Monday, February 16, 2015

Delve – Cloud First Realized

Jesse Murray, SVP, Employee Experience

What is Delve?

Office Delve is a new way to discover relevant information and connections from across your work life. Delve displays information that is most relevant for each person based on the work they are doing and the people with whom they are engaging.  With Delve, information finds you versus you having to find information.”

“Now, we are taking the next step by making it easier to organize all the valuable content that gets surfaced in Delve. We are excited to introduce a new feature in Delve called boards that help you organize content, so it’s readily accessible and easy to share with others.”

Indeed, Delve is a new tool to enhance social discovery and productivity, a different way to help consumers get work done faster. But what does that really mean and how did we get here?

As far back as I can remember, SharePoint has been known for two key things; sharing and collaboration. To me that’s what makes the addition of Delve so important to the overall Office 365 experience. No longer comfortable to live with the victories of yesteryear, Microsoft is pushing the envelope of innovation with social discovery and productivity.


A Bit of History

Before we get to Delve, Oslo, Office Graph and Boards, we first need to review where we’ve been to get a better understanding why Microsoft created these new features. First, we’ll look at what was happening with social market leaders Facebook and Yammer.


(October 29, 2012) Yammer Announces the Enterprise Graph



(January 15, 2013) Facebook Introduces Graph Search


Clearly both Facebook and Yammer (often referred to as Facebook for the enterprise) were on to the same concept here; social data could provide a stronger discovery capability than page views. This represents a potential seismic shift in how people discover other people, conversations and documents. Rather than focus on keywords and page views (Google) or refiners (Amazon) to enable search, this new idea would leverage a person’s connections and activity to determine search relevance.

At about this same time the Microsoft world was coming together at the SharePoint Conference and talking about SharePoint 2013 and Office 365.Microsoft boldly proclaimed a Cloud First approach going forward with fixes and new features released to Office 365 not only first, but regularly. Many of the attendees, yours truly included, were counted as skeptics that such a shift would happen as we were being told, but generally hope prevailed that we were on the verge of something big. To be in the best position to witness the changes firsthand I became an Office 365 vTSP in February 2013.

That hope had to be tempered in the reality of the moment.SharePoint 2013 and Online were gaining amazing search capabilities courtesy of the previous FAST search acquisition, providing arguably the best Enterprise Search technology available within SharePoint, bringing an Amazon and Google style solution to Microsoft customers. Also during this moment, Yammer and Facebook were creating an entirely new approach to discovery. In retrospect, this use case has been the best example of a Cloud First Microsoft.


(March 3, 2014) Work Like a Network

(March 11, 2014) Introducing Codename Oslo and Office Graph


Leveraging the learnings of Yammer’s Enterprise Graph, Microsoft introduces the Office Graph and the user interface known as Delve. It’s fifteen months from the initial launch and Microsoft has worked through a laundry list of fixes and enhancements before Delve is announced. Keeping in mind a normal SharePoint deployment cycle, we are still well within the 3-4 year release schedule of the on premise versions.



(September 8, 2014) Office Delve Launch Milestone

Fast forward six months from announcement and we’re at the Delve and Office Graph launch, SIX MONTHS! Even considering the internal Microsoft dogfooding this is one of the better example of a large and expansive feature making it into production in a short period of time. Social relevance, signals, connections, cards and a mobile friendly design all focused on improving the ability to discover the right content.



(January 7, 2015) Introducing Boards for Office Delve

Fast forward a mere four months and we have a seemingly small addition to Delve with large implications on how we collaborate with others and teams. Drawing inspiration from Pinterest boards among others, the ability to quickly aggregate content into Boards and share the content with colleagues provides a simple and quick way to get work done. Consider the following user stories already created by Rightpoint teams

· Sales pursuit support- quickly create a board for all relevant previous sales materials scattered across numerous SharePoint sites and OneDrives. Rather than create copies the pursuit team can quickly create a Board

· Practice Sharing – Need to pull together the best examples for a new javascript library, quickly create a Board, tag the content and share the Board on Yammer for discussion


Final Thoughts

I am pleased to say that my skepticism back in 2012 was entirely unwarranted. The Microsoft development engine is humming now in a way that I’ve not witnessed since the nineties. Direct integration of user feedback into the development cycle, rapid release schedules and the focus on a cloud first and mobile first approach is yielding more impactful products more often. I continue to be an Office 365 vTSP and look forward each day to “what’s next”!

The rapid pace of innovation does have consequences, while new features are more readily available the need for communication and change management within an organization is becoming all the more critical. The role of SharePoint Administrator is morphing into SharePoint Change Manager where a focus on user communication and knowledge creation is key.

Delve and Office Graph are a new approach to an age old problem, how to connect people to the content, knowledge and people they need to get their jobs done. Simpler yet powerful tools can help but the world is not one size fits all. Combining the new with the old is your best strategy for success but that is post for another day.


What Should You Do Now?

Try it for yourself - Introducing Office Delve to SharePoint Online

Just go do it, it doesn’t bite and you might find something useful!

Join the community - Office 365 – Yammer Group - Delve

Never, EVER, have we had such direct lines of communication with product owners and champions. Want to know why something works the way it does or how something works then simply join the group and ask.

Share your opinion - Office User Voice

Just can’t keep your thoughts inside and hope everyone else is doing it the way you want? Great, join Office User Voice and either propose enhancements or vote up other proposals. I’ve already seen this actually result in product changes which is an amazing cultural, let alone procedural, change for Microsoft.

First Previewer- Thrill Issues or Trial Tenant

Do you need to be the first to know what’s going on? Maybe First Previewer is for you! Seriously though, these always coming new features may be cool but they are preview for a reason. Often times you’ll see major changes to features before they are rolled out broadly. The just preview released mail attachment feature below is a great example of something that is pretty cool and disruptive. Also keep in mind this new feature showed up less than ONE month from the Boards release.