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Office Graph or Delve?

Back in September Microsoft started rolling a new offering call Delve, a new user experience for Office 365 customers. If you don’t see it yet, be assured it is still on its way, Microsoft simply staggers the deployment of releases like this. Delve is based on Office Graph, which in turn is based on the Yammer Enterprise Graph. This can be confusing, what is the difference between the three? There is quite a big one, which we will look at in this post.

Office Graph is a framework and platform that provides data based on user identity and user activity. It is not something that a user will access in itself, it is a big dataset and a framework to help make that data available to other applications.

Delve is one such application, indeed it was first application to be built on the Office platform. There are already a couple of third party apps available, just browse the Office Store and search for “Office Graph”. Microsoft is also slowly creating additional applications. It has just released a ‘de-clutter’ tool for users of Office 365 mailboxes, to help clean up inboxes. It uses Office Graph data to analyze emails to see what content is used most regularly and how.

Delve is a fairly full-featured demo of what Office Graph can do, a showcase application demonstrating the ‘art of the possible’ for Office Graph data. Microsoft has said that Delve and Office Graph are among its greatest innovations since SharePoint itself. As a result, customer expectations are sky high.


The Yammer Enterprise Graph

In 2012 Microsoft acquired Yammer and made it available in SharePoint as an alternative to the standard SharePoint Social features. Around the same time Yammer announced their Enterprise Graph. The Enterprise Graph surfaces the information based on the Yammer network and activity of a user e.g. following a user, uploading a document, publishing a post, joining a group - all this will form the Yammer Enterprise Graph dataset.

Microsoft clearly felt Yammer was an attractive purchase for both its social tool, and this Enterprise Graph technology. The Office Graph builds on the good work already done at Yammer and goes several steps further. It combines the data from Yammer with the wealth of data from Office 365 e.g. uploading documents and creating sites and libraries in SharePoint, attending meetings via calendars, sending e-mails from a mailbox - all this information goes into the Office Graph.


A new search experience

One task that almost all users perform in Office 365 is searching for documents. This can often be time consuming. One of the biggest complaints of any Intranet or document management system is that people cannot find documents, no matter how good the taxonomy or search engine. Wouldn’t it be amazing if an application presents documents to the user before they have even searched for them? Delve wants to do this.

Delve tries to show documents to the user that it thinks they will need, before they know they need them. For example, when a user has attended a presentation, Delve knows this and will show the presentation to the user - it will pull documents out of emails or meeting invites. Similarly, it knows when multiple users are collaborating on a document, and will ensure that document is always front and center.


Third party data

It is important to note that Office Graph, and subsequently Delve, only look at and consider Microsoft data. That is because Office Graph is only indexing activity within Office 365 itself. It does not consider the wider set of business systems in use across many companies.

This idea of a ‘federated’ activity stream, pulling in non-Microsoft data, is something think is very interesting and we are addressing in our new Collage product. For the first time all of our applications will include a unique ‘workstream,’ allowing users to follow a wide variety of activity updates in a single consolidated user experience, filtered by topics that are automatically generated by Collage, from the data itself. And this is just the start, future iterations will add additional cloud services, and additional context filters.


An exciting future

In the past, intranet sites and document portals were rather static. Users had to find documents based on a taxonomy or folder structure. With the introduction of intelligent social tools like Office Graph, and applications like Delve, users have a whole new way of approaching content and search. Our own Mobile and Email applications also offer new dynamic ways to automatically stay up to date with activity across a range of systems and networks. These are the first steps towards a future where information comes to the user, instead of them having to pull information out of the system. Exciting times indeed.

Ram Tagher
Product Manager