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Microsoft Ties New Viva Employee Experience Platform to Teams

Microsoft Viva could make Teams more “sticky” but disruptive to some ecosystem partners.

Jeffrey Schwartz

February 5, 2021

5 Min Read
Microsoft Viva Connections in Teams
Microsoft

Microsoft has created an employee experience platform (EXP) that extends Teams into a unified workforce engagement and information access tool. The new Microsoft Viva addresses the rise in remote employees and distributed workplaces, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial Viva tools will offer provide personalized access to organizational resources, customized dashboards, information discovery and learning content. Viva integrates with the Microsoft 365 platform, including Office 365 and the Teams interface.

“Every organization will require a unified employee experience from onboarding and collaboration, to continuous learning and growth,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the online launch of Viva. “These can no longer be siloed functions. A world of flexible work creates new challenges.”

Microsoft designed Viva to give employees tools they need to thrive, Nadella added.

“Viva will bring learning into the flow of people’s work, surfacing required training and learning opportunities,” he said. “It will provide personalized insights and reminders, so people work smarter, not longer. It will make it simpler to find content and experts related to projects someone is working on. And it will make it easier for leaders to communicate with employees and to foster community with personalized company communications, news forums and resources.”

Scott Gode, chief product marketing officer of managed service provider Unify Square, said Viva is poised to boost Teams’ appeal.

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Unify Square’s Scott Gode

“It’s going to make Teams more sticky,” Gode said. “Anybody that’s got apps, or ideas about apps that will plug into Teams that can now plug into Viva. It makes it more interesting from a revenue potential perspective.”

Potential Partner Disruption

Some partners tied to the Teams and SharePoint ecosystem may not warmly welcome the arrival of Viva, according to Gode.

“I think it’s going to be sort of disruptive for a portion of the Microsoft partner community,” Gode said. “There are a lot of smaller partners in the Microsoft ecosystem who are already using the graph API to grab a lot of that analytics data,” he said. “Viva could potentially make some of the current partner offerings less valuable.”

Mike Hicks, CMO of Beezy, a Microsoft SharePoint and Teams partner, said the Viva announcement caught him off guard. Asked if he sees it as a competitive threat, Hicks said: “I think it’s too early to say truly how competitive it is going to be. Microsoft does an extremely good job at building personal productivity apps and tools. They do really well at the individual and the team level. But things tend to fall apart as you get to that sort of broader level. And that’s where products like Beezy will always have a role.”

Annual spending on employee experience is $300 billion, Microsoft 365 corporate VP Jared Spataro said. Included in that amount is employee development and training and benefits.

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Microsoft’s Jared Spataro

“Employee experience technologies in most cases are fragmented, hard to find and disruptive to the flow of work,” Spataro said. “Viva digitally reimagines company culture, employee well-being, knowledge sharing and learning for the hybrid work world.”

Microsoft Viva consists of four initial tools: Connections, Insights, Learning and Topics.

Viva Connections

Three in five (60%) employees feel less connected to their teams since shifting to remote work, according to Microsoft research. The new Viva Connections app in teams offers …

… a unified interface for all employee communications and internal information, Spataro said. It builds on SharePoint and Yammer to provide a curated interface. Organizations can customize contract for those with specific roles, such as frontline workers.

Viva Insights

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Viva Insights

The Viva Insights App in Microsoft Teams, now available in public preview, provides personalized analytics and recommendations. It gathers information from use of Exchange Online email and calendar data, calls and chats. Seth Patton, GM of Microsoft 365 next-gen productivity and employee experience, noted that Viva Insights uses AI and the Microsoft Graph to offer recommendations on use of time. It also gives employees privacy controls.

“Microsoft Viva Insights gives individuals, managers, and leaders personalized and actionable insights that help everyone in an organization thrive,” according to a post about Viva Insights by Patton. “In addition to new productivity and well-being experiences and insights in Microsoft Teams, Viva Insights will, over time, bring the power of Microsoft Workplace Analytics and Microsoft MyAnalytics together under the Microsoft Viva brand.”

Viva Learning

Patton described the Viva Learning app as a hub where employees can access various content libraries from Teams. Employees can use learning content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn and third-party providers Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight and edX. Learning management system providers Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba and SAP SuccessFactors also announced plans to integrate with the Viva Learning.

Microsoft said it will make the APIs publicly available to enable customers and partners to integrate with Viva Learning.

Viva Topics

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Viva Topics

Topics is based on the Microsoft knowledge network platform – Project Cortex.– which it released last year. Viva Topics uses Microsoft 365 apps, connections and content already in use. It applies AI to automatically organize content and expertise across an organization, according to Patton.

In a forthcoming release, Viva Topics will integrate data beyond Microsoft 365 using the company’s graph-based content connectors and from partners. The connectors will integrate information from more than 130 data sources. Among them: Salesforce, ServiceNow, MediaWiki, file shares and Microsoft Azure services.

“Connectors also include a robust set of APIs to facilitate development of your own connectors,” Patton noted.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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