Yammer Communities App for Microsoft Teams

Mixture of Oil and Water as Yammer Gets Tight to Teams

You’ve got to give Microsoft credit for attempting an interesting balancing act. On the one hand, the Year of Yammer initiative is doing everything possible to breadth life into Yammer with some nice functionality like interaction conversations in OWA. On the other, Microsoft continues to do things that leads customers to question the need for Yammer, like increasing the member limit for Teams to 10,000. The increase is needed by large enterprise customers, but it erodes an advantage Yammer has in dealing with large communities.

The Yammer Communities App

The latest development is the introduction of Communities, a Yammer app for Teams. The Communities app is available now in the Teams store. You can read Microsoft’s announcement or Microsoft 365 roadmap item 63163.

Why “Communities” and not “Yammer”? In February 2020 Microsoft renamed Yammer groups to be Yammer communities to emphasize the new mission for Yammer and to distinguish how people use Yammer in comparison to other Microsoft collaboration products like Teams. The new name also removes some confusion about Yammer and Microsoft 365 Groups, even though Yammer communities use Microsoft 365 Groups if the network is configured in Microsoft 365 native mode. In any case, the app’s called Communities.

Communities in the App Navigation Pane

The Communities app can be installed into Teams as a pinned app in the navigation rail (Figure 1) or as a tab in a channel (Figure 3). Like all other apps, the ability of a user to pin the Communities app depends on the Teams app permission policies deployed in a tenant.

The Yammer Communities app installed as a pinned app
Figure 1: The Yammer Communities app installed as a pinned app.

To make the Communities app available as a default app, admins can include it in a Teams app setup policy (Figure 2).

Including the Yammer Communities app in a Teams app setup policy
Figure 2: Including the Yammer Communities app in a Teams app setup policy

When the Communities app is installed as an app, it mimics the Yammer browser app. You can navigate to all of the communities in your Yammer network (maybe even a network configured in Microsoft 365 native mode) as well as your Yammer Inbox. You can ask questions, like messages, create polls, attend live events, and share messages to other Yammer communities. The only thing I missed is the ability to switch Yammer networks, which I use extensively as I am a member of several external networks.

Communities in a Channel

The other way to use the Communities app is to install it as a channel tab. In this mode, you configure the app to open a specific community. In Figure 3, I’ve added a tab to open the Office 365 Questions Yammer community. In this mode, you can’t navigate to the other communities in your network nor can you access your Yammer Inbox, but you can interact fully with the conversations in the selected community.

The Communities app configured as a channel tab
Figure 3: The Communities app configured as a channel tab

When used in channel mode, the Communities app includes a Share to Teams Channel option to bridge the gap between a conversation happening in Yammer and the channel. The feature extracts a portion of a conversation and posts it as a new topic to the channel. The post is somewhat like the cards you see coming in from Office connectors, but it drops all graphics and formatting.

The Share to Teams Channel option in the Yammer Communities app
Figure 4: The Share to Teams Channel option in the Yammer Communities app

Less satisfactory is the View in Yammer link contained in the channel post. Instead of taking you back into the Communities app to view the full conversation, the link opens the Yammer browser app. In addition, Yammer is not intelligent enough to switch networks if the link points to a conversation in a network that’s not the one currently open in the Yammer browser session.

All software can be improved and this is definitely a place where Microsoft could introduce some smarts.

A Pointer for OWA?

Of the two modes, I prefer the pinned app best. It’s more functional and allows full access to all the communities in a tenant’s Yammer network. It’s also a pointer to how OWA could be integrated as an app in Teams. People have tried to integrate OWA in Teams with varying degrees of success. The Yammer folks seem to have come up with a good recipe that could perhaps be applied to OWA.

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