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 users in Microsoft 365. It creates “Topics” that can be accessed via chat or from web pages created automatically from the application or by designated users.
Will Topics finally solve the age-old problem of users’ inability to find the information they need to do their jobs? I set up Topics to try to find out. While I haven’t had Topics in place for very long (and won’t unless I decide to pay for licenses) here are my 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. Current MSRP is $5.00/Month. But in addition, you need one of the following licenses in order to be able to utilize Topics:
“Requires 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, or SharePoint K, Plan 1, or Plan 2 license to be eligible for Microsoft Viva Topics.”
You can only try out Topics for a period of 30 days, boo. After what I’ve seen, that’s not enough time to evaluate if this product will work for you.
Is Viva Topics easy to set up?
Yes, getting the basic components in place is straight-forward, although it is a bit convoluted to actually get to the Trial installation point. Tony Redmond did a great job laying out the steps. In the installation process you’ll be guided through options to license users, and define the scope of the application’s search and who can edit and administer topics. The installation creates a “Viva Topic Center” site collection and site.
Initially there is nothing in the site. You can navigate via the Manage Topics link in the top navigation bar to a page where Topics can be created manually or provided by the application. The AI engine will create “suggested” topics. After about a day there was a suggested topic of “Office 365”. You can open and update this page, then publish it. You can also create your own Topic pages (I created two).
New topic pages are page templates that allows a user to enter a topic name (page name), associated files, people, and web sites. After publishing the page, the application asks the creator to confirm the page.
You can’t modify the Topics results web part
I opened the Viva Topics home page in editing mode to see what happens. The web part that displays “connections” cannot be edited. You cannot alter the display or phrases in this web part.
The AI generates topics from another Tenant
After a couple of days, I checked the Viva Topics home page and found two new suggested pages. What was disconcerting was these pages were based on content from our company’s M365 Tenant. I didn’t designate this additional tenant in the set up (installed on a development M365 tenant with no active directory connection to our company tenant).
I haven’t been able to see any controls to keep this process from happening except maybe to not “confirm” topics from outside the local tenant.
Even if I create a Topics page and add myself, it asks me to confirm.
When you create 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. I’m assuming this is an automated process that 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 to pages created and displayed in SharePoint News and pages.
I created a page in another site collection and using a hastag with “HR Portal,” and I received a dialog box to select a topic or manually associate. Since I have a topic out there for HR Portal I would have thought the application would display the topic, but it didn’t. When I clicked the hyperlinked “Insert a Topic…” it took me to a M365 Topics overview page. The jury is still out on whether the “AI” piece is as smart as Microsoft claims. When I search for “HRPortal”, the topic page I created comes up first, but only if I specify to search the “Whole Organization”.
Bottom line, is it worth it?
Based on what I’ve observed so far, I’m skeptical about whether Microsoft can deliver on the ability of their AI functionality to deliver on the promises to bubble up important content for the organization. Having to create Topic pages is obviously a work effort, and the AI-created topics I’ve observed so far seem off the mark. Maybe this is due to the relatively low level of user activity in our development tenant, but getting topics from another M365 Tenant was definitely unexpected.
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