Why Are We Talking Yammer at a Project Server Conference?

Man, that’s a great question.  I’m glad you asked.

Of course, there’s the technical reason.  Yammer is owned by Microsoft and falls under that same collaboration SharePoint umbrella Borg thing that Project Server also falls under.

Then there’re the organizational reasons….a couple of the folks from the Microsoft Project team that we all knew and, well, if not loved, at least generally enjoyed working with, jumped ship a year or two ago and moved over to the Yammer side of things.

And then there’s the fact that Yammer and Project Server really represent two sides of the same coin.  At the end of the day, the entire SharePointYammerProjectServerCollab story is really one of enabling teams, whether they be project teams, technical teams, management teams, or any other kind of team.  It’s a story of breaking down each individual’s personal identity and reforming it as part of a larger group with a common goal.  That larger group may be the project, the PMO, or the entire organization.  At some point, the membership and very identity of that group pivots around a central, common idea, or goal.

Yammer, to be specific, and collaboration tools in general, help groups determine their own path to achieve that goal.  It facilitates self-organization of the group to best achieve goals.  And that, by the way, is how you know you’re using Yammer correctly – if you’re using it (to paraphrase Michael Schrage) to create a shared experience and not to share experiences.  The latter means you’re just using Yammer as an internal corporate Facebook to share pictures from last quarter’s sales meeting.

Project Server, and project management tools, on the other hand are a much less tolerant of ambiguity.  Project Server is the X to Yammer’s Y.  Project Server is all about the metrics.  Project Server allows us to define our goal, and then to assess whether or not we’re going to achieve it.  Project Server brings the hard calculations missing in a pure collaborative space.

In a broader sense then, Project Server allows us to identify challenges in achieving our goals.  At the project level, that may mean finishing on schedule.  At the enterprise level, that may mean that we’re not focusing on the work we should be.  Either way, these metrics help quantify the challenges to achieving our shared goal.  These metrics create the shared problem space.  Collaborative tools help us develop solutions to these problems.  Both approaches are required to reach the finish line.

What’s interesting is the fundamental difference in approach from both tools.  Whereas Yammer assumes the existence of intrinsic motivation on behalf of the participants, as a more metrics driven tool, usage of Project Server is usually driven by extrinsic motivation.  It’s the difference between saying, “I want to work with this guy to achieve my goals,” and “I need to get my data in so the reports look right when they go to the boss.”

If you look at the work of the organization as occurring along a continuum, there is a certain structure that must be followed.  Within that structure, there’s a certain grey area that can be exploited to make the organization nimble and responsive.  This is a complementary arrangement that delineates the space in which Project Server and Yammer play.

Why Are We Talking Yammer at a Project Server Conference?

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