Microsoft Ignite 2022: Our five takeaways

This year’s Microsoft Ignite was a hybrid online and in-person event focused on doing more with less effort in the Microsoft cloud. With big updates to Microsoft Teams, new capabilities in Viva and the launch of new Viva apps, there was a lot to sort through. Here are our five key takeaways:

1. The need to address productivity paranoia and support employee connection

Microsoft coined the term “productivity paranoia” based on findings from their recent Work Index Study, which is the key behind many of their product announcements at Ignite. They spoke about a gap growing between employees and leaders. In many organizations, leaders crave a return to in-office productivity – 85% of them say they have a hard time knowing for sure that their people are being productive. Yet, 87% of employees say they are productive at work whether they’re working remotely, in person, or a mix of both.

Microsoft described the pivot leaders need to make from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the work that’s most important and provides action steps for fostering connecting and engagement.

Insightful stats worth paying attention to:

  • 87% of employees report they’re productive at work
  • 85% of leaders say it’s challenging to have confidence that people are being productive
  • 1 in 2 employees report feeling burnt out
  • 73% of employees say they need a better reason to go into the office than just company expectations
  • 83% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with coworkers
  • 55% of employees say the best way to develop skills is to change companies
  • 68% of people say that they would stay longer at their company if it was easier to change jobs internally
  • 76% of employees say they’d stay at their company longer if they received learning and development support

2. Microsoft Teams Premium

The new enhanced version of Microsoft Teams was brought to market offering a host of notable capabilities at a premium cost rumoured to be in the neighbourhood of $10 US per user/month. What does it include?

Existing features that are moving to Teams Premium include:

  • Live translated captions
  • Custom together mode scenes
  • Timeline markers in Teams meetings recordings (join and leave meetings)
  • Virtual appointments

Net new functionality that is being introduced into Microsoft Teams Premium includes:

  • Meeting guides
  • Customized meeting branding
  • Intelligent recap for meetings
  • Advanced meeting protection
  • Advanced virtual appointments
  • Advanced webinars
  • Customized presenter and attendee experiences including a virtual green room

3. The (re)launch of Microsoft Syntex

Microsoft technically launched Syntex a few years ago as an AI platform to help extract meta-data from forms and documents. However, the significant focus it received from Microsoft at Ignite signals a much broader vision and mandate for the platform. Arguably, Ignite 2022 was the official launch of Microsoft Syntex as a content and AI platform intended to disrupt the traditional ECM market with a combination of “flow of work” integrations. Said another way, the future of ECM, SharePoint and content automation at Microsoft is Syntex.

What does this really mean?

Microsoft sees billions of documents added to the cloud daily. They know content will continue to explode at a rate that makes it almost impossible to imagine how organizations would manually manage the mess. Syntex will change how content is created and stored with AI-driven services to enhance the content’s lifecycle, driving retention, triggering automation or improving discoverability. Beyond the traditional records management and AI capability, expect Microsoft to take aim at targeted apps or content services that feel like bespoke solutions areas in the business, like eSignature workflows, contract management and more.

Notable enhancements to Syntex include:

  • Built-in document signatures – route documents for signature with native Office functionality
  • Document translation – translate entire document libraries with one click
  • Content assembly – automatically generate standard repetitive business documents
  • Content classification – automate the identification and classification of structured and unstructured content
  • AI-powered Microsoft Search – search by concepts

4. New capabilities for Viva

Since its rollout into the wild last year, Microsoft Viva has seen a number of notable updates and announcements:

A new landing page experience for Viva Connections

Microsoft has reimagined their home landing page experience for Viva Connections, putting greater focus on the Connections dashboard and daily task management while seemingly downplaying communications.

Viva Amplify

To address the information communication overlaps frequent in today’s digital workplace, Microsoft announced Viva Amplify, which creates single-point communication campaigns to broadcast messages across the M365 ecosystem and gathers insights on reach, sentiment and engagement. 

A GIF of Microsoft's Viva Amplify

Viva Pulse

Recognizing the importance of retaining employees and understanding engagement, Microsoft announced the ability to generate employee feedback though Pulse surveys.

A gif of Microsoft's Viva Pulse

People in Viva

People is one of a new set of apps built for Viva that aren’t labelled in the same way as Topics, Connections, Insights, etc. Microsoft announced People in Viva as an app to help employees discover connections and experts within the organization. It promises to help employees curate their network and connect with people who share similar interests, goals or relationships. People in Viva will also build on the People Profile information stored in Microsoft 365, allowing individuals to publish their work preferences, in-office vs. remote schedule and more.

