Category Archives: Social

Integrating SharePoint Online and Yammer – An app for that!

Way back at SPC12 (Nov 2012) the keynote included a demo that showed an example of the integration possible between SharePoint Online and Yammer that could be done with a little bit of development effort. I built that demo and decided to turn it into a real app anyone could use.

Some Background first: This surfaced in SharePoint Online by way of a new ribbon button that when pressed posted the selected document to Yammer via the Yammer Open Graph API.  It was shown pretty quickly and it was pretty easy to miss.  However, it demonstrated a few interesting methods of integration that are possible today using the new SharePoint App plumbing and Yammers pretty decent set of APIs.

The basic flow

1. In a document library a document was selected like this


2. Then in the ribbon a new “Post to Yammer” button showed up


3. When it was clicked it posted to the Yammer activity feed. 


The image above shows the hover over the activity. 

The activity feed shows a scrolling history of activity in the the Yammer network.  e.g. “Chris Johnson updated Product Catalog.docx”.  Its like that thing in Facebook that shows you all the music that your mates are listening to that they probably don’t know they are publishing to all their friends via spotify.  More on the Activity feed a little later on.

4. Clicking on the activity will take you a page in Yammer for that activity where you can Be Social™ and discuss the document, like it etc…


How it’s made

This app is pretty simple.  It’s a SharePoint Provider hosted application running in Azure Websites.  The SharePoint part of the app includes some xml to add the ribbon button to all document libraries.  When the user clicks the “Post to Yammer” button it sends some details about the document(s) to the backend of the app running in Azure. The backend code then uses the CSOM to call back into SharePoint to retrieve the name of the document and some other properties. Then the app directs the user through the Yammer OAuth authentication flow.  Once this is complete the app then is able to access Yammer on behalf of the user that signed in.

Finally the posting of the information includes posting to the Yammer activity stream using the OpenGraph APIs (JSON/REST based). It will also post to the main feed in Yammer too via the Messages REST API in Yammer. Both of these are easy to use and are fairly standard XML/JSON/REST based services.


Why is this interesting?

Recently there has been a bunch of noise about SharePoint’s current dual headed social story. 

  • In the red corner you have the social features in SharePoint (both on-prem and SharePoint Online)
  • In the blue corner you have Yammer.

The problem is that right now there is much consternation about how they don’t work nicely together. Things seem to be happening too slowly for some people.  The products are currently not integrated all that well. That is slowly changing, like the ability to switch from the NewsFeed to Yammer in Office 365 that rolled out the day of writing this post.  Those improvements will continue over time and eventually I think we will see the ability to totally replace the current out of the box social features with Yammer.

How on earth people think Microsoft can magically mash together one product with another overnight and make it all work perfectly is beyond me. It will take time people! Just because you think you could have done in overnight doesn’t mean it works that way in huge software projects … better stop this rant now before i get carried away.

The short story is that right now you have to pick one or the other.  My vote is firmly in the Yammer category. But at the end of the day there are many factors that will go into your decision either way and there isn’t a perfect answer.

There is no doubt that Microsoft will integrate the two products more deeply.  This could come in a variety of flavors including:

  • surfacing stuff that happens in Yammer in SharePoint more seamlessly (short term strategy),
  • totally replacing the existing SharePoint social features with ones backed by the Yammer in the cloud (more likely and what I would put money on, maybe with the ability to use the old stuff if you can’t use a cloud service)

Back to why this integration is interesting…

You can do things today to help with this situation.  The demo showed a very basic example of some custom integration using things we know exist today.

I smell a set up!

… and you would be right.  We are going to release this app to the store so that anyone with Office 365 can use it.  It needed some tweaks to make it work well in production & some branding changes. However in the coming days/weeks we will release it under the name “ShareIt”.


I am going to write a future post on how this app was created and it will include code to illustrate how to call the Yammer APIs.

Ultimately you should be able to follow along and learn about how you can leverage the SharePoint App model + Yammer APIs to help integrate the two products while we wait for MS to offer a nice compelling seamless integration at a yet to be determined point in time 🙂

Note: It is very likely that this app will no longer be needed once MS do their thing and integrate the products further.  I hope so to!


Puget Sound SharePoint User Group presentation – Stop! Yammer Time.

Last night i was fortunate enough to present to the local Puget Sound SharePoint User group at the Microsoft offices in Bellevue.  I titled my presentation “Stop!  Yammer time”.

It was all about Yammer (no surprise there).  I ran through where I thought things were at with regards to the current overlap and confusion between the out of the box SharePoint social features vs. those in Yammer, some roadmap information about what to expect over the next year with regards to the integration of the two products and also a few bits for developers on what APIs are available.  I also demoed a sneak peak of an app for SharePoint Online that we are publishing shortly that lets people post information to Yammer from SharePoint (more on that soon in a future post).

I was also a little antagonistic (trying to get people questioning and thinking a bit more) with my analogy between SP vs. Yammer and the Matrix movies Red pill vs. Blue pill decision that Neo has to make.  Blue pill, stay blissfully ignorant that Yammer isn’t the future of all things social in SharePoint and other Microsoft products, or the Red pill, take the painful truth of reality now and get ready for the future albeit painful and a bit messy for the time being.

It was a fun session and i really enjoyed the opportunity to present.

My slides are below if you are interested in taking a look.  (they don’t really articulate a lot of what i spoke about outside of the slides, but hopefully it helps a little)


Don’t invest in SharePoint social…

(I think I am getting better at outrageous headlines to drag you in to read the post! … please don’t leave)

I recently read Jeremy’s post about picking SharePoint social over Yammer “for right now” and wanted to weigh in on why I think they are not making the call I would have.  It’s all just personal opinion of course and Jeremy and I are close friends and no doubt he will attempt to convince me otherwise over a few beers shortly 🙂

In my humble opinion the only reason you should consider using SharePoint 2013’s social features over Yammer is if your organization is 100% unable to use a cloud based service.


