The announcement of Microsoft Viva, a new Employee Experience Platform (EXP) from Microsoft, looks set to be another exciting development in the digital workplace.
As with the evolution of the Microsoft 365 platform, the launch of Microsoft Teams and the move to modern SharePoint, we think this has the potential to be a gamechanger in the way organisations create experiences for their employees. Many organisations now have a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365, an intranet based on SharePoint and use Teams for real-time communication and collaboration. Microsoft Viva will be a popular addition to add to that channel mix.
Obviously, it’s still very early days, with the (digital) ink hardly dry on the press release. However, even from the light details we have, this feels significant.
In this post we’re going to explain what Microsoft Viva is and some of our initial thoughts on why this looks exciting.
What is Microsoft Viva?
Microsoft Viva is a bundling together of new and existing Microsoft 365 capabilities that support employee experience. It will appeal to HR functions and Internal Communications and addresses a number of organisational priorities around people, defined by Microsoft as:
Viva is experienced through Microsoft Teams, although there are also references to elements of it being experienced through Outlook.
Initially, Microsoft Viva is presented as four different apps:
Viva Connections: A gateway to internal communications and company resources, including policies and HR information, as well as the ability to participate in different social communities.
Viva Insights: Personalized analytics and related insights for “individuals, managers and leaders” that support well-being, collaboration, productivity and more, with additional analytics at the organisational level for example from LinkedIn Glint, an employee feedback mechanism. Here data privacy is protected, with also the ability to plug-in data from popular HR platforms like SAP Success Factors.
Viva Learning: A learning hub that aggregates learning resources from a variety of different resources including LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, popular third-party providers and a company’s own learning content. Our own partner, LMS365 is also looking to integrate with this.
Viva Topics: A knowledge discovery platform that uses AI to source resources and experts on different topics from Microsoft 365 tools as well as knowledgebases from platforms such as ServiceNow and Salesforce. These are presented in different “topic cards” which include documents, discussion threads, videos and people.
The roadmaps for these four apps are at slightly different stages of release during 2021. For example, Viva Learning and Viva Insights are now available for private preview, while Viva Topics is already available via some commercial plans. Viva Connections will be released in the first half of the year, with an app to follow later.
The commercials around licensing are also unclear at the moment.
Eight initial thoughts about Microsoft Viva
Microsoft Viva sees Microsoft’s direct entry into the XP market, a significant event in itself, and opens up more capabilities to smaller and medium-sized companies that will have been harder to implement in the past. However, we still haven’t seen details of the associated costs.
Here are eight of our initial thoughts about Microsoft Viva.
Viva is partly a branding exercise
The level of investment in Microsoft 365 and also Microsoft Teams and its continual evolution with new apps, features and capabilities always impresses. These four new apps are being brought together under the “Microsoft Viva” brand, signifying that they are focused on employee experience, but without the “Viva” umbrella they could have easily been released as separate apps within Microsoft 365. It seems very likely that other employee experience and HR-focused apps will be released under the Viva brand going forward.
Viva is aimed at the HR market
Microsoft Viva unambiguously focuses itself on employee experience and is designed to appeal to HR functions. References to the HR agenda are all over the marketing material, from the inclusion of Wellbeing and Learning as key pillars, to the calling out of the involvement of key HR platforms and providers. It also mentions the employee lifecycle in passing, and we can see there being new apps here to address areas such as employee onboarding.
Appealing to the HR market can only be a good thing, helping to sell the power of the 365 platform to a critical stakeholder group who do not always partner up with IT as closely as they could do.
Viva looks towards the hybrid workplace
Inevitably any EXP is going to be suited for remote and distributed working; one launched during a pandemic even more so. Microsoft Viva has its eyes on future patterns of hybrid working; tellingly, one of the promotional videos shows the delivery of an important remote presentation to a boardroom from home, while another positions Viva addressing some of the challenges of hybrid work. The areas Viva focuses on – learning, knowledge, wellbeing and communications all have specific challenges with remote working. The emphasis on analytics is also shifting and it will be interesting to see how Viva Insights evolves.
Viva Topics is an output from Project Cortex
Viva Topics is clearly another long-awaited output from Microsoft’s Project Cortex, using AI and automation to support knowledge management (KM) and related activities. We think this is exciting, making KM more achievable for smaller organisations that don’t have KM resources to manually organise information. The question here will be the extent to which it works and is actually useful – we think this is going to be very interesting to watch. There could be a challenge to match high customer expectations, however we can expect significant improvements over the next few months as the platform matures and organisations get to grips with how best to deploy it. We can’t help thinking that a hybrid approach would be a good thing – some features that allows organisations to benefit from AI gathered knowledge whilst also allowing them to curate knowledge manually.
The inclusion of learning is significant
In the past two years we’ve seen increasing interest in how to bring learning and development into the heart of the digital workplace, in particular with seamless integration with Microsoft 365. Many customers have been asking us about LMS365, the Learning Platform that slots in effortlessly into the 365 toolset.
It’s great to see Microsoft directly addressing training and development needs with Viva Learning, and also recognising the trend towards social and blended learning with the ability to combine both internal and external content. Ultimately this will help put training in the hands of learners and reinforce it as an activity that employees want to do rather than have to do. We can also see how Viva Learning and LMS365 could be an extremely powerful combination to drive a learning culture in any organisation.
Wellbeing runs as a thread throughout Microsoft Viva
Health and wellbeing were already high on the corporate agenda, but they’ve come into even greater focus due to the impact of coronavirus and the newly discovered pressures of home working. There are some interesting elements to watch including wellbeing analytics and the ability to integrate Headspace, the mindfulness and meditation app. Concerns around data privacy also appear to be met.
Viva Connections could bring an intranet experience into Teams
We’ve seen many customers interested in bringing the ability to view intranet content within Teams, for example through the ability to view a LiveTiles intranet within Teams. Viva Connections looks like it could bring an intranet-like experience into Teams pulling in communications, social feeds and providing access to central documents. We think this could likely complement and enhance an intranet rather than necessarily replace it.
Microsoft continues to view Teams as the centre of the digital workplace
Viva is a set of experiences that are primarily delivered through Teams, at least for knowledge workers. This confirms that Microsoft continues to view Teams as the centre of the digital workplace and the place where work happens. On more than one occasion in the promotional material refers to Viva being accessed “in the flow of work”. This link with Teams is a good idea though there are still questions about the suitability of Teams as a tool for frontline workers. Perhaps Microsoft has plans in this area – an integration with Kaizala perhaps?
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Microsoft Viva is an exciting development for every organisation with a Microsoft 365 digital workplace. If you want to discuss Microsoft Viva, then get in touch!