Microsoft brings social network style ‘stories’ to work

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

“We’re hearing 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 know very well from their consumer lives.”

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

The rebrand to Viva Engage – coming later this summer – will also see the launch of Stories posts in a Storylines view in the app. These posts emphasize video and images to tell a story and are displayed in a carousel that will be familiar to consumers’ social network users. Unlike consumer social network equivalents, Viva Engage Stories do not disappear and are still visible to colleagues after 24 hours.


The story carousel of Viva Engage.

Media-focused Stories posts are designed to build connections between staffers, Holme said. That was a special challenge after a long period of remote working for many companies. This could be a post about meeting colleagues at a team-building event, such as celebrating a milestone, or sharing thought leadership ideas for managing time more effectively.

“You can conceptually see it as LinkedIn within the organization; it allows you to connect with people you may not be connected to on consumer social media,” said Holme. “It allows you to talk about things you shouldn’t be talking about on social media for consumers, which are internal to the organization, but it brings the 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, in addition to regular posts that contain text, links to files, and photos and videos. Viva Engage users can view both types of posts in their Storyline News Feed, which shows updates from colleagues a user “follows” as well as other recommended posts from across the organization.

The Storylines view is located next to the Home and Communities tabs, which provide broader access to business information. Stories also appear in other Microsoft apps such as Teams, Yammer, and Outlook.

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

While Viva Engage is “building on Yammer’s success in pioneering a clean, easy-to-use platform for communities,” he noted that it’s not currently possible to share Stories posts with external members, “I hope this will be rectified in the future.”

Communities are among the fastest growing markets for collaborative applications, he said, a trend that is likely to continue. “A word of warning to companies: The company is much more amiable than it was three years ago,” Kurtzman said. “An enterprise community needs mentoring, modeling, and sometimes content moderation. Staffing communities for success is critical.”

Yammer communities will be rebranded as Viva Engage in Teams at the end of August, along with the public preview of the Storyline feature rolling out at the same time. Viva Engage will be available to Microsoft 365 commercial customers at no additional cost, Microsoft said. Viva Engage will also be the first Viva module to be made available in Outlook shortly after launch.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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