Microsoft has launched what it calls an “employee experience platform” based on Microsoft Teams, its cloud-based collaboration software that is part of its Office 365 applications suite.
The Redmond giant was a player in the knowledge management market in the late 1990s, and the rhetoric around Viva is reminiscent of that era, in terms of the notion, now expressed in the Topics module in the platform, of “knowledge coming to the employee”, and collaboration between knowledge workers, remote and proximate.
The launch is of a piece with such recent IT market events as Salesforce’s acquisition of business instant messaging company Slack and the intensified partnership between SAP, with its applications, and Microsoft itself, with Teams – which goes beyond video conferencing à la Zoom to messaging and file sharing.
The supplier is calling Microsoft Viva “the first employee experience platform to bring tools for employee engagement, learning, wellbeing and knowledge discovery, directly into the flow of people’s work”.
Launching the platform today, CEO Satya Nadella invoked the Covid-19 public health pandemic as the backcloth to it.
“We have participated in the largest at-scale remote work experiment the world has seen, and it has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience.
“Every organisation will require a unified employee experience from onboarding and collaboration to continuous learning and growth,” he said. “Viva brings together everything an employee needs to be successful, from day one, in a single, integrated experience directly in Teams.”
Jared Spataro, corporate vice-president of Microsoft 365, spoke to customers who have been using Viva at the launch digital event. Neeraj Tolmare, Global CIO, Coca Cola said “having connected technology platforms … in a seamless way, whether remote or in the office enables the work environment to be simpler”.
And Steve McCrystal, chief enterprise technology officer, Unilever commented that “well-being is important for what we do, physical and mental. We really worry about that. We use some of the workplace analytics, which are a lifeblood for us now,” having been “kind of interesting”, he said, before the pandemic.
Sparato spoke in the same event to Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin Deloitte and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy. “This is a hugely complicated, multi-product market, and there isn’t a platform yet that can integrate it all together,” he said. “Microsoft, because of the size and scale of what you do, you have the opportunity to be that integrating platform.”
In a Microsoft press statement, Bersin added: “Microsoft Viva is a groundbreaking Employee Experience Platform, ushering in a new enterprise software category that focuses entirely on the daily needs of employees at work. Viva will enable companies to integrate their fragmented workplace tools and provide them in the flow of work.”
In a blog post, he reported he has been advising Microsoft on the platform. “Fueled by the pandemic, companies are spending billions of dollars on collaboration tools, wellbeing apps, training and development offerings, and all forms of surveys, knowledge management, case management, and employee support,” wrote Bersin. “This massive industry is over $300bn in size, and impacts every major software supplier from ADP to Workday, Cisco, SAP, Oracle, ServiceNow and hundreds more.”
He believes the platform marks a new beginning for Microsoft. “Microsoft’s traditional strength has been selling to IT, business executives, and industry buyers,” said Bersin. “Other than through LinkedIn, there was no real marketing or sales focused on HR. Well, effective today, all that is about to change.”
The Microsoft platform itself comprises four elements.
Viva Connections, which is said to provides a “personalised gateway to your digital workplace where employees can access internal communications and company resources like policies and benefits and participate in communities like employee resource groups, all from a single customisable app in Microsoft Teams”.
Viva Insights, which is said to give individuals, managers and leaders personalised and actionable insights. This module uses LinkedIn’s Glint, and “customers will also be able to incorporate data from third-party services like Zoom, Slack, Workday and SAP SuccessFactors”.
Viva Learning, which is said to make “training and professional development opportunities more discoverable and accessible in the flow of work”.
Viva Topics, which it said will deliver a knowledge discovery experience helping people connect to information and experts across the company.
“Using AI to reason over a customer’s Microsoft 365 data, and with the ability to integrate knowledge from a variety of third-party services such as ServiceNow and Salesforce, Viva Topics automatically surfaces topic cards within conversations and documents across Microsoft 365 and Teams,” it said.