With the majority of the world working in various combinations of on-site and/or remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cyberattacks have, unfortunately, become more common and more successful because of the quick pivoting businesses had to do in order to change from being the traditional onsite workforce to the new hybrid-style of workforce that combines both onsite and remote workers. Businesses are targeted as breaches of privacy and security, as their workforce use their own devices and points of access into their business’s systems. In response, Microsoft has worked with customers and partners to innovate and design a unique and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, compliance, and privacy.
Secure External Collaboration
Securing Access with Contextual and Conditional Policies
Implemented for many years now, labels-based policies for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams are being taken another step forward in response to the security of sensitive data and external users. Securing sensitive sites with labels-based granular conditional access (CA) policies will provide Admins the ability to secure sensitive sites and provide users with the ability to assign appropriate labels to their sensitive sites.
By adding another layer of security, passwordless technology has become the standard for authenticating users and for providing access to resources. Passwordless technology can be applied to sensitive sites. For these sites, access for a user can be assigned based on the sensitivity of the site and the authentication context of the site. For example, a multi-factor authentication (MFA) can be enforced for a site labeled “Confidential” if the user’s context does not meet the requirement of the site. These conditional access authentication contexts can now be created by Admins in the Azure Active Directory and can be tailored to their organization’s security posture. Additionally, these can then be associated with MIP sensitivity labels. Note that when a sensitivity label is assigned to a site, the associate policies are automatically enforced.
As a User, the complexity of the security policies is now transparent. A User can now assign, to their sensitive sites, the appropriate labels while granular contextual and conditional policies are enforced in the background. Users can be productive without interruptions unless they are accessing a sensitive site that requires MFA.
These are just a few of the measures that Microsoft has taken as proactive steps towards keeping externally shared, sensitive, and confidential data secure between internal and external users, within their organizations and external organizations. With the majority of the world working remotely during this pandemic, it has forced organizations to rethink how technology can be leveraged to continue the productivity of their workforce. As always, Microsoft has been forward-thinking and proactive since its inception, and the response has been in place for years. Instead of responding, Microsoft is enhancing and adding to its repertoire of defences, staying ahead as the leader in collaboration and data security.
As we continue our series on Microsoft Viva with Viva Connections, Viva Insights, and Viva Learning, we proceed to the fourth module Viva Topics. Announced at Ignite 2021, this is the first employee experience platform (EXP) that brings resources, communications, knowledge, insights, and learning together into an integrated experience that empowers its users and teams to the best that they can be from any location. The first EXP is Microsoft Viva which currently consists of four modules:
In our first article, Microsoft Viva Part 1: Viva Connections, we took a look at how and why Viva Connections is important to the wellbeing of the individuals of an organization. In our second article, Microsoft Viva Part 2: Viva Insights, we delved into how Viva Insights will help leaders, managers, and individuals see areas for improvement for their well-being with the ability to recommend actions that can be taken to combat stress, fatigue, and anxiety. In our third article, Viva Learning, we explore why investing in the individuals of an organization is important and why encouraging growth through accountable learning opportunities impacts the overall future success of the organization. Today, in Viva Topics, we will examine how Microsoft Viva keeps individuals, managers, and leaders connected and how it supports both new and seasoned employees.
Viva Topics leverages AI so experts with knowledge in the apps they use daily are empowered to organize, connect, protect, and manage content automatically and across the organization into categories of Projects, Processes, Products, and Customers. The knowledge of your organization and the people that are connected to that knowledge is at the fingertips of your people through the apps that they use daily.
Viva Topics is the solution to redundancy with the duplicity of topics and content because the individual cannot find it through their own means. Not only is re-creating existing content time-consuming and frustrating, but it is an inefficient use of your employee’s time. Viva Topics help new hires as well as established employees find the information quickly, reduces the amount of time searching, removes the frustration of not able to locate the information, and prevents the re-creation of existing content.
Built on Microsoft 365 apps (like SharePoint, Microsoft Search, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office), on the content that is used daily by the people in an organization, and on the connections that exist across the organization, Viva Topics uses AI to reason over the organization’s data. As mentioned above, it automatically organizes across the organization’s systems and teams, content and expertise into four categories.
