2014-17-October-Sidecar.jpgWhen Microsoft showcased the power of Office Graph through Project Oslo, the Microsoft partner community collectively wondered about extensibility and API access. But as with many Microsoft products, it will take the greater partner community to push Office Graph into the mainstream.

To explore this dynamic, I spoke with Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Harmon.ie, to discuss the Microsoft Office Graph reveal and how it will impact the Silicon Valley-based software developer and its product line.

That Harmon.ie sees the promise in Office Graph is no surprise. As Microsoft has shifted towards better UI and UX in their consumer products, many of the business solutions have begun to follow suit. Office Graph provides organizations a unique way to engage its users by parsing through the vast arrays of information silos. Mr. Cohen recognized that Office Graph "consolidates services into one experience" and that this "shows a philosophy which is relatively new at Microsoft."

Since the initial reveal, Microsoft released Office Delve (formerly Project Oslo) and has begun to slowly roll it out to the Office 365 community. Office 365 E1-E4 and several of the small business plans will begin to have access to Office Delve in early 2015.

Harmon.ie, Powered by Office Graph

How will the partner ecosystem push Office Graph into the mainstream? Harmon.ie's pre-Office Graph foray into mainstreaming a Microsoft product was bringing Yammer social interactions into the Harmon.ie integrated interface. But with Office Graph, there are more possibilities to present data to users from disparate systems in engaging ways. Partners will be targeting non-Microsoft systems when it comes to extending the out-of-the-box capabilities. For Harmon.ie, integration with Salesforce.com is a top priority.

Cohen's real world example of what this integration could look like in practice should resonate with many: You're a sales professional with a weekly meeting to cover open opportunities in Salesforce.com. Your organization is a Microsoft shop, so there are documents stored in SharePoint, conversations happening in Yammer and no doubt an ungodly amount of relevant email stored in Exchange. With Office Graph this information can be easily unified with signals from Salesforce.com related to a given opportunity. In a world where the concept of efficiency is pursued by managers with an unhealthy zealotry, Office Graph should not disappoint.

Let's put the focus on mobility for a moment. For adoption rates to be high there must be a common experience on desktops, phones and tablets. The social collaboration workforce demands a single-screen experience that today’s mobile enterprises need to start delivering. Enterprises need to combine the depth and familiarity of all of Microsoft’s collaboration tools and business apps into a cohesive, easy-to-use and secure mobile experience for phones and tablets. These capabilities simply aren’t native, but the concept is fully supported by Harmon.ie. Its mobile-friendly product line delivers a streamlined, single-screen experience. This is often a challenge with so many people using Microsoft-unfriendly devices.

Now We Wait and See

Harmon.ie is betting big on Microsoft's vision with Office Graph. Partner response to Office Graph is sure to be strong, and response from Microsoft's business customers to the release of Office Delve has been positive. Office Graph was one of the most popular topics during the unveiling at Microsoft SharePoint Conference earlier this year, and interest should continue up through its availability in 2015.

Microsoft will be paying close attention to customers' usage once Office Delve is fully rolled out. For this to become a game changer for the platform, it has got to be able to attract users today. The promise of a better world for users needs to be instantly obvious and not something that’s still at arm’s reach. If Microsoft can convince users that Office Delve is where you should “start your day,” then it will have proven that this isn’t just another gimmick to sell Office 365 subscriptions. It could very well end up being Office 365.

Title image by Thomas Helbig (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC 2.0 license