Microsoft Viva – The Answers you are Seeking

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I remember when Internet Explorer appeared for the first time on the net. Netscape was the dominant player, and while there were a couple of other browsers, everyone I knew used Netscape, and only used AOL when they could get 30 days free – (The CD). I looked at IE, and was under impressed. But others jumped and in time, there wasn’t a Netscape to be found, IE dominated. I never cared for IE, and would use alternative browsers when ever possible, Maxathon (still around), Opera (still around), Avant to mention a few.

IE though retained its dominance of usage, even with Firefox. Once Chrome came though it changed, and after years of market domination, IEs lead was gone. Edge, which I use, finally did what I was waiting for, but it took the use of Chromium, not built by Microsoft to make it happen.

I bring up the browsers here, because I think it provides or may provide a fitting tale to what you are about to see, and honestly, it has already began, with the announcement of Viva by Microsoft, the answer to your L&D needs (who knew you needed them?) and training empowerment.

Microsoft are masters of marketing, and the hoopla kickoff was nothing sort of magical. Despite the numerous screen shots, and hype videos, and even some early analysis, which I will note here shortly, there are still a lot of questions that have yet to be answered.

There are plenty of folks already jumping onto the bandwagon of Viva, and the weirdness to the whole scene is that the biggest component, module if you will hasn’t come out yet. That is something called Viva Learning, which uh, is the main piece to the entire platform. The best way, I believe to present the details and facts of what is known as of this writing, is to present it in the following approach.

A couple of notes, prior to the Q/A format

My knowledge of certain areas which I cannot disclose specifics, is based on a conversation with a high level exec overseeing Viva. I agreed to what in the analyst industry is an ’embargo’, which basically means you won’t disclose information (that you learned) until a certain date or period – in some cases – the imminent release of the solution (system, product, etc.).

Many vendors in our industry, will use ’embargo’ as a way to provide the info you are seeking, but do it so that you are not out there blabbering to everyone what are the results of your fact finding. Any analyst who ignores this, usually will realize the repercussions soon enough, and in general it just hurts all.

With that in mind:

a. I have not yet seen Viva Learning intertwined with all the other modules, Connections, Topics, and Insights. I will not see Viva Learning until it is close to launch date. When I mean ‘seen” I mean a full demo, with me asking questions, bouncing around, etc. – this is a big difference then watching a marketing video of Viva Learning or other modules created by Microsoft.

b. To get a full analysis and assessment of the whole solution, you need to have all the modules utilized within Viva Learning, I have found testing one without the others to be a waste, because Viva’s potential is a combination of all four, in other words, having topics alone isn’t going to make your learning awesome, nor earth shattering, it really needs Viva Learning. And yes, you can purchase Topics today, and may be wow’d by it.

c. I do know the ‘projected/scheduled’ launch dates of Viva Learning and Connections, but I agreed to the ’embargo’ and thus cannot disclose.

d. Pricing for Viva Learning and Connections, is TBD. (I cannot disclose anything more than that)

Onto the Q/A

This is by far not all encompassing, but I tried to fill in as much as I can, based on what I know, and examined over the days since the launch announcement.  

What is Microsoft Viva?

It’s Microsoft’s answer to L&D (primarily) and training for employees.  I note employees here, because while you will be able to offer this to your customers, I see no benefit in doing so.  Viva was designed for employees, and is structured in that manner.  Could it change? Sure, but from everything I looked at and assessed, especially with MS Teams, I just do not see it in the near future, if at all. 

According to Microsoft it is an Employee Experience Platform.  If you think this sounds like an LXP, then yes, you would be 100% correct.  While an analyst coined the term “employee experienced platform”, and some vendors jumped on it, the majority of that space referred to themselves as LXPs.  

My vibe is that deep down somewhere someone will re-push themselves out as an EXP, using that acronym, rather than staying as an LXP.   So, you can expect to see “Employee Experience Platform”, with some learning system vendors.  But to match Viva head on, they will need to do something, which as of right now, is rare (more on this later). 

