How to Run a Trial of Viva Topics

After reading about the launch of Microsoft Viva, you might be interested in seeing whether the technology lives up to Microsoft’s promises. At present, the Teams Viva Insights app is available, but the full Viva Insights application won’t be generally available until later this year. For now, Viva Topics is the only component generally available. As it happens, I think Topics is the most interesting technology in the suite, so I was keen to see how it performs when exposed to real-life data.

Microsoft charges $5/user per month for Viva Topics on a one-year commitment. Every user who interacts with Viva Topics (manages or consumes topics) needs to be licensed. Fortunately, Microsoft allows Office 365 tenants to run a 30-day trial to test Viva Topics for up to 25 users.

Starting a Free Trial for Viva Topics

To start, go to the Billing section of the Microsoft 365 admin center, select Purchase services, Purchase from Microsoft, then Add-ons, and search for “Topics Experiences” (you might have to expand the full set of add-ons to see Topics). Click Start free trial to get the ball rolling (Figure 1).

Starting a free trial of Viva Topics from the Microsoft 365 admin center
Figure 1: Starting a free trial of Viva Topics from the Microsoft 365 admin center

Quite why the admin center refers to Topic Experiences is unknown. The approved name is used on Microsoft’s Viva Topics page, where you can also initiate a trial. Both options end up with the same result. As you can see from Figure 2, Viva Topics can be licensed to run alongside many other plans.

Many Microsoft 365 plans can be used with Viva Topics
Figure 2: Many Microsoft 365 plans can be used with Viva Topics

Assign Licenses

The trial licenses are available immediately. Assign them to users who will participate in the trial using whatever method you like. Figure 3 shows assigning the Topics Experiences license to an account through the Microsoft 365 admin center. You can also assign licenses with PowerShell or by using Azure AD group-based licensing to control the set of trial accounts.

Assigning a Topic Experiences license to a user account
Figure 3: Assigning a Topic Experiences license to a user account

Setup Files and Content with the Viva Topics Wizard

The next thing is to start the process of automatic generation of topics for the organization. Go to the Setup section of the Microsoft 365 admin center. This section is where various components licensed for a tenant are configured. Find Files and content, labelled “Connect people to knowledge.” This is where you’ll configure Viva Topics. Click View to begin. When you’re ready to initiate Topics for your organization, start the Viva Topics Wizard (Figure 4).

Starting off with the Viva Topics wizard
Figure 1: Starting off with the Viva Topics wizard

The Viva Topics wizard presents four configuration steps:

  • Discovery: Select the SharePoint Online sites to scan to categorize information used to build topics. A CSV file specifying sites as resources can be input. You can exclude topics from discovery, and again can use an input CSV file to specify those topics.
  • Visibility: Define the set of users allowed to see the discovered topics in SharePoint pages (and eventually, other applications). Users can only see discovered topics when they have access to the files and pages the topic was discovered in. Accounts also must be assigned a Topics license before they can see topics in search results or applications. You can specify individual users or Azure AD security groups (not mail-enabled security groups).
  • Permissions: Choose the set of users allowed to create new topics or update the details of AI-created topics such as the description, documents, and connected people (those who know about the topic). These people are the knowledge managers for the organization. They use the Topic management dashboard to review topics across the organization and perform actions such as creating and editing topics, plus confirm, reject, and view feedback on topics.
  • Topic center: Define the name and URL for the SharePoint site to host the Viva Topics center.

The restriction on solely using Azure AD security groups to define people covered by the policy is odd. Most Microsoft 365 apps support Microsoft 365 groups and/or distribution lists for this purpose. In this case, the developers might be focusing exclusively on using groups as a security principal instead of simply using groups to define who can see topics or work with topics.

After a last check to make sure the settings are correct, go ahead and activate. This process creates the Topic center site and starts the scan of the nominated target sites to collect knowledge and form topics.

Changing Settings

If you need to change the settings such as adding new knowledge managers, tenant administrators or SharePoint administrators can do this through Topic Experiences under the Setup -> Services section of the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Moving on to Managing Topics

Once initiated, the AI generation process needs time to scan the set of sites identified as sources. Despite the massive amount of compute resources available within Microsoft 365, that process needs time to complete. When it does, you’ll have topics to work with, which is the topic of another article.


Microsoft Viva is a great example of combining different components drawn from across Microsoft 365 to create a new offering. Nice as it is, you still need to understand the fundamentals of managing Office 365 applications to work with new solutions. Keep updated with the only book to be refreshed with new information monthly by subscribing to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook. We’re in the knowledge business too!

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