Microsoft Viva: a market revolution?

Following my latest article introducing Microsoft Viva, Microsoft’s Employee Experience Platform, many people asked me if I thought it was going to be a revolution in the market. I will try to answer this question here.

Is the Employee Experience Platform a market?

Before knowing if Viva is going to revolutionize a market, we need to know which market we are talking about. In principle, it would be the Employee Experience Platforms (or EXP).

But are the EXP a market? Today they are not! I don’t mind if an eminent specialist like Josh Bersin thinks it’s a new market category, but one year after his plea I still don’t see anything coming. The evidence: when Viva was released, everyone was wondering what we were really talking about!

However, there is a need for a layer between the multiple tools used by employees or used to manage them (from business tools to HR tools) and the employee himself.

In a nutshell, my personal vision of the Employee Experience Platform is a tool that brings together, aggregates and makes otherwise dispersed data, information, tools and services easier to consume and use.

Unlike a “common” portal, an Employee Experience Platform not only pulls up and exposes information and services, but it can also aggregate them to give the end result more value than each individual component.

If the EXP is not yet a market, it is in any case a proven need and that will be enough for me. Especially since the mere fact that Microsoft is coming in loudly will soon make it a market.

In short, it doesn’t matter if it’s a market or not, the question is to know if it makes a difference. For this we have to ask who is legitimate to exist on this segment.

What does an Employee Experience Platform do and who is legitimate in it?

Assuming that an Employee Experience platform aggregates data and services, all those whose job is to provide these services or to aggregate data are legitimate. This may seem obvious but it is not without consequences.

Service providers of all types? The list is endless. From the “usual suspects” like Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle, Salesforce to the thousands of startups whose products have finally found their place, big or small, in the enterprise.

Aggregator? We will think of the usual suspects of the portal market like… Microsoft but also Liferay, Acquia… But the portal is a thing of the past. Gartner has introduced the notion of “Digital Experience Platform” in which we can legitimately think that we find the legitimate candidates to the “Employee Experience Platform”. This allows us to add to the list of Adobe, Sitecore…

In short, it’s such a diverse market that almost anyone can legitimately get a foothold in it. But I will put forward three categories of players:

First of all, as we said, the leaders in Digital Experience Platforms (DXP): like Adobe, Sitecore or Acquia. Note that for Gartner Microsoft is not part of it in 2020 while it was inevitable in the “old” portal market.

Then those who “own” the data and services and are legitimate to aggregate them. SAP, Oracle but also Microsoft and many others.

And logically those who have both…. and in my opinion this is the trend that the market has taken.

Microsoft offers mainly communication and collaboration services and strangely enough this is the direction Viva is taking even if the solution can integrate “systems of records” next to “systems of engagement”, a domain where Microsoft reigns.

But I can easily imagine Oracle or Workday arriving tomorrow with an HR-oriented EXP, SAP with a finance-oriented EXP…and that’s exactly what happened with Oracle Journeys.

I bet you that, if the Employee Experience Platform market doesn’t fail , you’ll see all the big vendors coming up with their own vision of the EXP and we’ll end up with a lot of niches…the multiplication of which will be the opposite of the initial promise.

But in this game Microsoft has an advantage: they are everywhere and, above all, when only some employees use SAP or Oracle in the companies where their products are deployed, all use Microsoft. So if there is only one platform left to bring everything together, I bet on Viva! But I’m convinced that everyone will try to make their own EXP in their corner and that the HR department will want its “People” EXP, the marketing department its “customer and sales” EXP, etc…

In this game, note the winning move of Microsoft: non-existent (according to Gartner) in Digital Experiences Platforms, the Redmond firm succeeds with a well thought-out but not so innovative product to position itself as a legitimate leader in Employee Experience Platforms!

The important thing is not the EXP market…

There would be a lot to write and analyze about what the Employee Experience Platforms market will become and maybe I will do it one day if it is of interest. But for me, it’s just a tree that hides the forest.

I wrote a while ago that Viva was helping Microsoft to enhance the value of its own products by unearthing their dispersed and hidden value. And this is true for all vendors: you have products, data, nobody can find their way around anymore, you think that the potential of your products and the data they contain is not valued? If you know how to make a portal and think about it a little, you can make a convincing EXP. If you integrate with other tools than yours it’s even better. And that’s it.

The emerging EXP market will resemble the enterprise software market: a global horizontal leader, vertical leaders and that’s it. With Viva Microsoft has not revolutionized anything but just preempted a new market to keep its place.

For me, it is elsewhere that Microsoft’s initiative will have its effects: the “good old” market of collaboration and “systems of engagement”.

On this market Microsoft has only two theoretical competitors worldwide.

First of all, Google, which is admittedly a dwarf with 10% of the market where Microsoft holds 87%.

Then…Salesforce. Inexistent today but hoping to strike a blow with the acquisition of Slack whose only objective is to compete with Microsoft on its own ground.

Where are these two in the Employee Experience Platform market? Nowhere, but that’s not the point! With Viva Microsoft wants to become omniscient in the workplace, in the employee’s browser and, by preempting the entrance door to the work environment, prevent anyone else from surfacing in their preferred areas. In contrast to all the names mentioned so far, only these two want for one to compete with Microsoft on office automation and for the other to leave its business vertical and attack the collaboration market.

With Viva, more than conquering a new market (which we don’t yet know exists), Microsoft is just making sure that Google remains a dwarf in office automation and that Salesforce remains limited to CRM.

Viva: not a revolution but a brilliant marketing move

In the end, Viva does not revolutionize anything in a market that does not exist anyway. It just makes us forget its lack of recognition on the DXP market by creating the EXP category almost ex-nihilo. But we will have the opportunity to talk more about this market if it ever becomes structured.

On the other hand, by not allowing anyone else to occupy the coveted position of “the first screen you open in your browser”, it prevents Salesforce from challenging it in the collaborative field and exposes the weakness of Google’s offer and vision, which is incapable of being credible in the portal/aggregation dimension. Microsoft wants to remain the center of gravity of Systems Of Engagement and Viva will greatly contribute to this.

Putting two competitors in check with a product whose real innovation is in the accompanying speech and without seeming to target them head-on… that’s maybe what true talent is.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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