Is another acronym needed? No. But that won’t stop some vendors, I mean at the end of the day it is about acquiring customers.  So, as one vendor CEO once told me, “what buyers call us, doesn’t matter.” 

Viva Deux

Viva is fully engulfed, wrapped, tied directly into Microsoft Teams.  This is a good thing in one way, definitely from Microsoft’s perspective and a negative.

If you are a huge fan of MS Teams, which comes with Office 365, and plays a key role on why it is heavily utilized, and you want to leverage Teams for your on-going learning/training/education for your employees (and yes, students too), then you will be able to do so.  But everyone in your organization, school, etc. will need to use Microsoft Teams as well.  

If your company, organization etc. does not use Teams, has no interest in doing so, then Viva isn’t for you.  Microsoft Teams is not a perfect solution for everyone.  As of this writing, you cannot batch export from Outlook directly into Teams, which if you were say an analyst or a consultant or someone who is a one or small entity of people who wanted to bring in say their “customers”, that would require a one at a time approach, which is fine if you have like 10, but having like 2,000 or more, yeah, not worth it. 

Microsoft Teams has a learning curve. Sure you can figure out some things on your own, but to really utilize it, you need to be trained on it, and then retain the information.  I note this, because some folks who are newbies to Teams OR the company decides to jump into Viva headfirst, without training their employees on how to use Teams are going to be in for a rude awakening – and not in a good way.

Viva is made up of four modules.  You do not need to buy all four, in fact, Insights is free, but I have found Insights to be eeeh, without the content (which I will discuss shortly) and the user base (both is needed) to have any meaning. 

Microsoft has dubbed these modules with some marketing speak, so this is directly from their own site. 

Viva offers the following modules, “is from the web site”

a.  Topics (Available NOW) is “Knowledge and Expertise” 

b.  Insights (Available NOW and free) is “Productivity and Well-Being” 

c.  Learning (Date to be announced, Pricing TBD) – is “Skilling and Growth”

d. Connnections (Date to be announced, Pricing TBD) is “Culture and Communications”

If I want to try out Viva, what is available now for me?

As of this writing, Topics is available at $5 per user, per month, per year – you pay up-front.  In other words, $60 per user per year.  To give you an idea, since the $5 seems so low (in your mind, which is why other vendors often show the cost of the learners in a lower dollar amount, knowing your brain will not auto-convert it to the actual larger number)

  • At 1,000 learners the cost is $60,000 USD – and that is just for Topics.  I surmise there will be volume discounts, but at what size of users who knows, and anyway, contact Microsoft.  
  • 500 learners the cost is $30,000 USD per year. 

If you are an organization that has 25,000 users (that is their term), then your yearly cost (excluding discounts, etc.) will be 1.5M USD – and again this is just for the Topics module. 

To use Topics, please note the following (from Microsoft directly)

  • Requires Microsoft 365 F1, F3, E3, A3, E5, A5, Office 365 F3, E1, A1, E3, A3, E5, A5, Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium, or SharePoint K, Plan 1, or Plan 2 license to be eligible for Microsoft Viva Topics.

So if your organization has not upgraded to Microsoft 365, formally known as Office 365, you need to do so, to use Topics. Or yeah, if you have SharePoint, then you need whatever they said you need.  

You can test out Topics through a free trial up to 25 users.  The trial lasts 30 days.  In an upcoming post, I will do a review of Topics. 

Insight is available now and it is free.  To install it, or find it within MS Teams to install it, is not an easy task. Again as of this writing it is not listed under “What’s New” nor “Top Picks” or “Most Popular”. 

Here is how to do it

  1. Open up Microsoft Teams
  2.  Open up “Apps” which you can find in the lower left of Teams near the bottom of the screen
  3. Type in “Insi” – you can type out Insights, but I found just a few letters will suffice
  4. You will see “Insights” by Microsoft, it is first one you will see in the row. Click on it, and install. 
  5. Now you have it installed in Teams. 

