For months now we have been adjusting to the concept of “leading with the cloud”: the idea that new features will be made available first within Office 365, followed by release to an on-premises version aligned with typical release cycles. We have started to see some small changes deployed this way, such as the simple toolbar or the Excel Survey. Recently we have started to see the next wave of changes, which include a greater level of integration between Yammer and SharePoint. We are starting to see the implementation of the promises made earlier this year at the SharePoint Conference. Let's look at some of these new directions.
Contextual Conversation Pane
The changes you will start to see in Office 365 and SkyDrive are a Contextual Conversation Pane from Yammer that allows you to create a threaded conversation about the current content. When you open your document you will see the pane on the right of the screen.
When you expand the tool pane you will be able to see the existing comment thread for the document. If no thread exists you will be able to create a new one.
The conversation thread has three components:
- The Message Text – This is the threaded conversation about the document.
- Specific Notifications – This allows you to tag specific users in a post. You should do this if you want them to be notified on a specific comment.
- Group Location – This allows you to select where the thread will be started in Yammer. By default a post will be shared with the entire Network. That has the possibility to create a lot of noise, so I recommend that you post to a specific group instead.
Once the conversation has been started, users can interact with the thread from the document or they can View the Conversation in Yammer. With each reply they have the option to notify additional users. Note though that once a thread is started it can’t be moved to a different group.
When you select to View the Conversation you will be redirected to the conversation in Yammer. From there you will be able to access the remaining Yammer features that allow you to follow, bookmark or email the thread to you.
Whenever you click on the document it will open the document in the browser and display the comment pane. This allows you to work with the document across Yammer and SharePoint in a single way.
Things to consider
Just like all things in tech, there are things to consider when working with tools and features. With this new conversation pane there are few things that you should keep in mind.
None of these things to consider should keep you from using the toolbar, they are just guidelines for how you might use it. If you are aware of the gotchas you should be able to easily work around them by doing things like starting threads within groups or by expanding the permissions of your team site to a larger audience. These features are one step closer to the idea of having a streamlined set of tools to easily work together in multiple ways. As the new features are used they will continue to be enhanced and improved upon based on customer feedback and usage. I recommend that you jump in and give it a try!
- Yammer Identity: For most users, this is likely not an issue, however for some use cases this warning will apply. The contextual toolbar is going to post to whatever account you are currently logged into with Yammer. This means that if you have more than one account that you use with Yammer that you should proceed with caution and ensure you are posting to the location you desire. This will mostly affect consultants or those that have multiple company accounts.
- Internal Networks Only: For now, this feature works only on internal networks.
- Document Permissions: You can add comments to any document stored within SharePoint, but SharePoint permissions still rule. So this means that you can have a document on a private (restricted access) team site but still start a comment thread in an all Network group. This would mean that everyone who has access to the Yammer group would see the comments, even if they don’t have access to the document. If they clicked on the link to open the document then SharePoint Permissions would take over and they would be denied access or presented with an access request form (depending on your site configuration).
- Adding a document to Yammer directly doesn’t currently give you the same experience. This means that you can have two documents in threads in Yammer that look the same, but respond differently. For most teams this shouldn’t matter, you just simply need to pick a style and go with it for consistency.
- You have to have Yammer configured as your primary social experience. In order for these features to work within your Office 365 environment you must have Yammer configured (vs the SharePoint Newsfeeds). If you need instructions on doing this, refer to this blog
post from the Office team.