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Microsoft Bolsters 'Employee Experience' with Latest Viva Apps

Microsoft's Viva suite is getting new apps and enhancements, according to an announcement made on Thursday.    

Four new Microsoft Viva apps are expected to arrive in "early 2023." They include Answers in Viva, People in Viva, Viva Amplify and Viva Pulse.

Additionally, the existing Viva Sales product, currently at preview, is expected to reach the "general availability" commercial-release stage on Oct. 3.

'Productivity Paranoia'
Microsoft has also released a new "Work Trend Index" (WTI) report report.  The theme in this latest one is "productivity paranoia."

The productivity paranoia phrase is a reference to a perception gap between employees and management regarding workplace productivity. While 87 percent of employees said they were productive, just 12 percent of organizational leaders thought employees were productive, per survey results.

Microsoft's basic premise, backed by its WTI reports, is that organizations should just help employees thrive and remove any blocks to productivity. This idea was emphasized by Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO at Microsoft.

"Thriving employees are what will give organizations a competitive advantage in today's dynamic economic environment," Nadella stated in this Microsoft blog post. "Today, we're announcing new innovations across our employee experience platform Microsoft Viva to help leaders end productivity paranoia, rebuild social capital, and re-recruit and re-energize their employees."

The WTI reports are conducted for Microsoft by Edelman Data & Intelligence. This current report sampled opinions from "20,006 full-time employed or self-employed knowledge workers across 11 countries between July 7, 2022, and August 2, 2022."

A good presentation of report's main highlights can be viewed in this video, which is fronted by Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for modern work at Microsoft. Spataro touted Viva apps as enabling organizations to "measure what matters" to help employees become more productive. He also suggested, based on WTI results, that most companies (57 percent, per the report) just don't hear employee feedback. Viva apps were presented as helping with that sort of communication block.

Four New Viva Apps
The four new Viva apps, coming early next year, include the following modules:

  • Answers in Viva, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to match employee questions with knowledge by experts in organizations.
  • People in Viva, which uses AI to generate employee "profile cards," which then can be used to discover connections.
  • Viva Amplify, a Microsoft 365 communications publishing app that offers tips to "improve message resonance" and
  • Viva Pulse, an app for managers and teams, allowing them to get "confidential feedback" from team members on what's working and areas for improvement.

How these apps might be packaged -- in the overall suite or sold separately -- wasn't described.

The Current Viva Suite
Microsoft keeps adding to its Viva suite, but not every "module" or app is part of the suite. Microsoft's pricing page listed the following six apps as being currently available in the standalone suite product, priced at $9 per user per month:

  • Viva Connections, which provides a news feed and permits content sharing.
  • Viva Engage, a "consumer-like social networking" solution replacing the Yammer Communities app.
  • Viva Insights, which is designed for employee time management.
  • Viva Learning, giving employees access to learning libraries.
  • Viva Topics, used to surface information within organizations.
  • Viva Goals, an objectives and key results service aligning worker efforts with company goals.

Viva apps surface within the Microsoft Teams collaboration service, so typically an organization also needs a Microsoft 365 subscription to use them.

Viva Sales General Availability on Oct. 3
One app that's not included in the Microsoft Viva product suite is Viva Sales, which is Microsoft's "CRM companion" tool that previewed in August. It'll be available as a separate commercially released product on Oct. 3, according to a Microsoft announcement.

Viva Sales connects Microsoft Outlook and Teams activities with CRM systems, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce CRM. It's said to reduce the tedium of manually entering sales information into such CRM systems, while also enhancing sales team collaboration.

New for Viva Sales is Microsoft's partnership with Seismic, which hosts the Seismic Enablement Cloud, providing "customer-facing teams with the right skills, content, tools, and insights to grow and win," per an announcement by Seismic. Seismic's solution is "embedded within the Viva Sales workflow." It uses "AI-powered insights from Viva Sales" to recommend content, training and follow-up actions, Microsoft indicated.

Microsoft described how to get Viva Sales when it reaches general availability next month:

Viva Sales is free for Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and Premium customers, and otherwise available at $40 per user, per license at general availability on October 3, 2022. Viva Sales is available separately and not part of the Viva suite.

Other Viva Additions
Microsoft also provided updates on other Viva module enhancements, expected to arrive in early 2023.

Viva Engage is getting a "Leadership Corner" feature. "Leadership Corner is a space for leaders to encourage open dialog and feedback across communities and teams through news, Ask Me Anything (AMA) events, surveys and more," explained Seth Patton, Microsoft 365 general manager, in Microsoft's announcement. Leadership Corner also lets leaders "track metrics and employee sentiment in real time."

Viva Goals is said to be getting better integration with Microsoft Teams for surfacing key objectives and results. Viva Goals is also becoming available in Azure DevOps for tracking work items, which will be available via an Azure DevOps extension. Microsoft is adding Viva Goals connections to Power BI datasets. It's also integrating Viva Goals with Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Project for project management tracking.

Viva Learning now integrates with LinkedIn's Learning Hub (Microsoft owns LinkedIn). The integration lets employees more easily "navigate across both systems."

Lastly, Viva Connections is getting a "new home experience" that promises to centralize Viva apps in one place.

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