While working in the Microsoft 365 apps, highlighted topics will appear in messages, pages, and content. Hovering over these highlights will automatically surface a topic card that provides contextual knowledge without having to search or change apps. The topic card summary includes definitions, alternate names, recommended resources, and experts. Queries through Microsoft Search will return topic cards as the primary answer if the query relates to a topic. Another way that Viva Topics is helping individuals find answers to the knowledge they seek is by recommending experts. These experts are found based on user profiles that include their areas of expertise, and this information is extended onto their Microsoft 365 people cards.
Once the topic card is clicked, a topic page appears. What is a topic page? A topic page consists of collected and curated related information from topics that Microsoft Viva identifies, are automatically built by AI, and augmented by experts. Organization experts can easily share, refine, add, and edit pages with wiki-like simplicity. Topic pages provide comprehensive insights on related information including definitions, alternate names, related sites and teams, recommended and suggested content, recommended and suggested people, map of related topics, and optional web part integrations including Yammer communities. The quality of shared knowledge will improve over time and continual contributions from experts and AI reasoning. Viva Topics content is derived from these Topic Pages.
An exciting “coming soon” to Viva Topics is its ability to find answers to common questions. If a question is asked, Viva will return the answer if it knows it, if not, then Viva will turn to the experts for an answer. Repeated questions with the same answer will result in accepted answers being added to the shared knowledge repository.
Content in Viva Topics can be populated with information from Microsoft Cloud and third-party services including Salesforce and ServiceNow. With Graph connectors and integrations made by partners including Avanade, BA Insight, Accenture, ClearPeople, and Raytion, more content can be offered to your employees.
Knowledge managers will have the ability to review suggested topics, approve or remove these suggestions, review interactions and provide feedback from the most helpful topics to the least, and most importantly, they will be able to shape and determine the knowledge life cycle.
Viva Topics upholds privacy by following and applying security and compliance policies to content automatically. The Administrator has full control over knowledge discovery, including what content is included in Viva Topics based on teams, labels, and selected sites. Only licensed users will have access to topic cards, topic pages, and topic centres. Additionally, with SharePoint Syntex, licensed users can only see topics based on content that they can access.
Microsoft Viva and Partners
Microsoft Viva has been designed to be an open and extensible platform for easy integration with tools and systems that companies already have in place. The ecosystem of partners is not only necessary, but this ecosystem will continue to grow in response to the EXP. Microsoft Viva has integrations with third-party products, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Power Platform which provides a complete experience for employees in their workflow.
Content partners currently integrated with Microsoft Viva include LinkedIn, Cornerstone OnDemand, Zoom, Coursera, Slack, Glint, Skillsoft, Headspace, edX, Salesforce, ServiceNow, SAP SuccessFactors, Workday, and Pluralsight. These are just a few and many more are being added to the list.
Global service partners include Accenture, Avanade, EY, and PWC. Again, these are just a few and the list keeps growing.
Microsoft Viva is the next step for bringing people together, connecting them to each other, leveraging insights for the wellbeing of individuals, teams, and the organization, cultivating a learning culture, and sharing knowledge. Microsoft Viva provides insights for leaders to make better decisions, managers to build and support successful teams, and individuals to prioritize their wellbeing. Microsoft Viva places the employee at the centre of an organization’s success. Microsoft Viva is the employee experience platform, and the most exciting part is this is just the beginning of this technology.
At Ignite 2021, Microsoft announced the first employee experience platform (EXP) that brings resources, communications, knowledge, insights, and learning together into an integrated experience that empowers its users and teams to the best that they can be from any location. The first EXP is Microsoft Viva which currently consists of four modules:
In our first article, Microsoft Viva Part 1: Viva Connections, we took a look at how and why Viva Connections is important to the wellbeing of individuals of an organization. Today, with Viva Insights, we will take another step forward by supporting employees with their well-being and how Viva Insights helps to accomplish this goal.
Because of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the swiftness of ensuing changes in work processes, organizations had to quickly pivot in their operations with great consideration for retaining collaboration, communication, and privacy with individuals, teams, managers, and leaders. Organizations have had to change from having employees on-site full or part-time and employees who are working remotely full or part-time, or a combination of both. This hybrid work environment has tested the ability of individuals, teams, and leaders to value, protect, and maintain their boundaries for a work-life balance, which was much more easily achieved when we physically moved between spaces. With the hybrid environment, it is not easy to switch off and unplug. Employees and teams are reachable throughout the day, evening, and weekends, giving little time for rest, relaxation, and enjoyment of life. By not switching off and unplugging, the health of the employee can change for the worse, which affects morale, productivity, and the ability to contribute to the organization. Burnout, anxiety, low engagement, deteriorating mental health, and overall malaise are the results of a work-life imbalance.
