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Delve, Office Graph must transcend Office 365 to be revolutionary

Juan Carlos Perez | Sept. 23, 2014
Microsoft faces a long, bumpy road to extend the info discovery app and machine learning engine.

People can also use Delve as a more conventional search engine, querying it with keywords. But Delve features some nifty search filters which users can just click on to see, for example, results for what's been "shared with me," "liked by me," "modified by me," "viewed by me," "presented to me" and even what's "trending around me." The last one informs the user about recent actions in Office 365 taken by colleagues who are important to him, either because they report to him, or he reports to them, or because they belong to one or more of the same groups in SharePoint or Yammer, for example.

Big open questions for Office Graph and Delve
To deliver at this ultimate level, the Office Graph and its applications would need access to a vast universe of Microsoft and non-Microsoft business software, hosted on premises and in the cloud. Currently, the Office Graph, as presented in the early version of Delve released two weeks ago, is limited to some Office 365 components. So there's a long road ahead to broaden the Office Graph's currently narrow scope.

Building a graphing engine to cover Office 365, other cloud and on-premises Microsoft business software as well as a critical mass of third-party applications and systems is not only a gigantic engineering challenge, but will also require a generous API extensibility platform from Microsoft and a willingness from other vendors to cooperate with the effort.

"Delve is likely to be a sticky app because it lets you find your stuff, see who is working with whom and on what, which topics are trending and so on. So it's valuable from a personal productivity point of view and can improve the way people work in teams by giving them a clearer situational awareness," said Mike Gotta, a Gartner analyst.

However, the bigger question looms around APIs and Office Graph access to systems beyond Office 365, he said. "I may spend a portion of my day in Office 365, but also in or SAP or another software," Gotta said. "Those should also go into the Office Graph."

And then there's a potential problem that could intensify if and when the Office Graph grows larger and stronger: pushback from users who find this stealthy technology creepy and intrusive, and become suspicious that it could be ripe for management misuse and overreach.

"How will employees react when all they do is monitored, tracked and analyzed?" Gotta said. "The technology is going to be hard, but there will also be cultural obstacles."

In enterprises where employees and managers haven't always been diligent about setting appropriate access rights settings for documents and files, it's inevitable that Delve will inadvertently expose information to people who shouldn't be seeing it, Gotta predicts.


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