Microsoft beefs up Office 365's Delve, aims to complete its rollout by May

Delve, the first application that taps the Office Graph machine learning engine, was announced a year ago

Microsoft has boosted the functionality of the Office 365 enterprise search and discovery application Delve, and expects to finish its rollout to commercial Office 365 customers by mid-May.

Announced a year ago with the code name Oslo, Delve is the first application built for Office 365's Office Graph machine learning engine. It's designed to analyze how people work on Office 365 and automatically make relevant data on colleagues and content easily accessible. It does this by linking to content via card icons in a dashboard interface.

On Monday, Microsoft said it will extend Delve over the next two months to all customers using Office 365 Enterprise, SMB, Academic and Government editions.

Microsoft started turning on Delve in September last year for Office 365 commercial customers that are on the suite's First Release "fast track" option for updates. It's now delivering it to customers in the Standard Release schedule.

When the rollout is complete, Delve will be available at no extra cost for customers of Office 365 Enterprise E1, E3 and E4 plans; Education A2, A3 and A4 plans; Government G1, G3 and G4 plans; and Business Essentials and Business Premium plans, designed for the SMB market.

Microsoft also announced that Delve is gaining the ability to analyze content within Exchange Online email attachments. The application will also soon be able to access content from the Yammer enterprise social network, as well as allow users to perform Yammer actions from within the Delve interface.

Using Office Graph, Delve processes and analyzes a wide variety of data and actions in Office 365, including documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, as well as videos in the Office 365 Video Portal. It also maps users' interactions with colleagues based on the number and frequency of communications conducted using Exchange Online and the IM and voice/video conferencing component Lync Online, whose name is changing to Skype for Business.

Based on what it learns about the user's work, it determines which files, colleagues, documents and data are most relevant and important at any given point, and displays links to them in a graphically rich, card-based dashboard. Delve provides this assistance in real time, so that users can prioritize their work and find the information they need as they participate in whatever work projects and tasks they're involved in.

For example, using calendar information, Delve can determine that a user has a meeting in four hours, what topics will be discussed and who will participate, so the application collects documents, files and information it deems relevant and displays the content in the dashboard.

Delve can also be used as a conventional search engine, into which users can enter keywords and run queries. However, Delve also offers users preconfigured search filters to see, for example, what's been "shared with me," "liked by me," "modified by me," "viewed by me," "presented to me" and what's "trending around me," which flags recent actions in Office 365 taken by relevant colleagues.

Microsoft has said it plans to continue extending the sources of Office 365 actions and content that Delve can analyze. There are even plans to give Delve access to documents stored in SharePoint on-site servers, Cem Aykan, an Office 365 senior product manager, said Monday. "There's a lot of demand for Delve to support hybrid architectures," he said, referring to customers that have Office 365 with SharePoint Online in the cloud, as well as SharePoint installed locally.

Microsoft, which made the announcement at its Convergence 2015 conference in Atlanta, also said that the technical preview of Skype for Business -- the next version of Lync Online -- is now available for evaluation, and that the new Skype for Business client, server and service within Office 365 will be available starting in April.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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