Making Sense of Office Graph and Delve

Delve panel on ITUnity2

This week, ITUnity hosted several webinars (including mine) and an online panel event on the topics of Office Graph and Delve. Called the “Delve Days of December, if you missed any of these events – don’t worry, they’ll all be made available over on ITUnity within the next week, with links, additional content, and conversation on these topics available here. The image above is from the panel this morning…with some slight embellishments…which included myself, Dan Holme (hosting the discussion), Albert-Jan Schot, Joel Oleson, Cem Aykan (from the Delve and Office Graph at Microsoft), Erica Toelle, Jeff Shuey, Naomi Moneypenny, Mikael Svenson, and Waldek Mastykarz.

This is technology that is still in development and with much work to be done before mainstream customers will embrace it fully, but if you’re wondering about Microsoft’s future roadmap, understanding the Office Graph is the right place to start your investigation. Everywhere you turn you can find introductory content about Office Graph and the first “productization” of this technology, Delve. A number of partners and experts have even been hard at work developing solutions based on it, such as Waldek’s company Mavention. Think of Office Graph as the highway infrastructure in a city, and Delve as the first automobile produced to use those roads. Clutter, the new “catch-all” folder or filter for email, is another vehicle that takes advantage of this powerful search-based technology.

The panel today was an opportunity for the community to ask questions about Delve and Office Graph from a group of people who have been using and extending the technology since the preview release became available. I thought I’d add onto that discussion by answering some of the most common questions that we’re hearing in the community:

Q: What is the Office Graph?image

A: Office Graph is a search-based utility that uses machine learning to identify content and data that is important to you based on a number of signals. Office Graph looks at content belonging to you, but because it also understands your management, peer, and direct report relationships, it also surfaces content that is relevant to you through these relationships. It learns from your activities, drawing on content that is presented to you, Liked by you, previously viewed by you, shared by your connections, and content that is receiving a lot of attention from your social network. Of course, like everything in the SharePoint and Office 365 world, you only receive signals for content you have permissions to view. Office Graph creates a web between you and the content around you, understanding the context of each piece of content to what is important to you. And it learns from your activities, changing what is presented based on your usage patterns. Due to the massive computing power needed to maintain and traverse the Office Graph, it is a cloud-only technology.

Q: What’s the difference between Office Graph and Delve?

A: As I mentioned above, Office Graph is the underlying technology, like paving roads and highways for easier travel. Delve is Microsoft’s first use of the Office Graph technology to deliver a user experience. Of course, there are partners who are extending Delve – but also those who are going directly to the Office Graph APIs to create their own user experiences. Delve is exclusively available through the Office 365 platform, and is in preview mode as of this date.

Q: What is the initial Delve experience?

A: When you sign up for the preview, it can take about 24 hours for Delve to populate with your content. And to be honest, the initial experience can feel very lackluster. Just remember that the content and data it draws from today is limited to primarily Microsoft Office-based artifacts that reside within team sites on Office 365 and within OneDrive for Business, but also takes signals from Exchange and Yammer to help add context to that content. However, as you shift some of your SharePoint collaboration over into these locations, you begin to see the power of the Delve solution. In fact, many people are making Delve their home screen inside of SharePoint, which helps them to quickly assess what is happening within their organizations and improving the sharing of information with their teams.

Q: Why won’t Delve work with my on premises SharePoint environment?

A: Microsoft has stated that they plan to create cloud connectors to SharePoint on premises, but has not yet provided a timeline other than within FY2015. But according to product team members, these connectors will allow you to connect to SharePoint 2013, 2010, and even 2007 environments. The Delve experience itself will remain in the cloud, but for organizations with hybrid platform strategies, being able to access these legacy SharePoint environments (as well as their file shares and other critical line of business applications) will make adopting the cloud a much more viable options for these companies.

Q: How does Delve fit into my social collaboration strategy?

A: While the preview version of Delve does not yet include conversations from Yammer or the new inline social capabilities, Office Graph uses these social interactions as signals to help filter and put into context the content that it serves up within the user interface, personalized to your experience. For organizations that have a strategy in place to move from purely document and email-based social interactions to a more “hip” and “now” experience, it makes sense to take a look at the preview and keep up to date on what Microsoft is working on so that you can modify your plans as new features become available. 

Q: What kind of innovation will we see from the Office Graph technology?

A: As the technology progresses, we’ll see more and more signals and content categories included in the Office Graph, and surfaced through Delve. I can envision a Delve experience that includes public social conversations being surfaced on my home page based on the relevance of the discussion to my current project. Or I find the content relevant to open actions within a workflow going to the top of my Delve screen, helping me to be more productive and focus on the critical tasks on my schedule, or having to do with the meeting I am attending next. As I mentioned in the panel event today, my background is in project and port
folio management systems, and the potential for automation and innovation around task management is very exciting, as are the possibilities for personalized mobile experiences.

imageQ: How do I get started with Delve and Office Graph?

A: Microsoft will begin rolling out Delve to customers in January, so if you’re using Office 365 and do not have Delve, just give it a few weeks. If you are on an Office 365 E, A or G plan and signed up for Microsoft’s Office 365 First Release program, then you should already have access. Within Office 365, go to the new App Launcher at the top left of your screen and select the Delve icon to get started.

I hope this information is useful. For more on Office Graph and Delve from a social strategy perspective, my webinar covered the business perspective of Office Graph and Delve, and how they fit into your overall social and productivity strategy. The slides may not make as much sense without the narrative, but you can review them below, and I’ll share the recording via social networks once it has been made available over on ITUnity.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.