Microsoft brings social network-style ‘stories’ to work

The company offered up its take on Facebook and Instagram Stories at Inspire, as Yammer Communities becomes Viva Engage.

Microsoft Yammer
Microsoft

Microsoft has unveiled a workplace-focused take on Instagram and Facebook Stories posts, adding a new way to share video and photo updates within a revamped Yammer Communities app.

“We hear from customers that they want more frictionless ways to share across an organization,” said Dan Holme, product lead for Viva Engage at Microsoft. “Stories are a way to share experiences that people are very familiar with from their consumer lives.”

As part of announcements at Microsoft Inspire on Tuesday, the Yammer Communities app, which is essentially a lightweight version of Microsoft’s enterprise social network tailored to its Teams platform, is being rebranded as Viva Engage. The change has been in the cards for some time, bringing Yammer Communities in line with other Viva employee experience apps announced last year. (The core standalone Yammer app will remain unchanged, a Microsoft spokesperson said.)

The rebrand to Viva Engage — coming later this summer — will also see the launch of Stories posts within a Storylines view in the app.  These posts place the focus on video and images to tell a story and are displayed in a carousel that will look familiar to consumer social network users. Unlike on consumer social network equivalents, Viva Engage Stories don’t disappear and will still be viewable by colleagues after 24 hours.

Viva Engage Microsoft

The Viva Engage stories carousel.

Media-centric Stories posts are designed to help build connections among staffers, Holme said. That’s been a particular challenge following an extended period remote work for many businesses. This could mean a post about meeting colleagues at a team building event, for example, celebrating a milestone, or sharing thought leadership ideas about managing time more effectively. 

“You can think of it conceptually like LinkedIn within the organization; it allows you to connect with people you might not be connected with on consumer social media,” said Holme. “It allows you to talk about things you shouldn't talk about on consumer social media, that are internal to the organization, but it brings those same familiar consumer constructs and applies them to the enterprise.”

Stories are one of two types of posts in Viva Engage that can be shared and viewed from the Storylines view, alongside regular posts that contain text, links files and photos and videos. Viva Engage users will be able to view both types of posts in their Storyline news feed, which displays updates from colleagues that a user “follows” as well as other recommended posts from across the organization.

The Storylines view sits alongside the Home and Communities tabs that offer broader access to corporate information. Stories will also show up in other Microsoft apps such as Teams, Yammer, and Outlook.

“Microsoft is doubling down on the fast-growing enterprise communities' market by building Yammer's success to release Microsoft Viva Engage,” said Wayne Kurtzman, research director at analyst firm IDC.  

While Viva Engage “builds on the success of Yammer to create the start of a clean, easy to use communities' platform,” he noted that it doesn’t currently enable sharing of Stories posts with external members, “something I hope gets rectified in the future.”

Communities are among the fastest-growing collaborative application markets, he said, a trend likely to continue. “A caveat to companies: The enterprise is much more conversational than it was three years ago,” Kurtzman said. “An enterprise community takes mentoring, modelling, and at times, content moderation. Staffing communities for success is critical.”

Yammer Communities will be rebranded Viva Engage in Teams in late August, at the same time the Storyline feature public preview rolls out. Viva Engage will be available to Microsoft 365 commercial customers at no extra cost, Microsoft said. Viva Engage will also become the first Viva module made available in Outlook, shortly after its launch. 

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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