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Viva – Microsoft’s Productization of Employee First Solutions

On February 4, Microsoft announced Viva, “an employee experience platform that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights.” Built on their Office 365 cloud, the goal of Viva is to “foster a culture where people and teams are empowered to be their best from anywhere” – an obvious nod to the work-from-home situation in which many knowledge workers find themselves today. With information still coming out from Microsoft, filling in the details, our two experts Andrea Mondello and Adam Levithan, strike up a conversation.

What is an Employee Experience Platform? – Viva

Four key features will all be surfaced through the real-time collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams:

  • Connections – a rebranding of the much-touted-but-not-yet available SharePoint Home Site that will be the personalized Intranet landing page for the individual employee.
  • Topics – this add-on subscription uses the power of Azure Artificial Intelligence to search all the content you have in Microsoft 365 (M365) and detects which topics – themes, projects, categories – are important. Then it creates pages, cards, and search results that surface this content, relates it to people and displays the relationship of this topic to others in a browsable graphic format.
  • Insights – this analytics service is already included in most Office 365 licensing plans, except for the ‘organization-wide’ insights, which will be an add-on. Want to know how much time you are spending in meetings? How many of your calls and meetings are happening outside regular business hours? You can get this, and much more, both for yourself and for your staff, in Insights. According to Microsoft, all content is de-personalized and aggregated to protect the individual worker’s privacy.
  • Learning – acts as a Learning Management System, where employees can take courses either on there or ‘assigned’ by their manager and track their progress. Courses from ‘partners,’ such a LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, third-party content providers, Learning Management Systems, and a company’s content can be included. There aren’t many details available publicly, but, as Microsoft says on the Viva Learning site, “Across the board, employees report low engagement with learning and have limited time for upskilling, yet learning opportunities are linked to workplace happiness, wellbeing, and organizational success.” So, it makes sense that their Viva Learning round out the employee experience offering.

As long-time digital transformation practitioners, we think Viva is big news – and not just because it adds new capabilities to the Office 365 suite. Microsoft has leveraged its unparalleled insight into how the millions of people who use its products do their work and give them tools to do it better and more collaboratively. There’s a lot to digest.

Applying Microsoft Viva: First thoughts

ANDREA

I’ve worked remotely for a long time, so I’m used to making my own ‘employee experience’ in the digital world. But I know many knowledge workers have struggled to wrap their minds around these new digital workplaces we’ve all had to move into. By re-thinking SharePoint Communication sites and their Insights analytics product and adding the magic of Topics and the impact of Learning – all within the social wrapper of Teams – Microsoft has done more than just re-brand apps or add bells and whistles: they’ve finally put the pieces of M365 together into a cohesive story with employee experience at the center. So yes, I’m super excited about this announcement! It feels right as the next evolution of this fantastic digital workplace journey we’ve been on with Microsoft since the early days of Office 365.

ADAM

Over the years, when talking about migration, I talk about entering different ecosystems, Microsoft vs. Google. Vs. Amazon. Today’s announcement not only displays what an ecosystem is but puts into practice some powerful (literally powered by artificial intelligence) new solutions into a location where employees do daily work. I also typically complain that Microsoft launches are focused on large customers. Still, this announcement makes available features that only large organizations have been able to take advantage of and puts it into the hands of organizations of all sizes.

Will Our Clients Use Microsoft 365 Differently?

ANDREA

I’m glad this announcement doesn’t mean we have to do all sorts of change management because goodness knows most organizations don’t have a big appetite for more change right now. Second, I think this positioning clears up the confusion around overlapping toolsets in the M365 suite; the “what do I use when” becomes a lot clearer. Not crystal clear, but more straightforward. Finally, I am thrilled to offer smaller or mid-size firms the kind of employee experience tools previously available only to the very large firms. Microsoft Viva can help them make an outsized impact on their employees’ satisfaction and well-being.

ADAM

While it is a unified platform, we don’t have to utilize all the features immediately. We’ve already been working with clients to place their Intranet into the Microsoft Teams context, and Connections is just one additional step. Viva adds to the conversations we’re already having about running a business in a “remote first” world. This is not about technology but is about individual success and the long-term viability of an organization’s operations models.

Our Favorite Features of Microsoft Viva

ANDREA

I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing SharePoint since before it was called SharePoint. So obviously, I’m over-the-moon about Viva Topics. Knowledge Management is cool again! I can’t wait to get started implementing it with our clients. Although I have been using personal Insights for a while now, I have to say I appreciate the suggestions to schedule ‘focus time’. That has been very useful.

ADAM

Maybe it’s new to me, but I’m excited about the Learning functionality. Two things specifically stand out. First, that it integrates with a lot of content providers and integrates with full learning management systems; second, that there are assignment and tracking features. This can support so many on-the-job learning scenarios where trainers won’t have to re-invent the wheel and learners don’t waste time searching.

Concerns and Questions that Microsoft Needs to Answer

ANDREA

I’m looking for more information about Viva Learning. Many of our clients already have Learning Management Systems, so I need to understand which ones – beyond those mentioned in the initial announcement – can be integrated to leverage our clients’ current investments.

ADAM

What’s the licensing?! How do I get all of this great stuff? Ok, you can already download insights here, but there’s no information (as of now) regarding the other solutions. How do I get it, how much does it cost?

Parting Thoughts

ANDREA

I hope Microsoft doesn’t do a conference in Vegas anytime soon; “Viva Las Vegas” will get old fast. (You’re welcome for that earworm.) Seriously, though, I’m anxious to get started. Viva Connections will be the launch point of so many excellent client intranets, so the sooner it is available, the better.

ADAM

Let the conversations begin! It will take a few months for all the pieces to fall together, but Viva puts the power of Microsoft 365 into understandable terms for all our clients. Use best in class systems but provide individuals with a few places to go as you can. Let them focus on work and life and not get distracted.

Watch the Announcement

See more details for yourself: Employee Experience & Engagement | Microsoft Viva

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