Microsoft Viva Insights – Has Microsoft Found the Balance Between Productivity and Privacy?

March 23, 2022
IT Microsoft

Interested in learning more about NPI’s services?

Contact Us

Late last year, Microsoft “rebranded” its Workplace Analytics product. The new product name is Microsoft Viva Insights and it aims to pick up where Workplace Analytics left off – or, depending on how you look at it, fell down. One obvious change is the pricing. There was a price reduction of about 43% with the introduction of Viva Insights.

In addition to the rebranding, Microsoft has somewhat changed the messaging around the product. Workplace Analytics was previously promoted as a tool that “provides rich, actionable insights into your organization’s communication and collaboration trends to help you make more effective business decisions.” Viva Insights is promoted slightly differently as a tool that “shows you personalized recommendations that help you do your best work. Get insights for building better work habits, such as following through on commitments made to collaborators and protecting focus time in the day for uninterrupted, individual work.”

The nuances in messaging speak a lot to the backlash Microsoft received around the privacy controls with Workplace Analytics. In both cases, the product derives insights by summarizing your Microsoft 365 data – data that you already have access to – emails, meetings, calls, and chats. But Workplace Analytics was promoted as a tool to help the organization manage organizational productivity. Viva Insights, on the other hand, leads more with personalized recommendations. The insights for individuals that Viva Insights presents are completely personal and private. Personal insights in the app are for your eyes only; neither your manager nor the system administration can see your insights. But while the details are seen only by the individual, there IS some aggregated information that is provided to managers.

Microsoft Viva Insights and Organizational vs. Individual Productivity

Improving individual productivity is still a goal rooted in organizational effectiveness, and there is still an organization layer of value that Viva Insights customers seek. So – privacy concerns aside – managers still have a need to assess worker productivity. That begs an important question: What type of, well, insight does your manager receive when using Viva Insights?

Microsoft states, “The product shows managers insights about how their teams’ work patterns might lead to burnout and stress. These can be caused by regular after-hours work, meeting overload, or too little focus time.

A softer version of the goals of Viva Insights might be that managers can discover key insights about their team’s collaboration effectiveness and employee experience. In any event, there’s a Manager dashboard that provides insight into the employee experience. Here’s a screen capture:

It does seem that Microsoft is working hard to adapt Viva Insights for the modern workplace, tuning it to be as helpful as possible to individuals and to managers. They have gone so far as to remove features that privacy advocates decried as a little too Orwellian. In December 2021, Microsoft removed the “Productivity Score” feature that identified individual end-users, clarifying that the scores measure organizational adoption of technology.

Workforce analytics is important as both individuals and business leaders strive to understand current practices and how to improve efficiencies. In an ideal world, going beyond the question of “who is doing what” and understanding how your employees are completing their tasks – who they are collaborating with, what tools they are using to make them successful at their job, and what’s slowing them down are key metrics to increasing productivity (and job satisfaction).

Grand Plans for Viva Means Leverage Opportunity for Customers

It appears that Microsoft has grand plans for the Viva employee experience platform, and Microsoft Viva Insights is just one part of that vision. In addition to Insights, Microsoft currently offers other components of the platform including:

  • Viva Learning – a centralized learning hub in Microsoft Teams that lets you seamlessly integrate learning and building skills into your day
  • Viva Topics – uses AI to automatically search for and identify topics in your organization
  • Viva Connections – a gateway to employee experiences, with the ability for you to curate the content and tools you want to deliver through quick access to data and tasks, relevant news, communications, people, and resources.

Microsoft, of course, offers these in a bundled suite offering (because we all know how much Microsoft loves a bundle!). The suite includes a bundled discount of approximately 12% over the individual components. Microsoft has also noted that the acquisition will be rolled into the Viva Suite.

As Microsoft’s customers consider investing in new employee experience tools, Viva Insights and the Viva Platform will be a natural contender given its integration (Microsoft-side leverage). And Microsoft is highly motivated to gain traction in this area (customer-side leverage). Customers should make sure they’re paying the best possible price, right-sizing their purchase according to actual usage requirements, and negotiating maximum product/contractual flexibility to accommodate changes in the organization’s requirements. Laying that foundation now is essential to avoiding cost bloat in the future across your Microsoft estate.