Posey's Tips & Tricks
Delve for Office 365 Is Worth Your Time
The recent addition to Office 365 could become as integral to the enterprise as the Outlook client.
One of the things that makes cloud-based services such as Office 365 interesting is that providers are able to periodically introduce new features and capabilities. Sometimes, however, these new capabilities might initially go unnoticed. Users get used to doing things in a certain way and may not think to periodically have a look around to see if anything is new. Such may be the case for some with a new Office 365 feature called Delve. Microsoft talked about Delve at its Ignite keynote in Chicago. Throughout the remainder of the conference I heard several people say that they had been previously unaware of Delve's existence. I'm not saying that everyone is completely oblivious to Delve, but there seems to be a significant number of people who have yet to take a look at it. As such, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide a brief introduction to Delve.
The basic idea behind Office Delve is that Office 365 is a collaborative environment. Users might, for example, work together on a Word document. Similarly, there are some documents that may be of interest to a number of users across the organization. Delve attempts to expose the documents that will be of the greatest interest to a user at a particular moment.
In some ways, I think of Delve as a logical progression from SharePoint. Think about it for a moment. In a SharePoint environment, each user has a My Site that displays content that is unique to the individual user. Office 365 Delve does kind of the same thing. Delve, which is based on Office Graph, provides each user with a personalized view of Office 365 content. The content is organized in such a way that the user will hopefully see the data that is most important to them. This might include recently accessed documents, documents that have been shared with the user and data that is trending throughout the organization.
Office Delve can also be thought of as an enterprise social networking tool because it allows the user to connect with other users. A user can search on another user's name to see what that user has been working on. It is worth noting that although Office Delve is designed to provide a degree of transparency throughout the organization and to make collaboration with coworkers easier, it does not undermine a user's privacy or the organization's security. Delve respects permissions that have been put into place. If a user has marked a document as private then Delve will not allow others to access that document.
Although Office Delve does have similarities to SharePoint's My Site feature, functionally I tend to think of Delve more like the way that I think of Outlook. When I started my first writing gig back in the '90s, I remember my boss telling me that IT had already configured Outlook for me. At the time, I had never heard of Outlook so I asked what it was. She said that it was a portal that most people keep open all day because it contained e-mail and calendar items. Even after all of these years later, Outlook is still an application that people spend a lot of time in throughout the day. I envision Office Delve becoming the new go-to portal because it centralizes much of the information that is important to the user.
In case you are wondering, even the user's e-mail is accessible through Office Delve. Notifications at the top of the window display new messages as they arrive. Documents that have been e-mailed to a user are also exposed through Delve.
This brings up an important point. Office Delve is designed to display the information that is presently the most relevant to a user, but you may be wondering how Delve makes this determination. Delve watches what each user does within the Office 365 environment and uses user actions to find relationships to determine what content is the most important. For instance, if two users modify the same document, then that implies that the document is not only important (at least for today), but also that the two users who made the modifications probably have similar responsibilities within the organization. As such, Delve might show each of the users what the other is working on. Delve also takes cues from who each user sends and receives e-mail from, and from organizational relationships. For instance, some organizations populate the Active Directory with information about who each user's manager is, and Delve can use this sort of organizational chart data to find relationships.
Right now Delve is still relatively new, but over time I think that it will become a very important tool for users. Eventually I think that Microsoft will probably extend Delve to expose Yammer conversations.
Brien Posey is a 19-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.