Viva Topics Stretches to Teams Chat

Viva Topics in Teams Chat and External Reference Support Now Rolling Out

Viva Topics is Microsoft’s knowledge management solution. Basically, Viva Topics works by extracting information held in SharePoint Online and using it to figure out topics of importance to the organization (like project names). Each topic gets a separate page in the Viva Topics site that knowledge managers can edit and refine before publication. Once published, the topics become available to users (with Viva Topics licenses) for inclusion in apps, like OWA messages. People who access content including topics see cards containing details of the topic or can reference the website to see the full information.

Microsoft has been slow to deploy client support for Viva Topics in key applications where users spend a lot of their time. OWA came 15 months after the initial Viva Topics release, and now Viva Topics support for Teams chat is rolling out (message center notification MC391950, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 72189). According to the roadmap item, the feature is now generally available, although some tenants might still not have the code yet. GCC tenants should receive Viva Topics in Teams chat in August.

Teams Chat and Viva Topics

Being able to insert a Viva topic into a Teams chat (Figure 1) is a good example of how powerful knowledge sharing can be. Users can find topics by typing the hash sign followed by a partial topic name to see what topics are available for insertion. The app inserts a link into the message to point to the topic, and if the message recipient has a Viva Topics license, they see the topic card. Other recipients see plain text.

Inserting a Viva Topics reference into a Teams message
Figure 1: Inserting a Viva Topics reference into a Teams message

Teams channel conversations (of any type) don’t support Viva Topics. This might be because not every team member involved in a conversation might have a Viva Topics license, meaning that some will see the full content of a message, and others will not. This is not the first time that Microsoft has added a capability to Teams chat that isn’t in channel conversations. Being able to insert Loop components in messages is another notable example.

Viva Topics and External References

Another recent enhancement to Viva Topics deserves mention. First, MC394843 (June 23, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 93204) covers the adding of external resources (web links) to topic pages. This is an important change. Up to now, the information available on topic cards came from within the organization. However, the definitive coverage of a topic often exists elsewhere, so being able to pin external resources to a topic card greatly increases its usefulness. This change is now rolled out.

Take the example of the Microsoft Graph PowerShell topic shown in Figure 1. By editing the topic page, a knowledge manager can add links to bring interesting information to the attention of anyone who reads the topic card. In Figure 2, we’re adding a link to a website where some information about Microsoft Graph PowerShell exists.

Adding an external reference to a Viva Topics page
Figure 2: Adding an external reference to a Viva Topics page

When a message recipient hovers over the topic, they’ll see the external website links along with other resources selected by knowledge managers, such as documents in a SharePoint site (Figure 3).

Viewing external references on a Viva Topics card

Viva Topics in Teams
Figure 3: Viewing external references on a Viva Topics card

Microsoft points out that they don’t check the permissions required to access external links. It’s up to the knowledge manager who adds an external resource to a topic page to make sure that the information is both valuable and accessible.

Viva Topics Improving

Good signs exist that Viva Topics is maturing nicely. One obvious example is that it is much faster to publish topics than before, much to the relief of knowledge managers. Adding external resources and making topic cards accessible in more apps are more important and strategic improvements because they make knowledge assembled in Viva Topics more accessible to users.

When Microsoft launched Viva Topics in February 2021, they wanted $5/user monthly. Now the cost is down to $4/user monthly. That’s still a substantial investment in software to underpin knowledge within an organization, but at least more apps support Viva Topics now and the knowledge presented on topic cards can come from both insider and outside the organization.

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