Yammer Powers Viva Engage and Teams Q&A

New Mission, New Teams Meeting Q and A app, New Functionality

On August 23, Microsoft announced that the Viva Engage app is rolling out to Teams users to replace the older Yammer Communities app. In July, I noted that Microsoft planned to make Yammer the cornerstone of Viva Engage and wondered if this would prove to be Yammer’s real niche within Microsoft 365. We still don’t know if this will be the case, but it’s good to see progress.

Microsoft’s announcement says “For nearly ten years, Yammer has been a leader in employee engagement. Now we are delivering these superpowers into the Microsoft Viva platform, to empower people and teams to be their best, have a voice, and feel included in the workplace.” Apart from the gratuitous use of “superpowers” (which software never possesses), the interesting thing here is the rebranding of Yammer to employee engagement. I guess it’s another way of describing enterprise social networking, the original Yammer mission, but to me it confirms that Microsoft is seeking to give Yammer a new role.

Seamless Switch to Viva Engage

In any case, as Microsoft promised, switching in Viva Engage to replace Yammer communities was seamless. My tenant has custom branding for the Yammer communities app and the existence of a different name and logo didn’t interfere with the replacement. Right now, there’s not much difference between the two apps (Figure 1), but I’m sure we’ll see the Viva Engage app evolve over time. According to Microsoft, the switchover process should be complete worldwide by the end of September.

The Viva Engage app in Teams
Figure 1: The Viva Engage app in Teams

Yammer and Teams Meeting Q&A

On July 19, Microsoft announced that the Q&A feature for Teams Meetings is generally available. What people might not realize is that Yammer powers the Q&A capability within a meeting. Q&A is an app added to a meeting when the meeting organizer updates the meeting settings to enable the feature (Figure 2).

Enabling Q&A for a Teams meeting
Figure 2: Enabling Q&A for a Teams meeting

Within the meeting, launching the Q&A app allows meeting participants to ask and respond to questions, including the ability to react to questions and comments and to mark the best response (Figure 3). Anyone accustomed to working with Yammer will recognize the “inclusive” icons used for reactions, which is one hint about the app’s source.

The Q&A app in use in a Teams meeting
Figure 3: The Q&A app in use in a Teams meeting

Some will like the way that the Q&A app gives a structure to questions and responses. Others will consider this overkill and point to the way that meeting chat can serve the same purpose, albeit without the ability to mark the best response. The point here is that no one forces meeting organizers to add Q&A. It’s an app and like any other app that supports meetings, Q&A is optional.

Q&A and Compliance

Being interested in compliance, I wondered if Yammer captured the text in the questions and comments for compliance purposes. Some poking around in mailboxes using the MFCMAPI record reveals that the Microsoft 365 substrate creates compliance records (mail items) for questions and responses in the Yammer folder, just like regular messages posted to Yammer communities. Figure 4 shows the content captured for a response posted to the Q&A app (the same message as shown in Figure 3).

Compliance records created for Yammer Q&A messages
Figure 4: Compliance records created for Yammer Q&A messages

It’s important to underline that the compliance records captured by the Microsoft 365 substrate are mail items that contain enough information for eDiscovery and other compliance purposes (like monitoring by communications compliance policies). They are not perfect copies of the original messages. For instance, if you run a content search to find these items and download one (the items do not support previewing), you’ll get an Outlook message. Figure 5 shows an example of an item marked as the best response in a thread. You can see the text of the comment and then an odd representation of “best response.”

Yammer Best Response noted in a compliance record
Figure 5: Yammer Best Response noted in a compliance record

Compliance records do not capture user reactions.

Yammer = Employee Engagement

Going forward, I think the debate about Yammer’s position in Microsoft 365 and its competition with Teams will terminate. The focus now seems firmly set on employee engagement, and we’re likely to see some verbal gymnastics to bring the Yammer browser client under that heading soon. Making use of Yammer capabilities in apps that can be plugged into the Teams framework makes sense too, even if Teams is in danger of becoming flooded by apps. I guess choice is goodness.

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