How to choose between Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and Outlook

Note (Mar 2017): as this post has had a fair amount of interest, I thought I should include a link to an older companion piece, Which Tool When, v3.0

The official word is now out, Microsoft Teams was announced today. The question once again popping up across the interwebs: what does this mean for Yammer? I’d like to reframe the question: what does it mean for Outlook? The same question was asked when Outlook Groups was released, and Naomi Moneypenny has a fantastic blog post addressing how Ignite 2016 has resolved this once and for all.

The big-picture answer is that different styles of collaboration have always existed, and will continue to be needed. Don’t wait for the One Ring. Use what works for you. As Sharegate has said, it’s about choice.

By continuing to ask the question “which tool should we use?” we’re prioritizing technology over culture, a classic mistake made by teams that are trying new ways of working. Instead, we should be asking “what’s the most important principles our teams shares about collaboration?”

* What I mean by conversation complexity is the spectrum from a flat chat stream where a conversation lasts minutes to multi-threaded conversations that last for weeks.

There are feature differences, of course. Editing posts. Rights management. URL-addressable conversations. API support. Analytics depth. GIFs. These should all be secondary to the primary purposes of your collaboration and the business value you need to derive from it.

Our internal communications consultancy is often asked to help a team migrate from one technology to another. Every time, we ask them to take a step back and first answer questions about the business problems they’re trying to solve. If they ask their employees to adopt a new way of working without knowing what they’re going to get from it, they won’t understand what difference it makes to have a conversation in tool X vs. tool Y.

PS. More great posts on this topic from:

Improving employee engagement with better communication, transparency, and responsiveness. Customer Success Manager at Microsoft UK.

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