Because there isn’t a future in SharePoint on-prem social features.  It’s just not what Microsoft does when it changes direction.

When Microsoft takes a bet on something big there are never two options to pick from. There is only one option and the rest is dead to them.  Rightly or wrongly, whether you like it or not, for good or bad … that’s just the way it works.  This basically means that after that speed it approximately takes for one synapse to fire Microsoft and all its muscle (sales and otherwise) stopped selling on-prem social and started selling the new cloud social story like it was never any other way.  You won’t hear anything pitching on-prem social over Yammer and it will only be used as a fall back position if the organization cant use the cloud for whatever reason.

“What should I use for social?  Yammer or the SharePoint newsfeed?”  My answer has been clear: Go Yammer!  Yammer is our big bet for enterprise social, and we’re committed to making it the underlying social layer for all of our products.” – Jared Spataro, Senior Director – SharePoint, Microsoft Corp – 19th March 2013

Update 19th March 2013:  If you want more of a nail in coffin then look no further then Jared’s latest update on the Enterprise Social Roadmap. The quote above is from this post Yammer and SharePoint: Enterprise Social Roadmap Update. If you read that 90% of the post is dedicated to Yammer with a fraction dedicated to “If you are old and clunky and stay on-prem then here is a skinny bone to chew on”.

“Cool” you might say.  “That doesn’t change what you can and can’t do with the product.  On-Prem is still my bag baby!”

If you look at the features, pros and cons and line them up side by side on-prem SharePoint social will win the sprint today … by quite a long margin.

But mark my words … it won’t win the marathon.

Here is my prediction for the next couple of years.  SharePoint on-prem social features might be lucky to get a few new features. Maybe a some in the next update, maybe a few the one after.  But where we really quit the crap and bring on the meat will be in SharePoint + Yammer integration. This is obviously not rocket science given MS just spent $1B+ dollars on it. Everything social in SharePoint Online will be ripped out and replaced/backed by Yammer with deep integrations that don’t exist today.  100% effort will be put into this experience as a first class citizen vs. the on-prem story… sad face … I like on-prem too … but like I mentioned above on-prems dead baby.

Eventually there will be no Yammer. It will just be SharePoint Online with a lot more rocking social features built by a team that deeply understand Enterprise social.  MS didn’t buy Yammer for their customers (they were mostly already SharePoint customers anyway) … they bought them for the kudos in enterprise social and the team of people who get it. Microsoft needs to win enterprise social big time and Yammer are the A game.

So why would I say don’t invest in on-prem social with the SharePoint features you get in 2013 if you can at all help it?

I would put money on there not being a great upgrade story on-prem to whatever comes next in the cloud … if at all. There could be one IF you are using SharePoint social features in 365 today … maybe.

Maybe I will have to eat my hat some day when I look back at these words … but if I were made to pick a winning horse today I would be betting on Yammer and having a smoother path to niceness with future releases.

Sure, this might mean having a muddled and semi painful story now as Jeremy points out in his post. This might mean you need to educate users around using Yammer, doing some work to federate for authentication purposes so you don’t have two logins, doing some integration work to make it easier to post stuff to Yammer from SharePoint etc.…   at least until MS pull the next round of SharePoint integrations with Yammer out of the hat and make things a lot less confusing etc.…

But at the end of the day I would be ok with that vs. being backed into a corner that you cant get out of or have a harder time getting out of.  Even if that means living with a less integrated experience today.

Who knows … I could be 100% totally wrong (in some ways I wish I will be) but maybe I wont and I hope to have saved a few of you from writing a kilotonne of migration code trying to get all those posts, likes and follows moved over to Yammer … but having said that I am sure AvePoint will have a nice migration tool ready for that eventuality anyway … so maybe all this is moot 🙂 PS: AvePoint migration tools rock by the way.

PS: The real moment I will freak out about Social in the enterprise will be when Facebook finally gets around to releasing an Enterprise offering walled garden style social experience for organizations.  I have thought for a while now that it would be “any moment now” … but nada so far.  If that happened and they offered light weight document collab etc.… it would be a game changer.  But maybe zuck is holding off while him and Steve continue their wee love fest while trying to stiff Google. Time will tell I guess.


When all you have is a nail everything looks like a Yammer.

In what was possibly the worlds worst kept secret over the last couple of weeks, MS just announced its intent to acquire Yammer:

This is really nice to see Microsoft making such a power play for the Enterprise Social computing space.  At $1.2 billion that is one big big play.

Yammer is purely based in the cloud which won’t suit everyone however.  Some customers simply cant use cloud hosted software right now for legal or regulatory reasons or are simply not ready or willing to move to the cloud etc… 

But this is certainly a nice move by MS to shore up its standing in the cloud and enterprise social computing space IMHO.  SharePoint initially took the lead way back offering things like My Sites, but soon after lost the lead and has been relying on 3rd party software to bring its offering up to par.  Yammer solves that. More importantly Yammer means MS doesn’t need to sell another product as part of a SharePoint sale.  Its all on the MS docket and can be given away if needed.

Like I said above, there will be a need for on-prem software to do this stuff for the foreseeable future.  So I wouldn’t expect people to leap blindly into Yammer en masse just yet.  But it does signal where the future investment of the platform is going from an MS perspective.

I have always wondered when/if Facebook would create an instant on Enterprise version of Facebook.  It would be pretty easy for them to do given they have all the bits they need and people would instantly get it.  Kind of like flipping the multi-tenancy switch in SharePoint (that’s for you @harbars).

Times are a changin…