Isn’t that easy?   Microsoft notes you should pin the app.  

Oh I forgot to mention that in order to use “Insights”, you will need an Exchange Online license.

To read more about Insights from the app perspective, and how it works – I strongly recommend you read this  here you go. 

For those not interested in reading “how it works”, read the screenshot instead

howitworks

This page explains a bit more and what you can do with Insights from the “stay connected” perspective, which is not the same thing as “connections”.  Again, recommended reading.   I also recommend reading “Protect Time.  My personal experience with Insights, is blech.  I found “focus time” to be like parent time, don’t forget you have homework from 7 to 9 p.m., Wally.   

Anyway, that is just my take.   

What isn’t yet available and how does it work?

The main piece, the one that will drive Viva, is Viva Learning.  As you can see, there are limitations at the moment without it, because Topics and Insights are not enough for me, to say “my learning is now complete. Dump the LMS.”

Viva Learning – Without seeing it fully in action, what can be provided is somewhat limited.  In the main screen of Viva Learning is a catalog of content.  

Microsoft Viva has signed already some 3rd party content partners (I suspect more are on their way), which within the catalog, you will purchase.  Whether this will be based on a per user basis (they refer to this as a license) or in some type of “all you can eat” pricing model, has yet to be defined.   There could be exceptions.  LinkedIn Learning is partially owned by Microsoft, and then there is Microsoft Learn.  I could not extract an answer on if these will be free or not, but knowing that in Office 365, you get access to some free LinkedIn learning content tied around Office 365, and as a Premium member on LinkedIn, you get access to some free LinkedIn Learning content, I suspect some will be.  Again, until you can see it or I can see and verify, this is speculation.  

You can upload your own content too (just an fyi). 

You will be able to do other things within Viva Learning too.  Parts of it remind me of LinkedIn Learning with the playlists of “topics you may like”, the leveraging of the machine learning algorithm for suggestions, and so forth, and the grid format that LinkedIn Learning uses for its catalog (and many other systems too).  You can assign content with required due dates. Search for content within your thread err topics stuff, which will appear separately in your Teams screen, and thus you do not have to jump every time into the catalog. 

Here are some examples of Viva Learning, you will need to scroll all the way down the page to see it.  Please note this does not show all of its capabilities. 

Viva Connections

Without seeing it all in action with everything else, this is limited information.  The mobile app reminds of of so many other knowledge mastery apps other vendors do, when it comes to content, whether it is a video or a PDF.  

There is pinned resources, health checks (huh?), clicking to view content, share it with others and so forth.   I guess “health check” resolves well-being.  

Are they any learning system vendors who are fully 100% integrated with Microsoft Teams?

The answer is yes, and the one who does the best job is EdCast.  You can stay in Microsoft Teams and take content, do everything you could do in EdCast’s system, without ever having to leave Teams.  It mimics the EdCast platform, and the data is pushed back into the EdCast system.  

My vendor says they are integrated with MS Teams.  How is this different than full integration?

Great question.  This is where it gets a bit confusing, and as a result, is easily misconstrued. 

When someone says fully integrated this means that within Teams, everything you can do in the learning system can be done within Teams.  Does it mimic the system itself? In some cases yes, honestly, it should in all cases, but that’s for another day.  The point is, you select content within Teams, that is coming from the learning system you have – it is just viewable in Teams as well (again mimic here or some refer to as ‘mirror’), and thus never leave the system. You can assign learning, you can allow pick and choose, take tests, etc.  The administrator has some functionality as well, but the whole full integration part is truly focused on the learners (the end-users).

Integration just means it can integrate with MS Teams, in other words it works with MS Teams in some capacity depending on what the learning system decided they wanted to do. It does not MIMIC the learning system, nor can do EVERYTHING within Teams that you can do in the learning system.  

What does this mean for the rest of the learning system industry? 

