Which tool to use for social collaboration — Yammer, or the social features inside SharePoint 2013 — continues to be one of the most asked questions from Microsoft partners. At the 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston this summer, I gave a presentation on this topic at the MPN social hub, discussing some of the differences between Yammer and SharePoint 2013, which you can view or download. While there is a growing list of content available through TechNet and across various SharePoint blogs on the topic, I thought it would be worthwhile to summarize the points I made in Houston one more time.
Let me preface this by saying that Microsoft has clearly stated that they believe the future of social collaboration to be in the cloud, and are making most of their investments in cloud-based features within Yammer and Office365, the latter of which includes SharePoint Online. Since WPC 2013, Microsoft has released updates to both platforms, and will continue to add to both cloud platforms at a much quicker schedule than we’re used to seeing with the on premises version of SharePoint.
Even though the focus is predominantly on the cloud, the SharePoint product team has mentioned numerous times that they will also continue to expand and innovate on the SharePoint on premises platform. Microsoft recognizes that a sizeable number of customers will remain on premises, and a majority will adopt a hybrid strategy with both on premises and cloud-based components.
The takeaway here is that Microsoft will continue to innovate no matter which platform you adopt and use.
Hopefully that all makes sense. The net-net here is that there will continue to be multiple ways in which your teams can collaborate, whether on premises or in the cloud, giving customers maximum flexibility. As for the question of whether to use Yammer or SharePoint 2013 social features, here is how I answer this question for my own customers:
If your company restricts the use of any cloud-based platform or technologies, use SharePoint 2013 social features.
If your company does not restrict the use of the cloud, use Yammer.
Now, I do understand that the decision is not always that clear-cut, but this is essentially the difference, with two primary use cases: Yammer for external, ad hoc collaboration where you can maximize flexibility, and collaboration is more about the conversation than with content and structured activities, such as workflows, forms, and processes; and SharePoint 2013 social that is centered around team sites, content, and clearly defined permissions structures within a more hierarchical environment.
If you’re still unsure of which path makes sense to your organization, consider the following:
Use Yammer if…
Use SharePoint 2013 Social if…
…your primary need is to collaborate with external partners or customers
…you need a way to simplify collaboration and improve visibility across your organization
… your company dialog is getting bogged down in email, and you need to immediately increase visibility to a topic or a conversation
… you want to initiate real-time participation and sharing during a company event, like an all-hands meeting or product review using a shared #hashtag
… you want to create a "community of practice" that can leverage the same templates, information architecture, and web parts as the rest of SharePoint
… your company policies restrict the sharing of content or the discussion of intellectual property outside of approved systems or tightly-managed groups
There are certainly many other use cases for both platform, and Microsoft is also working hard to provide deeper integrations between the two so that companies have even more options on how they can use social collaboration to improve the level of adoption and engagement of their SharePoint assets.
My own company (Metalogix) uses both platforms, and they coincide quite nicely. We let the community drive which platform to use for each scenario, and on a typical day, I am actively using both.
My advice: Let your teams decide which platform to use, as organic growth and adoption is the best way to keep end users engaged long-term. Your company and team culture is the best driver of any technology adoption.
So… which will you use? Yammer, or SharePoint 2013 Social?