Viva Arrives: What Microsoft’s New Employee Experience Platform Means for Your Digital Workplace

On February 4, Microsoft sailed into the enticing $30 billion waters of Employee Experience technology with its new flagship, Viva. Much like an oversized cruise ship, Microsoft does not enter any safe harbor without causing a few waves. Viva is no exception.

Viva’s impact on the Digital Employee Experience Industry

While the final impact of the February announcement may take months to fully discern, it has caused many to sit up and take notice. Techcrunch frames it as a “new take on the intranet”. Josh Bersin notes that Viva is “likely to transform the market for enterprise software.” And Matthieu Silberman of Powell Software sees in Viva a “confirmation of the importance of the digital employee experience”.

At StitchDX, we see reasons for both excitement and caution. For many of our customers, Viva may be either the perfect initial solution or a simply a value-add to the Microsoft Teams platform they currently use. However, it won’t be a replacement for a full intranet any time soon.

What Viva brings to the Digital Workplace

First, let’s get a handle on what Viva is.

Microsoft is rolling out the four modules of Viva during the rest of 2021. All of them not only pull information from the O365 universe but also have the potential to integrate with a significant number of third-party apps. And the entire thing lives in Teams. Here they are:

  • Topics. Available now, Topics utilizes the AI of Microsoft’s Project Cortex to identify “topics” specific to your organization and gather information, documents, and experts together for both “on the spot” learning and deeper-dives into a subject. An employee might see a hyperlinked topic (think project title, acronym, particular project) in a Teams message. Clicking on that link brings up a wealth of resources about that topic, including ways to connect with internal experts who frequently write about that topic.
  • Connections. Connections offers a way to surface information from SharePoint and Yammer in Teams to specific employee audiences. Connections can provide departments like corporate communications, HR, and IT channels to quickly and effectively broadcast information to where people are working: Teams.
  • Learning. Integrating with a Learning Management System (LMS) like LinkedIn Learning, this module can empower employees to quickly and seamlessly continue their professional development and build skills.
  • Insights. Insights builds on the many of the same features as the Cortana virtual assistant to help build better work habits through suggestions. Insights also surfaces many of the analytics held in O365 (although anonymized) so managers can see how much collaboration is actually happening and help identify teams that might be headed for burnout.

How Viva is Changing the Currents of the Digital Workplace

While it is still too early to fully grasp the effects of Viva on digital workplaces, we are struck by some of the implications of Microsoft’s move.
The most obvious is that the Digital Workplace is said to be a 30 billion dollar industry – and that doesn’t even take into account the massive changes brought about by the pandemic. If anything, that number will grow exponentially.

The New Digital Workplace Model - credit Erick Straghalis, StitchDX

Currently, organizations build their intranets in SharePoint, a software solution (like Powell) that sits on top of SharePoint, or a completely independent software solution. At the same time, adoption of Teams has grown well past 115 million daily users. By introducing Viva, Microsoft is building on the success of Teams and O365 to claim a share of the intranet pie.

It also bears mentioning that while Viva makes use of tools and content from across O365, Microsoft is emphasizing the experience in Teams. As my colleague Erick Straghalis and others have noted, Microsoft Teams is much, much more than a collaboration tool. It is becoming a platform.

Technology serving people

Secondly, and I find this even more intriguing, Viva places the emphasis on the “experience” part of employee experience. Even before the pandemic, but certainly reaching a fever pitch nowadays, companies were beginning to learn that happy, motivated employees with the right resources at their fingertips were a critical and valuable asset. And that asset was worth significant investments in time, money, and attention.

In the early days of the pandemic, the focus was on the technology. Did everyone have the hardware and software they needed to do their work? How would we handle meetings, events, and collaboration when everyone was remote? What was needed and what were the protocols?

As we enter our second pandemic year, the focus has shifted. Our IT departments did a phenomenal job enabling us to work remotely, and now we need to think about how we do it sustainably. Whether or not we all return to our offices next month or next year or next never, we need to design our digital workplaces that they meet our human workplace needs.

Viva seems to be placing a marker here. Its four modules will enable employees to feel informed, connected, inspired, and supported – no matter where they are. If this is truly what Viva portends, I welcome it into the Digital Workplace port.

In the coming weeks, I will be focusing on each of the 4 modules in turn, starting with Viva Topics.

Understand the trends, then make your Digital Workplace plan. Download our guide: “Re-Defining the Digital Workplace.”

(Questions? Contact our Digital Workplace team here or click the orange chat button at the bottom right.)