The confusion continues. “What software do I use?” Regardless of the type of work a person wants to do, the confusion is often the same.

For social networking, people could use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. For file sharing, people could use OneDrive, DropBox, Box, ShareFile or Huddle. For listening to music, people could use iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or Google. The choices are endless, for an endless number of needs. Usually, for whatever reason, people find they like a certain tool for the way it looks, the user interface or its compatibility with other tools or devices being used, and they move forward.

At my organization, we use Microsoft Office 365, and when it comes time for our staff to collaborate with one another, they too ask “What software do I use?” They are presented with a wide range of choices. OneDrive, Sharepoint, Teams, Yammer, Kaizala and more.

Microsoft has helped by trying to contextualize the options in terms of the Inner and Outer Loops focusing on Teams and Yammer. Teams is the Inner Loop, for the date driven, project focused team work. Yammer, is the Outer Loop, the place where projects and information can be shared with the wider organization.

It made more sense to me to think of the tools, in the context of how we create and share information, as a Collaboration Triangle. We create information in OneDrive. Our OneDrive is connected to Sharepoint. From Sharepoint, the file is accessible to work groups for further collaboration in Teams, and then shared with a wider audience in Yammer.

Both the Inner/Outer Loop and the Collaboration Triangle made sense to me, and helped me to advise my colleagues on what tools to use when. And yet, the questions continue. What do I use, and when do I use it? Loops and triangles are all well and good, but these are terms. Terms are just words that people need to learn, need to understand and need to put in the context of their own work.

When looking at Teams and Yammer, I have realized we can boil these down to even simpler terms so that most any person working in any kind of office work environment would be able to apply to their own role.

Teams is the Conference Room
The door is closed. Your department is sitting around a table talking. Doing work. Looking at a white board. Nobody leaves until the project is done. Microsoft Teams provides that private space for the work to be done, with the tools you need to do the work.

In fact, Microsoft Teams is an “inline” collaboration tool. We can set up a Team for each department, and then in that Team we create Channels for specific projects. Everyone on the Team can see the different Channels, and each Channel provides a wide variety of collaboration and scheduling tools in addition to chat functionality, virtual meetings, and access to Sharepoint and OneDrive files.

Yammer is the Water Cooler
The work is done. People file out of the conference room and head back to their desks and offices. They will probably make a few stops along the way. An office lobby? Coffee station? Lunch room? Whatever the area, let’s call it the water cooler. This is where we share news of the day, and probably a little gossip too. Whether we are talking about our work, sharing a photo of our dog or a few tasty tidbits about the project that was being worked on in the conference room, information is being shared in a meaningful way. Valuable connections are being made as people talk with one another. People they may not have talked to unless they were congregating in a common area. They are collaborating. They are being transparent. The are connecting with the wider organization outside of their department.

In fact, Microsoft Yammer is an enterprise collaboration software. In your private Yammer network, you can set up discussion and file sharing groups that are public to everyone, or if necessary, private to smaller teams. As staff members review their Yammer homepage newsfeed, they are immediately aware of projects and news from throughout the organization.

This is not to suggest that real work and collaboration can not happen in your Yammer network, or that Teams cannot be used to connect people from different departments. When these tools are both used in a work environment though, the most benefit is realized when the compliment each other as a triangle, as an inner and outer loop, as a conference room and water cooler.

For anyone who works in any kind of office environment, the conference room and water coolers are concepts that are immediately understood and applicable.

I’m sure the good analogies will continue. Conference rooms, triangles and loops. Different people understand different concepts different. Use any one of them, use them all, just make sure the people at your organization are using the tools made available to them.


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