Nearly a year into a pandemic that ushered in a new era of virtual work, Microsoft announced a new tech platform called Viva that aims to improve wellbeing by analyzing how employees spend their time, provide a central hub for internal company resources, integrate learning into the flow of work, and provide better access to internal corporate knowledge and expertise.
Viva is Microsoft’s entry into the increasingly crowded category of employee experience technology, competing against companies including its publicly traded Seattle-area neighbors Qualtrics and Limeade in offering tools for companies to measure and improve the overall quality of work, health and life of their employees.
It’s part of a larger effort by Microsoft to make Teams a central hub for work, attempting to give its communication and collaboration software an edge over rivals such as Zoom, Slack and Google, while expanding its productivity technologies further beyond the core Microsoft Office suite.
“We have participated in the largest at-scale remote work experiment the world has seen, and it has had a dramatic impact on the employee experience,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a video announcing the new platform. “As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in when, where and how we work will be key.”
Viva Insights uses data from LinkedIn’s Glint, and Viva Learning incorporates content from LinkedIn Learning, representing the latest effort by Microsoft to integrate its core technologies with the business social network that it acquired for more than $26 billion in 2016.
Pricing for Microsoft Viva wasn’t announced. Viva will also serve as a platform, integrating technologies and tools from other companies.
Making the announcement, Microsoft sought to head off potential privacy concerns over Viva’s tools for analyzing how workers spend their time.
“To help ensure privacy and security, Microsoft Viva uses aggregation, de-identification, and differential privacy,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president, in a post. “This means personal insights are visible only to the employee, while insights for managers and leaders are aggregated and de-identified by default to protect individual privacy.”
The company faced a backlash over a separate “Productivity Score” tool in November, ultimately announcing that it would remove the ability for companies to see data about individual users, to address concerns from privacy experts over the potential use of the technology for snooping on workers.
Microsoft’s announcement of Viva comes a week after the company reported a 33% boost in quarterly earnings, driven by accelerated adoption of cloud technologies among many of its busines customers during the pandemic.
The company cites analyst estimates putting the employee experience tech market at $300 billion in annual corporate spending. But it will face no shortage of competition in the segment.
“In fact, I have never seen such a massive proliferation of technology hit the enterprise at once,” writes industry analyst Josh Bersin in a recent white paper. “I am tracking more than 1,400 vendors that sell new tools for recruitment, performance management, wellbeing, learning, employee surveying, and other HR applications.”