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10. May 2021

Microsoft’s Peter Lunding Smith: Viva & The Modern Workplace

Ahead of the upcoming release of Microsoft Viva, we decided to reach out to Peter Lunding Smith, Senior Technical Architect at Microsoft Technology Center in Lyngby, for more insight.

In this interesting interview, you will learn what spurred Microsoft’s decision to create the new employee experience platform as well as what the future holds for Microsoft users and partners.

The Great Need For Change

In the early days of Microsoft Teams, the market saw a great change. Rather than relying on Skype for communication like before, organisations started using Teams for most chat and meeting purposes.

As time went on, we also saw a change in the organisations themselves. Their processes matured. Companies now see Microsoft as the hub for all new applications. And as a result, they expect more from Teams – their favourite communications tool.

To meet our customer’s needs, we built a lot of connectors for SharePoint and Teams, and software like Salesforce and ServiceNow. Right now, we have over a hundred connectors – including partners like WorkPoint.

To further support the improving integration between SharePoint solutions and Teams, Microsoft is launching Viva – the people experience platform driven by AI.

The Experience Platform

The interest in the market for Viva is massive. And from HR to communications departments, the message was clear – they want more services and data into the experience.

Instead of creating a whole new universe, we decided to integrate Viva and its four services Viva Insight, Topics, Learning, and Connections, into Teams.

For example, Topics extracts meaningful data from your IT landscape, creates easy-to-understand topics and presents valuable information relating to what you’re currently working on. And it’s all thanks to AI.

The same is true for WorkPoint users. Topics indexes and presents the relevant information to what you work on in WorkPoint, including topic experts related to that field.

If I worked at a law firm on a project, Viva could soon give me an email and chat containing information about a certain case, file, or customer relating to what I work on – presented in Topics.

With small links to each topic card in the mail or chat, getting the right information is easy.

And when working with a case management system or files in SharePoint, all the services work within the Microsoft ecosystem to present you with relevant information.

The future is bright. In time, we will use Microsoft Graph API to allow our services to crawl other databases. This gives an advantage to software built on Microsoft’s core systems.

Multitasking & Productivity

Microsoft has done a lot of research on productivity with many interesting findings. An important one is that people aren’t as good at multitasking as they think.

When you start using eight applications or more – we see that you lose significant focus and concentration – enough to severely impact your organisation’s overall productivity.

Since we produce many applications and currently have over thirty in Microsoft 365, not to mention the applications from our partners, the news affects us.

The greatest productivity risks can be seen for average users in medium-sized organisations that have access to over 30 applications.

We believe that we can improve digitisation by making things simpler and easier for each user.

Integration & Actionable Message Cards

But there’s a great difference between a frontline worker in a shop and a business director in an office. Both have varying tasks and different needs for business services.

This difference underlines the idea for both Teams and Viva. For Viva, it means creating a highly individual dashboard where the user can interact directly with the applications and data behind the personalised view.

For Teams, it means putting the applications under the same umbrella to simplify things and retain productivity. And in the case of WorkPoint, it means using WorkPoint without knowing that you use it – because it’s all accessed from the same, centralised view.

We call this process “actionable message cards,” – you will see more if in the future. For example, if you need a document approval from your boss, it means you can get an extract of the information presented in Teams – so you can quickly approve and move on with your work.

In Viva Connections for Teams, you will get a feed and a dashboard of tasks. The ‘feed’ function can bring in tasks like clocking into work or approving expenses directly into Teams, so it’s done in a click from one system.

The main idea is broad integration – but it’s also about helping people do their work. With a dream to create the perfect intranet, only presenting information isn’t enough. That’s why we’re bringing everything together with AI to assist users.

Your Virtual Assistant

Secretaries were common back in the day. Now, not so much – at least not in the old-fashioned sense for writing, calendar appointments, dictating, and so on.

However, the need is still there. We need someone to nudge us with important information or remind us of our daily to-do’s.

Maybe you want to read the meeting agenda before hopping on a call. Or you might be a tax or law worker that wants relevant information to the case you’re working on right now.

That’s where AI comes in.

We use a lot of AI to help bring that type of background information to you, the user. With your personalised workplace in Teams, and the always-on background AI, you get relevant content delivered to you at the right time.

Even though face-to-face meetings will exist post-COVID, virtual meetings will still be commonplace. That means there will be a future need for AI to help recordings, transcription services, and more.

What matters now is the importance of adaptability – to help customers, people, and employees align with new technology and everything that surrounds it.

Quick Adoption Of New Tech

But what about the more traditional sectors – what are we at Microsoft doing to help them adopt the new technology?

Many customers are struggling with understanding where to get the appropriate training from. For example, a lawyer joining a new team needs the appropriate training to have a successful onboarding.

That’s where Viva Learning comes in.

In the future, you can quickly access Viva Learning through in Teams. There, the knowledge manager can push all the relevant information and training to the right people and teams – making learning plans faster and simpler.

We can also allow the AI to guide the training in cases where there aren’t enough people to do it. So, if you’re working on a new project that requires training – Viva can propose the necessary skills you need to learn and direct you to the right learning.

Another interesting thing we’re working on is Azure Communications, which will bring the ability to talk and chat to customers and colleagues from within the program or website you’re using.

If you’re using WorkPoint, that will mean you can create an embedded Teams communication directly to your customer from within the system itself – without changing window.

Since Teams will take a central place in Viva and future innovation, we encourage our partners to follow WorkPoint’s example of their integrations into Teams.

For partners who have invested in Teams, their customers will be the first to use the new AI services and link them directly to relevant training.

Do you want to learn more about Viva? Contact the WorkPoint team today. We’ll be looking at each individual aspect of the new platform in more detail in upcoming blogs. Stay tuned.

For the last 20  years Peter has been working on business development and IT strategies for innovative companies and organisations. For the last 10 years he’s been focusing on the possibilities within cloud services – e.g. Microsoft 365, Windows Azure, and Business Apps – as well as security tools and GDPR. His primary goal is to inspire his customers to adapt and profit from new technologies and business processes.