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Microsoft Unveils 'Viva' Employee Experience Platform for Microsoft Teams

Microsoft on Thursday announced Microsoft Viva, its first "employee experience platform" for use with Microsoft Teams.

The Viva platform combines Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams capabilities and shows up as applications within Teams. These apps are designed to bolster human resources capabilities, company communications and employee access to learning materials. The Teams collaboration service serves as a hub for these integrated Viva applications.

Overall, the Viva platform is said to address employee "engagement, well-being, learning and knowledge" within organizations. While presented as a new platform, Viva seems to consist of solutions that Microsoft has already released.

With Viva, people operations will no longer be left to HR, explained Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, in a video. In a time when people work remotely, every organization will require a unified employee experience, he added. In another Microsoft video, fictional job seeker "Mila" is shown progressing from nervous job applicant to company leader, presumably because of the communications enabled by Viva.

There's no going back, and employees now want to work remotely, at least part-time, said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in another Microsoft video. He described Viva as Microsoft's first step to address that scenario. More comments from Spataro were published in this announcement.

Four Viva applications were announced on Thursday, but just some of them had reached "general availability" or commercial-release status for use with Teams. The four apps are Viva Connections, Viva Insights, Viva Learning and Viva Topics.

Viva Connections
The Viva Connections app is the Viva central landing page consisting of a company news feed and a general dashboard view, which is reminiscent of a SharePoint Communication Site. It will be available as a Teams client desktop application "in the first half of 2021," with mobile app support expected in "summer 2021."

Viva Connections is "powered by SharePoint," Microsoft explained, but it also lets organizations "extend your SharePoint intranet content, including your home site, into Microsoft Teams." It's also possible to customize the Viva Connections app using "Power Apps, SPFx [SharePoint Framework], and the third-party solutions you already deployed," Microsoft added. The app works with Yammer for chats, OneDrive for file storage and Microsoft Stream for videos.

Viva Insights
The Viva Insights app measures how employees use their time. These measures get served up in a dashboard view for individuals and managers. Microsoft claims the information gets aggregated and depersonalized in the view seen by management. The Insights app for use in Teams is now available at the preview stage, Microsoft indicated.

The Insights app pulls data from Microsoft 365 services, but it also will work with other non-Microsoft software products.

"Microsoft Viva Insights uses data and signals from Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and other Microsoft 365 apps and services, but managers can also access data from an existing ecosystem of collaboration tools and services, including Zoom, Slack, Workday, and SAP SuccessFactors," the announcement explained.

Microsoft additionally announced a preview of LinkedIn's Glint solution with the Microsoft Power BI dashboard, which is an internal integration of sorts since Microsoft owns LinkedIn. This integrated Glint solution is available now as a preview in Viva Insights, but just for Microsoft's Workplace Analytics customers.

The Viva Insights app seems very similar to Workspace Analytics, which also measures employee time, but Microsoft's announcement had referred to them as two products.

Future additions to the Viva Insights app will include "personal wellbeing experiences, including a virtual commute, an integration with Headspace for meditation and mindfulness, and an integration with Microsoft Viva Learning," Microsoft explained. Those additions will arrive "in the coming months."

Viva Learning
The Viva Learning app provides access to learning materials. It's currently available, but just at the private preview stage for use in Teams. Microsoft expects it'll reach the general availability stage sometime "later this year."

Viva Learning can include content from the following sources:

  • LinkedIn Learning
  • Microsoft Learn
  • Third-party providers including Skillsoft, Coursera, Pluralsight and edX
  • An organization's content library.

Later this year, it's expected that Viva Learning will get integration with other learning solutions, including "Cornerstone OnDemand, Saba and SAP SuccessFactors." Microsoft expects to make its APIs available in that same time frame.

Viva Topics
The Viva Topics app provides the means to surface expertise within an organization via so-called "Topic Cards." It'll also show information on things like an organization's project names and the definitions used, which will pop up in a card-like fashion in context via "highlights" in text as people use Office 365 apps. These Topic Cards are automatically created from Microsoft 365 and Teams use via artificial intelligence. Viva Topics is now at the general availability release stage. It's offered as an "add-on to Microsoft 365 commercial plans."

Viva Topics seems a lot like the "topic intelligence" or "Topic Cards" phase of Project Cortex, which Microsoft had briefly described last year when it announced the release of SharePoint Syntex, the first Project Cortex product. This topic intelligence product was supposed to have been available last year, but it apparently got delayed.

Microsoft's announcement didn't exactly say that Viva Topics is the next Project Cortex release, but it did indicate that it "works with our other content management tools, including Microsoft 365 E5 Compliance and SharePoint Syntex."

About the Author

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

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