One of the strengths and challenges of working with Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, as well as related platforms like Microsoft Viva, is the level of investment Microsoft continue to plough into developing their products. It’s always exciting to discover new features and capabilities and it increases the scope of what you can achieve across your digital workplace. At the same time, it gives already busy digital workplace teams the challenge of having to launch yet another set of new features, while users may already feel somewhat overwhelmed by the tools at their fingertips. Do they really need another app?
Microsoft Viva in particular continues to expand. The employee experience platform was originally announced in early 2021 and came with four apps. Today there are nine, including Viva Engage, which was effectively a rebranding of Yammer. Technically, there were ten – but Microsoft Viva Sales which featured AI features has now been rebranded as Microsoft Sales Copilot.
On top of the apps there are some additional services that are effectively new capabilities which can be deployed across more than one app, and where the distinction between an app and a service comes a little blurred. And even on top of that, individual Viva apps continue to expand themselves with new enhancements.
There actually hadn’t been an update from Microsoft about Viva for a while, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft hasn’t been busy working in the background. But the wait is over and there has now been a recent Viva announcement as well as a more detailed Microsoft Tech Community update, with the latest details of the ever-expanding platform.
In this post we’re going to cover the main points of what’s new in Microsoft Viva. In particular, there are some features here that support corporate communicators that will appeal to IC functions.
1. Viva Amplify is now generally available
Given that Internal Communications is a key stakeholder in employee experience, its perhaps surprising that its taken this long for Microsoft to produce a Viva app that is specifically aimed at the needs of communicators, as well as business leaders looking to deliver messaging. Viva Amplify is an app that helps coordinate communications and campaigns across the Viva suite and wider set of Microsoft channels, and is now moving into general availability for Viva subscribers.
At the heart of its capability is a campaign management function that provides the ability to coordinate publishing across different apps and tools while also incorporating publication workflows and scheduling. It also features a content drafting and editing interface as well as an analytics suite to track the success of communications.
Amplify is another welcome addition to Viva, but It will be interesting to see what the take up will be initially. It seems likely that it will evolve, for example incorporating generative AI into the content editor. The multichannel publishing capability is also still expanding, as while publishing can be scheduled to Outlook, Teams, SharePoint and Viva Connections, at the moment it still doesn’t fully extend to Viva Engage (Yammer), although this is coming soon.
2. Skills in Viva has arrived
Skills in Viva is a new AI-powered service that can be deployed throughout Microsoft Viva but also more widely across Microsoft 365; although it delivers a new capability, it is branded as a service rather than a standalone app. Skills in Viva seeks to use AI to identify the skills of an organisation’s workforce, taking inputs from the Microsoft Graph and the LinkedIn’s Skills Graph, an extensive framework which maps individual skills to a highly granular level. Microsoft stresses that it only uses aggregated LinkedIn data from the framework rather than individual profiles, an important factor to allay data privacy fears, as individuals use LinkedIn outside their role, for example when they are looking for a new position.
Skills in Viva is experienced in number of different ways across different Viva apps and elements of Microsoft 365 including:
- The appearance of a Skills Depth Report within Viva Insights that brings a skills dashboard to leaders and HR functions, allowing them to view skill levels and gaps across different parts of the organisation, and the workforce as a whole.
- In Viva Learning where individuals can see suggestions for learning content based on the skills they are developing or interested in.
- A Skills Editor facility in Microsoft Viva that provides the ability for individuals to confirm suggested skills that are then displayed in their Microsoft 365 profile.
The service also aims to be able to be used across non-Microsoft 365 systems that are already used for recording skills. No more information is given about this, but it seems likely there will be connectors to leading HR systems of record or learning platforms that house skills data.
We see this as a potentially high value-add to the Viva suite. Skills data is an important area that many HR functions don’t have a realistic handle on, and KM functions sometimes struggle to record. The introduction of data from the Microsoft Graph and therefore inferred by digital behaviour potentially looks like it can also deliver a more current and dynamic view of skills. However, it will be interesting to see how this can be deployed with organisations that are already recording skills and have a highly controlled or bespoke list of skills.
