Nerds like me love when Microsoft announce a new feature in Microsoft 365. Not only does it mean there is something new and shiny to play with, but there is also something new we can discuss with our customers. Sadly, these announcements aren’t joyous experiences for everyone, and can instead sometimes sow fear, frustration, and confusion across those most impacted by the change.
To balance my own excitement, I often peruse the community forums to see what others are saying and feeling. Following the recent announcement of Viva Engage at Microsoft Inspire, I did exactly that. As a sometimes-lonely Yammer fan I was overjoyed, not least because the current Communities app makes me sad. The announcement came with the characteristic enthusiasm, ambiguity, and lack of detail we often see so, rather unsurprisingly, some were left either scratching their heads or banging them against the wall. Therefore, I am going to do my best to answer some of the common questions in this post.
What is Viva Engage?
Where I would describe Viva Connections as the module to connect people with the business, I see Viva Engage being the module to connect people with each other. The easiest way to think about Viva Engage is to think ‘Social App’ in the most familiar and literal sense.
Viva Engage gives people the platform to express share their thoughts, knowledge and ideas and connect with their peers across the organisation. For leaders, it is a place to cultivate culture, share news and connect with their people. Viva Engage should help break down siloes and hierarchy in conversation. It further closes the gap between consumer and enterprise social apps, bringing functionality like a “storyline” and “stories” that we are used to on Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn.
The Storyline gives users the ability to share posts that aren’t targeted to a specific community. I think this is great as it will help quieten down the All Company communities and let people choose who they want to follow. Another way users can share to their Storyline is by using Stories. Stories are photos or short videos that just add another rich medium into the mix which I personally think is great.
While some people feel that this kind of social capability is unnecessary, perhaps even inappropriate, I firmly believe there is a place for it in all organisations. Often, we find that these social conversations are already happening, just in the wrong place, like All Company Teams Channels and WhatsApp groups. Or worse still, people are having great thoughts and ideas but aren’t sharing them because they don’t know where to.
Is Yammer Going Away?
No, Yammer is not going anywhere. Viva Engage is simply a next generation of the Communities App in Teams and does not replace the Yammer brand. In the same way that Viva Connections is another way to serve Intranet content to users, Viva Engage is simply a better way to serve Yammer content in Teams.
When is Viva Engage rolling out?
The Communities app re-brand to Viva Engage is being rolled out already with the Storyline functionality due to be released to public preview soon. The roadmap suggests that Storyline will be Generally Available in September but that will depend on the success of the Public Preview.
Do I need to Pay Extra for Viva Engage?
No, Viva Engage is available to all Microsoft 365 customers who are licensed for Yammer.
Can I Disable Viva Engage?
If you find yourself asking this question, I wonder if you and I should grab a coffee. I would love to understand why you want to disable this and see whether we can help you manage the change and embrace all that Yammer has to offer.
To answer the question, however, if you are not currently using Yammer or the Communities app, you will not be affected by this change. If you are using Yammer and the Communities app, you cannot opt-out of the update. The Public Preview is a good opportunity to review the impact of the change.
What’s Next for Viva?
Loosely translated, Viva means “to live”, and the Microsoft Viva suite is very much alive and growing fast with no signs of slowing down. It feels like only yesterday Microsoft announced Viva Goals and more module announcements are expected soon. Microsoft has started differentiating the modules into two categories, ‘Holistic Employee Experience’ and ‘Role-based Productivity’. I expect the role-based modules to grow the most in the next 12 months, adding to the lonesome Viva Sales module.
As exciting as this may be for nerds like me, I do hope that Microsoft don’t get carried away, shooting everything with the Viva confetti canon. Almost everything an employee does is in some way an “employee experience” so where will it end? I’ll be here to keep you posted!