What is Microsoft Viva?

In this article we cover what Microsoft Viva is, take a look at each of its seven constituent modules, and consider some of the issues for in-house legal teams.

Microsoft Viva is a relatively new suite of tools aimed at companies to help improve “employee experience”.

Launched in early 2021, the use of Microsoft Viva is likely to start to become more prevalent over the coming months as it gets deployed more often.

It’s useful for in-house legal teams to be aware of this new addition to the digital workplace to help ensure there are no compliance or legal issues; they may also be called upon to create or review terms of use, for example, and there can be some concerns over data privacy relating to some of the functionality. Microsoft Viva can also be helpful for in-house legal teams who need to provide resources to employees that will also support compliance. 

What does Microsoft Viva do?

Microsoft Viva is positioned by Microsoft as “an employee experience platform (EXP) that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights in the flow of work…Viva fosters a culture that empowers employees and teams to be their best from anywhere.”

Employee experience takes a holistic and strategic approach to the touchpoints an employee has with their employer and has been a concept in the HR space for a while. To a certain extent, Viva is aimed at HR departments and related teams such as internal communications.

Viva is marketed as a “platform” which suggests a more integrated offering than actually is the case; Viva is essentially a series of seven different tools or modules – not all of which are fully live yet – that are primarily delivered through Microsoft Teams, although increasingly also through other Microsoft tools. For example, the Viva branding is used on some of the automated emails from Outlook, although these are separate from the seven modules.

Although Viva is currently not a true integrated platform, Microsoft Teams is a common delivery channel, and we can expect to see more integration in the future. 

Viva keeps on evolving

Microsoft Viva modules are available separately for companies to subscribe to or through a common Viva license which bundles together most of the functionality. However, Viva Connections and Viva Engage come free with most Office 365 or Microsoft 365 licenses, while other Viva modules have some free features.

Some observers have suggested that Microsoft Viva is essentially a rebranding exercise for a collection of different tools that now have a new umbrella name; the case for this argument is quite strong. For example, the latest module to be announced (Viva Engage) is a rebranding of a Yammer app.

Microsoft continues to invest in Viva; the individual tools have enhancements and features, and the number of modules is expanding. Originally there were four foundation modules, and at the time of writing this has expanded to seven. By the time you are reading this there may be eight or more.

The different Microsoft Viva tools

Let’s explore each of the seven current Microsoft Viva modules in the suite.

Viva Connections

Viva Connections is designed to connect employees to personalised content, news, conversations and tools that are used throughout Microsoft 365 tools like SharePoint and Yammer, but also across the wider digital workplace. In this sense it has some overlap with what a corporate intranet is designed to do, except information is mainly consumed through Microsoft Teams rather than a web browser.

If you are using a SharePoint intranet it’s possible for employees to view content through this through Teams using Viva Connections. Viva Connections is free with Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

From an in-house legal team standpoint and compliance angle, the governance and terms of usage that is already set-up for existing 365 channels (Microsoft Teams, Yammer, SharePoint) should suffice for Viva Connections as you’re just viewing existing Yammer or SharePoint content through Microsoft Teams. However, the Connections dashboard feature may introduce new content and data from other systems such as SAP, so governance and terms of usage may need to be reviewed.

Viva Topics

Viva Topics is an AI-driven solution that supports knowledge management by creating pages of resources on different topics, with access to documents in SharePoint, pages from a SharePoint intranet, conversations in Yammer, and links to recognised experts. Topics could cover anything from specific clients to locations to work-related subjects.

Even though Topics is an AI-driven solution which updates these pages automatically with content recommendations, actually it works best when pages are curated by subject-matter experts who choose which articles and documents to display. The AI also needs to be trained upfront so there is ongoing management and governance required in successfully implementing Viva Topics.

In-house legal teams will potentially be interested in using Viva Topics to help disseminate content relating to legal and compliance topics. However, they may also be mindful about terms of usage, particularly if new users are being exposed to new content from different sources. They may also want to keep an eye on how topic pages are positioned to employees, particularly if they are not being actively curated; for example, a topic page relating to “Health and Safety” where the content is being selected by AI and not being reviewed and curated by experts may ring some alarm bells for some stakeholders.

