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Last month, Microsoft introduced Delve, built on top of Microsoft Graph. Graph joined people across the enterprise in a single, unified… well graph. But Delve offered those connected users a way to find each other.

There is a lot of reason to be excited about it, especially for those who have been following the Microsoft One strategy.

That strategy was further clarified by CEO Satya Nadella’s Mobile First, Cloud First mantra. But it wasn’t entirely clear for those outside the loop what Delve is and where it came from.

To clarify this we asked Cem Aykan, senior product manager for Office Graph and Delve.

The Delve Challenge

So what is Delve? Simply put, Office Delve personalizes all the content that exists across your Office 365 applications. It is built on Office Graph, which analyzes user metadata from the Office 365 environment (Yammer, SharePoint Online, Lync and Office Online) and relates different kinds of content to each other.

At this year’s SharePoint conference in Las Vegas, Jared Spataro, general manager of enterprise social at Microsoft, introduced Office Graph and challenged users to “work like a network.” 

The payoff in this case is the ability to identify signals, trends, relationships, social connections and content that relate to each other through a number of different "Views." The result: a user experience that is richer and contextualized for every single worker that uses it.

In July, Bill Ryan, a social and collaboration business consultant for enterprises, analyzed the background and technology behind Delve

He drew a parallel between the Internet of Things (IoT) and what he describes as the Enterprise of Things, a concept of a unified enterprise that has hitherto remained elusive to most organizations.

He points out that by using the metadata created by activities in Office 365, Delve enables users to create cohesive pictures of what users do and how it relates to others — the so-called connected enterprise.

Graph shows you how you and your colleagues connect with documents and one another, who you work with, and how your colleagues connect, while Delve helps you find and surface those content relationships.

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Tying Content Together

But this is only the beginning, Aykan said. At the back of it is the idea that all content and all applications in Office 365 needed to be tied together in such a way that all the different elements are, in effect, one. If you look at any set of productivity applications that e-workers user today email, file share, enterprise social, real time. He explained:

If the only thing in the world that you were using to communicate with colleagues was email then you could just install email and off you go. But the chances are that to get your job done you have to switch back and forth between applications (in Office 365). But because these applications were destined as standalone, they were never really designed in such a way as to pass information from one to the other to find content making it very difficult to find everything you might need to complete a task."

He cites the example of a document that you know exists, but you don’t know where. It could be in any one of your enterprises repositories, but because you can’t search all at the same time, there’s a good chance you won’t find it. He explained:

Maybe it’s in Outlook and if it’s not there maybe it’s in a file share. If it’s not there it could be in Yammer or SharePoint. Users trying to find material also have to switch between a whole pile of difference documents, and that’s the first real pain point."

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Personalizing Information

More and more information is being produced, way more than the capacity of humans to track and monitor, creating deeper and more complex relationships that are creating more and more complex information inter-relationships, he said. These relationships are just about impossible to manage unless, he said:

You personalize the information experience. That’s where the information applications we use need to be personalized by adding context to focus on the things that really matter to us. That’s what’s behind Office Graph. Using machine learning principles to understand your interactions, to understand the content that you care about, and to follow the people that you interact with so that you learn overtime based on the interactions that you are following."

It is technology layer that sits behind Office 365. It looks at Exchange, it looks at Yammer and it looks at all the applications you use and learns over time what it is that is really important to you.

Building on Graph

Associating trends, content and people with Graph, and finding those connections to build relationships with Delve is only the beginning, Aykan said. Once the insights and information has been found you can build applications on top of that information. "With Delve and Graph we are building on the belief that instead of having to look around from information you should be able to find it in a much more efficient way. I think that’s why experiences are becoming more proactive and personalized, because this is the most efficient way to find them," he said.

To create those personalized experience, Microsoft has developed Delve, which is a search and discovery tool. He added:

When you talk about search you are talking about something that you know is there but you don’t know where it is. Because Graph connects across email, SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer or any of the other applications you now you have a single search tool that can look across the entire Office 365 experience. Discovery is a lot different. It has to happen serendipitously. Today discovery means a lot of manual work. You have to look through a huge number of files, you have to ask your colleagues for the latest information that is available on a given subject. A  lot of times that you don’t even know that there is content that is relevant to your work out there and to get it you are depending on other workers spending extra time either sharing it or sending it to you."

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Delve: Default search

Hence the importance of machine learning for Delve. If the machine is learning from users’ actions in Office 365, it is learning about personal preferences or subjects that matter or things that the user cares about or users to complete tasks.

The result is that it can show what is important using connections across the graph provided by Office Graph to surface the most relevant topics and content that exists in the enterprise. "Delve offers you all kinds of views of this information," he said. "It has the ‘Whole View’, it has the ‘My View’ and it has the ‘My Shared with You’ view, all of which surface insights depending on what is needed. We have seen from the early roll-outs that users are discovering content in the ‘Whole View”’ that they didn’t even know existed and that’s every beneficial."

The result of this universal content discovery is that is that instead of stuffing content into a single file cabinet, or repository, enterprises are able to get more value from their information by making that information available across the entire organization. Currently, for many enterprises, that is not possible today as content, to a large extent is still siloed and away from useful work.

API’s In The Future

One further point worth noting and which points to the future of Graph and Delve and their place in the Microsoft ecosystem is that Microsoft is already developing new API’s for the extension of both into other applications. He told us that a graph is more valuable if it has more connections, so Microsoft is going to start to expose more APIs for our partners and for third-party systems like CRM (Customer Relationship Management systems). He noted:

This means that any application it is tied into will benefit from easier information retrieval. Over the coming months we will be exposing those APIs and I think that as early as 2015 we will see them come to life. In fact we like to build the APIs first then the other kinds of applications on top those APIs so that everyone can take advantage of those applications. The APIs will be able to surface content from on-premises, for third-party applications and for hybrid scenarios."

It is early days yet for both Graph and Delve, but already the signs are there that its role in the Microsoft portfolio will be crucial. It also looks like we won’t have long to wait to see what happens with it and what integrations or applications are built around them.