Skills in Viva enters public preview at the end of 2023, so we think this will be one to watch for 2024.
3. Improvements to Viva Connections
Given that Viva Connections along with Viva Engage are the apps that are most deployed by our customers, we’re pleased to see both get a bit of love in the new announcement with a variety of enhancements. In particular, a new release of Viva has a lot of small improvements, some of which focus on a better support for communications.
There is a new default landing page experience that aligns with some of the typical features of intranet design with an expanded hero area for corporate communications, the more operational dashboard positioned under this and then key resources and links. There are links to other subscribed Viva apps under this.
A new Announcements in Viva Connections capability allows for communicators to issue more urgent messages and tailored announcements to different groups, delivered through push notifications to the homepage of Microsoft Teams and on mobile devices via the Teams app. This is particularly designed to target messages to frontline employees, although we can see this having wider utility.
There are some additional nice-to-haves including dark mode, a desktop search for Viva Connections and some enhancements to analytics.
Also particularly welcome is a set of additional out-of-the-box cards that can be deployed to the Connections dashboard, which is accessible on mobile, but also can be integrated as a web part on a SharePoint intranet.
New cards include:
- A news card, which again will appeal to communicators.
- A search template card, which can deliver scoped searches for non-Microsoft repositories such as meeting room booking system, which has the potential to be very useful.
- The ability to deploy cards that interface with Microsoft Sway, Microsoft Forms and PowerApps, again delivering a more integrated digital workplace experience.
- A “field services” card that can bring CRM data into Viva, for example supporting sales staff.
- A people search card which has obvious value.
- The ability to create adaptive cards that link to bots.
- Enhanced features for the Card Designer tool.
4. Articles come to Viva Engage
Viva Engage (formerly Yammer) has also had some improvements. The most significant is the ability to create and publish longer-form articles within Viva Engage. The use case here that Microsoft provides is publishing a newsletter within the Engage environment, but we can also see use here for blogs, for example from senior leaders that can be used in storylines. The article now sits as a content type within the Engage toolbar along with discussions, polls, praise and questions, so its easy for anybody to create the new content type.
Additionally, there is now the ability to schedule posts within Engage, enabling a more intentional use of it as a comms channel – for example in issuing leadership communications and news.
There are also some welcome enhancements to Engage Analytics, adding a better enterprise-level reporting (“Network analytics”) that covers usage, activity, sentiment and conversational trends, as well as high performing contributors and communities.
5. Viva Goals changes
Viva Goals is one of the lesser known apps within the Viva suite, bringing Objectives and Key Results (OKR) functionality into Microsoft Teams. Goals has now received some significant new features:
- The launch of Copilot in Viva Goals that enables the AI-powered creation of goal recommendations, that can be automatically extracted from documents and refined through a conversational interface. There are also new AI-powered progress summaries.
- A “goal customisation” feature that allows for the use of Viva Goals outside a standard OKR framework by changing some of the terminology used, making it a little more flexible and able to fit in with existing strategic goals frameworks.
- An export of goal summaries to PowerPoint.
- Enhanced integration with Azure DevOps, specifically designed for software developers using DevOps in tracking their work.
6. Viva apps on the waffle
Finally, Viva apps will appear on the waffle menu for the first time to enhance navigation to these. Additionally, there’s also a new web page which is called “Viva Home” which educates users about Viva. Arguably, both these will help Viva feel more like a connected and integrated platform than a collection of individual apps.
Microsoft Viva keeps on evolving
It’s great to see Microsoft Viva and its constituent apps and services continue to evolve, and some of the new capabilities are exciting. It will be fascinating to see how organisations will deploy these in the coming months.
If you’d like to discuss using Microsoft Viva across your digital workplace, then get in touch!