Will Microsoft Viva Replace the SharePoint Intranet?

Oct 7, 2022

IT leaders are under pressure to streamline resources and deliver services to the business with minimum cost and complexity. Leveraging Microsoft Viva to deliver all those great things we need from an intranet – building culture, sharing information and connecting people – can look very attractive.

The main components of Microsoft Viva deliver a lot of useful functionality:

  • Viva Connections – designed to be a gateway into the organisation with personalised news, communications, tasks, people & resources and events.
  • Viva Learning – connects content from your organisation, LMS, third-party providers and Microsoft, and presents it in Teams according to the user’s profile.
  • Viva Topics – a search feature that uses AI to improve knowledge management, and automatically organises information.
  • Viva Insights – another AI feature that monitors activity and provides insights to people and their managers into how time is being spent and suggestions to build better work habits.

NEW IN 2022

  • Viva Engage – a re-branding of the Yammer Communities app for Teams. Basically a social page where you can share videos, pictures and posts as well as follow other colleagues.
  • Viva Pulse – a survey tool for collecting feedback
  • Viva Goals – a new goal-setting framework that helps organisations align employee work to business outcomes powered by the acquisition of Ally.io
  • Viva Sales – brings together a seller’s CRM with Microsoft 365 and Teams to provide a more streamlined and AI-powered selling experience.

How Much Does Microsoft Viva Cost?

Currently, only Connections and Engage are free with Microsoft 365, with the full suite available for $16.53 per user per month (full price). This doesn’t seem like much but for organisations with 100+ seats, the cost for a full intranet is in the same ballpark.

Why Can’t Microsoft Viva Replace My Intranet?

While Viva modules present some excellent functionality, the fact remains they are individual components that add up to less than a whole intranet. Why?

1) Effort

The Viva framework is just that – a blank canvas upon which your organisation must build an effective platform. It’s not a plug and play solution, and by the time you have configured Viva to reflect your requirements, you may as well have built a bespoke intranet.

2) Lack of cohesion & governance challenges

This is probably the most problematic of Viva’s shortcomings and has been evident from launch when there was no simple answer to “what is Microsoft Viva?” Viva is not a platform per se, it’s a collection of capabilities that have the same branding. Several of them have simply been purchased by Microsoft. For this reason, the user experience is fragmented and governance is likely to be challenging.

“Despite all the feature advances, SharePoint and Viva Connections remain a complex platform to build and run an intranet on once it reaches any kind of size.”
― Clearbox Intranet and EX report 2022

3) Confusing navigation

Each Viva element is accessed via a different link in the left hand Teams navigation (desktop), then each one has its own top navigation. Viva Connections additionally includes a fly-out panel with global navigation, recent files and news. There is no mega menu to easily view options, users must click each drop-down in turn which can make navigation hard work, particularly for those who are used to a SharePoint intranet.

4) Presenting everything in Teams is a double edged sword

Firstly, only modern SharePoint sites and pages can be viewed in Teams, with Classic pages opening in a browser. Additionally, some functionality for SharePoint pages viewed in Teams is not available yet.

Even if most of your organisation is working within Teams a lot of the time, intranet access should be available via several channels. Forcing people to go through Teams instead of a browser is not a great experience. Why not present your existing SharePoint intranet in Teams as an option?

“I expect very few companies will take their web-based intranet away as there will always be user groups that… will see Connections as just “adding more clicks”.
Sam Marshall

5) It’s just not enough

Intranets provide a flexible, scalable platform for content publishing, document and people search, process automation, engagement, collaboration and IT and HR self-service. While Viva delivers impressive capabilities, it can’t compete with a decent SharePoint intranet. With content presentation built around user activity history and AI prediction, Internal Communications teams used to more centralised new publishing will not have enough control. There is no clear home for essential documents, policies and procedures. Document management is (a bit) less sexy than a personalised time-management graph, but its impact on people’s daily work lives is immeasurably greater and these fundamental business elements are currently missing from Viva.

“If it looks like Viva Connections will bring more value than your current intranet, it’s more likely that you are missing out on all the benefits of a modern SharePoint intranet.”
Content Formula

It’s still early days for Viva whereas SharePoint has been around for decades so there may be further developments on the horizon to deliver a more cohesive user experience and stronger functionality. Until then, your best bet is still a SharePoint intranet for an engaged, connected informed and productive team.

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