Monday, 06 April 2015 14:49

Microsoft Delves into Office 365

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Delve is a new tool for Office 365 users that offers Cortana-like capabilities to search and manage information, emails, meetings, contacts and social networks. Delve uses machine learning and artificial intelligence.

If that all sounds a bit confusing perhaps the best way to explain Delve is that it is like the business version of Cortana – your own personal assistant. It organises Office 365 (that’s the subscription only model for Office) content in such a way as to make linkages and view content relevant to you. In theory, it removes the need to search folders for files, email for emails, documents for content, videos, and contacts - and instead presents everything in a curated and logical format.

It also knows how you work with colleagues, what files you share, and tailors information for you.

Delve uses OneDrive (Azure) to build a map powered by Office Chart that is like a synaptic chart centred on you! Gradually via machine learning it can predict trends, remind you (and others) of unfinished work and more. No more ‘recent documents’ based on last saved date/time.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says ‘Office Delve is a prime example of how Microsoft is reimagining productivity to help people work in new and more connected ways. Delve is an experience within Office 365 that surfaces relevant content and insights tailored to each person. It is powered by the Office Graph, an intelligent fabric that applies machine learning to map the connections between people, content and interactions that occur across Office 365.”

Julia White, the general manager of the Office 365 team, wrote “Delve brings the right information to you proactively, saving you the time you used to spend riffling through email threads, asking around or looking for documents. Delve will eventually access all Microsoft products like OneNote through to chat tool Lync/Skype, plus other content sources, such as email attachments.”

We can take it that the new ‘open’ Microsoft will also include sources such as other cloud storage, CRM systems, Facebook, Twitter and much more.

Delve portends Office 2016.

Delve is a preview of features coming to Office 365 – 2016 version. While Office 365 subscribers get the latest technology, purchasers of Office 2013 and later 2016 only get the ‘snapshot in time’. These users will get security updates but not all the new features so a subscription model makes sense.

But it is more than that. Using calendar information, it can determine that a user has a meeting in four hours, what topics will be discussed, and who will participate. It can then collect relevant documents, files and information and display that in a dashboard.

It can also be used as a search engine accepting keywords and queries. However, Delve can also use preconfigured search filters to see, what's been ‘shared with me, liked by me, modified by me, viewed by me, presented to me and what's trending around me,”.

Opinion

Delve looks interesting – more aimed at collaboration in business but mainly as an interface to find ‘stuff’ and relationships between documents, users and much more.

It will increase productivity - if you let it. There is huge work in scanning the Internet to find a few relevant links. Delve should be good at aggregating and tailoring information and it could be a huge time-saver as it is connected to others who have similar business interests. It could be your most important personal information manager.

Office is one of Microsoft’s ‘pillars of success’. Continually refining and re-defining Office keeps it more relevant – and offers more reasons to users to keep signing up for Office 365 subscriptions.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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