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The Difference Between Microsoft’s Yammer and Facebook’s Workplace

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By Baxter Willis, head of WM Reply‘s Engage team, specialists in helping businesses engage with their most valuable asset: the workforce.

Enterprise social networks are nothing new. They’ve been on the scene almost as long as social networks themselves. But the role they play has changed, and taking a close look at the differences between two of the most popular – Microsoft’s Yammer and Workplace by Facebook– is a good way of illustrating this.

So, firstly what separates the two?

Features

When it comes to functionality there are a few simple ways in which Yammer distinguishes itself from Workplace by Facebook. The first of these is all about how the networks allow themselves to be implemented alongside existing products in companies’ technology infrastructure. A wide range of open APIs means Yammer’s software can be easily integrated with, and work alongside established systems that provide essential company-specific services. In contrast, the relatively closed-off nature of Workplace by Facebook is a hang-up from the company’s approach to consumer social networking and its quest for control of data. In some ways it’s a similar story to why the early Apple computers lost out to Microsoft: When selling a complex product to a sophisticated audience, it pays to give them a say in how they use it.

In a similar vein, Yammer is in a different league when it comes to importing and exporting data – something Facebook, predictably, isn’t so open to. That same openness also means a wide range of third party collaborations and plug-ins are available on Yammer but not Workplace. Yammer offers 61 external integrations at last count, compared to just four in Workplace.

One of the most significant differences however is in the search function, and it’s so important because the weight of information that passes across the desk of the average employee in 2018 means they can’t simply catalogue and track everything in folders like in the good old days. The difference appears to be so stark because Workplace’s search function is based on Facebook’s, which was never built to allow users to quickly and easily track down essential information, but rather to find their friends. Because of this, Workplace by Facebook’s search has some severe limitations, like not being able to search inside replies, meaning that whole threads of conversations – and, typically, answers to questions – simply won’t appear in the results.

Integration with Office 365

Simple functionality differences aside, there is yet one overarching reason Workplace by Facebook will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with Yammer, and that is when it comes to collaborative integration.

Firstly, it goes without saying that Microsoft Office is among the most essential business tools in the world, so Yammer’s parallel development and built-in integration with the Microsoft product suite is naturally advantageous. However the distinction runs deeper than that.

Workplace by Facebook is an enterprise social network in the traditional sense. It’s a communication infrastructure for employees to “talk about” doing work that has grown from Facebook’s social network designed to help students talk about nights out. Yammer started out as – and always has been – a business product, albeit one that’s moved from enabling communication to enabling collaboration. As it exists today, Yammer helps employees do much more than talk about tasks, it makes it easier, more efficient and more creative to plan, carry out and share work.

There are innumerable examples of how Yammer connects with Office 365 and SharePoint to become a catalyst to employee efforts. For example, with Office 365 and Yammer, collaboration isn’t just in-document, it’s joined up across the whole platform. Colleagues can chat, collaborate, write and edit all in one place, all at the same time.

What businesses want and employees need

The distinction between Yammer’s deep business understanding and Workplace by Facebook, with its consumer roots, is also clear from its user base. Interestingly, when the sizes of the companies using each solution are compared, nearly two thirds (61%) of the businesses using by Workplace by Facebook have fewer than 50 employees. Among the companies using Yammer, roughly the same proportion (59%) are businesses with more than 50 employees, with the (joint) largest share made up by companies with more than 1000 employees. These companies make up 28% of Yammer’s customers.

It seems that as businesses get bigger, more sophisticated, and develop a clearer understanding of what their employees need and will use, Yammer is the solution they turn to.

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