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...?
To help you make sense of this new functionality in Microsoft Teams, VisualSP recently 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.
More Microsoft Viva: Read about Viva Learning
For a full overview of Viva Connections as well as other Microsoft Viva features, watch the webinar here. We have summarized the key points of Viva Connections below.
What is Viva Connections?
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.
Three key features of Viva Connections
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.
Why should you use Viva Connections?
Viva Connections has a number of important benefits. These include:
- Getting the most from your SharePoint intranet
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.
- Employee engagement
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.
- More mobile friendly
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.
Does Viva Connections replace a SharePoint intranet?
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.
Cost and availability of Viva Connections
Viva Connections is already available and free for any organization with a Microsoft 365 E3 license or above. 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.
How do you deploy Viva Connections?
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.
- URL of the SharePoint site you want to show in Viva Connections
- Name of the icon that will appear on the Teams app bar (left rail) that will navigate your people to Viva Connections. Usually, that's just your company name like Contoso.
- App short description (80 characters): short description of your app. This will appear in Teams app catalog.
- App long description (up to 4,000 characters): long description of your app. This will also appear in your Teams app catalog.
- Company name: your organization name that will be visible on the app page in Teams app catalog in "Created By" section.
- Company website: your company's website (must start with https://) that will be linked to your company's app name.
- Icons: you need to provide two png icons. A 192x192 pixel colored icon for Teams app catalog. And a 32x32 pixel monochrome icon for Teams app bar.
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.
Microsoft Viva Connections is all about ROI
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!