Since beginning to work professionally with Microsoft products five years ago, I have seen a seemingly disparate group of products that serve teams and team work in different ways slowly move closer to together to become a suite of tools providing meaningful communication and collaboration opportunities for all different kinds of teams in all different kinds of settings.

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To help make sense of which tools serve which functionality, Microsoft has been sharing the concept of the Inner Loop vs. the Outer Loop. Teams software can serve the needs of your Inner Loop. The team where your high velocity, project based work happens. Yammer, on the other hand, can help your team connect to the Outer Loop, to the rest of your organization. We are more effective when we are collaborative and transparent, and Yammer helps us to become aware of work being done by other groups in our organization, and provides the opportunity for involvement and engagement.

The Inner Loop and Outer Loop concept has helped me to understand how these different software platforms compliment each other, and how we can best use these tools in our organization do our work. However, as I work with Yammer and Teams, not to mention Sharepoint and Outlook, I think an analogy better than loops would be that of a scalene triangle, a triangle shape in which all three sides are different lengths. In order for the triangle to hold its shape the different sides lean on one another, they need each other in order stay in place.

The Microsoft Collaboration Triangle sits upon a base of Outlook. Outlook is used for communication between individuals, or small groups. When attachments are necessary, those attachments are included as a Sharepoint or OneDrive link so one file is reviewed, edits and comments are made are made in one file location, and different versions don’t need to be sent back and forth.

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The bottom side of triangle is Sharepoint/OneDrive. Without Sharepoint/OneDrive, everything falls down. All files are stored here, all files are shared from here. A Sharepoint site can be a powerful intranet, team storage hub, communication space and directory. OneDrive is where all your personal files are stored, and from where files can be easily shared.

Teams is where your projects get done. When a new Team channel is created, so is a new Sharepoint site, and Teams connects to files in Sharepoint so they can be easily found and shared. Teams is for high velocity work. Collaborate on files, track projects, talk back and forth in real time, host Skype calls.

Yammer connects to Sharepoint as well. Yammer is for the Outerloop. Yammer connects us to teams and departments throughout our organization so everyone can be aware of other work being done. Connect to conversations, stay current on what other teams are planning and thinking about. Connect Teams to Yammer so relevant conversations can be monitored. Share Sharepoint files in Yammer and in Teams. Files still live in one place, so they remain easy to track.

Everything starts with Sharepoint. From there, we collaborate in small project based groups in Teams. We then connect to the rest of the organization in Yammer. Yes there are ways to enhance each tool. PowerBI to help interpret data, Yammer newsfeeds in Teams, Sharepoint file libraries in Yammer, the list goes on. Each side, each tool, remains dependent on another side, another tool, to maintain full functionality. If one side is not there, everything else falls away.

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