(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
Too much of a good thing? In Microsoft’s case, yes. The software giant makes…well…software. Lots and lots of it. Too much of it, actually.
Just think of the company’s primary business application offerings, many of which are under the brand of Microsoft 365. You know the big names: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook. And then you probably recognize some of the others: Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, OneNote, Access, Publisher. But then dig deeper and you’ll stumble on a number of lesser-known applications like Visio, Sway, UberEats, Forms, Bookings and Delve. OK, I’m kidding about one of them.
But then there are also literally thousands of apps on the company’s PowerApps platform, created by its countless developers and partners. All of these software offerings sit on top of their core infrastructure products like Windows, Exchange, SQL and Azure.
And now there’s yet another application: Microsoft Viva.
Microsoft Viva is an “employee experience platform” that according to its website “brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights in the flow of work.” It includes modules that help groups share information about customers, build internal training content, set goals, increase productivity and improve overall their well-being. For all I know, future features will run errands, discipline children and clean bathtubs.
Wait…you haven’t heard of Microsoft Viva? Don’t feel bad. My company has been implementing Microsoft products for years and I admit that, up until this past week, I’ve never heard of the darned thing either. I do like the name, though. It’s full of life.
I’m sure I never heard of it because the product, which was introduced just last year, is mainly targeted at large organizations and my company generally focuses on small and mid-sized businesses. When you watch videos about Viva you’ll see somber, yet encouraging testimonials from managers and executives at companies like Humana, Unilever and Northumbrian Water. Not exactly mom and pops. This is not a tool for small companies. It’s geared towards companies that have, at a minimum, hundreds of employees and who are located in various places and doing different things.
I stumbled across Viva because Microsoft just this past week announced a new module called Viva Sales, which it describes as a “smart CRM companion” because it “pulls customer engagement data from Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams and uses machine learning to turn that information into personalized recommendations and insights for salespeople.”
I checked out Viva Sales and it’s pretty cool. It automatically synchronizes and shares information between Outlook, Teams, LinkedIn and Dynamics 365’s sales module. You can use it to see how other employees at your company are interacting with your customers. You can then chat and have those conversations stored in your CRM’s customer records. Viva uses AI to not only record and transcribe your conversations in Teams with customers but then suggest actions based on those conversations. It will also provide metrics about your conversations like your talk to listen ratio, listen duration and talking speed. Its aim is to reduce the time salespeople are spending doing data entry and increase their face time with customers. Good aim.
But cool as the product is, Viva Sales to me further crystalizes what is already a significant problem with Microsoft: the company’s chaotic and seemingly endless number of product offerings. Microsoft has simply too many applications doing too many overlapping things. For most companies — even large organizations — the choices are vast, confusing and complex. This is a chronic problem with Microsoft applications. People get so overwhelmed by all the choices and features that they wind up using a small percentage of what’s available.
To address this problem, Microsoft create more software like Viva, which places itself over its existing products that connects these products together. And then in addition to learning just the products you’re using you also have to use the products that sit on top of these products. Sure, this is great for Microsoft partners, trainers, developers and consultants who thrive in the chaos. But for most companies it only adds to the general confusion.
If Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Sales truly and seamlessly integrated with Outlook and Teams then products like Viva Sales wouldn’t be necessary. Product teams wouldn’t be necessary. Individual product marketing and support wouldn’t be necessary. If you’re a Dynamics 365 customer then this one application will simply have email (Outlook) and collaboration (Teams) functionality that’s included out of the box and are so seamlessly part of its interface that users wouldn’t even be aware that they’re using different applications. Instead we have umbrella software like Viva.
Microsoft should stop building new apps like Viva. Instead it should build out its existing apps to incorporate the features and functionality of its other apps and then get rid of its other apps altogether. My clients want one business product from one software vendor. Sometimes too much choice isn’t a good thing. It’s just confusing.