We all know the challenges of working remotely. According to Microsoft’s 2020 Work Trend Index, nearly 60 percent of people feel less connected to their teams and organizations after shifting to remote work. It’s something we’re hearing from our conversations with organizations, too.
Enter Viva Connections. Microsoft 365 currently offers rich capabilities for employee communications and engagement with tools like SharePoint, Yammer, Microsoft Teams and Stream. Viva Connections, however, brings them all together into a company-branded app based in Microsoft Teams. As one of four pillars, Viva Connections aims to:
- Keep employees more connected and informed
- Make it easier for employees to contribute to the conversations that are happening in their organization
- Unite and inspire your organization around a central shared sense of culture and purpose
Microsoft is focusing on organizations who want a pre-configured experience that is company branded, mobile-first and customizable for different roles. Connections comes with a dashboard for displaying dynamic actions and reminders, a personalized news feed for company news, and information and resources. Organizations can brand it as their own “employee app,” as well as customize the dashboard cards and resource links.
We think Viva Connections has great potential and helps to meet employees where they are at, especially frontline employees with the mobile app experience.
In this post, we’ll take you through some of the features we’re excited about and discuss when and how you might want to extend Viva Connection’s capabilities to meet your organization’s needs.
What it looks like
Like all of Viva’s pillars, Connections is anchored in Microsoft Teams. It functions as a gateway to content hosted in SharePoint, Yammer, and other M365 applications and links to other capabilities within Viva, such as Learning and Insights. When Viva Connections is enabled, you’ll see a link added in the left-hand rail within Microsoft Teams, which gives you the ability to brand it as your own with a header and name.
Built on modern SharePoint
Connections is ultimately reliant on SharePoint site content created on the modern SharePoint framework. If you're leveraging modern SharePoint sites already, which is one of the prerequisites for Connections, you're in a good position. The Viva Connections homepage experience is very similar to modern SharePoint starter templates, with some additional capabilities (company feed and dashboard).
Connections is all about keeping employees informed and creating a sense of connection. The company feed uses Office Graph signals to surface SharePoint page content and conversations that are happening in Yammer to employees based on their role and interests. It also has the ability to target communications using SharePoint’s content publishing capabilities.
Viva is a mobile-first experience. Right now, the Microsoft Teams app largely focuses on collaboration, meetings, chats and access to files. This summer, we’ll see updates to the mobile app that focus more on communications and engagement. We see this as a win for frontline workers and employees on-the-go, who generally have had a harder time accessing the content and staying connected.
The dashboard is another notable addition that will be available this summer. It allows you to target adaptive notification cards to different audiences by providing employees with links to company resources, task notifications, and information based on their role in the organization. The dashboard serves as a springboard to the other Viva pillars, like Learning and Insights, and has the ability to integrate with other employee systems, like ServiceNow or Workday. The dashboard is extendable too, so lots of potential for developers and in-house IT teams to build additional integration points and display as custom cards.
Viva connections vs. your enterprise intranet
You may be wondering if Viva Connections can take the place of your enterprise intranet. The answer is: it depends. Viva Connections doesn’t create the intelligent intranet for you; it provides the infrastructure to deliver your intranet to your users in the context of where they are probably already working – Microsoft Teams – and creates a framework for extending your intranet and making it better. What you get with Viva Connections is essentially a homepage template, but you still need to craft the rest of the intranet site that sits behind it in modern SharePoint sites. The Connections template might well be sufficient for configuring an intranet for smaller or mid-size organizations, but larger organizations with complex content or more advanced intranet needs will most likely need to extend beyond what Viva brings the table in areas such as:
- Personalization and content targeting
- Site and page-level navigation
- Site provisioning and automated configuration
- Other rich intranet features, such as policies and procedure knowledge bases, site analytics and employee recognition
At Habanero, we're very excited about leveraging all that Viva brings to the table. If you’re upgrading from classic SharePoint to modern, look at Viva’s capabilities and factor in how you can take advantage of both Connections and the rest of the Viva pillars.
An enterprise intranet product like our GO Intranet already leverages the modern SharePoint framework and extends Viva further for more complex intranet requirements, based on our experience working with enterprise organizations.
Viva Connections availability
The Viva Connections desktop experience is currently available in tenants in a basic form. We’ll have to wait until the summer for some of the more notable features, like the company feed, dashboard or the mobile app experience.
Viva Connections licensing
Viva Connections is being made available at no additional cost. All Microsoft 365 licensing plans that have access to SharePoint and Microsoft Teams can leverage Connections as part of the existing licensing.
Viva Connections setup
There are things you can do today to deploy Connections or evaluate if it’s right for you:
- Move to modern SharePoint – Viva Connections is built on top of modern SharePoint, so this is a critical step. If you’re still using classic or even on-premises SharePoint, your organization will have to move to the cloud on the modern SharePoint experience in order to take advantage of Viva Connections.
- Launch Yammer – To get the most out of the community and social features in Viva Connections, deploying Yammer and starting to build up your employee social network activity is key.
- Set up a home site – To integrate with Microsoft Teams, you’ll need to set up a homesite for the main landing page for your intranet. This allows Connections to show up inside of your Microsoft Teams environment.
Viva Connections can be a valuable channel to help employees stay more connected to their organizations, leaders, and to colleagues. We look forward to leveraging and extending the Viva Connections capabilities even further for a rich employee digital experience that supports the future hybrid work styles that will continue to take shape.