Viva Insights

Viva Insights is an app that principally provides a personal dashboard of analytics about people’s working habits, relating to well-being, productivity, meetings and collaboration. This is all derived from interactions carried out on Microsoft Outlook (calendars and email), Teams and also Yammer. There are also opportunities to derive analytics at the team and organisational level.

Even though Microsoft has tried to factor for data privacy in building the app – for example personal analytics are only available to view by the individual concerned – there is definitely a role for in-house legal teams to review the use of Insights from a data privacy angle and whether any sources need to be excluded from the analytics, as well as how insights are going to be used. This review may be necessary to help position the use of Viva Insights to employees who may worry that their privacy is being infringed.

Viva Learning

Viva Learning is an app which aims to highlight learning-related material together into Microsoft Teams from a variety of sources, including Microsoft’s own learning content, SharePoint, as well as a number of popular Learning Managing Systems (LMS). In this sense, Viva Learning is not a learning platform in its own right but an aggregator of learning content, and arguably needs an LMS in place to be successful. It does provide some useful additional functionality, including the ability to share learning content in Teams, and providing a single learning search across multiple repositories. Managers can also assign learning to their team members, and there are personalised dashboards for individuals to track their learning progress.

Viva Learning means employees are accessing learning material through a different system so it could need a tweak to terms of usage. In-house legal teams may also be interested to see how Viva Learning can support wider learning and awareness about regulatory and compliance topics if that comes under their area of responsibility.

Viva Goals

Viva Goals is a module that brings Objectives and Key Results (OKR) software into Microsoft Teams thanks to Microsoft’s acquisition of ally.io, a leading OKR software provider. HR functions can use Viva Goals to create and view OKRs at the individual, team and organisational level in Microsoft Teams, link project tasks to OKRs, and create a range of custom dashboards.

The involvement of in-house legal teams might just need to check the use of OKRs in relation to key elements such as promotions, salary levels and more, if these are being considered. The terms of usage may also need to be created from scratch if this is in effect a new system for the organisation.

Viva Sales

Viva Sales is an app which is now in public preview, although not fully released at the time of writing. Viva Sales is aimed to help those involved in selling activity by being able to surface CRM data (currently either from Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce, but with more systems likely to be added) within Teams and Outlook. This allows for sales and opportunity-related discussions, emails threads and meetings to have more context. AI features also make suggestions for people to update CRM data directly from within Teams or Outlook based on their interactions, reducing the need for manual data entry. There are also AI-features to analyse sales conversations and calls.

For in-house legal teams there might be a need to review Viva Sales from a GDPR angle to ensure any consent required from customers or prospects in relation to their data is in place. However, we suspect that Microsoft will introduce elements to support GDPR-related compliance.

Viva Engage

Viva Engage is pretty much an upgrade and rebranding of an existing Yammer app that was designed for Microsoft Teams. However, Yammer (Microsoft’s social networking platform) is not being rebranded, and this has caused some confusion in the marketplace. Viva Engage essentially allows a user to view a personalised feed of relevant conversations from Yammer communities, while also allowing them to explore recommended communities.

A new feature (not yet live) is Storylines – which is basically personalised feeds from individual employees more akin to Facebook and Instagram, as well as Stories, which are photos or short videos posted onto a Storyline. For example, we could imagine some CEO’s using this facility to support communications. This new feature on Viva Engage orientates Yammer to more being about the individual as much as it is about groups and communities.

For in-house legal teams we expect that Viva Engage might require a fresh look at the terms of usage around Yammer, particularly to take into account the new Storylines feed. Note that Viva Engage is open to all Microsoft 365 and Yammer subscribers, so may be implemented by organisations not looking at other Viva tools.

Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva is a suite of tools that we’re likely to see more of in the coming months and years. In-house legal teams should be aware of this emerging technology both from a compliance angle, but also in the opportunities it provides for them to communicate and disseminate information to employees.