Microsoft launches Viva software program, coming first to Groups

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive officer, speaks at a Microsoft press conference in New York on October 26, 2016.

Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled a group of services that can originally be accessed in its team app to better educate users and avoid burnout.

Launching the software under the Viva brand name could help bolster the Office franchise, which has more sales than any other product category for Microsoft, and differentiate itself from competitors like Slack, which Salesforce bought for $ 27.7 billion .

With Viva, employees have access to online learning material, an encyclopedia of information automatically generated from company files, a feed of organizational updates and productivity suggestions. There are also tools that managers can use to monitor their teams’ work patterns.

Some of these functions already existed under different names. For example, Microsoft offered Workplace Analytics to track organizational behavior, and SharePoint offers a hub for internal content.

“Our customers have told us that they want something more preconfigured, simpler and more mobile that brings all of these things together,” said Seth Patton, general manager, in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday.

Teams, which include video calling and text chat rooms, became popular when the advent of the coronavirus resulted in companies closing offices and finding virtual ways for employees to stay in touch. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told analysts last week that more than 100,000 people are using teams in 117 different organizations. Microsoft is effectively packing teams with more and more, while app usage is higher than before the pandemic.

“I would say it’s in teams because that’s where remote and hybrid work is done,” Patton said. “It has in a way replaced or enhanced the experience we all had when we went into the office.”

Some of Viva’s functions are carried over to other Microsoft assets. If a person in Teams comes across an unfamiliar term, the “Viva Topics” function displays a pop-up window with information about it. Microsoft could add that to other applications like Word, Patton said. The technology that customers have to pay for beyond their Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscriptions is based on the Project Cortex initiative that Microsoft introduced in 2019.

The Viva Insights Workplace Productivity Improvement Component can display information from other tools such as Workday and Zoom, as well as survey results from Glint, which Microsoft acquired, owned by Microsoft, in 2018. Similarly, the Viva Learning section displays videos from LinkedIn Learning. as well as Coursera, Pluralsight and proprietary libraries. Learning management materials from CornerStone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors can also be linked.

Microsoft isn’t the only one trying to demonstrate the capabilities of its software as vaccines become more widely available and companies prepare to reopen their facilities. On Wednesday, video calling rival Zoom announced updates designed to help users use their software in conference rooms without making physical contact with dedicated hardware.

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