Microsoft Ditching Yammer Brand for Viva Engage

Microsoft announced on Monday that it's Yammer chat collaboration app brand is going away, and getting supplanted by the Viva Engage brand.

It's just the Yammer brand name that's going away. Organizations won't be losing any functionality. "All the existing functionality you love, along with the latest features, remain the same," the announcement promised. Moreover, for administrators, all of the content moderation and policies "will remain."

Yammer has had a near 10-year life as a Microsoft brand, following Yammer's announced purchase by Microsoft for about $1.2 billion back in 2012. Viva Engage, on the other hand, is a relatively new addition to the Microsoft Viva suite of applications and is described as delivering "consumer-like social networking" capabilities to work environments.

Viva Engage is actually a rebrand of the Yammer Communities app for Teams, which Microsoft rebranded about six months ago. Microsoft decided that keeping Yammer around after that rebranding was just confusing for its customers, so it is eliminating the Yammer brand, the announcement explained:

Six months ago, we took the first step to rebrand the Yammer Communities app for Teams to Viva Engage, to align Yammer more closely with our Viva suite of employee experiences. Since then, we've continued to add new functionality to both Viva Engage and the Yammer apps including storyline. Over the last several months 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.

Viva Engage Conversion Timeline
The shift of Yammer to the Viva Engage brand will happen throughout this year across Microsoft products. It'll have a few phases:

  • The Yammer mobile app will show an "in-app rebrand banner" notification of the coming change in February. The Yammer mobile app will then turn into a Viva Engage product in March.
  • The Communities app in Outlook will become a Viva Engage product in March.
  • The Web app will show an in-app rebrand banner notification in April, and then will become a Viva Engage product in the summer.
  • URLs will be updated, with redirection maintained to direct people to the newly branded URL.

New Viva Engage Admin Center
Microsoft also announced that Microsoft Viva customers will be getting a new Viva Engage Admin Center to enable capabilities and perform management functions. The new Admin Center permits personnel with the requisite permissions to do things like "configure and customize the application, manage security and compliance, manage core and premium Viva Engage features and overall build engagement for employees."

The announcement of the new Admin Center for Viva Engage didn't indicate when it may be available. However, it did specify the roles that are needed to use it, as follows:

  • Microsoft 365 Global Administrator (unlimited access to settings)
  • Engage Admin (ability to set up Viva Engage and "manage data, network related settings and various core or premium features," formerly knowns as "Yammer Administrator")
  • Yammer Network Admin
  • Answers Admin (ability to "set up and configure Answers within the Viva Engage application," also known as "Knowledge Manager"), and
  • Corporate Communicator (a new content management addition for "creating and managing campaigns, defining leaders, and more in Viva Engage").

Viva Engage admins have control over a new Leadership Corner feature, enabling or disabling views by employees.

New Viva Engage Service Plans
Microsoft apparently has constructed new service plans for Viva Engage. Some aspects of these new service plans were described in a FAQ section in Microsoft's Viva Engage Admin Center announcement.

The service plans include "Viva Engage Core," "Viva Engage Communities and Communication," and "Viva Engage Knowledge." Tenancies using Viva Engage are getting these service plans automatically assigned to users by Microsoft.

There's a caveat for organizations that disabled Yammer to check that they have also removed the Viva Engage Core license, too. Here's how Microsoft phrased that caveat:

If you have disabled Yammer for your organization, then make sure that you remove the Viva Engage Core license for those users as well. In addition, please ensure that you continue to enforce Yammer license checks for your users through Yammer admin settings. This will continue to disable Yammer access.

Native Mode Warnings
"Native Mode" is Microsoft lingo for Yammer that will work with Office 365 services, such as Groups and Azure Active Directory. About 10 percent of organizations may be using Yammer in non-Native Mode format, such as using Yammer Basic. Microsoft began a process of migrating these organizations over to Native Mode, starting back in December.

A longer migration period to Native Mode will occur for organizations with multiple Yammer networks. Microsoft is exhorting those customers to consolidate their networks before May 2023, or risk losing some data. Microsoft offers a Native Mode Alignment Tool to help IT pros automate the process of aligning to Native Mode.

New Viva Engage Features
Microsoft also announced that new Viva Engage features "are now rolling out to Viva suite customers."

A Leadership Corner feature shows posts by leaders in an organization, which employees see based on their group memberships. There also is a new Ask Me Anything (AMA) events capability for company Q&A sessions, and these AMA events, when started by leaders, will show up in the Leadership Corner. It's also possible for "any employee" to create an AMA event.

A new Campaigns feature uses hashtags to set up employee participation collaboration areas, such as "diversity initiatives, cultural moments, shared learning and ideation." Microsoft's example was a Campaign that's centered on charitable giving.

Storyline, a feature that lets users learn about people in an organization, has a Storyline Announcements capability for sending "need-to-know updates" to the "right employees." Storyline Announcements works across "Outlook, Teams and Viva Engage." It's possible to define the audiences beforehand using "Azure AD groups," Microsoft explained.

Viva Engage also is getting bolstered with new Advanced Analytics capabilities, which display statistics in graph form. There are several Advanced Analytics options, including personal analytics for one's posts, audience analytics, Campaign analytics for social campaigns, Answer analytics for gauging the personal effects of answering questions and global Answers analytics for assessing overall company impact. Microsoft is also introducing Sentiment Analysis, which lets leaders assess "sentiment and themes of conversations across Viva Engage," which is said to offer "privacy-protected insights."

Answers in Viva is a new Viva Engage space that's designed to help people "ask questions, find solutions, share what they know, and save everyone time." It uses artificial intelligence to match questions with answers, and is said to be "powered by Viva Topics." Answers in Viva will automatically route questions to the people deemed to have answers.

Microsoft's Viva Engage team is planning to offer up its own answers in a Feb. 23 Ask Microsoft Anything event, starting at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. More Viva Engage talk from the team also can be found in this Microsoft "Intrazone podcast."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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