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Microsoft Viva gets OKR, shining a light on a niche HR tech

Microsoft is adding an objective and key result -- or OKR -- application to Viva, its employee experience platform. OKR is designed to improve business alignment.

Microsoft Viva is getting a fifth module, Viva Goals, an objective and key results application to help firms keep track of their goals and objectives. Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform that launched last year and includes personalized learning, knowledge discovery, productivity and communications tools.

Microsoft Viva customers will get the objective and key results (OKR) module as an addition to their existing subscription, the company said. Announced Monday, it will be generally available in the third quarter of 2022.

OKR technology may have less than 5% market penetration, said Matthew Cain, an analyst at Gartner. But Microsoft Viva may increase company usage of OKR. "Certainly, when Microsoft enters any market, that market gets more attention," he said.

The OKR technology came from Ally.io, a firm that Microsoft acquired last fall.

OKRs are "a goal-setting technology that helps employees see how their individual and team contributions align with larger organizational goals," Cain said. He said they provide transparency into who is working on what and help ensure accountability that work is getting done.

Using Viva Goals requires commitment from managers, according to Seth Patton, general manager of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Viva.

"It's a tool that only achieves the results if you have great managers who know how to use it and curate it," Patton said.

Requires collaboration

"In some ways, OKR is more work," Patton said, because it requires collaboration and goal agreement. "You're not going to have lazy leaders with this -- it requires leaders to lean in and adopt this," he said.

But the payoff for firms that adopt OKR will be "better organizational alignment and resiliency, agility" and "the ability to move quicker into new projects, new opportunities, new product areas," Patton said.

Along with better business results, Patton said he believes -- based on Microsoft's data -- that OKR will lead to higher employee engagement. The higher engagement results from "people feeling like they understand why their work matters," he said.

Gartner's Cain said OKR capabilities "are particularly important as most organizations move full time to a hybrid work environment," he said.

In a hybrid environment, managers may "feel that the move to flexible work patterns may lessen organizational alignment and insight into how work gets done," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

The Microsoft Viva OKR application
A view of the Microsoft Viva Goals OKR application.

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