Steve Goodman, Principal Technology Strategist at Content+Cloud

Using Microsoft Viva to drive digital transformation with content and employee experience

Steve Goodman, Principal Technology Strategist at Content+Cloud explores how Microsoft Viva can assist organisations of all sizes with their digital transformation strategies.

Digital transformation initiatives are a topic of conversation in the boardrooms of every business today. Whether a large-scale enterprise or an SMB, every business is seeking to understand how digital channels can be bolstered and harnessed to improve ROI, employee experience, and the delivery of products and services.

According to Gartner, creating a shared vision across an organisation is essential for digital transformation to succeed. But initiatives often fail when technology adoption is prioritised over people. As businesses continue to adjust to new ways of operating, such as hybrid and home-working models, and consider adopting the technology needed to sustain these, they must think smart about implementation.

Microsoft Viva, Microsoft’s employee experience platform, is an attempt by the leading enterprise software provider to seamlessly embed the transformational power of technology into every employee’s working life, predominantly through Teams. In this article, I explore how businesses of all sizes can harness the core pillars of Viva.

So, what is Viva and how can it help you?
As Gartner’s research highlights, employee experience, engagement, and wellbeing are essential components of successful digital transformation. Microsoft Viva’s composite parts have evolved out of an understanding that technology must work for each individual, each team, and each organisation at every level. While it may seem to be solely focused on the HR tech market, Viva is a truly revolutionary platform for businesses. Here’s a summary of the four core Viva products:

  • Viva Connections – enables businesses to bring their SharePoint intranet, communities and wider communications capabilities across the organisation, such as Yammer, into Teams, allowing employees to stay connected to their organisation wherever they are and on any device.
  • Viva Topics – originally part of Project Cortex, Topics uses AI and machine learning to automatically surface information and expertise across an organisation. This provides employees with the ability to access exactly what they need, when they need it. Furthermore, it allows seamless content curation capabilities, meaning projects can be created and managed intelligently from start to finish.
  • Viva Learning – brings a robust learning management system to Teams that identifies opportunities for upskilling and plugs them into the employee’s day-to-day workflows. Learning actively brings computer-based training courseware into Teams and uses Viva Topics to suggest new areas of discovery and skills development.
  • Viva Insights – existed previously in Microsoft 365, but the integration with Teams brings deeper capabilities. Using data and signals from Microsoft apps and services, Insights intelligently suggests actions based on the projects employees are working on and how they interact with other teams. It’s a further integration of HR and wellbeing features, along with the tools that aid the working day. These include booking time to catch up on emails, or booking slots for personal admin, all of which help employees manage their time. It also gives managers the ability to identify working patterns that might put employees at risk of burnout, enabling them to step in and provide support.

The purpose that links each of the core Viva modules is a desire to make Teams as “sticky” as possible. Microsoft wants to give employees the ability to navigate their organisation, or rather the digital office, in the most effective way possible – wherever they may be. This means establishing Teams as a platform that can be all things to all people – or at least as much as is required by a business.

Of course, this necessitates that Teams and Viva integrate with each part of a business. Which is why building out its core functions – allowing new Power Apps to be developed within the platform, integrating with SaaS applications and third-party products – has been part of Microsoft’s Teams roadmap since launch.

Reducing internal consultancy and time wasted
At various times in our working lives, we have all been faced with a unique problem, an unforeseen bottleneck or a knowledge gap that throws us off our day-to-day tasks. In each instance, we have various options for finding a solution. Firstly, we can persevere and try to figure out how to overcome the issue ourselves, perhaps even learning new skills in doing so. While the knowledge gained may be of use to us in the future, the problem here is that our present work in progress has not been reduced.

Secondly, we can consult others, who might be able to help locate a colleague with the right skillset, or the right documentation, to help solve our issue. But, like ripples in a pond, disruption begins to spread as more colleagues are pulled into the orbit of the original problem. It might seem a trivial occurrence when viewed in isolation, but such instances are frequent within every business. How many times have you heard, “Do you know who I speak to about X?”

With Viva Connections and Viva Topics, surfacing the right information is simply a case of searching within Teams. Viva Connections plugs into the intranet of an organisation and connects teams and expertise. Viva Topics enables a seamless discovery functionality whereby a bot will understand a question fed into the organisation via integrated communications tools. It will then locate the golden content or source of knowledge.

Rather than preventing organic interaction within a business, Connections and Topics exist to boost efficiency, reduce internal consultation and give valuable time back. Employees can resume work on their immediate tasks, reduce their backlogs and use any time they might gain to focus on wellbeing tasks suggested by Viva Insights, or upskilling with Viva Learning.

Enterprise vs SMB implementation
Of course, when it comes to surfacing content and information, the needs of an organisation will depend on the amount of content that exists and can be made discoverable. Enterprise organisations will typically have extensive data and information repositories spread across multiple networks and systems that, if integrated effectively, can be harnessed with Viva to create truly remarkable content ecosystems.

Under a traditional model, enterprises spend vast amounts of time and money trying to manage their content, developing employee learning programmes and management systems. Communications teams, for example, will often employ a moderator to discover common pain points, which can then be addressed through content that is consumable via the company intranet.

The problem with this is that processes and workflows are subject to change within any evolving organisation, meaning such content can quickly become outdated as new technologies and processes are adopted. Either the enterprise iterates on work already done, or a more intelligent, technology-led solution, such as Viva, is adopted.

The key difference between enterprise customers and SMBs when it comes to any technology implementation or change management initiative is scale. In an enterprise environment, understanding exactly who is working on a project and coordinating internal collaboration to enable more streamlined workflows requires breaking down silos and shifting culture towards a more collaborative, Agile model. This is an essential part of digital transformation, which must be led from an organisation’s senior leadership. The problem here, however, is that employees within large organisations, where staff numbers are in their thousands, are likely to have limited direct contact or exposure to senior leadership. Similarly, executives will be far removed from the common pain points experienced by employees, or teams outside their immediate domain.

In contrast, SMB workforces are more closely connected by their very nature, so company-wide communication and change management can be more easily rolled out. In my experience, working on Teams projects with SMB clients involves a far simpler consultation process, as the constituent parts of the business have a more holistic understanding of their organisation. In short, if everyone knows the common content, communication and collaboration challenges within their organisation, the less user research is required at the project’s inception.

The strength of Viva in both contexts is a reduction in the consultation process. Of course, meeting the needs of enterprises requires a more tailored and considerate approach, as requirements vary in more extreme ways across large organisations. HR surveys, for example, will still be needed at the outset to understand how employees feel about their organisation and will inform the areas in which Teams can help drive business change, technology advocacy and adoption. But Viva can do much of the heavy lifting straight away when it comes to improving employee engagement and experience. With Viva, HR technology leads can immediately identify the features and apps that can be plugged in and switched on, without the need for company-wide missives explaining changes within Teams.

The road ahead
During the pandemic, Teams and Viva together have provided a lifeline for organisations. In a world in which hybrid working models will become the norm for many, and where business continuity depends on user-friendly cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, platforms that can transfer the technology requirements of employees to digital channels will be invaluable for businesses.

We know that the tide of technology is increasingly gathering pace behind two trends: automation and the Cloud. The combination of Teams and Viva is a realisation of what is possible when these forces are harnessed together. To keep employees in Teams, it has to be a platform that fosters productivity, engagement, and personal and professional growth. This is Microsoft’s ultimate goal and Viva is the vehicle that will help get it there.

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