Microsoft Viva Connections Module: Messages that Land

The Microsoft Viva Connections module (you can check out our overview of Viva here), may be striving to be the gamechanger because Microsoft has positioned it as an intranet replacement. Viva Connections provides a targeted dashboard of information from across the organization – just like an intranet might.

While Viva Topics, Insights, and Learning connect end users to knowledge and resources designed to make their individual work days more efficient, Viva Connections allows corporate communications, business leaders, and admins to push content to the whole organization as well as target specific audiences with specific information.

In some ways, Connections is a misnomer. I see this module as pushing information to employees. It’s not really about connecting.

All the news that’s fit to push

Let’s start with the most prominent feature of Viva Connections: the news feed. News from across the organization appears right in Microsoft Teams in a dedicated news feed as part of each user’s Connection tab. The news each user sees will be a unique combination of curated news and resources from departments like Corporate Communications, HR, and IT originating from sources like SharePoint and Yammer.

Sometimes the content will be for everyone; sometimes it will only be meant for specific audiences. As with the entire Viva experience, everything is security-trimmed so end users only see the content they have permissions to see.

Admins can target specific audiences (based on Azure security groups, M365 profile data, Graph activity, etc) with the new articles most relevant to them. News can also appear (or be hidden) according to whether it is marked “always on top,” “until read,” or “X number of impressions.”

Important when it is really important

Corporate news can sometime get a bad rap. Employees typically give it a cursory glance, rather than see it as useful or important. However, as we have seen recently with the pandemic, business leaders must be ready to lead with their voices during a crisis.

During the early days of the pandemic, we helped a number of our customers create specialized sections on their intranets for COVID news and announcements for employees. These announcements helped keep employees informed with critical information required for the shift to remote work and feel supported by the organization during trying times.

A section of one’s own

Viva Connections can also serve as the portal into the rest of an employee’s day. The right-side dashboard can be configured by IT departments with Outlook calendar events, Yammer feeds, and announcements from Viva. The dashboard can also pull in information from third-party software like Workday or LinkedIn Learning (more on that in the post on Viva Learning) and other types of content like pinned files from OneDrive and Microsoft Stream.

Like an intranet…but not

For some organizations, Viva Connections will be the perfect tool for broadcasting news and sharing important information organization-wide. It’s got many of the same features as an intranet, is easy to set up, and lives in Microsoft Teams, where more than 115 million of us are working each day.

As my colleague Erick Straghalis has argued, this is a vital element of the new Digital Workplace model— the “single pane of glass.” Indeed, Microsoft describes Connections as the “portal” to the workday.

However, Viva Connections will be at best a “front page” of their intranet for some businesses—similar to the SharePoint home sites that have been around for a while. Connections does not at this time have the same ability to set up and manage departmental sites. It doesn’t allow for a department to have a single place where everyone can go to find what they need. For example, a lot of HR departments we work with want to create a Human Resources Department Site with all the information they want to present, structured in the way they want it structured.

For this purpose, a solution with a templated approach like Powell Software will be the best option. I don’t see Connections replacing that anytime soon.

Table stakes

Including Connections in the initial launch of Viva makes sense. Intranet Software is a $20+ billion industry, and third-party vendors make lot of money selling solutions that sit on top of SharePoint and do what Connections does. Connections can provide a small or even medium-sized business with an entry-level intranet experience.

For organizations with an existing intranet, Connections may feel limited. The Microsoft announcement for Connections quotes recent Work Trend Index research showing that nearly 60% of workers are feeling less “connected to their team” than they did before the pandemic. I don’t see Connections a remedy for that.

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