Viva Engage Storyline Appears in Preview

Stories for Everyone

For those who haven’t been following the Viva Engage story, the latest development is that the much-hyped storyline functionality is now available in public preview (Microsoft 365 notification MC428510, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 93407).

In a nutshell, Viva Engage Storyline is the Yammer equivalent of the Facebook or Instagram feed with posts appearing in both the Yammer traditional browser UI and the Viva Engage app in Teams (the Teams app is the latest incarnation of what started as the Yammer communities app). Like many Teams apps, it’s essentially a wrapper around the website.

Yammer Moving Forward Slowly

Traditionally, Yammer users post in communities and members of those communities can read, reply, and respond to the posts. It’s all very much like the standard threaded discussion setup as implemented in so many applications over the years. Yammer is more scalable than Teams is, and it’s popular with certain Microsoft 365 tenants who use it to enable organization-wide discussions and debate. Where Yammer is implemented with management support and integrated into the way the organization works, it’s successful and people are happy with it. Unfortunately, missed promises and overset expectations over the years since Microsoft’s 2012 acquisition meant that Yammer never quite got the traction its supporters expected. The arrival of Teams in 2016 didn’t help either.

Yammer Migration to Microsoft 365

A positive sign is that Microsoft is finally going to force the migration of non-native and hybrid Yammer networks to Microsoft 365 (native mode). The September 1 announcement (MC424414) says that Microsoft will begin migrating networks on December 1, 2022, in a process that will finish in October 2023. Microsoft says that they’ll begin with smaller networks to allow them to resolve any bugs before they take on larger, more complex networks such as the ones Microsoft runs for partners and some product support (like a very good resource run by the Microsoft Information Protection team).

If you want to leap before Microsoft forces the migration, moving from non-native networks to native networks isn’t particularly difficult. I haven’t tried to migrate a hybrid network, so I can’t comment on how that goes.

The Need for the Storyline

Getting back to Viva Engage and its new Storyline capability, Microsoft’s documentation says that “Storyline is a new way for people to share, connect, and contribute to their organization.” Basically, this means that users can post without having to specify a target community. As Microsoft notes, “communities aren’t always a perfect fit for what people want to share.”

The same problem is true for other collaboration applications. For example, in Teams it’s often a problem to decide what team to post a message to, and even after you know what team to use, you might have to choose from 200 regular channels, 200 shared channels, and up to 30 private channels.

Posting to Viva Engage Storyline

Posting to the storyline is as easy as going to the Storyline page and entering a new post, just like you’d do when posting to a community. When you post to your storyline, Yammer notifies anyone who follows you and anyone who you @mention. Followers can go to your storyline to discover your latest post, and anyone in the organization can view your storyline by searching for you. Storyline posts by followed and “trending” (active) people also show up in the home feed. If you follow someone, remember to adjust the notifications Yammer publishes for their posts (Figure 1). By default, three separate notifications arrive in Yammer, Teams (the activity feed), and email. One is quite enough.

Setting Yammer notifications for Viva Engage Storyline posts
Figure 1: Setting Yammer notifications for Viva Engage Storyline posts

As a reader, the place to go is the Storylines page, which brings together posts from people that you follow together with some (trending) posts selected by Yammer (aka, “the most relevant content”). In the Viva Engage app, the Storylines page appears as a tab (Figure 2). The same posts are available in both the Yammer browser UI and Viva Engage.

Viva Engage Storyline in Teams
Figure 2: Viva Engage Storyline in Teams

Neither app refreshes the storyline after people post new comments and reactions. Oddly, Yammer tells you when someone is in the process of replying but doesn’t refresh the page automatically when the reply is available. Maybe this is a preview thing.

Posting from Email

Microsoft says that they’ve added the ability to post to your storyline from OWA and Outlook. The directions are:

In OWA, click the drop arrow next to “New mail” to see the option for “Storyline post.” In the Outlook desktop client, you can choose “Storyline post” under the “New Items” button.

Neither of these options worked for me. Clearly, some software components have not reached me yet.

Viva Engage Storyline is Another Place to Post

Microsoft recommends using the storyline to “build your brand and showcase your expertise, sharing more about who you are—your passions, know-how, and ideas—with followers, colleagues, and people across the company.” If Yammer is your focus for collaboration, I’m sure that you’ll find the storyline a valuable addition. For others, the storyline is just another way to share information that needs some thought to figure out how it is best used.

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