Teams with a strong focus on real-time communication within teams increased the sense of a gap in the feature set. Voices arguing for a different role for Yammer and the ESNs were drowned out.

Amid all the new features and UI, the recent #YearofYammer announcements were quite clear on the position of Yammer in organisations. This positioning is consistent with the Inner and Outer Circle model that Microsoft has been discussing for some time. The key use cases that Yammer has been tailored to meet are:

  • Leadership engagement
  • Organisational wide communications
  • Communities and
  • Knowledge sharing

The Yammer site on the Microsoft Tech Community is even briefer and more closely aligned to the Value Maturity Model emphasizing:

  • Transform culture: connect, share and co-create
  • Inform and engage
  • Harness collective knowledge

Communication is clearly a part of each of these activities. Then again, communication is a part of everything. Communication is a core part of work and a fundamentally human activity. Just because communication occurs on Yammer doesn’t mean it is should be treated as just a communication tool. If you focus your Yammer implementation solely on communication, users are likely to ask why they should bother given the range of communication tools that they have available to them. You might want to help them understand not all communication is the same.

Each of these uses of Yammer goes to a much larger value to your organisation. If you focus solely on communication, you will miss a much wider and much more important potential.

Putting Talent and Capability to Work for Your Strategy

Yammer is a talent and capability coordination tool. Yammer is how you engage, align and enable your people to create new value to fulfil your organisational strategy and its goals. The power of Yammer and its Outer loop is to bring the breath of your organisations information, talent and capabilities to bear on the challenges that you need to address. Even more importantly, you can develop a culture of transparency and engagement where employees themselves lead that process.


In a fast paced global digital economy, organisations need to be able to leverage their knowledge, talents and capabilities rapidly to meet market needs and to address issues arising from change. Many organisations are looking to become more agile, flatter and more responsive to achieve this. However, as traditional organisations begin to develop these elements of their strategy, four problems quickly stand in the way of success:

  • Alignment: People can’t engage in your strategy if they don’t know the goals, don’t know who is doing what and can’t align their work to delivering the desired outcomes. This is the commonest problem across organisations and why there’s so much need for meetings to address the issues created by misalignment.  The organisation needs to Connect together
  • Shared Context: People who can’t share context, literally cannot understand each other. Many of the legendary battles of corporate life are created from a lack of a shared context: head office vs field, sales vs marketing, product vs engineering, IT vs business.  The organisation needs to Share together
  • Engaging all the knowledge, talents and capability: The biggest waste of value in organisations is inability to leverage the knowledge, talents and capability of the people in the organisation to achieve the strategy. Organisations don’t know what their people know, can do and could do if given the chance. Reducing this waste accelerates value creation for strategic goals. The organisation needs to Solve together
  • Scaling change, innovation and continuous improvement: No organisation has a shortage of ideas. What is missing is scaled execution. Key to that scale is also the ability to encourage local change and adaptation aligned to strategic goals and outcomes. If every change initiative has to come into one or even many central pipeline, decision and funding process, then you are losing momentum immediately. As processes like the Toyota Manufacturing Process and continous release software development have identified, the potential value of scaled local change is enormous. The organisation needs to Innovate together.

Bringing a large part of your organisation together on Yammer gives you a platform to Connect, Share, Solve and Innovate led by your people in pursuit of your organisational strategy. This is the fundamental use case that communities, knowledge sharing and leadership engagement will support. This is the end to which all the conversations and collaboration on the platform will be devoted.

Organisations that focus their Yammer communities on their strategy and tackling these challenges see exponential increases in value creation. The steps are clear. The work required to build value creating communities across your organisation is the work to be done on Yammer.

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