If you were like me, waiting for something new and exciting to happen this year, then must have been very elated when Microsoft unveiled Viva earlier this year. Microsoft Viva has bought in the interconnectivity and intelligence to the Office 365 Collaboration platform that we have been waiting for long.

In simple terms, Microsoft Viva if meets its mark will change the way we have been interacting with corporate knowledge for future. With all the rich corporate knowledge that was just lying out there, now organization users will be able find relevant vital information without even going looking for it, with an hover a topic of course :). For more details about the Microsoft Viva announcement click here.

Viva Overview

Microsoft Viva is not a single offering but an amalgamation of multiple products as,

  1. Viva Connections
  2. Viva Learning
  3. Viva Topics
  4. Insights

For this blog post, we will discuss about Microsoft Viva Topics, an high level overview of the need, some configuration steps and get going. In the upcoming blog we will deep dive into the need, high level business setup and advantages/limitations (at present during Apr 2021). With more features upcoming, there could have been more features enabled that might address some of the gaps

Why Viva Topics?

Out of the four major products above, in my opinion, Viva topics is the one which will revolutionize the way corporates use the knowledge stored and used in Office 365 till to-date. Also deeply connecting experts who can help users within an organization

Historically, we have always relied on SharePoint Search and now Microsoft Search to provide results pertaining to information that we are looking for. However, the challenge there was Search was always limited to content and never spanned/connected the tags and Corporate SMEs together unless SMEs were tagged with the files. Even tagging every metadata to a file, it was always limited within that site/group, team and part of the organization that has access to it.

For a more detail overview of Viva Topics laid out in this techcommunity blog post from Seth. It is very well described and highlights some of the key features which is still not available, especially the end user view. So in this blog, we will look at how to configure it, some of upcoming features as of date.

In the upcoming blog, we will focus on the end user experience, how it fits within an organization, the value and benefits of Viva, and some key decision plans on setting up and using Viva as comparison to content available. For now, let’s look at some the pre-requisites and setup of Viva quickly

Viva Topics Licensing

Viva Topics unlike it’s other counterparts is not available as part of a current subscription or on its own but available as an Add-on to an existing Office 365 subscription such as E3, A3, Business Basic etc. More details available here.

It would have been great to make it part of an existing Enterprise offering package such as E3 or E5 (at an slightly additional cost) but considering the amount of data gathering and analysis Viva to do, it makes sense to avail it as an add-on instead of expanding any existing options and not letting users know the time involvement with it. The challenge though that it has be purchased on a per-User quota organizations have to review/calculate the span of impact and interest in a knowledge store type solution.

Viva Topics Configuration and setup

Note: Before we look at configuration steps, one key thing to know is that Microsoft Viva depends heavily on Organization Content and a Knowledge Base plan which will help create Topics. So please make sure you have enough organization and corporate information available to create the knowledge center in Viva and also consider engaging a partner to help set it up properly

Viva Topics can be configured easily after assigning licenses by using the setup wizard and the steps are pretty simple.

Once the Viva setup at Office 365 organization settings is complete, a SharePoint site will be created (from the URL provided) to store/manage Topics which are corporate and business terms. New Topics can be created as a page and linked to subject matter experts (SMEs) people and relevant content from other sites.

For any future updates, the Topics setup can be found from M365 Admin Center under Org Settings and then Topic experiences. Any configuration changes in Topics organization settings generally takes some time for backend setup and accessible from roughly half a day to a day to allow managing and creating topics

Viva New Topics

On the Topics site, we can create new Topics using the Manage Topics Top nav option. The Topic is a page which allows us to define:

  1. Topic Name
  2. Related Terms
  3. Topic Description
  4. Reference Person or SME related to the Topic
  5. Files/Content related to the Topic
  6. Sites related to the content
  7. Relationship with other Topics

Once the topic is ready and published, then it will be available for everyone to see a topic page. However, security is key in this aspect too, so users can only see content based on permissions granted and security of the file/page at the destination where the file/page is located.  

When the topic pages are ready, they can be tagged/mentioned/accessed at other locations in Office 365 such as SharePoint pages, Microsoft Teams posts, Topics App, Topics cards Outlook app and much more. This will help users to find relevant content related to a topic quickly from anywhere they are. Currently only SharePoint integration with Topics is available and can be used on a page using hashtag on the Topics name.

Also, Topics could be related to each other which could act as reference point for finding content related to the above topic/term and creates a connected store of related information making it easier to corelate and find data easily

Accessing Viva Topics

As mentioned above, once the Topic is created and shared, the topic can now be accessible in SharePoint pages with a “#” hashtag feature in the Text Editor web part, which then allows the user to hover and see related information to the Topic.

Note: Topic modals are only visible to users who have a Viva Topics license assigned. If not, the hashtag doesn’t feature any content

The user can then reach out to other fellow team members and counterparts to get more information about the Topic. Also, can refer to related content and sites.

Viva Upcoming Features

As mentioned earlier, the current end user functionality is available to SharePoint Pages, but in future Viva Teams Topics App and Outlook integration will play very integral role in the success of the product. Some of the most awaited features that I am waiting for are:

  1. Microsoft Teams topic cards
  2. Microsoft Teams topics app
  3. Outlook Integration
  4. Graph Connectors (will talk about it in next blog)
  5. Microsoft and SharePoint Search

Conclusion

In this blog, we looked at some high-level content related to Microsoft Viva, it’s setup overview, creating the topic and how to use it. However, all the above steps are slightly technical for normal users.

In the upcoming blog post, we will focus on the end user experience, how it fits within an organization, the value and benefits of Viva, and some key decision plans on setting up and using Viva as comparison to content available. Also we will look at some upcoming integration options for Viva

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