Microsoft's Delve: The Office 365 spy you just might love

Microsoft's latest addition to Office 365 for business monitors your Office 365 activity to curate content you'll find most useful

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Big Brother or the perfect butler, Microsoft's Delve is an intriguing new offering for Office 365 business customers. Previously known as Oslo, Delve brings a concierge, Instragram-like pulse to business environments, as curated by Office Graph, sophisticated machine-learning technology that maps relationships between people, content, and activity across Office 365 accounts.

Delve pulls content from within your organization's OneDrive, SharePoint, and Yammer accounts, serving it up to users in a card-based interface reminiscent of Pinterest. This may seem to some like Big Brother behavior, but that's an inappropriate reference. Delve isn't looking to control you; it's looking to assist you by noticing patterns of what you like and dislike. Think of it as the waiter who comes over to ask if you'd like another dirty martini. You don't snap at him because he's been "watching you"; you're thankful he's paying attention, regardless of whether you take him up on the offer.

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It's worth noting that Delve doesn't present users with information they don't have permission to view. It's not looking to tease them with items they can't access, nor is it looking to breach your Office 365 environment's permission settings. It simply aims to provide them with a pertinent mix of videos, links, documents, and so on, based on what they have found of interest previously.

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Credit: Microsoft

Office Graph, the engine that surfaces Delve's offers, fuels other Office 365 functionality. For example, it helps eliminate graymail in your inbox, the stuff that's not junk mail but not of primary interest -- say, an email newsletter you may have signed up for but seldom read. Office Graph notices this and begins putting such messages in the Clutter box within Outlook Web App and, no doubt, in vNext Outlook. Office Graph also uses its "intelligence" to help you prepare for a meeting in your calendar by pulling the latest information together into "prep cards." Groups of people you work with can be shown what's trending within the group, and it pulls content from outside the group.

Will Delve succeed in making your users more efficient and effective in their jobs? To be honest, I don't know. Personally, I like to reach out and locate my own content, or so I think. I admit that I often learn new and valuable information through Twitter and emailed link recommendations. But much of this influence is completely random. And there is real work in scanning through a ton of stuff to find the few links I might find of interest, only a handful of which prove to be interesting after I click. If Delve can do a good job tailoring and aggregating that view for me, it could be a huge time-saver, especially if it's connected to others within my company who have similar interests and focuses from a business perspective.

What does excite me is the fact that Microsoft is innovating here. Not everything "new" changes the world (just ask Google about Google Glass), but at least Microsoft is delivering new ways to enhance a solution that is gaining significant traction, all in Office 365. As Microsoft fine-tunes Office Graph in response to Delve's deployment on a larger scale, we'll see how helpful a solution that curates the data flood into a navigable river can be for businesses.

This story, "Microsoft's Delve: The Office 365 spy you just might love," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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