Microsoft Viva: Live to Work, Work to Live

September 29, 2022

I read about a weird Microsoft innovation. No, it’s not about security. No, it’s not about getting a printer to work in Windows 11. No, it’s not about the bloat in Microsoft Edge. And — at least not yet — it’s not about the wild and extremely wonderful world of Microsoft Teams.

The title of the article in Computerworld is “Microsoft Viva Enhancements Address Employee Disconnect in Hybrid Work Environments.” After explaining why humans invented an office or factory to which employees went to complete tasks, the author provides to illustrate why the work from home approach is not a productivity home run. Employees like to get paid and fiddle around. Work is often hard. (I did spot one Italian government employee sitting in a one room office in Sienna doing absolutely nothing. I checked on the fellow three times over three days. Nothing. No visitors. No phone buzzing. Not even a computer in site. Now that’s a reliable worker… doing nothing with style.)

Let’s get to the Microsoft inventions, shall we?

The product/service is Microsoft Viva and it has the usual Redmond touch. There is Viva Pulse and there is Viva Amplify.

What’s up?

According to the write up:

Viva Pulse is designed to enable managers and team leaders to seek regular and confidential feedback on their team’s experience, using smart templates and research-backed questions to help managers pinpoint what’s working well, where to focus, and what actions could be undertaken to address team needs.

And next up:

Viva Amplify is meant to improve communication between leaders and employees. The app centralizes communications campaigns, offers writing guidance to improve message resonance, enables publishing across multiple channels and distribution groups in Microsoft 365, and provides metrics for improvement.

Other extensions may be Viva Answers, Viva Leadership Corner, Viva Engage, and my personal favorite People in Viva.

These products include Microsoft smart software which will perform such managerial magic as answer employee questions. Also the systems will put “collective knowledge to work for all employees.” (I love categorical affirmatives, don’t you. So universal.) There will be a Leadership Corner where employees “can interact directly with leadership, share ideas and perspectives, participate in organization initiatives, and more.”

Okay, I can’t summarize any more.

My take on this is that Microsoft got a group of 20 somethings together, possibly in a coffee shop, and asked them to conjure up a way for employees working on a project in their jammies to communicate. The result is Viva, and it will be pitched by certified partners to big customers as a productivity enhancement tool. If I were trying to sell this to a government agency, I would say, “This is an umbrella under which Teams can operate. Synergy. Shazam! Oh, the first year is free when you renew your existing Microsoft licenses.”

My concern is that the:

  • Viva construct will expand the attack service for bad actors
  • The numerous moving parts will not move in the way users expect
  • Managers will find learning the constantly updating Viva components time consuming and just go walk to phone calls and managing by walking around.

Great innovation? Hardly. To Microsoft, however, this is the equivalent to discovering a new thing to sell and distract people from some of Microsoft’s more interesting issues. Example: Security challenges.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2022


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