Delve, Office Graph must transcend Office 365 to be revolutionary

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Early adopters like Delve but recognize its current limitations

Delve has proven already useful in certain scenarios and contexts, and its potential to become much more powerful is clear. Right now, however, it’s far from being a “must have” essential tool. That’s the consensus from a handful of early adopters interviewed via email for this article.

“This will become my homepage on Office 365 very soon, but for now it is a ‘nice to have’,” said Benjamin Niaulin, SharePoint Geek at Sharegate, an ISV in Montreal.

“Finding my content is suddenly much easier with Delve,” said Martin Kleynhans, owner of Media Surge, which develops, integrates and hosts various types of sites and applications and is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Like Niaulin, Kleynhans is optimistic about its future. “As it grows and we share content, this will grow and people will start to leverage the functionality,” he said.

Elio Struyf, senior SharePoint consultant at Ventigrate in Belgium, recently switched jobs and Delve has helped him with the “onboarding” process.

“Delve really helps me to find relevant and important information, as well as connecting with my colleagues and providing insights of the work they are doing, focus areas and which projects [they are] currently involved in,” he said. “Another plus about Delve is that it proposes this kind of information: I do not have to search for it. That means that I can instantly discover the most popular information inside my organization. This makes it easier to learn the environment and navigating through it.”

He’s looking forward to the availability of the Office Graph APIs. “It will have a lot more potential once we start to look on how we can link other applications to it,” Struyf said.

He would like to have more control over Delve and more visibility into its inner workings. For example, he would like to be able to tell Delve it’s off base with certain information it displays, so that it’s not making the decisions purely on its algorithms. “It would also be nice to know why certain documents are appearing on the page. This could give you insights in why other documents are not being shown,” Struyf said.

Joel Oleson, director of search strategy at Boston-based BA Insight, which develops search applications and technologies for SharePoint, said that with Delve he’s more aware of activity in his company’s SharePoint environment.

“I’m now following more of what the company is doing across departments, not just in my area of focus,” he said. “I really find the discovery useful. It’s a great way to start my day when I’m trying to understand what’s happened since I last started using SharePoint.”

Oleson thinks Delve would benefit from more pre-defined search filters and faceted navigation. “I often get disappointed when the scroll stops. I think it would be great to have infinite scroll when I’m really doing research and want to see things from a time perspective.  If I’ve been away for a week I’d like to filter on the last week for example,” he said.

Like Struyf, Oleson would like the ability to manually fine tune Delve by telling it “to ignore certain areas” and he shares Gotta’s concern about the inadvertent exposure of information to people who shouldn’t be able to view it.

“I get worried about seeing invoicing documents in finance that I probably shouldn’t be seeing. I think there are some tweaks to security that will need to be made shortly. The better that search gets, the more it exposes gaps in permissions and security,” Oleson said.

Meanwhile, Laco Vosika ,director at Becloudsmart, a reseller and implementer of Office 365 and other cloud software in Perth, Australia, is already eager to tap Delve via mobile devices, whether via native apps or via a mobile browser version.

Microsoft has big, long-term plans for the Office Graph technology

When asked how Microsoft envisions Delve and the Office Graph working when they’re fully developed, say a year or two from now, Cem Aykan, product manager for Delve at Microsoft, indicates that the temporal outlook of the question may be too limited. “It’s an ongoing journey,” he said.

Because Delve and the underlying Office Graph are cloud services, they will be continually tweaked and extended in an organic way, and decisions on what features to add or change will be based largely on user experiences and feedback. The plan for the Office Graph is long term, Aykan added, so Microsoft will continue improving it five years from now and beyond.

“It’s hard to say exactly what will happen a year or two years from now,” he said.

What’s clear is that Microsoft plans to deepen the Office Graph’s access to additional content and user behavior signals from Office 365 and other on premises and cloud software from Microsoft. In addition, Microsoft plans to roll out APIs so that the Office Graph can interact with on premises and cloud applications from third party vendors and developers.

“We’ll have a very strong extensibility scenario,” Aykan said.

But he’s quick to point out that, even at this stage, “we’ve got a great start for our Office 365 customers,” meaning that Delve and the Office Graph are already proving themselves useful.

Microsoft also plans to add more controls for end users, so that they can tag and categorize content from within the Delve interface, as well as alert admins about files whose access rights settings need to be adjusted. There are also concrete plans to provide access to Delve via mobile devices through support for mobile browsers.

In the end, the goal of Delve and the Office Graph is to help people do their jobs better, faster and more efficiently by providing them with the information they need to complete their tasks and projects.

“Everyone today is dealing with information overload,” he said. “It’s a constant struggle for users.”

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