Digital Transformation Today

Great Employee Experiences Rely on Great Knowledge Management – Part 2 of Microsoft Project Cortex and SharePoint Syntex

Microsoft Viva Topics: Pie-in-the-Sky or ROI

Part Two: Great Employee Experiences Rely on Great Knowledge Management

This is the second in a series of four blogs exploring the potential return on investment for implementing SharePoint Syntex and Viva Topics (formerly Project Cortex). These new Content Services from Microsoft will solve several challenges.  Knowledge Management (KM) is made sustainable for mid-size organizations by implementing, supporting, and growing M365. It offers quick wins in some challenging adoption scenarios making both management and IT teams happy.

Last time, I focused on centering Knowledge Management efforts around business objectives. In this blog, we’ll explore how Microsoft’s new Content Services in Microsoft Viva provide the kind of baked-in KM that a great digital employee experience requires.

I have had the honor of being part of the SharePoint journey of many different organizations, from small non-profits to conglomerates with tens of thousands of users. During that time, I have been classified as a KM practitioner or interacted with staff in the KM role many times, carefully mapping out taxonomies and content types and training staff on how and why to spend time developing and using them. For years, though, KM seemed to decline; as budgets were cut, Knowledge Management professionals and KM projects were perceived as expendable. In the wider world, well-known KM thought leaders went so far as to proclaim that “Knowledge Management is Dead.” With no one watching the store, taxonomies became outdated, and content types went unused. Often, document stores became an unmanaged mess.

Then, along came ‘social applications’ for business, which for Microsoft meant Yammer and, most recently, Teams. End users love it! Cool user interface! Fastest adoption ever! And, despite the initial trepidation of many long-time SharePoint users, Teams has quickly become the way many companies do business during the pandemic. And that’s great because storing your organization’s content within the M365 universe provides excellent benefits no matter which ‘app’ hosts it. But the meteoric proliferation of Teams in an often-ungoverned fashion has put Knowledge Management back on the front burner, even if you’re not calling it that. So how does knowledge get captured for reuse? How are vital documents, people, processes, and projects surfaced? Or, as I heard recently, “Help! We don’t have the money for a full-scale knowledge management program, but we have 1,000 Teams and growing, and no one can find anything!”

Viva Topics to the rescue! Using artificial intelligence, this add-on to your Office 365 subscription will guess what TOPIC AREAS are essential to your organization, figure out who is important to that topic and pull documents and data from Office 365.

Eventually, it will connect other LOB systems onto one’ Topic Page’ that can (and should) be curated by a human.

Not only will you get nifty Topic Pages, but EVERYWHERE your topic appears across the M365 universe, you’ll get access to a summary of the info via Topic Cards.

(And yes, the system is smart enough only to show the hover link the first time the term appears in your email, Office file or SharePoint page.)

Viva Topics is an add-on subscription to Office 365, and right now you can get a 25 person, 30-day trial.

I don’t mean to suggest that having these Topic Pages replaces good governance. (Again, for the people in the back, no, you can’t be lazy about governance just because you use Topics.)  And it is essential to note that Topics works best when you have a LOT of content – 10’s of thousands of documents or more. But the bottom line is that while Viva Topics won’t replace having SMEs actively curating content in Office 365, this new service will jump-start efforts to organize newly migrated content or make sense of previously ungoverned content in an existing M365 tenant. In addition, it will make the ongoing curation of content much more sustainable for organizations that have high turnover and/or a scarcity of KM resources.

If you are thinking about Viva Topics, you should consider it part of an integrated Knowledge Management, Change Management, and Technology Management initiative. The intersection of “KM, CM and TM” is precisely where I’ve been working for most of my career, and I know it is often a lonely place to be within an organization that doesn’t quite ‘get it’ yet.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how to pitch Viva Topics to your organization and give you a framework for thinking about what success with Viva Topics will look like for your organization.

If you need more information on or you’re ready to get started, book a meeting
here. Stay up to date with other innovations from Project Cortex coming later this year.
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