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What is Microsoft’s Search Strategy? Are they as confused as I am?

Microsoft’s search strategy is somewhat unclear, at least to me. Office Graph uses artificial intelligence and borrows from the FAST search technology. This is the basis for the Clutter feature in Outlook that lets users remove low priority emails. It is also the basis for Delve, which is a business social tool. From within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, Bing is used to provide a tool called Insights with a ‘Tell Me’ search feature from within the basic Microsoft applications. Many organizations would find this confusing, and one wonders if improvements and management of the results would require additional support personnel to address each search option. I would have to believe organizations would prefer not to put together pieces of the search puzzle. Adding on-premises to the mix, becomes more complicated.

These factors can present challenges to Microsoft, although organizations want accurate and relevant search, they don’t want to spend money or time on it, would like a plug and play environment, and take the burden off the end user to find what they are seeking. Unfortunately, Office Graph, even though combined with FAST needs to learn the interests of each individual, which will delay the effectiveness of search across the organization, and ultimately Office 365 adoption. The primary stumbling block is going to be the issue of end user tagging, as Office Graph uses the metadata added automatically or by the individual. Delve is going to be very confused considering how poorly users tag content.

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To Delve or not to Delve? The jury’s still out.

Delve is a dashboard like interface using machine learning and artificial intelligence (using Office Graph) to display the most relevant information of interest to you, based on your work, and of those in your network. Delve indexes and analyzes emails, meetings, contacts, social networks, etc., and presents this information as cards. Rather than having to search for something, Delve tries to automatically and intuitively put it in front of you. Some may not like the overly intrusive approach of being presented with data, but others will see it as a huge time saver. It is important to note that Delve integrates with Exchange, and OneDrive for Business from the individual personal blog page within Delve, and Yammer, with more content sources planned. Integration with iOS and Android was recently announced.

According to Mark Hachman, Senior Editor of PC World in an article “A revamped Microsoft Delve looks like a corporate mashup of Facebook and LinkedIn, he wrote, “it’s looking more like a corporate-sponsored mashup of Facebook and LinkedIn—with likely the same self-editing effect that friending your parents on Facebook would inspire.” He continued, “also note that Delve is only as good as the people who use it. Case in point: IDG uses Office 365, but an early attempt to nurture conversations on Yammer failed miserably. Each group and even publication had already settled on their own collaboration solution. One of two things needs to happen for Delve’s profile pages to become a hit: Either HR must be able to auto-populate them with your information, or the corporate culture must encourage its use. Otherwise, your Delve profile could be a wasteland.”

As stated above, for Delve to be readily and willingly adopted, its success is solely based on participation by organizational users. This is not just a Microsoft challenge. This is a business challenge as social applications typically fail because of lack of end user acceptance, even when sponsored by management. It will be up to the individual organization to decide if Delve is a help or a hindrance. Microsoft has a huge challenge ahead, as Delve currently works with some Microsoft products, but the optimal solution is to provide integration with a vast number of third party Microsoft applications and non-Microsoft applications, which is still years away.

 

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