Is Your Organization a Community or Just a Collection of Teams?

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Last year, during a Microsoft conference, the presenters emphasized that employees now participate in twice as many teams as compared to a few years ago. This makes sense, as work tasks and communications are continuously increasing. Microsoft already has many products to support these teams – including Yammer, SharePoint, Skype-For-Business and Exchange email groups, but apparently, this is not enough. They have now launched a “Teams” application, which is very similar to Slack. One year later, the question remains: will Microsoft Teams help organizations be more efficient or will it just be part of the noise that already exists for employees using the Microsoft Office 365 suite? (see the comments on my last blog, Slack’s Success & The Future of Enterprise Social Networks).

At the conference, I asked Microsoft managers, “How should we decide which application to use?” The sincere response from a one Microsoft presenter was: “That’s the million-dollar question.” Apparently, individual users and organizations were being given the choice (Microsoft has since cleverly devised this “Inner Loop” / “Outer Loop” distinction, for guidance on where to start a conversation).


To avoid collaboration chaos, organizations need clear governance, and guidance for employees, especially the managers who will be making the application choice for their group’s collaboration. Yet, in some cases, Microsoft technically restricts the choice. For instance, inside SharePoint, you may be able to add widgets for Yammer and Teams, but not Exchange Groups. Are you a bit confused? Wait until you have to deal with the separate Office 365 admin definition of “Groups”, which defines access and reporting across all multiple Microsoft applications.

As for Yammer versus  Teams…

It is instructive to see how Microsoft uses the two apps internally: even after the Teams launch, the CEO still relied on Yammer as his means to share information and gain feedback. This is the power of an enterprise social network (ESNs, such as Yammer), versus new age chat applications (such as Teams or Slack): ESNs enable community building. Yes – for daily collaboration, Yammer is yielding to Skype and Teams. However, Yammer, remains the best application to build communities, to achieve ambitious company-wide goals, to break through silos and improve cross-department alignment on strategic objectives.

If the goal is to unite the workforce, then the ESN is a great option. With the right nurturing, it can lead to tangible strategic benefits. However, community building isn’t easy, and it involves more than just technology.

As one of the first modern community managers, John Coate, sustained, “it can only really be true if the people who are actively involved in it, declare for themselves that it is true: we are a community.”

To find more about Microsoft Teams you can read the article How to foster Business Collaboration with Microsoft Teams.


Adam Zawel is a specialist in growing online communities. He helps organizations develop their online communities to engage employees, partners and customers.