What has a hazlenut in every bite? That’s right, a Topic from the British sweetie shop of yesteryear, and nothing at all to do with what’s near Tufty’s nest. Sadly discontinued last year, due to falling demand, there’s no accounting for taste.
Topics are still available today to users of Microsoft 365, as a way of curating certain scraps of knowledge that they can share with other users within the same organization. The very first version of Microsoft SharePoint (codenamed “Tahoe”) had a capability that aimed to do much the same thing – “Best Bets” were a way for an administrator to guide the search experience so that if someone ran a query for a term, rather than returning hundreds of old PowerPoint files that contain that word, it would take the searcher to a more official site.
Viva Topics – because everything is getting Vivafied just as in the days of Tahoe, every other product had Live and/or .NET in its name – is part of a growing family of “employee experience” offerings; it’s an addon to even the top flight
Office Microsoft 365 subscription, but adds AI-powered discovery as well as the means to manually curate things.
After deploying Topics and assigning licenses to the appropriate users, topic pages can be automatically created based on the documents that exist already – the Search and underlying Graph services can identify subjects that look like are active, with people contributing to them through documents, conversations and so on. Codenames or location names, for example, could be quickly identified and suggested.
A Knowledge Manager could also be assigned to create or approve new pages; individual users could be empowered to do it themselves, though that might end up in something of a mess. Best practice would be to have some kind of form or email-based request, where a user would ask for a topic page to be created and they would then own the content within.
Discovery is pretty easy – depending on how it’s set up, if the title of a topic is mentioned on a SharePoint site, it can be automatically highlighted on a pop-up card with which will give a summary of the topic, and a link to more the main page which contains furtherinformation.
Topic pages themselves can be full of useful info; a search for documents or other pages that the SharePoint environment behind the scenes considers to be related, as well as specifically curated sources of information, contact cards for the people who are managing the project or involved with the customer, links to docs or other websites etc.
Within Office apps like Word or Outlook, if the user highlights a word or phrase and chooses to Search for it, a sidebar in Office will run a search online and across internal sites for that word – this is avialable to everyone, with or without Topics deployed.
If Topics has been configured and the searched for term is a topic (or is one of the topic’s synonyms, or is otherwise related), then the user will see it fairly prominently in the search results.