In 2021, Microsoft took over the startup Ally.io (based in India and the U.S.) and turned it into Microsoft Viva Goals. This resulted in a seemingly solid OKR software for companies that already feel at home in the Microsoft landscape.
In this article, we will take a look at whether Viva Goals is really suitable for OKRs. In doing so, we’ll take a closer look at Viva Goals’ most important features, as well as its strengths and weaknesses.
What to expect:
- What is Viva Goals?
- What are the most important features of Viva Goals?
- What users say: Viva Goals reviews
- What are Microsoft Viva Goals’ strengths?
- What are MS Viva Goals’ weaknesses?
- Conclusion: When is Viva Goals suitable for OKRs?
What is Viva Goals?
Viva Goals is a management tool from Microsoft that allows companies, teams or individual employees to create, track and edit goals.
Microsoft itself describes it this way:
A goal-alignment solution that connects teams to your organization's strategic priorities, unites them around your mission and purpose, and drives business results.
OKRs play a central role in this process. Viva Goals is designed to integrate OKRs into everyday work – in Microsoft Teams or other applications from Microsoft Office 365, for example. The tool is designed to link employees’ daily tasks to the organization’s strategic direction and vision: simply put, employees set their goals in Viva Goals and work together to achieve them. Management monitors progress and provides feedback.
💡Reminder: OKR (short for “Objectives and Key Results”) is an agile framework for formulating and implementing strategic goals in companies that consists of three core elements:
- Objectives: What do I want to achieve?
- Key Results: How do I know that the goal has been achieved?
- Initiatives: How do I achieve the objective?
As a rule, 2 to 4 Objectives are formulated per team and 2 to 4 result-oriented Key Results per Objective. The output is then mapped in initiatives (= concrete activities). More basic knowledge can be found in our OKR guide.
Viva Goals is one of nine modules of Viva – Microsoft’s (still quite new) Employee Experience platform. Its purpose is to improve communication with employees, their work experience, and their well-being by integrating relevant knowledge into the company’s daily work processes. To be more specific, Viva makes additional content and services available via Microsoft Teams. For example, the intranet, training, or even goals or OKRs.
What are the most important features of Viva Goals?
The most important features of Viva Goals include:
- Create and manage goals
- Monitor progress
- Integrated templates
- Alignment at all levels (e.g., with different pages for goals)
- Integrations (e.g. to project management tools)
Create and manage goals
In Viva Goals, all employees can enter their own Objectives and specify deadlines, responsibilities and priorities. The Objectives are then either worked on individually or shared with the team. Key Results and initiatives are simply created as sub-elements to the Objectives.
Employees can track how far they are along the path to achieving their goals in real time. Each Objective in Viva Goals is provided with a status indicator. Both the actual and the expected value are displayed. Actual progress is determined when Key Results are updated either automatically (via an integration) or manually (by the users).
The status indicator is color-coded so you can quickly see if the OKRs are still “On Track” or already “At Risk”. Automatic Alerts remind you (if activated) when a target needs attention or is at risk.
OKRs can be created from scratch in Viva Goals or entered into integrated templates. This makes it easier to get started. There are also customizable presentation templates to share progress and insights with the team.
Alignment at all levels
In Viva Goals, various types of goals can be created:
- Individual goals
- Team goals
- Corporate goals
The OKRs can then be organized into different dashboards for each of the goals. This enables alignment across all levels. Employees not only have their own goals in view, but also those of their team and the company goals. In addition, authorization workflows and different views (e.g. as a diagram) can be set.
Viva Goals can be integrated with popular applications such as Microsoft Teams, Outlook and SharePoint. This allows users to view and update their OKRs without leaving the app. For example, using the chat extension for Microsoft Teams, employees can share goals.
What users are saying: Viva Goals Reviews
Before we take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of Viva Goals, let’s take a look at what real users have to say about the tool. Overall, the ratings on Capterra and G2 are in the solid midfield. However, there are some issues that could be improved. Here are some votes on the most common issues:
Limited customization options available
„… the platform can sometimes be slow and unresponsive, causing frustration and impeding progress. The platform lacks certain functionalities, such as setting recurring goals and advanced goal-tracking options. It has limited customization options available for goal tracking and progress visualizations.“
Review on G2, Antony, February 2023
No OKR-specific training
„Just getting people in general to understand the OKR thinking. I wish the training for it was integrated into the platform to make it easy to learn.“
Review on G2, Verified User, April 2023
Reporting could be better
„I think the dashboarding capability to report on these goals can be better.“
Review auf G2, Verified User, April 2023
The program does not load
„… for some reason Goals keeps booting me back out. Downloaded it. Based on previous demos decided to purchase a subscription. Followed the instructions … and it refused to give me access. Repeatedly. Support for it essentially told me to try again. Endlessly. Support isn’t supporting anything if you can’t contact anyone and it just says to try again. Very disappointed. “
Review on G2, Verified User, October 2022
✔️ What are the strengths of Microsoft Viva Goals?
For companies already working with Microsoft and looking to get started with OKRs, Viva Goals can offer a few advantages:
- OKRs are tracked in a familiar tool and integrated into the daily workflow. This can help small businesses and teams get started.
- Employees can share their goals with colleagues. This strengthens team collaboration and provides transparency.
- OKRs and deadlines are displayed clearly, making it easier to prioritize tasks and use time effectively.
- Employees have the opportunity to define personal goals that are in line with company goals.
❌ What are the weaknesses of MS Viva Goals?
