Information overload is plaguing organizations of all sizes. Employees get lost in the jungle of available content, failing to find relevant results to their queries in the tangled thicket. The result? Loss of user adoption, engagement and most importantly, loss of trust.

Improving findability therefore becomes critical for any organization to tackle. But before you start, you need to do a reality check: what content do you have, how is it stored, how is it being used and who are the key users. Just as critical is to understand what you don't have — yet.

For those in a Microsoft 365 environment, a systematic review of your content and information architecture may point to a gap in knowledge management. Viva Topics in Microsoft 365 can be a valuable tool to contribute to your organization’s knowledge management journey — provided it's implemented, used and governed well.

SharePoint Syntex and Microsoft Viva: What's the Difference?

Vendors offer a number of tools and options to prevent organizations from the critical failure of information overload, including:

  • Auto-tagging and auto-classification.
  • Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Intelligent search.
  • Knowledge graphs.
  • Any combination of these.

Microsoft also competes in this market, which is why it invests so much into tools like SharePoint Syntex and Microsoft Viva. While both tools are both important, they serve different purposes:

  • SharePoint Syntex uses AI and ML to automate content processing. The engine can be trained with Models and Entity Extractors to automatically label content by various keywords.
  • Viva Topics, one of the four modules of Microsoft Viva, uses AI to extract topics from Microsoft 365 content and organize content around these topics, such as projects, products, processes and customers.

While organizations can use both tools to improve user satisfaction with content findability and usability, there are a couple of significant differences in how to implement these tools, too.

SharePoint Syntex uses machine learning. In this case, you have to create and prepare the training sets manually, as well as the entity extraction models and rules. When that's done, SharePoint Syntex tags the proper documents in place.

Viva Topics uses AI to understand content stored in Microsoft 365, extract topics from it, and organizes content around these topics. There is no need to train the system in advance and prepare training sets either — it learns from existing content and applications. What you can do is curate the topics once they are extracted and available in the Microsoft Viva Topic Center.

These tools are both essential to enhance the content in Microsoft 365. Users will be able to find the content much easier — by using search but also, by getting content delivered to them in context. This way, users can access the content they need when they need it, where they need it.

Related Article: Is Viva Topics the World's First Topic Computing Solution?

Learning Opportunities

How to Get the Most Benefits from Syntex and Viva Topics

Sounds promising, no? But as always, the big question is what is the reality.

How much SharePoint Syntex and Microsoft Viva Topics can benefit your organization depends on a couple of factors.

  • The quality and quantity of documents in the training set for each SharePoint Syntex model need to be enough for extensive usage. Don’t forget: it is you who trains the engine on your content — and negative examples are as important as positive ones. Prepare your training sets with care and involve the subject matter experts in your organization early.
  • Entity Extractor models for SharePoint Syntex also need preparation in collaboration with the business stakeholders. What to extract and where that information can be found in various types of documents have to be defined throughout.
  • In Microsoft Viva Topics, a process and governance must be established for topic curation. Responsibilities have to be assigned to subject matter experts, who can make decisions about the accuracy of each topic, edit the topics and keep them up to date.

Planning and preparation are critical to success with these tools, but ongoing maintenance and governance are also essential. As the organization changes and grows, content also evolves, and tools like Microsoft Syntex and Viva Topics will need to keep up with these changes.

Times when a large volume of content is being added to Microsoft 365 — for example, during content migration or a company acquisition — require extra care. Remember that new content might change the content characteristics, too, making the old training sets incomplete and outdated as a result.

So on top of your regular reviews of SharePoint Syntex and Viva Topics, special attention is needed to a few areas during and after content migration, including:

  • Update and refresh SharePoint Syntex training sets as needed.
  • Update and refresh SharePoint Syntex entity extractors as needed.
  • Curate new topics and changes with special attention in Microsoft Viva Topics. Create new topics when needed.

Related Article: The Rise and Fall of Microsoft Search

An Aid Against Information Overload, But Not a Magic Wand

The Microsoft 365 ecosystem has become one of the most popular collaboration platforms in organizations around the world. However, with as its usage increase, so too does the volume of content, creating new challenges. SharePoint Syntex and Microsoft Viva Topics can be valuable tools to deal with these challenges — however, these tools are not magic wands. You need to invest when introducing them in your organization and maintain and govern them over time to get the maximum benefits.

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