Microsoft Teams, Groups in Outlook or Yammer. Which to use, and when?

Teams, Groups in Outlook or Yammer. Which tool to use, and when?

Office 365 is like having a big tool kit with everything you need. Just because you have three different types of screwdriver, doesn’t mean you always need to use them. It’s the same with Office 365 – having a number of different technologies available to help with communication is good; but you still need to pick the right tool for the job.

Teams, Groups in Outlook and Yammer are three such tools where there is some overlap – all can be used for ongoing chats and conversations, but they work in subtlety different ways that make a big difference in the way they solve problems.

Yammer works really well in a few scenarios in particular. Firstly, where there is a need within the organisation to break down traditional barriers that exist between teams and foster open communication; to remove silos of knowledge. Often that requires a chance in the way people are rewarded for doing well, as meeting individual targets, rather than team or organisational ones often involves keeping knowledge to yourself. Secondly, Yammer helps expose not just the most current conversations, but the most relevant and popular. Both of these help make working in a more open way easier because not only can knowledge be shared – there isn’t a firehose of information to consume.

Microsoft Teams on the other hand fits quite well into existing ways of working; it’s not a change to a way a team works – which for immediate adoption can be a positive thing; but it can also be negative in that it can reinforce behaviours like working in silos. It replaces team chats that would have used Skype for Business (or Slack) and is aimed at fast-paced chats where the most relevant conversation is the one happening in the channel right now, not last week. Because Teams brings together multiple services in Office 365 and can surface information from a range of sources, it’s very good as a tool to present one view of information, outside of email.

Groups in Outlook is often then the unloved cousin in the overall Office 365 Groups picture. It’s built on the same fundamental membership list as Yammer and Teams groups – you get Groups in Outlook with your Team, and it’s even got a threaded mobile chat application and full integration into Outlook 2016. It’s main purpose is to help organisations make it easier for employees to remove even more email-based conversations out of their inbox, whilst still maintaining the push model of email where important information can be guaranteed delivery. Distribution Groups are, in general, a good fit; but more benefits can often be found by moving that one-way messaging over to Yammer.

Smaller organisations who want to remain firmly “in email” will also find Groups in Outlook offers a nice mix of conversation-based communication and chat that isn’t as rich or featuresome as Teams or Yammer, but keeps the number of tools presented to employees to a minimum.

With the news that Skype for Business is merging with Teams, Groups in Outlook may find a resurgence in popularity too; organisations who have standardised on another UC platform like Cisco are likely to banish Teams if they hadn’t already.

The problem is understanding which tool is the right one to use, and when. To understand this you can’t just rely on what you know already – you need to go out and talk to people. One of the most interesting parts of the work my employer does is within their adoption focused team, who perform user research to understand exactly what problems people have with the current technology they use, and then we use that data to decide what the right tools should be.

The user research piece is really important, because if you are trying to understand which of the tools make most sense for your organisation, then there is a million articles that tell you what Teams, Yammer and Groups in Outlook are, and give you high level thoughts on what you should do and when. Really though, it is very simple when it comes to choosing the right tool. Get an understanding of user pains and what the organisation as a whole is trying to achieve and choosing the tool should be a whole lot easier.

To share some of the knowledge and findings I’ve seen through our user research and what then happens in real projects, I’ve put together a short session recording – Microsoft Teams vs Groups vs Yammer. You can watch this on-demand via the Content and Code website.