Microsoft is in the midst of rolling out a new feature, called document conversations, that enables Yammer users to collaborate on Office files in real-time.
Document conversations is one of several capabilities that the company is implementing to align Office 365 and Yammer, according to Christophe Fiessinger, a group product manager on Microsoft’s enterprise social team. Oslo, the upcoming Office Graph app, employs the relationship mapping concept pioneered by Yammer. Similarly, Yammer’s Groups functionality is also headed to Office 365.
Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. The software giant has been bringing the Office and Yammer platforms closer together with a steady stream of updates since then.
“Document conversations enable people to share their ideas and expertise around Office documents, images and videos right from within the content they are editing or reviewing,” Fiessinger said in a statement. The feature works with Office Online files that are opened in a browser and stored within the SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business cloud storage services.
The file displays on the left, while an expandable Yammer conversation pane sprouts from the right-hand side of the browser window. Real-time Yammer updates allow users to collaborate on a document and share ideas without refreshing their browsers. In addition, users can publish to Yammer Groups, “@mention” colleagues and post messages.
The feature also extends to users toiling away in the Yammer user interface. “If you’re working in Yammer, you’ll see a threaded conversation in the group the post was published in with an icon that enables you to open the file from the cloud location where it lives,” Fiessinger said.
In addition to Office file types (.doc, .xls, .ppt), documents support roughly 30 file types, including PDFs and .mp4 multimedia files. Yammer must be set as the default social network in Office 365 for document conversations to work.
Other caveats apply. In a company FAQ, Microsoft cautioned that document conversations don’t work with email attachments, only files stored on its cloud services, SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business.
Renaming a file could cause the loss of related conversations, warned Microsoft. The feature employs Yammer’s Open Graph protocol, which generates a link to a given file based on its name. That link, in turn, “serves as the glue” between the file and its conversations. If a file is renamed, “the link changes, causing the Yammer conversations to become disassociated from the new file name.”
For now, conversations are limited to their individual organization’s networks. “While the new document conversations cannot be started in Yammer external networks today, we are exploring ways to extend collaboration around content to beyond your firewall,” said the company.
The feature will be activated for customers in the “coming weeks,” announced Fiessinger. “Document conversations are progressively being rolled out to our customers during the course of this summer where it will then be available across all sites within a tenant.”