Microsoft launches Viva, a bet on the future of remote work

Viva is a new platform that lives inside Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Viva is Microsoft’s new push for helping businesses with remote work and a big bet on this new way of life becoming the norm. It’s designed to act as a portal for both employees and businesses to navigate the complexities of working from home. Microsoft is launching Viva today, with parts of the platform rolling out throughout 2021.

“We have participated in the largest, at scale, remote work experiment the world has seen,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, underlining nearly 11 months of a pandemic that has reshaped how people work, learn, and live. “As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in when, where, and how we work will be key.”

Microsoft Viva isn’t an app or even a service but more of a platform for improving remote work and helping businesses adjust to it. While businesses collectively spend billions of dollars each year on employee wellbeing, Microsoft thinks Viva will help in this new digital era of work.

“We need to stop thinking about work as a place, and start thinking about how to maintain culture, connect employees, and harness human ingenuity in a hybrid world,” says Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365. Spataro was quick to predict early on in the pandemic that it would forever change the way we work and learn, and Microsoft Viva is clearly the result of trends Microsoft has been witnessing.

Designed for this new flexible and digital era of work, Viva integrates into Microsoft Teams and works rather like the intranet of old by collecting essential parts of a business into a central location. Microsoft is splitting Viva up into four specific modules: connections, insights, topics, and learning.

Connections includes internal communications,or resources like benefits and company policies. It’s also designed to be the portal you’d head to if you just started working at a company and you’ve never even met your co-workers due to pandemic lockdowns. “You can think of it as a gateway to your digital workplace,” explains Spataro.

Viva Connections is built on top of Microsoft’s SharePoint technology, and it will include things like company news, town halls, or even employee resource groups and communities. It’s basically a dashboard for connecting with colleagues remotely.

Viva Insights feels like the next step in Microsoft’s controversial Productivity Score feature. Microsoft was widely criticized for allowing managers to drill down into data on individual employees through metadata collected from its software and services. The company was forced to make changes to its Productivity Score, and Viva Insights builds on those similar privacy-focused insights for managers and employees.

Microsoft says Viva Insights will include data for managers and leaders to monitor work patterns and trends, but that privacy will be protected. “This means personal insights are visible only to the employee, while insights for managers and leaders are aggregated and de-identified by default to protect individual privacy,” says Spataro.

Viva Learning is Microsoft’s third module in Viva, and like the name implies, it’s about employee learning and development. This is where employers will house training materials, courses, and other content for employee education. This will include content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and even a business’ own content, alongside training material from third-party providers.

The last module inside Viva is Topics. “Think of Viva topics as a Wikipedia for the organization,” explains Spataro. It uses AI to organize content and automatically surfaces topic cards with documents, videos, and related people. Viva Topics will generate topic cards from apps like Office, Teams, and SharePoint.

Microsoft Viva is partly launching today. Viva Topics is available now for Microsoft 365 customers, and a public preview of Viva Insights also starts today. Microsoft is also launching a private preview of Viva Learning and plans to announce more additions to Microsoft Viva throughout 2021.

Microsoft says it’s only just getting started with Microsoft Viva and that it’s designed to be an “open and extensible platform” for partners. Viva also furthers Microsoft’s ambition to put Teams at the center of its strategy for work and to act as a hub into everything the company does.

Much like Microsoft Teams’ Together mode feature, Viva is clearly inspired by the pandemic-era drive toward remote working. While there’s still a debate around how dramatically office jobs will change once the pandemic is over, Microsoft is very much betting that the way we’re working right now is the new normal.


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