How Microsoft is Changing Delve and Graph MSIgnite

Office Delve and Graph are works in progress: some things are done, but there's a lot more to do, Microsoft execs conceded at the Ignite conference in Chicago yesterday — even as they boasted of the speed of development.

Over the coming months we’ll see a lot of activity around connecting enterprise teams, the development of ‘Boards,’ the panes on which Graph information is displayed and the mobile experience, including the release of a Delve Windows Universal app.

For the uninitiated, Office Graph is a framework and platform that provides data based on user identity and user activity. As Ram Tagher, product manager at harmon.ie, has explained, "It is not something that a user will access in itself, it is a big dataset and a framework to help make that data available to other applications," including Delve.

Connecting Silos

Based on the overflow crowd at the Ignite session on Delve, these's strong interest in the product. Cem Aykan, Senior Product Manager for Office Graph and Delve, Fredrick Holm,  principal program manager for Delve and Ashok Kuppusamy, partner group program manager, led the session on the vision and roadmap for the products.

Office 365 pulls together Microsoft’s productivity apps into a signal suite, Graph and Delve break down the siloes that separate theses apps and makes the information easier to use. This is the founding idea behind Graph and Delve, and will also be the principal that moves it into the future.

It's all part of Microsoft's push to "reinvent productivity." By making all the content in the Office 365 apps searchable and discoverable, workers will more easily be able to accomplish tasks, they claimed. 

"We don’t just work in email. We switch around different tools. We share. We collaborate. We have conversations in social and Yammer. We store files in OneDrive and different team sites and we are constantly switching between theses apps," Aykan said.

But because these apps were engineered to stand alone, they don’t know what the other one is doing. "And every time you change apps, you have to set the context again," he said.

This is more than a technology problem: it is also a hierarchical and business culture problem. Just like our apps, teams are siloed as well. But more and more we are working with other teams, pulling subject matter from other teams, using experts for different teams and pulling them into our teams. And just like the apps, information is soloed in the teams, he added.

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Delve page

Graph Connections

Graph sits behind these different apps. Using machine learning principals, it is intended to learns over time what is relevant for the user, who the user works with and the users’ most important subjects. To those ends, Microsoft is developing new capabilities for Graph and Delve including:

Groups

With Graph, enterprise users can find both individuals and groups through Delve’s search and discovery functions. (Search is for information you know exists, discovery is for finding and connecting to information that you don’t know exists.)

Currently users have to go and find information manually. But by tying and linking groups, it will be able to pull the joint knowledge of groups together and make them visible to each other. 

Visual Preview

Think of the visual preview as a postcard with all the information about a person or team represented on it. Using the feedback from clickthroughs on the visuals, Kuppusamy said people pay a lot more attention and click through more often when there is a visual representation.

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Delve panel with Office 365 information circled

In January, Microsoft unveiled Boards for Delve. You can use boards to group together and share related documents. Everyone in your organization can view and contribute to an existing board or create a board— but they can only see and open documents they have permission to access.

Delve is also starting to pull signals from Yammer into Office Graph so that users will be able to discovery conversations that are shared in Yammer. This means that you can add conversations to Yammer by commenting on the panes in Delve.

In the future, Yammer will also start to benefit from Graph. It should make better recommendations based on the recommendations from Graph as well as display trending documents and trending groups.

Extensibility

Graph is more valuable when it has more connections. To develop those connections, Microsoft has just announced a couple of new APIs that will allow enterprises to connect to on-premises deployments or line of business applications.

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With the release of SharePoint 2016 next year, any content that is in the on-premises version will be pushed into Graph, which will always live in the cloud.

Another major initiative that is still only being developed and will be released at an unspecified date in the future is the new organizational chart, which includes a dashboard view of your work-life balance.

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The above image is only a prototype. But when it is finished, it will provide sights into how much time you spend doing what kind of work. There will also be a new tab that will provide insights into your communications across Office 365.

For mobile, the Android app that was released in April went global on Monday, and the iOS app will follow soon. Delve will also be made available on wearables at some point in the future.