Microsoft Viva Sales edges onto Salesforce’s turf by connecting CRM data

With the launch of its new Viva Sales product, Microsoft is hoping salespeople will spend more time in Teams than Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, and that the real value in the CRM market will come from connecting data across its customer tools.

An image of Viva Sales

Viva Sales connects customer data across communications and CRM systems centered around Teams and Office.

Image: Screenshot of Viva Sales

Microsoft is ready to talk about its new Viva Sales product, which connects customer data across communications and CRM systems centered around its Teams and Office products.

Microsoft isn’t the first to try this idea: Salesforce acquired Slack in part to beef up its communications tools for salespeople. But Microsoft isn’t looking to compete more directly with Salesforce; rather, the company said it is trying to fill the gaps left behind by traditional CRM systems.

“We definitely think people benefit from a CRM system,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, in an interview with Protocol prior to the announcement. “The difficulty is, a lot of what's happening between a customer and a salesperson is actually never recorded in the CRM system, because it's just too tedious,” he said.

With Viva Sales, teams can automatically sync data between communications applications like Teams and Outlook, and their CRM system, whether that’s Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 or Salesforce’s Sales Cloud. It's arguably a similar play to the Sales Cloud and Slack integration, where Slack conversations can be added to the CRM, and account information can be plugged into Slack.

From Microsoft’s point of view, however, the advantage of Viva Sales is that it’s already integrated with Microsoft Teams and Outlook. Much of the reason why companies like Salesforce buy companies like Slack is to achieve the same level of integration, but it can be harder when trying to blend two different code bases.

Viva Sales builds on Viva, an “employee experience platform" Microsoft launched last year as a new take on the old idea of an employee intranet. In launching Viva Sales, Microsoft may not be trying to replace Salesforce, but it's definitely trying to get salespeople to spend more time inside Microsoft’s applications and less time inside Sales Cloud.

The launch of Viva Sales isn’t just about sales, however. Microsoft also has a broader vision to provide a layer of intelligence across its entire Office 365 suite. The strategy, demonstrated in part via Microsoft Graph, is the cloud giant’s strategy for moving beyond the underlying enterprise resource planning tool toward the type of workflow play heralded by ServiceNow.

This approach represents a strategic shift for Microsoft, Spataro said. In the past, the company’s go-to-market strategy was to tell customers to pick between Microsoft Teams and Zoom or Dynamics 365 and Salesforce. Now it’s changing its tune: Pick any product, and Microsoft will provide the intelligence on top.

“The most significant thing about this announcement is we are saying … choose whatever you want to choose — what we actually think will be most valuable over time will be the layer of intelligence that binds it all together,” said Spataro.

Spataro likened the enterprise software industry to a city: built from the ground up. If Azure, AWS and GCP are its foundations, then SaaS applications and workflow are its roads and buildings.

“People will keep putting money into sewers and roads and stuff like that,” he said, “but a lot more money goes into the hardware put on top.”


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

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The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

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Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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