Why I’m Disappointed the Yammer Document Conversations Feature Has Been Cancelled in Office 365
Recently Microsoft announced that they will be cancelling the Yammer Document Conversations feature that had been previously in the “Rolling Out” category on the Office 365 Roadmap. For those unfamiliar with Yammer Document Conversations, here is the announcement of the feature from 2014. Essentially, Yammer Document Conversations allow you to post to a specific Yammer group and have a discussion about the document while it is open in the browser from a panel on the right.
Figure 1: Yammer Document Conversations
Many people were either finding this feature useful, or looking forward to its potential, judging from the reaction on the Office 365 Yammer Network (Requires sign-up; someone will approve your membership within 24 business hours). Christophe Fiessinger, an Office 365 Product Manager, replied to the thread with this link to this recent article titled, Document collaboration in Yammer just got better with Office Online!
The article describes new functionality within Yammer; now “the document preview and edit experience for files uploaded into Yammer are now powered by Office Online”, meaning that the Office Web App will be used for file preview and editing instead of the third-party service Crocodoc. Additionally, they plan to enable real-time co-authoring and document translation during the first half of 2016. The reasons for the cancellation of Document Conversations were listed in the post, which I will address in a separate article, “Why A/B Testing Does not Work for Features”.
While I am happy to see Yammer and Office coming closer together by using common document editing capabilities, there are a few things that make me pause with this announcement.
Yammer does not provide Enterprise IT security, control, and compliance for files. Microsoft’s compete story for OneDrive for Business (OD4B) against Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive is that OD4B provides Enterprise IT security, control, and compliance through the Enterprise Content Management feature set present in ODFB, SharePoint Online, and SharePoint 2013/2010 on-prem (See the Ignite 2015 presentation: A File’s Future with OneDrive for Business, slide 12). If you implement Yammer + OneDrive for Business and/or SharePoint Online then you are giving users a place to store and edit files that are not managed with these security, control, and compliance features (Thank you, Christophe, for confirming). Additionally, the User Interface now looks the same so it will be more difficult for users to understand the difference. Naomi Moneypenny confirmed that you are able to disable file upload in Yammer, but it will also disable uploading images, which most of us would agree is not useful.
Figure 2: Ignite 2015 presentation: A File’s Future with OneDrive for Business, slide 12
- Co-authoring on documents will not be available in Yammer until 2016. The ability to co-author an Office document with up to 99 users is currently available in OD4B/SharePoint Online, and was available in alongside conversation in the cancelled Yammer Document Conversations feature. Even in the new implementation, co-authoring and commenting would occur in two different screens, assuming there are no UI changes. I think Document Conversations was a better user experience overall.
- Yammer files do not appear in Delve (yet?). Hopefully this will be changing very soon, as evidenced by this Microsoft support article (3rd section) which states: “if you’ve opted in to the First Release program and activated Yammer Enterprise, links to public webpages that users post on public Yammer groups can show up as content cards in Delve, users can post documents to Yammer from Delve and start and view Yammer conversations in Delve.” BTW – If someone has seen this in action, please post a screenshot!
For the record, I think the Office 365 Product Team does a great job. They really listen to user feedback, which is what inspired me to write this article. They are working with the project constraints of time, money, and quality just like the rest of us, and features need to be prioritized accordingly.