In 2020, Microsoft recognized this and integrated personal experiences such as virtual commute and Headspace to help people stay in a routine and provided a toolkit to learn to manage stress. This was the beginning of Viva Insights for individuals. Viva Insights for individuals is accessible through Microsoft Teams, and these insights will help your people stay connected with their colleagues. It will help them protect their time whether it is for breaks, focused work, or dedicated learning.
Viva Insights provides individuals, managers, and leaders, privacy-protected, actionable, and personalized insights from Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics. This data can be used to help individuals and teams proactively manage their time to support their wellbeing, thereby, preventing high stress and burnout.
Managers have a responsibility of ensuring their teams are productive and team members are not overburdened with immense workloads, causing burnout. With Viva Insights, managers are provided with privacy-protected and data-driven insights along with actionable recommendations to support and cultivate healthy, successful teams.
For company leaders, Viva Insights provides a greater overview of the health and wellbeing of their organization by providing an organizational network analysis which shows the cohesion and connectiveness between and across teams in the organization. From this, opportunities to foster wellbeing will emerge, including space planning to encourage connectiveness in our hybrid work environment. For company leaders, complex challenges and responses to these will become clearer as Viva Insights will provide organizational work patterns and trends.
Organizational insights become even more powerful and revealing when partnered with content providers like LinkedIn Glint. For example, integrating Viva Insights with LinkedIn Glint will, through employee survey data, map how people work and how they feel.
With Viva Insights, privacy and security are of the utmost importance to individuals. Only individuals will have access to their insights while managers and leaders will receive de-identified and aggregated insights. This is set by default and follows differential privacy.
The Viva Insights app in Teams is already available and can be installed. These insights are now being delivered in Teams to individuals, managers, and leaders. Microsoft Exchange Online users have a public preview of personal insights. For managers and leaders, insights are available for licensed Workplace Analytic customers in public preview.
Over the next few months, Viva Insights will see additional experiences added, including Headspace for meditation and mindfulness as well as integration with Viva Learning.
1. Personal Insights: Announced at Ignite 2021, Viva Insights is available in Teams as a public preview for Microsoft 365 users with Exchange online and features an initial set of wellbeing experiences and personal insights.
Individuals can seamlessly stay connected by prioritizing one on one meetings and staying on top of requests that are received across emails, chats, and shared documents. Managing and prioritizing these from one place will be important as virtual communication continues to grow as the primary form of communicating.
Just as important as answering these requests, is focussing on work that can be done without interruption. The protect time experience does just that for the individual. Individual insights are completely private and are derived from meetings, calls, emails, and chats that the individual already has access to.
As part of the wellbeing insight, additional wellbeing experiences will be added, including the virtual commute which will help individuals mindfully wrap up their day, Headspace for meditation and mindfulness, and check-ins that will prompt individuals to pause and reflect upon their day.
Employees contribute to their organizations in many ways and nothing goes further than the acknowledgment of their work. With personal insights, actionable insights in Teams will allow employees to protect time for learning from courses that are recommended by LinkedIn Learning. By investing in the organization’s employees, they will keep their skills and knowledge current and will increase their retention.
A feature that is already generally available, Cortana can provide a daily Briefing email (in English) to people so they can begin their day with key prompts and insights. These include meetings to prepare for, opportunities to connect, and commitments to follow up on. This flow of everyday work is available through Microsoft Outlook.
Later this year, the daily Briefing email will have new cards which will allow people to prepare for the week ahead. With one-week overviews, individuals will be able to protect time for important activities such as unlocking courses from LinkedIn Learning and learning in protected time blocks.
2. Managers: Managers have always had the role of being the key person for employees to turn to for support and connectivity. With the hybrid work environment that is being experienced globally, this role is more important than ever as they now have the responsibility to ensure their people are engaged with positive experiences while providing support for good morale.
More importantly, Managers will receive insights that will help them detect work patterns that will lead to stress and burnout whether caused by overloading of meetings and work, minimal focus time for their work, and working extra outside of their normal working hours to complete tasks to meet deadlines. Over time, these insights will provide Managers the ability to create team action plans at the individual level, including recommendations for best practices to prioritize, boost productivity, and ensure their wellbeing. As their team members implement these recommendations, Managers will be able to assess the progress of their team against the team goal over a period of time. Individuals can rest assured that their privacy is protected in every way through the use of de-identification, data aggregation, and minimum thresholds.