When it comes to mapping goals for teams and companies at a strategic level as well as rolling out OKRs on a large scale, Viva Goals quickly reaches its limits. While the tool has some basic functionality for working with OKRs, it lacks many important features and benefits:
Flexibility and customization
Viva Goals is based on the OKR framework and offers some useful features, but the platform is hardly customizable. Thus, teams are forced to adopt the predefined methodology and terminology. In the worst case, this can lead to OKRs not being adopted.
➡️ The solution: a flexible OKR software that can be completely customized.
Mooncamp gives companies complete freedom to implement their individual processes and terminologies (e.g. North Stars or BHAGs). For example, users can add their own properties (e.g., priority, stakeholder) to all goals as they wish, create new types such as tasks or initiatives, and use their own company language. Overall, Mooncamp flexibly adapts to the OKR process in the company, not the other way around. Every imaginable property can be created and customized in Mooncamp.
Service and support
Viva Goals is just one of many products at Microsoft. Technical support and help pages are available. However, the tech giant cannot offer the close support that is necessary for a successful OKR rollout. As a corporation, Microsoft will also not be able to directly consider and incorporate feedback on the product.
➡️ The solution: Support from a team of experts who live and love OKRs.
Mooncamp’s team of product and OKR experts has been involved in and shaped hundreds of OKR rollouts in companies of all sizes and industries. Each and every client is closely supported by a team of experienced OKR experts and certified OKR process owners. This ensures that the OKRs are successfully rolled out and accepted by the employees. The feedback from this support in turn flows into the continuous development of the software.
Viva Goals offers integrations to applications such as MS Teams, Azure DevOps, SharePoint and ZenDesk. It is already part of the Microsoft infrastructure and therefore fits seamlessly into it. The application is therefore suitable for smaller companies that already fully rely on Microsoft products. But when it comes to large companies, the tool lacks flexibility, specialized support and important functions (more on this later). The topic of integrations is thus not a weakness in itself, but it is also not that great of a strength.
➡️ Because: There are also OKR software that offer comprehensive features and integrate just as seamlessly with Microsoft applications.
Mooncamp has the most mature MS integration on the market and feels like a one-stop shop because of its seamless embedding with Microsoft Teams, Outlook and Microsoft 365. This allows teams to manage their OKRs directly in Microsoft Teams: via a tab in the application, users can create new OKRs, update existing OKRs, switch between cycles, or add custom views. In addition, Mooncamp offers further integrations (e.g. to Excel Online, Salesforce or Asana), full flexibility and a number of important features that are essential for a successful OKR implementation (more on that shortly).
Supporting the OKR process with planning sessions and check-ins
In Viva Goals, OKRs can be managed, but the entire OKR process cannot be mapped. For example, there is no separate “playground” for OKR planning sessions. The capabilities for creating check-ins – probably the most important element in the OKR cycle – are also limited. This complicates the handling of OKRs and leads to problems especially when OKRs are to be scaled within the organization.
➡️ The solution: a tool for the entire OKR process.
Mooncamp is specifically designed for working with OKRs and provides support throughout the entire process. There are dedicated areas for planning where OKRs can be designed and discussed amongst the team and the entire OKR process can be clearly tracked through the feed.
Mooncamp also offers integrated check-ins with fully customizable templates for different use cases. Automatic reminders via MS Teams, Slack or email ensure that everyone does their check-ins. Additionally, check-ins can be livened up with quotes, images or GIFs. Updates to the goals can be commented on directly or reactions can be added – for example, to celebrate successes or clarify open points. All this makes working with OKRs easier and more enjoyable.
Analytics and dashboards
Viva Goals offers limited analytics options. Although there are some options to create different review dashboards. However, no completely individualized reports can be created. Diving deep into the data and analyzing the process is consequently not possible to the extent that would be necessary for a successful OKR rollout and the continuous development of the OKR system.
➡️ The solution: fully customizable dashboards with powerful analytics.
Mooncamp offers a wide variety of dashboards and views as well as diverse analysis options. The most flexible variant are the freely configurable Custom Dashboards. They can be used to visualize all kinds of data. For example, a company cockpit with vision and mission statements, a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) or a departmental overview can be created using them.
In addition, Mooncamp also provides a Progress Dashboard and a Health Dashboard. The Progress Dashboard shows the progress of all goals, grouped by teams or employees. The Health Dashboard provides an overview of the status and quality of all OKRs.
In general, you can set any filters in Mooncamp to get new insights. For example, besides responsibility and status (e.g., at risk, on schedule), you can also filter by teams, progress value (e.g., only ≤ 50%), or type of goal (e.g., Objective, Key Result, Initiative).
Visualization and advanced features
Viva Goals also offers limited options when it comes to visualization. OKRs can be displayed in the three classic views: as a list, in quick view or as a diagram. Depending on the view, certain actions are available and more or less information is displayed.
➡️ The solution: different views and a customizable rule system.
Different views provide new perspectives in Mooncamp: With the goal-tree view, all employees get an overview of the entire corporate strategy. This provides an extra dose of transparency and alignment.
In addition, a completely customizable rule system can be created in Mooncamp. This allows companies to decide for themselves how the hierarchy of their OKRs should be structured or which progress measurement types are allowed. Incorrectly aligned goals are highlighted immediately so that they can be corrected quickly.
Conclusion: When is Viva Goals suitable for OKRs?
The bottom line is that Viva Goals is well suited for smaller companies that feel at home in the Microsoft landscape and for whom flexibility, customizability, specialized support and detailed reporting are not important.
However, Viva Goals is not sufficient for rolling out and scaling OKRs in larger teams and companies in the long term. For this, important functions and a team of experts that supports the process are missing. For companies that have ambitions for OKRs, it is best to take their first steps in familiar tools such as Excel and then go straight for specialized OKR software, which is completely flexible to customize and offers comprehensive functions.