Microsoft Viva – Is it really worth all the hype?

Microsoft Viva –  Microsoft’s latest offering to target Productivity & Employee Experience (EXP).

Satya Nadella announced Microsoft Viva last week (February 2021), during an online announcement advertised as “Reimagine the Employee Experience”. As the announcement went on, it looked at though Microsoft had spent the past 12+ months developing new products for employee engagement and wellness.

Taking a moment after the announcement to understand what exactly is Viva, and as a consultant for a Microsoft Partner looking to understand where this would sit as an offering to our customers, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t much more than a clever piece of marketing for what is probably 80%+ of existing technology.

Given the current global pandemic, Microsoft are clearly reacting to the increase in consumption of Microsoft services and also the significant and long term planned ‘working from home’ that everyone is now so accustomed to.

But why call it Viva? Microsoft already have a broad range of collaboration and employee engagement tools; SharePoint, Teams, Stream, Yammer and Workplace Analytics. Not to mention the numerous Task Management apps!.

Whilst SharePoint and Teams drive a significant proportion of Microsoft 365 consumption and are very much common household names, the likes of Workplace Analytics, Yammer and Stream are sat quietly in the background waiting for their time to shine.

It comes as no surprise then, that Microsoft doesn’t need to develop new tech, but re-focus on what’s there already.

By creating ‘Microsoft Viva’, Microsoft are able to combine many of their products under a single banner – welcoming the era of ‘EXP’!

So, what exactly is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva Topics – available now

“Free up time by making it easy for people to find information and put knowledge to work.”

With Project Cortex and Microsoft Search behind the scene; Viva Topics automatically organises company-wide content and expertise into relevant categories, putting knowledge to work. It improves Microsoft Search by automatically surfacing topic cards in apps like Office, SharePoint, and Teams.

Microsoft Viva Connections – available late 2021

“Keep everyone informed, connected, and inspired to bring their best to work every day.”

SharePoint, Yammer, Stream (and a bit of Teams) behind the scene; Viva Connections provides a central employee destination for company communications, news, communities, and more, so everyone can stay informed and engaged. SharePoint Home Sites comes to mind… incoming rename to Viva Connections maybe?

Microsoft Viva Insights – public preview available now

“Give leaders, managers, and employees privacy protected insights that help everyone work smarter and thrive.”

MyAnalytics & Workplace Analytics have been apart of Microsoft 365 for a while, albeit the full functionality reserved for the E5 SKUs. Viva Insights provides individuals, teams and leaders data-driven insights and actionable recommendations to improve productivity and wellbeing in the flow of work.

Microsoft Viva Learning – private preview available now

“Empower people to gain targeted skills in the apps they already use, so everyone can learn and grow.”

The only part of Viva which I can tell is actually new; Viva Learning; a central hub for learning in Teams (Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)), with AI that recommends the right content at the right time, making learning a natural part of the day. I see this being a key component moving forward for e-learning scenarios. It’ll be interesting to see how this could be used by organisations for their own content vs. providing a mechanism for ISVs to develop applications on the Viva platform.

Microsoft Viva Connections

Viva Connections is built on Microsoft 365 capabilities such as SharePoint and Yammer to provide a curated and branded employee destination.

Viva Connections is your gateway to a modern employee experience. It is personalised and appears in the apps and devices employees already use every day, such as Microsoft Teams.

Organisations familiar with a corporate intranet will relate to Viva Connections; maybe we’ll start to refer to Microsoft intranet projects as a Viva Connections project?

Whilst 80% of Viva Connections exists today, it looks as though the new functionality will bring improvements to personalised content targeting, easier means to share and feedback content and better integration between the three key products: SharePoint, Yammer, Stream.

As Viva Connections is built on top of SharePoint and Teams, Microsofts existing development and extensibility frameworks mean you can easily extend the service with low-code solutions such as Microsoft Power Apps to custom solutions with SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and Adaptive Cards.

For third-party software developers who create ‘Intranet-in-a-Box’ solutions for Microsoft, I’d be paying close attention to Microsofts plans. The days of paying for a subscription for additional functionality maybe over.

Microsoft Viva Topics

Viva Topics is an AI-powered solution that discovers, organises, and surfaces what matters.

It automatically organises content and expertise across your systems and teams into related topics such as projects, products, processes, and customers.

People don’t need a separate application or search (just a licence!) – knowledge simply finds them in the apps they already use. Experts can rapidly curate and share knowledge through simple, highly customizable web pages.

Viva Topics is a knowledge management tool (hopefully we’ll see more knowledge management tools coming along with Project Cortex); which using your existing content it enables employees to find an expert, understand company acronyms, or surface content you need, especially when you’re a new employee or working remotely.

Think of Viva Topics as a Wikipedia with AI superpowers for your organisation.

Anyone viewing, accessing, or curating topic cards, topic pages, or topic centers or otherwise benefiting from EXP Topics capabilities requires a license ($5 per user/per month). This includes the following scenarios:

  • Discover topics through topic highlights on a SharePoint page, on a Teams site, or in a document
  • Open a topic card to view and select related team members, resources, and related topics
  • Open and view a topic page
  • Create a new topic
  • Curate a topic by updating the description, adding additional resources, and suggesting team members
  • Manage mined and added topics for accuracy and relevance.

Microsoft Viva Insights

Microsoft Viva Insights gives individuals, managers, and leaders personalised and actionable insights that help everyone in an organisation thrive.

In addition to new productivity and wellbeing experiences and insights in Microsoft Teams, Viva Insights will, over time, bring the power of Microsoft Workplace Analytics and Microsoft MyAnalytics together under the Microsoft Viva brand.

I suspect this one will be of particular interest to HR teams.

Microsoft Viva Learning

With Viva Learning, employees can easily discover and share everything from training courses to microlearning content. Managers get the tools they need to assign learning and to track the completion of courses to help foster a learning culture.

Viva Learning creates a central hub for learning in Teams, with AI that recommends the right content at the right time.

It aggregates content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, your organisation’s own custom content, and trainings from leading content providers like Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight, and edX. Viva Learning also works with leading learning-management systems.

Conclusion

So – what do I think to Microsoft Viva?

A clever and bold ‘Marketing’ strategy from Microsoft; a much needed facelift for some loved, but forgotten tech. It’ll be interesting to see what new functionality over the coming months will be added to the roadmap to support these areas, but I don’t think there is too much ground breaking tech in here – just a more focused view and much needed direction on using the technology for the right purpose.

  • Do I think this has given the lesser known/used products such as Yammer and Workplace Analytics a much needed boost? – Yes
  • Do I think Microsoft have made a big enough impact and hype that HR and Communication managers will be reconsidering the use and purpose of SharePoint / Yammer /Teams – Yes.
  • Do I think organisations will start to look at better ways to engage and monitor their remote workforce – Yes.
  • Do I think Microsoft are now focusing on employee engagement and wellness tools, as much as they have been on the likes of Power Platform and Teams – Yes.

I’d like to think the high profile nature of the announcement is enough to raise enough eyebrows within the HR and Internal Communications world that hopefully we’ll see a lot more focus on company intranets, communication tools and knowledge management solutions – a much loved area of mine within the Microsoft 365 world which goes unnoticed these days.

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