3. Leaders: From the individual up, Viva Insights in Microsoft Teams provides insights to the Leaders of the organization. Viva Insights is empowering Leaders to ensure that their organization and staff are prepared for their organization’s future. Critical strategic questions can be answered, plans can be created, and action plans actioned so their organization is resilient, agile, and organized, and with strong, positive employee engagement, individuals will feel the connectiveness of a shared purpose. Feeling aligned, employees will work and collaborate, pulling together to succeed.
From Viva Connections that simulates the connectiveness between colleagues, managers, and leaders to Viva Insights that underscores the health and wellness of individuals, Microsoft Viva is creating an exceptional EXP platform.
The privacy of individuals will be protected through security compliance and policies that are in place. Microsoft takes privacy seriously and takes extra steps to ensure this by applying and enforcing minimum thresholds, aggregated data, and de-identification.
Leaders, Managers, and Individuals will be contributing to their well-being as well as to their team and their organization. A healthy work environment will provide healthy team members, a strong team, and an energetic, successful, and positive organization.
In Part 3 of our Microsoft Viva series, we will look at how Viva Learning supports the wellbeing of the people, how it helps an organization grow, and how it keeps an organization agile so it remains at the forefront of its industry sector.
At Microsoft, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 were built as the organizing layer for people for collaborating, learning, and working. With the onset of the pandemic, businesses pivoted overnight to new realities of how their staff would be working in this new hybrid work environment that combined remote and onsite employees. Even before this pandemic, Microsoft was already laying the foundation for and building a unified system with dynamically growing parts that would support and sustain this system.
Microsoft Teams provides a secure and integrated user experience, a single solution for meetings, chats, content collaboration, calls, and business process workflows. Fun fact – global Microsoft 365 users generated more than 30 billion collaboration minutes in a single day as people collaborated, communicated, and co-authored content. That is a lot of daily collaboration and communication.
Microsoft recognizes this and has created a new category of technology called the employee experience platform (EXP). This platform provides people with the resources and support they need to continue to succeed and thrive in their collaborations and communications. This platform is seamlessly integrated with the tools that they are already using so there is minimal negative impact with maximum gains for their workflow and production, regardless of their physical location.
The tools that are already currently being used and leveraged under Microsoft 365 include Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft 365 apps that are used daily by people. Today, at Ignite 2021, Microsoft announced the first EXP that brings resources, communications, knowledge, insights, and learning together into an integrated experience that empowers its users and teams to the best that they can be from any location. The first EXP is Microsoft Viva which currently consists of four modules:
As Microsoft Viva evolves, there will be more modules added. In this installment, we will delve into what Viva Connections is all about.
Viva Connections can be thought of as the gateway to your digital workplace. With businesses turning to hybrid models of work for their staff, the comradery once felt with working side by side, town halls, and events have become harder to capture and support. For new hires, this feeling of connectiveness is even more elusive.
Viva Connections addresses the feeling of being less connected to their colleagues, teammates, and peers by providing a single entry point for internal communications and employee engagement with a curated and branded employee destination.
Built with SharePoint capabilities in Microsoft 365, Viva Connections provides leaders the platform to connect with their people with town halls while employees can keep connected to their organization, teams, and individuals by accessing everything they need, whether it is company news or policies to employee benefits or resource groups or by joining communities through Yammer. With Viva Connections’ dashboard, which can be customized with a personalized feed, employees can find resources across Microsoft Viva and from other apps across the organization’s digital workplace. Fully customizable, the content can contain comprehensive and appropriate resources that are needed for specific roles within the organization.
As part of their existing SharePoint and Microsoft 365 licenses, Viva Connections will be made available to all customers. In other words, if your organization has a license for SharePoint, then all your employees in your organization can use Viva Connections at no additional cost.
The rollout for Viva Connections experience on the desktop for Teams will be generally available to all customers by the end of March 2021 with the mobile Teams experience available in the summer of 2021. An update to the desktop experience will be released in conjunction with the mobile release.
The summer 2021 update for the desktop experience will focus on deployment enhancements and improvements for IT administrators. Webparts for the feed and dashboard will be released as part of the update to align with the mobile experience.
