How to get started with Microsoft Viva

Learn how you can get ready for Microsoft's employee experience platform

Hot off the heels of the Microsoft Viva launch in February, Microsoft made more headlines in March by releasing additional details about their new employee experience platform and its upcoming release schedule.

To help you orient and get ready for Microsoft Viva, we’ve put together our advice and tactical next steps for each module, so you can jump-start your organization’s strategy and overall response to Viva. In this post, we’ll share:

  • Steps to help you get ready for what’s coming with Viva
  • Features and experiences that are generally available today

If you’re still wrapping your head around exactly what Viva is, read our post on what’s included in Microsoft Viva to learn the basics or join one of our Microsoft Viva briefings to go even deeper.

Viva Connections

Viva Connections is positioned as the gateway to your employee experience, where employees can stay connected and easily discover relevant content and communities.

Who is Viva Connections for?

If your intranet is on SharePoint Online or you’re considering a move to a SharePoint intranet, Viva Connections should be a hot topic in conversations about your digital workplace strategy or roadmap. By design, Connections lives up to its name; it creates connections between Microsoft 365 systems and tools. Even for organizations with thriving established intranets, Viva Connections may unlock new opportunities to better connect tools and systems, especially looking forward. For example, Connections allows you to surface your SharePoint intranet in Microsoft Teams and roll up cards and conversations from across your digital workplace.

Licensing and availability

At Ignite, Microsoft announced that Connections will be available at no additional licensing cost, which is great news for anyone already using SharePoint for their intranet. The desktop experience will begin to roll out to tenants in March and April 2021, the mobile experience is slated for late summer of 2021 and additional features are coming in 2022. For organizations that need to update their digital workplace now, factoring in Connections today will help create a path to adopt these new tools as they roll out in the coming months.

Getting ready for Viva Connections

To use Connections, your organization will need to upgrade to SharePoint Online using the modern experience and you’ll need to deploy a SharePoint home site in your tenant. If you’re still on-premises or on the SharePoint classic experience, it’s a good time to map the effort required to migrate. Setting up an out-of-the-box SharePoint home site is straightforward, but before making the shift, it’s essential to design for new ways of working. Take the time to consider your approach to content migration, governance, information architecture and design – these concepts can be surprisingly different in the SharePoint modern experience. Habanero has worked with many companies helping them shift to SharePoint Modern, integrate into Teams and to evolve the essential set of enterprise Intranet features. To accelerate and reduce the risk of your move to SharePoint modern, you may want to consider an in-a-box product, like GO SharePoint Intranet, to get your modern intranet set up in a matter of weeks.

Yammer is another key ingredient required to get the most out of Viva Connections. Many of the social and news notification features are powered by Yammer, so it’s important to set up and configure Yammer with Microsoft Teams and make sure your Yammer network is in good order. If you’re curious about what this might entail, you can check-out our insight post on Launching Yammer in enterprise organizations.

One last, often underestimated ingredient is well-managed Azure Active Directory groups. Personalization and targeting in Viva Connections rely on good Active Directory data, as well as the content to support the targeted experience. If targeting and personalization are new concepts for your organization or your Active Directory is not as up to date as you would like, we’d be happy to help you get started.

Viva Insights

Viva Insights is arguably one of the most developed Viva modules – a big part of its capability set is available today! You can already benefit from many existing features and services that now fall under the Insights umbrella. At its core, Viva Insights incorporates personalized individual insights, driven by MyAnalytics, as well as leader and organizational insights powered by Workplace Analytics.

Licensing and availability

Both MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics services are available now. Organizations and users that are leveraging exchange online and have MyAnalytics enabled can access individual insights to build better work habits. These privacy-protected insights are available and visible to individual users. They give employees an opportunity to understand and reflect on how they work, so they can build better habits and rhythms to balance productivity and wellbeing. If these basic requirements are met within your organization, you can add the Microsoft Teams Insights App to your Teams experience simply by searching “Insights” in the Microsoft Teams app catalogue.

Building on the MyAnalytics capability, Workplace Analytics also offers manager and organizational insights, which provide aggregated data across teams and organizations. These powerful insights offer visibility into the work patterns that can often lead to burnout or inefficiencies and help leaders launch flexible programs to support effective team collaboration, which preserves time for uninterrupted work and helps employees achieve a healthy balance. Workplace Analytics does require a premium licence. Once purchased and implemented, the capabilities light up in your Insights App alongside MyAnalytics.

Getting ready for Viva Insights

Viva Insights workshop

To help you make sense of these new capabilities and their business value, we’ve created a free Viva Insights workshop. Delivered over a few days, this workshop is designed to:

  • Accelerate your understanding and use of Viva Insights
  • Build alignment among key stakeholders and sponsors
  • Showcase the platform’s opportunities to enable productivity while prioritizing employee wellbeing
  • Highlight important privacy and security considerations
  • Suggest practical next steps to begin operationalizing Viva Insights in your organization

Through a set of convergent and divergent thinking exercises, we’ll work with your organization to uncover tactical business opportunities you can get started on and help you envision a future employee experience – one with data, analytics and measurement at its core.

Collaboration and assessment

If you’re already committed to using Viva Insights and want to leverage the rich data in Microsoft 365, we can get you going with our Collaboration assessment. The assessment helps organizations get workplace analytics up and running and includes a broad diagnostic of collaboration and network trends in an organization. It’s a starting place to baseline your organizational collaboration performance and look for the signals you should attend to.

