An Introduction to Microsoft Viva
I co-founded Lightning Tools back in 2007 with a desire to build products that would help companies to be more successful with Microsoft SharePoint. Over time, we have developed quite a portfolio of products that we are extremely proud of. When Lightning Tools was first created, I wore the hat of a Developer, a Technical Support Engineer, a Technical Salesperson, an Accountant, and a Marketing Professional. Wearing all these hats initially helped us to launch Lightning Tools and build a powerful portfolio of products. However, I soon became a bottleneck within Lightning Tools as there simply wasn’t enough time to continue being “The Technician”.
Approximately six years ago someone I knew and respected pointed me in the direction of a book called EMyth. The book focused on the “Entrepreneurial Myth” that it’s only entrepreneurs who start businesses. Having read the book, I realised that I was being “The Technician” and not the entrepreneur. This is where a shift started to happen for me, and also many of the employees within Lightning Tools.
With the help of a business coach, I began focusing on my personal vision, my values, affirmations, and then aligning them with the Lightning Tools vision. We developed a company vision that clearly outlined the direction for the company, and all the employees were engaged in that vision. We all knew which direction we were swimming in! We implemented employee development meetings which are weekly 1:1 meetings. We created SMART goals that aligned with employees’ personal visions and aligned with the company’s goals.
A challenge that we faced was a lack of tools to help facilitate the vision, our values, and our goals. We made use of a SharePoint Communication Site for our vision which worked well, and we used a product called 15Five ahead of employee development meetings to engage employees. With these tools, everything felt a little disjointed since they didn’t interact with each other at all. In fact, we even started to build our own product for Microsoft Teams that would manage S.M.A.R.T goals! But then came Viva! I recall seeing Microsoft Viva for the first time almost two years ago, and being extremely excited about the impact that the Viva products could have on Lightning Tools. Below, you’ll be able to read about how Lightning Tools has made use of Microsoft Viva so far:
Microsoft Viva Connections initially looks not too dissimilar to a standard Communication Site in SharePoint. In fact, a Microsoft Viva Connections site starts off as a Communications Site, which is then promoted to a ‘Home Site’ within your Microsoft 365 tenant. Within the Home Site, you can design a dashboard that is made up of Adaptive Cards. The dashboard is really useful as a hub to all of the useful content to help each team to get to the information that is needed. You can design the dashboard for the desktop and the mobile experience.
The Adaptive Cards are small, purposeful yet simple cards that can provide some information or links to content. Out-of-the-box cards include Shifts, Teams App, Viva Learning, Web Links, Top News, Assigned Tasks, and a Card Designer. We’ve developed our own Adaptive Cards too that interact with our Social Squared Discussion Board tool which shows unanswered questions within the discussion board, and the ability to subscribe to topics.
In addition to the dashboard, you still have the ability to display News, and other content that serves a purpose to all employees visiting the Hub.
I’m getting older, and thank goodness Viva Insights is helping to keep me organized!
Viva Insights helps you personally to stay on top of everything during your working day, and to feel better about it! Some mornings can feel overwhelming when you look at your meeting calendar, but starting the day with a 3-minute headspace exercise certainly helps you to put everything into perspective. Using the Focus Time planner to ensure that there is productive time scheduled each working day, and a virtual commute to wind down (especially when working from home) are certainly helpful. But the best feature for me by far is the “Stay Connected” tab. It’s easy (at my age) to forget that you promised to get back to someone, or to action something that you have been asked to do. No longer do you need to add such things as tasks in a to-do list; Viva Insights will list the things that you promised to do, or were asked to do, and you can run through them and mark them as ‘Done’, or just get on and do it 😊
In addition to the above, with Viva Insights, you can manage your team. You can make sure that you have 1:1 meetings set up which we use for our Employee Development Meetings, and check your team’s meeting and working habits.
As Lightning Tools is a Software ISV, you can only imagine the number of acronyms and technical terms that are discussed on a daily basis in the content that we create as a company. Viva Topics uses AI to discover topics and the people who have contributed to the topic. Using the Topic Centre, you can manage the topics that were discovered by removing them, or adding to them by providing a description and refining the people who should be pinned with the content. In the below example, you can see the suggested topic of ‘DeliverPoint Pro’. Upon editing the suggested topic, alternative names were provided, a description, and also the pinned people with their roles against the topic.
The result is that when ‘DeliverPoint Pro’ is searched for in Microsoft Search, the Topic is returned with the description and pinned people. This helps future employees to get up to speed quickly with the terminology that we use throughout content and in meetings.
Within Lightning Tools, each employee is encouraged to learn. We engage in Employee Development Meetings that take place weekly which gives managers the ideal opportunity to discuss goals and learning paths. With Viva Learning, employees can select the categories of learning courses. You can rate a course, and also recommend it to other employees within your organization.
Microsoft Viva Goals is one of the most recent additions to the Microsoft Viva Suite. Viva Goals enables each licensed user to define their own Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) or departmental/organizational OKRs. Typically, an OKR would be created as a S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goal. Viva Goals enables you to specify the time associated with each goal, and each one can be described as something that is realistic, but a stretch to achieve. Periodically, you can check in on each OKR so that the success of the goal can be measured. Again, EDMs offer an ideal opportunity to check in with employees and the progress of their OKRs. Below are some of the sample OKRs that can be imported.
Viva Engage is perhaps so far one of the least utilised Viva modules at Lightning Tools. Mostly, this is due to the success of our Social Squared Discussion Boards being used for Q&A, Announcements, and idea brainstorming. However, if you prefer Viva Engage, the module offers a great social and discussion tool for users to engage with each other.
In our webinar on the 27th October, I (Brett Lonsdale, co-founder of Lightning Tools) will tell the story in full, and demonstrate how adopting a culture of learning, self-development, adopting values, and personal commitment has transitioned Lightning Tools with the help of Microsoft Viva.