Microsoft’s latest solution for hybrid team-building is another social networking app

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlines the company’s strategy for connecting people via Microsoft 365 during the company’s Inspire partner conference Tuesday morning. (Screenshot via webcast)

If the thought of updating another social network on a regular basis makes you shudder, a new app unveiled by Microsoft this morning probably won’t be welcome news. But if you’d rather not friend your co-workers on Facebook, or share too many details about work on LinkedIn, maybe it could serve a useful purpose.

That’s the needle Microsoft is threading with the announcement this morning of a new social app called Viva Engage, part of the Viva employee experience platform rolled out by the company last year on Microsoft Teams.

One feature, “storyline,” is basically a new social network for work. Microsoft says the idea is to “share experiences, celebrate milestones, and discuss your interests,” helping colleagues “learn more about you and your work.”

It’s part of a broader effort by tech companies to approximate the kinds of social interactions that employees might have had in the workplace prior to the pandemic. With employees both in the office and working from home at many companies, the team-building that comes from knowing colleagues personally is harder to come by.

“When it comes to people, it starts with taking a new approach to collaboration both inside and outside the organization,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the company’s Inspire virtual partner conference Tuesday morning. “We need to be great at sync, async, in-person and remote collaboration. In a previous era, you could get away with one or two of these quadrants. But now you need all four quadrants to be excellent at any given time.”

Microsoft is competing against Slack, Zoom Technologies, and many others in developing technology for remote collaboration. The sector boomed with the onset of the pandemic but has become more complex with the blend of in-person and remote work inside many teams nowadays.

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This is not the first time Microsoft has gone down this path, as evidenced by the fact that Viva Engage posts can be set up to connect with colleagues on Outlook, Teams, and Yammer. Of course, the company also bought LinkedIn for $26 billion. At the very least, this will test our capacity for yet another social network in our lives.

Other items of note from Microsoft’s partner conference:

  • A new Digital Contact Center platform, including technology from Microsoft’s Nuance acquisition.
  • A new Azure Space partnership program, as reported for GeekWire by Alan Boyle.
  • Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty, geared toward governments who need control over their data.
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