When Microsoft announced the launch of Viva in early 2021 – a new ‘employee experience’ platform that is mainly delivered through Microsoft Teams across four distinct apps (Viva Connections, Learning, Topics and Insights) – there were huge levels of interest from a wide selection of different stakeholders including intranet and digital workplace teams. Fast forward to 18 months later and that interest still prevails. Now, some organizations are starting to actually deploy different Viva apps, the overall platform is evolving at a rapid pace, and there have even been some new apps (Viva Goals and Viva Sales) announced.
While there is a sense that Microsoft Viva is undoubtedly advancing, in practice many digital workplace teams are still considering how to deploy it and working out where it fits in with the rest of the Microsoft 365 suite. There is still a lack of good information about Viva outside the materials provided by Microsoft itself.
When we asked DWG members to vote on the research topics they wanted us to cover in DWG’s 2022 research programme, it came as no surprise that Viva was one of the topics selected.
The outcome from this vote is the publication of our latest DWG member research report, Viva, Teams or SharePoint: Understanding how they fit together, which attempts to unpack many of the questions commonly asked about Microsoft Viva and to provide some answers. Incidentally, this research report has also achieved the milestone of being our hundredth report.
In this post we’re going to explore seven of the takeaways on Microsoft Viva from the DWG research.
1. Viva is going to keep on evolving
Like all the tools within its 365 suite, Microsoft continues to invest in the Viva platform, extending the functionality of the each of the current apps, but also adding entirely new Viva apps. Viva was only fully launched in 2021 and is attracting a lot of interest from organizations, so we can fully expect Viva to keep on evolving at a significant pace for the foreseeable future. While this is good news for digital workplace teams, it can also be challenging to manage all these changes.
In June 2022, two entirely new apps were formally announced:
- Viva Goals, an app that delivers objectives and key results (OKR) features, based on Microsoft’s acquisition of ally.io, a leading vendor of OKR software.
- Viva Sales, which automatically adds data to your customer relationship management (CRM) system based on actions across Outlook and other platforms, while also surfacing CRM and sales data in Teams and Outlook.
It’s very likely that further Viva apps will be announced at some stage in the future.
Another aspect of Microsoft Viva where we can expect further advances is in extending the library of out-of-the-box connectors to third-party digital workplace solutions, as well as more opportunities to integrate Viva with other 365 tools, for example through additional SharePoint web parts. We could also see Viva itself evolve to be more of an integrated platform rather than a series of separate apps – for example, with combined analytics or a configuration area.
2. Viva is not plug and play
A common misconception about the different Microsoft Viva apps is that they are ‘plug and play’, in that you download the software, activate it and then everything will suddenly start working. While there are some features that will work as soon as they have been set up, actually, to get the most value out of Viva you need to do some groundwork. Also, there are some features that need active, ongoing management.
There are also some dependencies. For example:
- To get the best out of Microsoft Learning you ideally need a learning management system (LMS) in place.
- You need a clear communication strategy for Microsoft Insights, especially to meet concerns over data privacy.
- You also need an improvement strategy to work out how to respond to the analytics delivered.
- Viva Topics requires a particular volume of documents in order to deliver meaningful topic pages.
- Viva Topics works best when there is ongoing curation of pages from subject matter experts and there is underlying governance in place to support this.
At a high level, Microsoft Viva is like any other digital workplace tool – it needs ownership, governance and management to drive sustainable value.
3. Viva Connections is influencing intranets
Many intranet teams that manage a SharePoint Online intranet have taken a close look at Viva Connections; this is partly because Viva Connections is bundled free with most organizations’ Microsoft 365 licence, so presents a good opportunity to leverage features at no extra cost. Moreover, it also has some potential overlap with the functionality of a SharePoint intranet.
As Viva Connections starts to get deployed more often, we’re beginning to see it influence SharePoint intranets in three main ways:
- By providing an opportunity for a SharePoint intranet and content to be experienced within Teams, an obvious advantage if adoption of Teams is high within the organization.
- Through deploying the Viva Connections feed and exposing this in the intranet via a web part, which provides an additional hyper-personalized feed for users based on audience targeting, popularity of content, Yammer groups and ‘boosted’ news.
- In deploying the Viva Connections dashboard and again adding this as a web part within SharePoint, which enables a personalized dashboard covering content and transactions, potentially across multiple systems.
4. There are many aspects to consider around deploying Viva
One of the aims of the DWG research was to answer some of the key questions about Viva we had been hearing from digital workplace teams. Many of these are quite practical in nature and concern how to deploy Microsoft Viva in relation to the tools within Microsoft 365, including SharePoint and Yammer. This is not actually straightforward; there are multiple options in deploying Viva’s constituent apps, overlapping capabilities with other 365 tools, the ability to integrate the different tools with each other, and a range of other factors to be taken into account.
In the research, we aimed to make some recommendations about how to deploy Microsoft Viva and to establish some clarity around the interplay between Viva, Teams, SharePoint and Yammer. However, when we started to explore all that needs to be considered, including the different drivers, we realized that making specific recommendations was not possible. Instead, we have developed a framework for teams that details all the different factors that should be considered when deploying Viva, with these falling across seven key areas:
- Employee experience.
- Communication and adoption.
- User experience and findability.
- Risk and compliance.
- Support and governance.
- Costs and licensing.
- Other specific Microsoft 365 characteristics.
5. The Viva experience is going beyond Teams
So far, the four apps within the Viva suite already released have all been primarily experienced through Microsoft Teams. However, we can expect Viva increasingly to be experienced outside Teams, across other parts of the Microsoft 365 universe.
For example, when the recently announced Viva Sales launches in Q4 2022, it will be possible to experience it through both Teams and Outlook. Meanwhile, respective web parts for the Viva Connections dashboard and feed can also be embedded within SharePoint. Many of us have also experienced the Viva-branded emails received in Outlook, which provide nudges or reveal insights and trends in our Outlook behaviour. Overall, the Viva ‘brand’ is already being exposed outside Teams – and it seems likely this will continue.
6. Free vs cost split
One characteristic of Microsoft Viva is that some of its features are free to use with Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions (for example, Viva Connections) but other tools require an additional subscription. Understandably, the features that come at extra cost tend to have the most potential value.
With the launch of a single Viva licence that provides access to most of Viva (and therefore those features that come at an extra cost), we can see there might increasingly be a split in how organizations use Viva, with some focusing just on the elements that are part of their 365 licence and others paying for the extras. Inevitably, there will be wider adoption of those elements that are free compared with those that are paid for.
7. It’s still early days for Viva
Even though Microsoft Viva is being heavily promoted and evolving at a rapid pace, it’s still relatively early days. Most digital workplace teams are only at the start of their journey with Viva and have so far tended to deploy limited functionality only, are just experimenting or evaluating solutions, or are for now playing ‘wait and see’. While we expect Viva deployments to ramp up significantly in the coming months, we’re still collectively learning about this exciting new Microsoft product.