When Microsoft announced the new Viva Connections functionality in February, it took intranet managers by surprise. At first glance, Viva Connections looks a little bit like an intranet, but delivered inside Microsoft Teams. So what would that mean for the SharePoint intranet that you have spent years building...?
Viva Connections is a new framework through which you can deliver your intranet. It takes company news feeds, documents and other content from your SharePoint Intranet, and makes this information available inside Microsoft Teams. The Viva Connections area in Microsoft Teams can be branded to your company, so it will look and feel like your SharePoint intranet home page too.
Most of the content that people see in Viva Connections will already be available in SharePoint. And you will still need a well-run SharePoint intranet to be able to deliver Viva Connections successfully.
Today more and more employees are using Microsoft Teams as their primary place to communicate and collaborate with colleagues. While many of them will still open the SharePoint intranet each day, others will log directly into Teams and spend almost all of their time there. For those employees, Viva Connections is a way of delivering the content they need to see, even if they don't log into SharePoint daily.
Learn more: Viva Connections Video Demos
When it comes to the user experience, Viva Connections introduces three important new features to Teams:
1. A collection of resources and content
If you open up Microsoft Teams, it has, until now, fundamentally been a chat app. But with Viva Connections, users will be able to access a wider variety of resources from a Teams home site. From here they will be able to view company news, SharePoint sites that they frequently visit, and documents that they recently worked on. These are the same kinds of features that they would already see in their SharePoint intranet homepage, but this is now carried into Viva.
2. Curated and personalized feeds
Viva Connections gives SharePoint managers the ability to create news feeds which deliver personalized content to each user. SharePoint intranet managers can now publish content and make sure that everyone in the business - or everyone in a specific audience (managers for instance, or shop workers) - sees certain announcements or news that are relevant to them.
Viva Connections will also serve up personalized content based on an individual employee’s activity and interests. For example, if one of your close colleagues made changes to a document that you recently worked on, this information might show up in the news feed.
3. A dashboard for apps and tools
Another important feature of Viva Connections is that it gives the individual employee access to a mobile friendly dashboard containing apps, tools and content. This makes it easier for them to find the widgets they use most often, and saves them time hunting around for files or other information.
Viva Connections has a number of important benefits. These include:
If people are spending more time in Teams, it might mean they don't always log onto your intranet and could miss important company news or updates. By bringing the content that you've created for the SharePoint intranet into Viva Connections, you can be sure that your efforts won't be wasted.
One of the key reasons that Teams has become so popular in the past 12 months is because of work from home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. But if people are spending all their time in Microsoft Teams away from the office, there is a much higher chance that people start to feel disengaged from the company and their colleagues. By bringing company communications and news into Teams, Microsoft is aiming to address this engagement challenge.
Viva Connections also presents a very mobile-friendly method of delivering company content, thanks to its attractive and easy to use mobile interface. Note: the mobile version of Viva has not been released yet. It's supposed to come out in Summer 2021.
No not at all. SharePoint is not going away! For Microsoft Viva Connections to work well, you're still going to need a great intranet in SharePoint with appropriate micro sites and good information management. Similarly, you are still going to need to know your users and who your audiences are. That content management will not deliver itself. And so having a well-run SharePoint intranet underneath it all is going to be key.
Here's a depiction of how your SharePoint communication site (preferably home site) would look inside Viva Connections.
1. Provide access to your most important intranet links.
2. Navigate to other intranet pages directly within Teams.
3. Search intranet content with the Teams search bar.
Note: You have to click on the second item in the search drop-down (as shown above) and then the search results will show up in your default internet browser.
4. Grab a link to what you are looking at and share with colleagues. Note: the link is a web link so it would open up in your colleague's default internet browser.
Viva Connections is already available and free for any organization with a Microsoft 365 license. All you need is SharePoint and Teams which most organizations are running anyway these days.
Keep in mind that Viva Connections won't automatically appear for you. You need to decide if you want to deploy this functionality or not.
Make sure you have at least one modern SharePoint communication site (classic SharePoint sites are not supported by Viva Connections. Preferably a home site. Why? Because home sites have global navigation and also the Dashboard experience that will be coming soon will only be available in home sites. Don't want to set up a home site right now? Don't sweat it. Use a regular communication site right now and you can always replace it with a home site later.
There is no user interface for installing Viva Connections so you must have the latest SharePoint Management Shell installed so you can run the install scripts. Also, you'll need SharePoint admin as well as Teams admin credentials to do the install so have them handy.
Download the Viva Connections on Teams desktop install script.
When you're running the install script, you will need to provide the following information so have it handy before you start. Note: the info below you provide does not get sent to Microsoft so no worries.
Once you have followed the steps above, a Teams app manifest file (zip file) gets created for you. You will need Teams admin credentials to upload this app manifest to Teams admin center --> Manage apps.
Now if you want all your users to see this app automatically in their Teams app bar then you'll need to pin the app by default for your users like any other Teams app.
I have a presentation on Viva Connections that you can download here along with many other Microsoft end user training and user adoption topics that I speak on at conferences and webinars.
Viva Connections is a very welcome innovation from Microsoft and will ensure that people continue to stay engaged with company news and updates - wherever they spend their working days. This means that if you have invested in a SharePoint intranet, information architecture and company content, you can be sure that all employees will see the most relevant information to them. Even if they prefer to use Microsoft Teams every day and log directly onto the intranet less often, Viva Connections will, well, keep them connected!
VisualSP also ran a webinar exploring Microsoft Viva, its features, and what it means for you. And our guest, SharePoint intranet expert and MVP Susan Hanley focused in on Viva Connections. For a full overview of Viva Connections as well as other Microsoft Viva features, watch our on-demand Microsoft Viva webinar today.
Want to talk about it further with us? We are here to help. Contact us and let's chat.