Microsoft have galvanised their long-standing position in the world of the digital workplace by launching their new add-on for MS Teams called Viva. Quite simply put, Viva is Microsoft’s answer to the age-old question of how to integrate an intranet platform with a teamwork/collaboration platform. This type of integration is not necessarily ground-breaking given that many of CG Tech’s partners have been provided this same functionality for over 5 years. This leaves us with a more important question of “What is Microsoft doing differently to warrant all the hype?” After some thorough investigation I have realised two things: Microsoft have absolutely nailed this one, and no matter how hard I try I cannot resist saying “Viva la Revolución”.
I’m going to try something a little different with the way I present this information. Rather than regurgitating paragraphs upon paragraphs of marketing fluff from Microsoft I’m just going to cut to the chase.
Microsoft Viva’s usefulness is essentially a step in a similar direction as the transition Microsoft took when going from Office 365 Groups to MS Teams. The focus of the Microsoft Viva platform is mostly to help your business collaborate and exchange information easier. I appreciate that description makes it sound just like Microsoft Teams but trust me that Microsoft Viva is covering new ground.
What is Microsoft Viva?
This is the shortest way I can summarise Microsoft Viva’s feature-set. Imagine all the conversations you have ever had where you asked a colleague for information or asked for someone to give you access to information. Imagine all the times you have asked for someone’s contact details so that you can work on something. Now imagine that half of all those conversations never had to exist. Microsoft Viva allows you to put automated systems in place to answer questions and setup collaborations before they are required. There is a lot more to it but that is the general idea.
Microsoft Viva is a platform inside the Microsoft Office 365 suite in the same way that Planner is a platform. Microsoft Viva has 4 different features/apps called Connections, Topics, Learning, and Insights. These features will eventually be accessible as add-ins or apps through a variety of desktop apps, much like the way Planner works. The initial launch of Microsoft Viva will be a set of apps for Microsoft Teams and from there it will eventually make its way into other applications like the Microsoft Office suite and/or some other areas of Microsoft 365. Microsoft Viva is being launched slowly over 2021 in stages and the first two features named ‘Topics’ and ‘Insights’ are available already.
Viva has four main features that will be released in phases via MS Teams.
Insights – Available now for everyone.
Viva Insights has three different views for showing different types of information. All staff will have access to a dashboard that encourages them to take time and schedule breaks, as well as meeting-free blocks for “focused learning”. Two other separate views can be setup to include more information that would be relevant to team leaders and/or senior management.
This type of insights functionality has been around for a while and it looks like Microsoft have enhanced upon their proven formula. The key upgrade is that the information is easier to find and more intuitive in Viva.
Examples of the Insights app in use:
- Staff will be notified when Insights detects they haven’t had a break in a while, or if their effectiveness is low from having too many meetings.
- Staff will be prompted with topics, documents, conversations, and learning modules that relates to their role.
- The insights AI will gradually get to know each employee and start recommending more effective ways to work.
Topics – Available now for tenants registered for targeted/first release.
Viva Topics allows for you to catalogue common terms or information used by your business and then show topic cards if that information is shared in MS Teams. When someone shares information in Teams where the topic is mentioned an automated tooltip is generated for staff to see more contextual info. For example, if your industry or business has a set of common acronyms, processes, or projects then you can create topic cards. This feature is amazing and has a lot of potential.
Topics is designed to allow an organization to cut through the corporate jargon. If there’s an unfamiliar acronym or special project that might not be familiar to an employee, Topics is designed to provide a topic card that appears when an employee hovers their cursor over it, and then links to a specific topic page when they click for more information.
Microsoft have also said that they want to add this functionality to other applications like the MS Office suite or Yammer.
Examples of the Topics app in use:
- Faster onboarding of new staff by providing extra context on common business info.
- Can be used as an automated wiki-style feature that creates a web of linking data.
- This will lower stress levels for everyone if used effectively.
- You can get answers to your “silly” questions without having to wait for your colleagues to become available.
- Create topic cards for projects where the card links to the project info in a SharePoint list, SalesForce, Procore, etc.
Connections – Launches first half of 2021.
This Connections feature is essentially a way to view a SharePoint intranet from within MS Teams with a few extra integration features. Microsoft are reviving the usefulness of Yammer though the Connections app where Yammer can be more effectively used to talk with a much larger group when compared with MS Teams.
Examples of the Connections app in use:
- View your intranet inside teams to access information like key contacts, org chart, and team overviews.
- A portal for accessing “all staff” resources such as policy documents without the fuss of trawling through SharePoint pages.
- Contribute towards internal or external conversations where being a member of a team is not a prerequisite.
Learning – Launches first half of 2021.
The Viva Learning feature will show videos from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, Skillsoft, edX, Coursera, Pluralsight as well as each organizations’ proprietary libraries. The list is quite ambitious for the launch so it will be interesting to see if that list goes down. Learning-management materials from CornerStone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors can be connected, too.
Examples of the Learning app in use:
- An “AI system” that works much the same as the document recommendation system in Delve will give people suggestions on what learning content they could watch. It looks like it’s driven by taxonomy, metadata, and key words from documents so referring to it as “AI” might be a bit of a stretch.
- Managers can track and report on the learning modules that staff have completed.
- Integration will exist for some learning platforms (likely the Microsoft ones like LinkedIn) where statistics can be shown in Teams and SharePoint. This might bridge the gap between Office 365 and the gamification of internal learning and development.
Viva is going to have a huge impact on the way we work both in the office and remotely. It will allow employees to spend less time preparing for their work and more time doing the actual work. The trade-off is that Microsoft Viva will take time to setup initially and the ROI could take 6-12 months.
I’m looking at Microsoft Viva with a “glass half full” attitude and I could understand how Viva might be perceived as a step towards a dystopian world. In my view, Microsoft are just providing the tools and it’s up to each business to use the tools effectively.
For more information related to other products that integrate the SharePoint Online features into Microsoft Teams please stay tuned. Our team at CG Tech will be proving a detailed comparison soon where we go through the different products and their differences.