On February 13th Microsoft announced that Yammer was rebranding to Viva Engage, and would now be part of the Microsoft Viva employee experience platform.. This follows last year’s announcement and launch oo the Viva Engage app that was effectively a rebranding of the Yammer Communities app for Microsoft Teams. At the time this caused some confusion in the marketplace, and some speculated that a rebrand of the whole of Yammer was on the cards. That day has now come and the recent announcement is not a massive surprise. In this post we’re going to look at what the rebranding means and also some of the other things in store for Viva Engage.
What did the announcement say?
Yammer has been a core part of Microsoft 365 and the M365 digital workplace for quite a long time now. Originally founded in 2008, the solution was acquired by Microsoft in 2012 for $1.2 billion USD and has subsequently been adopted in many organisations. For some, this adoption has been patchy, but for others it’s been a significant success, helping drive communities, engagement and knowledge-sharing.
One of the strengths of Yammer is the easy ability to embed it in a SharePoint intranet via a couple of web parts straight out of the box, and it’s a still a great choice for managing communities across the enterprise. It frequently does the job better than Microsoft Teams, which is better suited to project- and team-level collaboration.
The actual announcement from Microsoft is keen to stress that this is very much a rebrand. The Yammer platform is not going away, it’s just changing its name, and Microsoft confirms that “outside of branding changes, there are no changes to the features, capabilities and investments for Microsoft 365 customers” and that customers will “continue to experience and benefit from the power of Viva Engage, just as you did with Yammer, with no loss of continuity.” Microsoft is also stressing some new features that will be launching soon, to show that it is continuing to invest in the platform.
What does the rebrand mean?
Although Microsoft stresses continuity, this still represents a significant evolution of Yammer and a major step in the Yammer and Microsoft Viva story. Let’s explore what the rebrand means both in wider terms but also specifically for digital workplace teams.
- It reduces confusion
When the Yammer Communities app was rebranded to Viva Engage, it effectively meant that there was dual branding of essentially the same product, a move which left many scratching their heads, and also a job for digital workplace teams trying to explain the logic behind the move to stakeholders and end users. At least with the whole of Yammer rebranding, it effectively reduces some of the confusion in the marketplace, and is an easier message to convey internally.
Microsoft acknowledge that the dual brand has caused some complications, saying that “we’ve heard your feedback that having two apps surfacing similar experiences and the same services and content has introduced confusion and made it challenging to drive adoption and create clarity for end users.”
- It elevates the Microsoft Viva brand
Microsoft Viva was launched in early 2021 and although it is now two years old, it is still not necessarily a prevalent brand within the digital workplace. Although end users will be aware of Viva due the to the email summaries they receive, to date much of Viva adoption has been around Viva Connections with some organisations choosing not to adopt the “paid for” apps. We think that the rebranding of Yammer to Viva Engage will make the Viva brand much more visible to end users and to stakeholders. It also brings Microsoft Viva out of just being experienced through Microsoft Teams, where to date most of the Viva experiences have been delivered as Teams apps.
- It helps highlight recent changes including Storylines and Stories
When there is a rebrand, it often necessitates communications out to stakeholders and users, but also focuses fresh attention on the features in a platform. Yammer / Viva Engage has actually had some investment recently with some new features that make the platform much more of a social network akin to Workplace from Meta, for example. We think the rebrand is a good opportunity to draw attention to these new elements.
Storylines and Stories were introduced in late 2022. Storylines allow individuals to post as an individual with people following them, a model that works well for senior leaders and management. This fundamentally moves Viva Engage away from being just centred around groups and communities, to also one centred around the individual. Meanwhile Stories are short videos or photos which are added to a person’s Storyline and take some inspiration from Instagram and TikTok. The rebrand will help highlight these new useful features.
- Teams will need to notify users
Inevitably there will need to be some kind of change management or communication effort to explain the rebrand to end users. For busy digital workplace teams, this may be an unwelcome additional task, although it is an opportunity to reiterate the value of the features within Viva Engage. Microsoft has provided a useful timetable of when the main changes to the various apps and overall platform are taking place, and is also providing in-app or in-platform messages to inform end users about the rebrand.
- Say hello to premium experiences
Yammer was previously bundled into Microsoft 365 subscriptions, and that’s also the case with Viva Engage. However, the rebrand is also an opportunity to introduce a range of premium features within Viva Engage that are on their way in 2023 and help with a range of different areas including leadership communications; arguably these paid-for features are easier to position under the Viva brand where there is already a contrast between what is available within a Microsoft 365 license, and what comes at an additional price as part of a general Viva subscription.
Among the new features available within Viva Engage but only for Viva subscriptions are:
- Leadership Corner for employees: a place for leaders to engage with employees through discussions and content.
- Ask Me Anything (AMA) Events: a template for running an AMA event with a leader or senior manager via Viva Engage.
- Social Media campaigns: support for internal communicators to run campaigns that interface with Leadership Corner and use Viva Engages
- Advanced analytics: a series of dashboards that provide more detailed Viva Engage analytics covering campaigns, audience engagement and more.
- Answers in Viva: a social Q&A feature that is also integrated with Viva Topics.
- Expect more integration between different Viva apps
One direction of travel for the Microsoft Viva platform is to that it will start to become more integrated as different Viva apps work together, including Viva Engage. In particular the new premium features in Viva Engage that are available to general Viva license holders are also becoming more intertwined with other Viva offerings; for example, Answers in Viva is available as part of Viva Topics and Viva Engage. Some of the new features are also likely to overlap with parts of Viva Amplify, a new Viva app to be launched later in 2023 aimed at internal communicators.
- Viva Engage is here to stay
Over the years there has always been a little bit of a question about Yammer which seemed to lack active investment from Microsoft, although this has changed in the past two years. However, the rebrand to Viva Engage and the new features show that Viva Engage is very much part of Microsoft’s long-term plans, something which is to be welcomed.
Goodbye Yammer, hello Viva Engage
Yammer is being rebranded to Viva Engage and it’s a good opportunity to remind users about the features within the platform and how it can be used. We expect Viva Engage to add value across the digital workplace for the foreseeable future.
If you’d to discuss the rebrand or how your digital workplace can benefit from Microsoft Viva and Viva Engage, then get in touch!