Impromptu coffee break meet up.

Viva Engage

Microsoft recently announced Viva Engage, but don’t be fooled, it’s more than just the refreshed Yammer Communities app in Viva. Engage brings these key concepts together:

  • Storyline – Engage surfaces traditional enterprise social community conversations (aka classic Yammer conversations). It also introduces a new pivot to Yammer, which is a more personal peer-to-peer connection called Storyline. Where traditional Yammer relied on participation in groups or communities, Storyline allows individuals to post content that gests aggregated across social connections based on people you follow.
  • Stories – Microsoft will soon build on Storyline by introducing the capability called Stories. This modern and engaging way to capture the moment showcases short videos or photos in a stories carousel.
  • Leadership Corner – Microsoft will soon release the Leadership Corner as an extended capability in Engage to provide a spotlight on leadership conversations and a dedicated Q&A space called the Ask me Anything area.
  • Answers – Viva Engage will add a new feature in Microsoft Viva called Answers, which is an extended capability for crowdsourcing knowledge from across the organization. Microsoft will build Answers into Viva Engage as the primary interface and promises to extend it into Viva Topics later in 2023. Answers will provide employees with a simple way to ask questions and have them directed to the right person within the organization by social connections, experts from Viva Topics, and other graph and gamification insights. Answers will make it easy for anyone to ask a question, see a series of questions that might be appropriate for them to answer, categorize questions through Topics, and leverage gamification through badges to signal knowledge promoters.

5. Microsoft Places

This intriguing new app optimizes workplaces to better suit evolving hybrid work patterns and foster more connection among employees – for example, by coordinating who is in the office and where they might be best located to maximize connections with team members.

Places uses AI and the Graph to:

  • Coordinate where work happens to achieve the desired outcomes
  • Modernize the office with intelligent technology
  • Optimize space and costs for changing needs
An animation from Microsoft showing how the Microsoft Places tool will work

Final impressions, questions and thoughts on what’s in store for 2023?

Overall, it feels clear that Microsoft once again positioned itself as a leader, driving continuous innovation at a dizzying pace to help organizations navigate the new employee experience dynamics that are emerging from hybrid work. Hats off to their product development and overarching vision.

Interestingly, we noticed there was quite a lot of innovation centred around Viva Engage. This makes sense in some ways, as Microsoft is building on its strength in Viva. As we’ve heard anecdotally, the Yammer Communities app was one of Microsoft’s more popular apps in Teams. At the same time, it was curious that shifting the spotlight to Viva Engage inadvertently cast a shadow on the original four Viva modules. We didn’t hear much about the roadmap or future capabilities coming for Viva Topics, Insights or Learning.

In addition, there was a subtle shift in messaging for Viva Connections. We noticed the redesigned Viva Connections home experience was a nod to Connections being positioned as the Homepage for Viva rather than a gateway to a company’s internal communication and information sharing (aka intranet in Teams). Microsoft pumped up the visual priority of the dashboard, introduced a new Viva module navigation bar and reduced the screen real estate of the feed, further limiting the focus on internal communication and supporting the needs of Internal Comms. If anything, it seems like Microsoft is positioning Viva Amplify and Viva Engage to help drive workplace communication and Viva Connections is a portal into the messages, alerts and notifications from across the various Viva modules.

While the Microsoft Syntex announcement feels worthy of our collective attention, it may take a few years for Microsoft to deliver on these new capabilities and as a result the Syntex brand may struggle to remain top of mind.

Finally, a number of the Viva and the Teams Premium announcements signal to us that a new line of premium licensing could be emerging. While we are skinny on the details, we imagine Microsoft is turning its head to a new line of premium capabilities that will open up new licensing potential outside of the E5/M5 SKU.

Will we see growth in 2023 as more companies buy Microsoft Viva hoping to transform their digital workplace experiences? Will the market prefer the bundled Viva pricing as it is comparatively more attractive than purchasing a one-off module independently?

One thing is for sure, we’re seeing more and more companies fall behind in their understanding of what Microsoft is offering. Many seem to be coming out of two-year emergency deployment measures, where we experienced incredible adoption of Microsoft Teams, work-from-home practices and a rapid shift to Microsoft 365. To an extent, there is a lot of foundational catch-up going on as content is getting consolidated and on-premises applications are moving to the cloud.

Looking ahead, we expect to see more collaboration between the IT Digital Workplace leader, People and Culture leaders and Internal Comms as they reconcile their most important employee experience priorities to address in the shifting digital workplace landscape.

Want to read more about Microsoft Ignite? Check out these articles:

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