Viva definitely put the heat to the fire, err, to the vendors to move much more quickly then they were planning to or even considering full integration into MS Teams.  I know of one vendor, who after the announcement, were scheduling meetings, and buzzing around, with plans to move faster to get it done.  

And they have integration as we speak, just not full integration. 

My guess is that by the end of the year, you will see way more systems with full integration with MS Teams and they will send out the marketing messaging to state it.  This will become a very competitive landscape as it relates to MS Teams and Learning/Training Content and capabilities.   This I believe is a good thing. 

I only wish more vendors would move faster on such items as an on/off synch mobile app, and a native app. Yes, there are vendors today, who still do not have a native mobile app.  

If I want to buy Viva should I?

Personally I would hold off.  I mean if you find Topics to rock, and you see it as a must for your organization, then go for it, but this is by no means what I would consider learning/training.  It is a component of it and you can find the same capabilities or more so, in plenty of learning systems today – minus of course, within MS Teams.  

Thus if you are using MS Teams as your core communication thing, then Topics wouldn’t be such a bad thing, I just the price is very high for many organizations.  Did I mention it is $60 per user, per year? 

Insights I found, underwhelming, as noted earlier.  I see no plus from a learning or training standpoint.  Unless “Nanny cam” is a popular product at your home.  

Viva Learning is what you want, and it is not out yet.  And everything I can see and gather at this time, says you will want all the modules, although the well-being part is a stretch (ha, a pun!).  

Can I use Viva for B2B/B2C?

No.  I mean look you can do whatever you want with Viva Learning, but it is not designed for B2B/B2C, customer training/education, partner training for example.  I mean there are people who eat tide pods (DO NOT DO THIS), but I am very confident that is not what it was designed for, nor its intended use, whatsoever. 

How do you see an organization using Viva Learning if they already have another learning system?

I think it all depends on how you use MS Teams.  Viva is wrapped in it, fully engulfed, and I surmise as new modules or things come out in the next year or two, it will become even more fully ingrained.  

Do I believe that someone could replace their LMS, LXP or whatever and use only Viva Learning and the other modules for their learning or training?  Sure.  I am quite confident folks will.  I see it though as more of an extension or add-on if you will to another learning system.  Thus, for learners who only want to stay in Teams they can, and for those who want to go into the other learning system, can.  Just as it exists today with Salesforce, it will for Teams.  

Depending on who is your learning system vendor and their capabilities will play a key role into whether you use it as an extension, or jump full heartedly into Viva.  Until Viva has extensive analytics out of the box (and not via an API connection to say Power BI) or has some other standards that exist for learning/training, it will have limitations.  If you want a talent development system and think Viva is going to be able to achieve that, sorry, I don’t see it.  

I see it as an add-on and not a replacement.  However, and this is nothing against 
Moodle vendors here, but if your organization is using Teams a lot, and have a Moodle LMS or whatever, yeah, you could move over, but it depends on what you are using your Moodle system for. 

The same with your LMS, LXP, learning platform – if it is limited and doesn’t have the right GUI (graphical user interface), UI/UX that you want, and you are using it, not at its full potential then sure. 

If you are using SharePoint on the other hand for your learning, and use MS Teams a lot, then yeah, bolt.  I mean if I was LMS365 for example, I’d be concerned.  Same with Shareknowledge.  (Both are built on SharePoint in the cloud).  

Bottom Line 

Look there are plenty of unknowns here.  There are vendors already on the bandwagon of Viva with their customer base, solely as a layer or extension if you will.  Microsoft is a big time name, and they will land a lot of clients, which can easily create a ripple effect, where other prospects think, “a lot of clients” means “system is great” and therefore, who needs X, when this will do it for me. And maybe it will, maybe it won’t. 

I always believe in a hub, and readers know this quite well. 

To me, Viva is just another part of the hub. 

But as of today it is limited.

And what isn’t known is enough of a concern, 

that saying it is amazing is like telling me

the earth is amazing. 

Some parts are,

Others are not. 

E-Learning 24/7 

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