Five ways Microsoft Office Graph pervades Office 365 services

Machine learning applications in SharePoint 2016 and other Office 365 products will have a big impact on future employee efficiency and data interaction.

Today's enterprise employees are wasting precious time navigating mountains of digital data. Microsoft will soon offer a technology for users that will change the way they interact with data through Microsoft machine learning. The answer is provided through a digital personal organizer that presents users with content that is relevant to them. So how would end users take advantage of these new capabilities?

Microsoft announced Office Graph, an engine that uses machine learning, to identify relevant content based on user interactions. This innovation provides new insights that enhance end-user experience when interacting with mountains of corporate data. This is achieved by exploiting the data that Microsoft has access to within its servers and applying specific algorithms that can detect relationships and statistics that promote content as relevant to specific users at a specific time.

Microsoft Delve, part of Office 365, is the visualization web-based technology that enables users to interact with the information Microsoft Graph deems significant. It can identify content that is trending and relevant from SharePoint and OneDrive for business. The Delve platform has not seen a steady growth in adoption despite its wide availability to Office 365 subscribers, but things may change significantly now that advanced machine learning has been applied to it.

As part of Microsoft's effort to help end users become more efficient, the company is moving Microsoft Office Graph capabilities into various services other than Delve. Here are five key reasons highlighting how the features of Microsoft Office Graph will change the way we interact with data in Office 365:

  1. Microsoft Office Graph's intimate knowledge of Office 365 users. Microsoft continues to expand the services available within Office 365, transactional information about when, what and where; email messages; tasks; appointments; and document interaction's data will grow. By storing that information, Microsoft can perform key analyses and provide insight into end users' behavior throughout an organization. This information is extremely valuable to individuals, their managers and key business leaders, because it can identify crucial behaviors that can unlock hidden patterns of successful individuals or identify wasteful activities that should no longer be performed.

  2. Microsoft Office Graph is intelligent. One of Microsoft's cloud services is its machine learning hosted within Azure, Microsoft's platform as a service. This service enables business analysts or data scientists with the ability to analyze information, detect subtle patterns and discover insight from data. With this powerful engine, Microsoft ensures that systems such as Microsoft Office Graph can also harness the machine learning applications to further advance the platform.

  3. Microsoft SharePoint Insights 2016 to leverage analytics and cognitive computing capabilities. The release of Microsoft SharePoint 2016 will introduce several new features. The new capabilities range from a native mobile app to the new Power Apps capabilities. One enhancement that has been included in the new feature is smarter content promotion that leverages machine learning and Delve. SharePoint 2016 can recommend documents and sites that are more relevant to the logged-in user based on intelligent algorithms. This capability serves up, proactively, valuable content to users and will make users far more effective in interacting with content that is deemed important to them. In addition, the upgrade will include new and advanced reports around document usage and compliance. The reports will be centralized under a new section called SharePoint Insights that will be designated for administrators.

  4. Microsoft Office Graph is extensible. Another area of interest for organizations looking to create customized experiences through integration with Microsoft Office Graph is the extensibility and availability of a software developer's kit (SDK) and API for the platform. Developers can query Microsoft's Graph with a new Graph Query Language (GQL) to request information around the following requests:

    • Retrieving all documents trending around a specific user.
    • Sorting items recently modified by the time that they were last modified.
    • Sorting co-workers based on projects and items they work on in tandem.

    With more commands that can be submitted to Microsoft Office Graph via GQL, organizations are able to capture more insight into how users interact with each other as well as with digital content within SharePoint and other Office 365 services.

  5. Microsoft delivers productivity dashboards as a result of usages of multiple services. An additional aspect of using machine learning and Microsoft Office Graph is its implementation of a personal productivity dashboard, as seen in figure one.

    By analyzing the end user's interactions with the different Office 365 services, Microsoft is able to provide some key insights into how users manage and spend their workdays. The product is called Delve Analytics -- available in Office 365 plan E5 -- and it provides a number of key indicators based on interactions with the following hosted Microsoft services:
Microsoft Delve Analytics dashboard
Figure one: A dashboard featuring Delve Analytics.
    • Email messaging and other activities
    • Reading patterns
    • Most frequently interacted with individuals
    • Focus hours
    • Hours spent on email
    • Hours spent on meetings
    • After-hours' work
    • Key contacts for the week
    • Lapsed contacts
    • Interactions with manager
    • Reply rate
    • Read rate

      From an end-user perspective, the capabilities available in Delve analytics are accessible to users via Delve and OWA as shown in figure two.
Microsoft machine learning analyzing user behavior
Figure two: Delve analyzes users' behavior and work patterns.

Based on some of the new uses of machine learning in SharePoint 2016 and Delve Analytics, Microsoft is demonstrating that it is looking to push beyond just standard services that competitors offer. Introducing functionality that provides insight into end users' work habits proves to be a strong selling point for anyone still considering staying on-premises or with other competitive options. SharePoint 2016 has also proven to be a relevant upgrade for those users with reservations about moving to SharePoint 2013. In order for end users to benefit from these capabilities, IT would need to plan out the adoption of the different features in a way where user acceptance is higher.

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