Viva Topics is one of four components of Microsoft Viva, which is a search and Artificial Intelligence (AI) application that monitors user interaction with sites, files, and other users in Microsoft 365. It creates 'Topics' that can be accessed via chat or web pages created automatically from the application or designated users.
Will Topics finally solve the age-old problem of users' inability to find the information they need to do their jobs? One of our engineers set up Topics to try and find out. While Topics hasn't been in place for very long, here are some observations on getting it set up and what it does.
Is Viva Topics free?
Nope, you have to pay for user licenses in order to run Topics. The current MSRP is $5/month. But in addition, you need one of the following licenses in order to be able to utilize Topics:
- Microsoft 365 F1, F3, E3, A3, E5, A5
- Office 365 F3, E1, A1, E3, A3, E5, A5
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium
- SharePoint K, Plan 1, or Plan 2
There is a limited trial to utilize Viva Topics for a period of 30 days, intended to help users determine if the tool meets their needs before paying for a license upgrade. Although after our trial run, it's clear that's not enough time to evaluate if this product will work and is the right fit.
Is Viva Topics easy to set up?
Yes! Getting the primary components in place is straightforward, although getting to the trial installation point is a bit convoluted. Tony Redmond did a great job laying out the steps in this article. In the installation process, you'll be guided through options to license users, define the scope of the application's search, and set who can edit and administer topics. The installation creates a "Viva Topic Center" site collection and site.
Initially, there is nothing on the site. If you navigate via the Manage Topics link in the top navigation bar, there is a page where Topics can be created manually or by the application. The AI engine will create these 'suggested' topics. After about a day, we had a suggested "Office 365" topic pop up on our site. You can open and update this page, then publish it.
New topic pages are page templates allowing users to enter a topic name (page name), associated files, people, and websites. Then, after publishing the page, the application asks the creator to confirm the page.
In exploring the editing mode of Viva Topics, the web part that displays "connections" cannot be edited. You cannot alter the display or phrases in this web part.
After a couple of days, our team checked the Viva Topics home page and found two new suggested pages. What was disconcerting was that these pages were based on content from our company's M365 tenant. This additional tenant was not designated in the setup (installed on a development M365 tenant with no Entra ID (formerly known as Active Directory) connection to our company tenant).
Currently, there are no controls to keep this process from happening except to not "confirm" topics from outside the local tenant.
Don't Forget to Confirm
When creating Topic pages, you publish the page, and then you are asked to confirm the page as a separate step, even though you are the person who created it. This automated process runs against anyone associated with the new page. It seems redundant, but who knows?
Where do I see Topics?
Microsoft documents say topics are associated with pages created and displayed in SharePoint News and pages.
After creating a page in another site collection and using a hashtag with "HR Portal," we received a dialog box to select a topic or manually associate. Since there is a topic for HR Portal, it's assumed that it would have thought the application would display the topic, but it didn't. When the hyperlink "Insert a Topic…" is clicked, it takes you to an M365 Topics overview page. The jury is still out on whether the "AI" piece is as intelligent as Microsoft claims. When searching for 'HR Portal', the created topic page comes up first, but only when the search is set to include the whole organization.
Is Viva Topics Worth It?
Based on current observations, it's still questionable whether or not Microsoft's AI functionality can deliver on the promises to bubble up important content for the organization. Having to create Topic pages is a work effort, and, from our observations, the AI-created topics seem off the mark. Maybe this is due to our development tenant's relatively low user activity level, but getting topics from another M365 Tenant was unexpected.
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