What's next for Viva Insights

Microsoft has announced additional updates to Viva Insights:

  • Spring 2021: Virtual commute will help employees disconnect and wrap up the workday in a mindful way. This experience will ensure people have the much-needed space to wind down and connect – something we’ve all been missing.
  • Spring 2021: A preview feature will create space for employees to reflect on their workday and see what’s coming up the next day, with actionable suggestions to help them prepare.
  • Later in 2021: Glint and Headspace integration will help employees continue to balance productivity with their overall wellbeing.

Viva Learning

Viva learning introduces an important aspect of the employee experience into the Microsoft Teams paradigm. Designed to help organizations foster a culture of learning, Viva Learning empowers employees to discover, share and engage with learning directly within Microsoft Teams. The intent is to simplify the learning experience by bringing together world-class content from LinkedIn Learning, third parties, Microsoft Learn, as well as existing content from your organization.

Licensing and availability

Viva Learning is currently in private preview only, with public previews beginning April 2021.

Getting ready for Viva Learning

We recommend you bring together learning and development owners within your organization to review what’s coming and discuss what these new features may mean for your organization. Chances are, if you have a well-established learning management system and organizational strategy for curating and providing learning opportunities, these new capabilities may conflict with your current approach. There may be benefits to integrating into Microsoft Teams through Viva Learning, if it provides an enhanced experience and doesn’t complicate things for your end-users. On the other hand, if you’ve been bootstrapping different low-fidelity ways of organizing courses and communicating learning objectives to your employees, this new set of capabilities may be the answer you’ve been looking for and something to pay attention to in your roadmap in the second half of 2021.

Viva Topics

Many people already know of Viva Topics functionality, based on information released over the last year under the Project Cortex codename.

Topics is Microsoft’s modern answer to the age-old challenge organizations face surrounding knowledge management. Rather than relying on subject matter experts to carefully curate and manage content on their own, Topics introduces an artificial intelligence engine to help the knowledge or intranet manager create and suggest Topics of interest that may be valuable to employees based on enterprise signals. The Topics AI scans your SharePoint tenant and, in the future, will also be able to ingest or scan content from other repositories through content connectors to access valuable knowledge stored in systems like ServiceNow or your file share.

Topics is integrated across the Microsoft 365 experience, so it helps connect people with insight and expertise in-line, without them having to leave the application they’re using. Topic cards and highlights appear across the applications in-use to give people added value and context behind the content they are reading or interacting with.

Licensing and availability

Viva Topics has reached general availability and is licensed as a premium feature set available as an add-on to your Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. The license model is per user, per month and intended to be purchased for the entire company. We imagine there will be two primary usage scenarios:

Enterprise-wide: Every employee in your organization needs access to a knowledge base of content and information to do their jobs. In this case, you’ll need a license for every employee.

Targeted: One group within your organization has specific knowledge needs. By offering Topics to this team, you’ll have a direct and obvious return on investment, because they’re gaining the information they need to get their jobs done. 

Getting ready for Viva Topics

While some of the Microsoft Teams features for Viva Topics have not yet been released, you can still purchase the core licensing and deploy the underlying Topic Center capability today. Once you’ve purchased the licensing, many of the capabilities in Viva light up automatically, but you’ll still need to support configuration and content curation.

We anticipate organizations will need at least 30 to 60 days before they’re ready to launch Topics into their tenant. If you already have a rich knowledge base that’s in need of a refresh, you can migrate content into Viva Topics. If you don’t yet have a solution in place, you may need to consider how Viva Topics could meet the needs of priority use cases within your organization. Take the time to do your homework; talk to representative stakeholders about their needs, so you can make smart decisions about how to scope the initial configuration of your Topic Center.

Knowledge assessment and envisioning workshop

This technology could represent a big change for some organizations, so it’s a good idea to start briefing core stakeholders who might be interested in participating in the development of a Topics-based solution or implementation.

We’ve created a Knowledge assessment and envisioning workshop to:

  • Educate your team of core stakeholders
  • Facilitate a discussion to explore the benefit of Topics
  • Align a project scope or plan around areas where you’ll get the most value

Over the course of a few days, our team will help everyone get up to speed by mapping Topic’s core capabilities to your organizational needs. We’ll explore what’s in scope, where priority content lives today, governance considerations to clarify the roles and accountability of content authors or subject matter experts and what might be involved in an initial implementation, so you can work internally on requesting funding to move Viva Topics forward.


In addition to hosting an Envisioning Workshop, consider conducting a Proof-of-concept. Both Viva Topics and Microsoft Syntex are available for time-limited trials to test and explore in a proof-of-concept scenario. Habanero can help lead and deliver a successful proof-of-concept experience for your knowledge management stakeholders and help you understand what’s involved in building out a successful solution for both sets of capabilities. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about what’s involved in running a proof-of-concept!

Governance and migration support

Viva Topics offers many opportunities to extend the value of Microsoft 365 in your organization. Many of these capabilities are even more effective if your organization is actively leveraging the full spectrum of Microsoft 365. The value of Viva Insights and Topics increases when you leverage features, such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint sites, and migrate content into Microsoft 365. If you’re struggling with Microsoft 365 adoption, if you’re stalled with migrating off of existing repositories or if you’re ready for a governance boost, we can help get you going with our Microsoft 365 governance planning, migration strategy and adoption support.

Uncover the business value of Microsoft Viva

There are many ways to get started with Microsoft Viva. Now is the time to start thinking about your organization’s overall strategy and response, so you can make the most of Viva’s features and capabilities in a way that meets your unique needs. With more coming for Viva later this year and into 2022, this technology has the potential to support hybrid workplace experiences with everything from onboarding and collaboration to continuous learning, growth and wellbeing. If you want to learn more about how Viva can work for your organization, sign up for one of our Viva briefings.

Request a briefing

To learn more about Microsoft Viva, request a free Viva briefing from Habanero.

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