7 things ‘Teams’ tell us Microsoft hasn’t learnt from Yammer

By Ant Cousins, Director of Customer Success at ProFinda.

Wow. With Microsoft Teams it seems they’re really doubling down on that $1.2b investment in Yammer back in 2012. Despite historically low engagement and a lack of reported ROI from using the tool, Microsoft Teams looks…. exactly the same as Yammer. Which is a bit worrying given Yammer itself hasn’t really changed since its acquisition all those years ago.

Rather than improve the product, Microsoft seems to be keen on a re-brand of existing functionality to take on Slack in the chat market, even though Yammer had so much potential to address the wider collaboration challenge faced in large enterprises. So has Microsoft really given up on collaboration to simply address the chat problem? Here’s 7 problems we can already tell Microsoft teams isn’t going to solve in Enterprise collaboration:

  1. Re-enforcing organisational silos. As we can see in the screenshot, Teams replicates Yammer’s failure to effectively breakdown organisational silos. We’ve all experienced the challenge of delegating the ability for individual users or teams to create groups or rooms, only to find the only room they create online is the one that replicates their existing offline organisational hierarchy. Great! Only that doesn’t really add much value over their existing email distribution lists and SharePoint sites and in fact can cause duplication and other knowledge management nasties.

  2. No help with search. We can see search is relegated to the top left where Yammer left it. Search isn’t emphasized because it seems Teams is still built on the same assumption you already know and are connected to all the people you need to work and share with. In large organisations we know from research that employees waste hours a day looking for the right people to collaborate with, but they’re left posting randomly to rooms in the hope that the person with the right knowledge or insight to help them has also joined those rooms and is following the feed at the time.

  3. Cats (and other things non-work related). It’s still very ‘social’ which can lead to senior leader cynacism in its value for productivity. Even if they do believe in it, they have to answer to the board/shareholders/public or someone else who cares a lot more about work getting done rather than the ability of your staff to tell their colleagues what they had for lunch.

  4. Senior support. Due to points 1, 2 & 3 senior staff and leadership support for the use of Microsoft Teams will rest somewhat in the confidence they have of using it and getting value for themselves. This remains a challenge for people who haven’t grown up using social media as they’re sometimes daunted by who’s going to see what they write and what if they make a mistake etc. Unless Microsoft Teams makes it clear and simple as to who will see what they write, they’ll continue to use emails for anything sensitive which means nothing that useful will be shared, and they won’t encourage their teams to use it either.

  5. Noise. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Yammer appears not to be addressed by Microsoft Teams. Information Overload is a real problem for employees and with limited support for relevance and noise filtering in Microsoft Teams it will just be one of those other places to dip into, have a browse, then leave when you don’t find anything useful. It’s based on the same failed idea that you can join the right rooms and follow the right people and, if you’re there at the right time, you’ll see useful information from them. Which groups are relevant to me? Which colleagues? You might follow a colleague because they’re relevant to you today, but that doesn’t mean they will be relevant to you tomorrow. But tomorrow, and every day after that, you’re still going to get their status updates in your feed and potentially miss the relevant ones. Teams look isn’t designed to help you with the challenge of who should you be connecting with now in the context of the challenge you’re facing now?

  6. Community Management overhead. With its rooms based structure, if the ability to create rooms hasn’t been delegated to the users, you’ve got yourself a huge task of mapping the organisational structures and communities of interest to enable the sharing of information. Unfortunately organisational structures are in constant change, meaning you’re always behind and users are confused. Even more difficult is creating rooms to support appropriate collaboration across organisational silos and finding and managing champions to promote the use of those rooms across different hierarchies. Senior leaders may not be engaged enough to support their staff taking time to manage rooms and drive adoption when the benefits are seemingly spread across other parts of the business.

  7. Lost knowledge. With the same room structure as Yammer, there will be popular generic rooms where far too much is shared, too little is relevant to users and, should they ever want to find that document or that chat thread which was relevant to them, good luck. It’s lost in the never ending deluge of chat never to be seen again. If we can’t easily find previous answers and solutions or reference points, we’ll be as doomed on Microsoft Teams, as we were on Yammer, to ask the same questions over and over or worse, repeat the same mistakes…. So, in general, well done Microsoft for making things that were quite easy about 6% easier. Now can we please focus on the really big problems still faced by those of us trying to resolve the collaboration problem for big business?

About the author

Antony Cousins is the Director of Customer Success at ProFinda — connect with him at antony.cousins[at]profinda.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.