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We live in the information age. The problem is that with evermore information being continually produced, finding the specific content you need becomes ever more challenging. According to one recent survey, 19% of employees struggle to find the information they need in their enterprise content management systems. And 16% struggle to find an internal subject matter expert in a reasonable time frame.

Viva Topics is Microsoft’s innovative new approach to help organisations deal with this knowledge management headache. Introduced in early February and already available, Viva Topics uses artificial Intelligence and the Microsoft Graph to help improve how knowledge is found.

What is Microsoft Viva Topics?

Viva Topics applies next generation thinking to knowledge management. In this model, a company’s knowledge is organised into topic cards. Whenever an employee sees an acronym, a project or a specific term mentioned that they are not familiar with, they can click on it and see a Topic Card which gives an overview of the subject. Viva Topic cards contain a description of the topic itself, as well as related documents and subject matter experts.

You might find it useful to think of Viva Topics as like an organisational Wikipedia. Whenever a user visits a page and sees a term they are not familiar with, they can hover over it to see a Topic Card which provides more information. If they want to learn more, they can open up the Topic and access additional resources.

Viva Topics uses a combination of your existing knowledge management structure and Artificial Intelligence to create the Topic Cards. Over time Viva Topics will begin to surface information based on what it believes your users need to know. This means that information will never be more than one click away.

Topics can be accessed throughout the Microsoft 365 interface. You will notice them in Microsoft Teams, Outlook, SharePoint and other apps you use.

How topics are displayed to users

Topics are displayed to users through:

  • Topics highlighted on SharePoint pages
  • Topic answers in search results
  • Search in office applications
  • Topic center home page

SharePoint highlights

When a topic is mentioned in content on SharePoint news and pages, you’ll see it highlighted. You can open the topic summary from the highlight. Open the topic details from the title of the summary to view the full topic page. The mentioned topic could be identified automatically or could have been referenced directly by the page author.

Search results

You can see a topic answer in search results when you search from the SharePoint start page, search on, or search from a SharePoint site after you you change the search scope to include the full organisation. The topic answer will appear at the topic of the results list and give you a short set of information related to that topic.

When you use Search in Office apps such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Excel — either through the search box or by selecting Search in the context menu — topic answers are displayed in the search results.

Why should you care about Viva Topics?

Reasons that Viva Topics is especially interesting for knowledge managers and SharePoint administrators:

  • Makes knowledge contextual

Because users can click on terms that they don’t understand and see a Topic Card, the knowledge will be delivered contextually, at the moment of need. Just like contextual microlearning, this way of delivering information means users will retain information more effectively. It also means they’re less likely to simply ‘guess’ what a term means. Instead they can verify their understanding of concepts immediately then get on with whatever they were doing before.

  • You don’t have to go somewhere to find knowledge

Traditional knowledge management systems require employees to visit an organisational knowledge page and seek out the terms or concepts they are interested in. This breaks up the flow of work, and means they might get distracted. They also spend more time looking for the information. Viva Topics brings that knowledge directly to the user, thereby saving time.

  • Find subject matter experts faster

In a similar way, Topic Cards will make it much easier for people to find subject matter experts who can provide extra information on one specific field or another. Again, this should save users time and avoid the risk of ‘reinventing the wheel’.

Not a ‘silver bullet’ for knowledge management

While Viva Topics is certainly a significant step forwards in how organisations manage knowledge, it is not a silver bullet solution that will fix all problems on its own. The Artificial Intelligence in Viva Topics scans your content and begins to make recommendations. But you will still need to organise it in such a way that the AI can make sensible suggestions. For example, metadata still needs to be applied consistently to files if you want Topics to ‘find’ them.

For Topics to really begin to be useful, you are still going to need to think about information architecture and which subjects are important in your organisation. Preparing to use Topics will require a deployment plan and mapping out of the kind of information architecture that will be useful for your employees.

What does Viva Topics cost, and when is it available?

Viva Topics has been made generally available at the cost of £3 per user per month, or you can upgrade to the entire Viva suite for only £6.80 per user/month – a 25% discount. Microsoft report that they will be continually making improvements to Viva Topics over the coming months, including by bringing in information from third party apps such as ServiceNow, Salesforce and file shares. You will also be able to use APIs to connect to knowledge stored in other third-party systems.

Predictions for Viva Topics

Like many enterprise systems that use Artificial Intelligence, Viva Topics is going to improve over time as it begins to learn more about organisations and how they use information. Here are some predictions about how Viva Topics may evolve in the coming months and years:

  • Some issues to iron out

While Viva Topic is a very welcome innovation, the user interface is still evolving and occasionally the way that Topics are surfaced and suggestions made is not always consistent. In the coming months this will improve significantly.

  • Most value at large organisations to begin with

At least to begin with, Viva Topics is going to have most value when deployed at large organisations with significant quantities of data for the AI to learn from. Right now smaller operations just don’t have enough content for the AI to provide particularly beneficial insights. But, as Microsoft tracks how Viva Topics is being used, we can expect it to become more helpful at small and medium sized businesses too.

  • This will become the norm for business systems

Finally, Viva Topics’ features are likely to come to be seen as the norm for business systems. In the coming years it will seem completely normal that organisational knowledge is structured in this way, with Topic Cards showing relevant information to users whenever they need. We will probably wonder how we ever found information without this technology!

If you would like to discuss how your business could implement and make the most of Viva Topics, or have any other questions please feel free to get in touch with us here at Afinite. You can arrange a meeting with one of our team here, just choose the time that best suits you below.

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