CMSWire Op-Ed

Microsoft's latest updates for Delve include people-based search and discovery, a new Office 365 page authoring tool and mobile apps for Android and iOS.

But Alastair Mitchell, president, CMO and co-founder of  enterprise collaboration vendor Huddle, isn't too excited. Even with all the recent enhancements to the Delve universe, it’s still behind the times.

Of course, he's speaking as a competitor. But he does seem to make some valid points.

Falling Short

Intelligence is a mega trend in enterprise software this year. Users demand better ways to find the content they need and interact with the people.

However, Microsoft's approach continues to fall short with this latest release, Mitchell argued. For one, Delve is still a standalone product.

"Intelligence should underpin everything in the background of a collaboration platform, not stand by itself apart from the software it tries to make easier to use. Delve is also falling to the same mistake that hit Yammer by confusing social and intelligence. And a blogging capability? How very 1990!" he said.

To put this in context, Huddle offers products to enable collaboration in the enterprise, securely and rapidly, and Delve is part of Microsoft’s wider collaboration strategy built around Office 365. You see where Huddle is coming from on this?

2015 4 15 Office 365 authoring tool.jpg

Microsoft Delve’s Upgrades

Microsoft has been building out Delve for about a year. Office Delve personalizes all the content that exists across Office 365 applications.

It's 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. The idea, as Jared Spataro, general manager of enterprise social at Microsoft said at the time, is to enable enterprise workers “work like a network.”

Last night’s release aims to build out Delve even more with three additions that, according to Mark Kashman, senior product manager for Office 365, will enable workers surface the knowledge and experience of colleagues easier and more effectively.

1. People-based search and discovery

The look and feel of Delve has been updated to help users find, connect and collaborate.

2. Blogging

This new authoring feature enables enterprise workers to write blogs in their profiles around subjects that interest them, as well as offering the ability to post those pages to Yammer. This will automatically create user-friendly and readable URLs. Because it is embedded in Office 365, it allows users to embed documents from OneDrive for Business and videos from Office 365 Video.

3. Mobile Apps

The new apps for Delve mobile apps for Android and iPhone enable users to connect, discover and share information on the go. And that’s not all. According to Kashman, Microsoft is already developing the profile information feature.

"We will continue to refine the overall Office 365 profile experience, introduce a method to nurture your network via public kudos, provide ways to pull in additional profile information from trusted sources and machine learning insights, and enable customization of the profile experience via add-ins and public APIs,” he wrote in a blog.

Search, Discover, Limitations

However, this may not be enough. Earlier this month, Stuart Cochran, CTO of Huddle, explained what the fundamental problem with Delve, as far as Huddle sees it, actually is.

They still talk about Delve being a way to search and discover content and our experience over the past two years is that information workers or knowledge workers, don’t really want another way to search and discover content. What they need in our opinion is that content is automatically made available to them without them having to do anything at all."

There are also a number of other fundamental challenges that Delve faces, Cochran said, including the fact that it only works in a Microsoft environment. "Of course they talk in the future that they will open it up and provide APIs. But they will have to do that because people want to work with the productivity tools they need and are used to and a lot of those productivity tools have their own cloud, storage, back end, and you need to be able to work alongside those and that’s our opinion," Cochran said.

The updates will roll out to all Office 365 commercial customers. Those with Exchange Online plans will only see the core Office 365 profile page layout.

The new apps will initially be available only in the US, Ireland and Norway.

What Do You Think?

So are these updates a sign of innovation — or a throwback to the past? Does Mitchell have a point, or are his complaints simply unenthusiastic musings of a competitor? Weigh in on the comment section below.