Viva Connections is the Microsoft Viva module that addresses the silo effect and disconnection perceived and felt by employees and their teams, managers, and leaders. These feelings and effects have been heightened by the stay-at-home and work-from-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aviva Connections is a great solution that is available for all licensed SharePoint and Microsoft 365 customers. Don’t leave your people feeling like they are alone, working in silos. Instead, prepare for Microsoft Viva Connections by upgrading to SharePoint Online, deploying a SharePoint home site, and launching Yammer communities in Microsoft Teams and then implement this module for the individuals of your organization.
Join me in the next installment, Microsoft Viva Part 2: Viva Insights, as we look at the values that Viva Insights brings to us.
We continue our series on Microsoft Viva with Viva Learning. Microsoft announced at Ignite 2021, the first employee experience platform (EXP) that brings resources, communications, knowledge, insights, and learning together into an integrated experience that empowers its users and teams to the best that they can be from any location. The first EXP is Microsoft Viva which currently consists of four modules:
In our first article, Microsoft Viva Part 1: Viva Connections, we took a look at how and why Viva Connections is important to the wellbeing of the individuals of an organization. In our second article, Microsoft Viva Part 2: Viva Insights, we delved into how Viva Insights helps leaders, managers, and individuals see areas for improvement for their wellbeing, and recommend actions that can be taken to combat stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Today, we will delve into Viva Learning and how it not only addresses skill gaps but how it subtly encourages employees to learn, thereby increasing their skills and reducing the skills gaps within an organization.
An organization is only as good as its talent that it employs and with Viva Learning, an organization can invest in its employees and provide opportunities for growth through learning. Viva Learning creates a work culture that makes daily learning a natural part of every employee’s day.
As a central hub located in Microsoft Teams, the Viva Learning app teams up with AI, recommending the correct content at the right time. Individuals can easily discover courses, share training courses, and participate in microlearning. They can organize, search, and share training in chats, channels, and tabs – all within Microsoft Teams as they would for other types of content in the collaboration tool they are already using daily. Because Viva Learning is in Microsoft Teams, groups of people and Teams can organize their learning tab by customizing and including relevant learning content ranging from formal training videos to informal learning from decks stored in SharePoint.
Content is aggregated from your organization’s custom content, Microsoft Learn, LinkedIn Learning, and training content providers like Coursera, Pluralsight, Skillsoft, and edX. Viva Learning easily integrates with the leading learning management systems like Cornerstone OnDemand, SAP SuccessFactors, Saba, and more.
The deep integration with LinkedIn Learning and Viva Learning will provide learners from Viva Learning and LinkedIn Learning access to the full LinkedIn Learning catalogue. This will all be accessible through an embedded content player in Microsoft Teams. Learning has never been easier and more accessible.
There is a clear connection between an organization’s business performance, employee engagement, and employee learning. With Viva Learning, it motivates and inspires your people to learn new skills, update their present skills, and become agile thinkers that propel your business forward while addressing skill gaps in a supportive environment.
Not only can managers assign learning, but they can also track courses, due dates, and the status of the assignment. Learners will see what learning has been assigned to them, due dates, and any additional pertinent information regardless if the learning has been assigned by their manager with Viva Learning or by a leading management system that has been integrated with Viva Learning. By providing learners support, managers can foster a learning culture in the organization while ensuring the employees have the most current skills to continue supporting the organization’s growth.
As we all know, finding the time to learn is not always an easy task as our calendars fill up quickly with meetings and calls. To help with focused time, the Briefing email from Cortana and the Viva Insights app for Teams will include actionable cards. These actionable cards will help simplify blocking and scheduling dedicated time for learning.
With Viva Learning, your employees will be recommended opportunities to learn from their colleagues and manager but best of all, they can access, share, and search for learning opportunities from Microsoft Teams. With accountability, managers can track and support their staff in learning, understanding, and implementing new and/or improved skills. By investing in their employees, organizations will have happier, better skilled, and dedicated employees that are ready to help position the organization for its planned future growth.
As can be seen with Viva Connections, Viva Insights, and Viva Learning, Microsoft has created an EXP platform that has the employee as the central focus, ensuring that many of the needs of the employee are met. In Viva Topics, we will see how the first four of Microsoft Viva modules work together to benefit not only the employee but the organization as a whole.