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Delve Analytics: Big Brother or Fitbit for the Enterprise?

Delve Analytics: Big Brother or Fitbit for the Enterprise?

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Let's face it--we all are presented with challenges within the workplace to maintain effectiveness and efficiency. Within a typical work week, it can become extremely difficult to carve out enough time free of meetings or distractions to focus on key deliverables. It seems like an important text message, phone call or email always arrives to distract us, and then we are left trying to remember what it was we were working on in the first place!

With the dizzying pace at which work is completed in today's age of collaboration, the question should be posed: How can we measure our organizational effectiveness? By that I mean, how do we spend our time at work communicating? From a company perspective, how can we synthesize the multiple ways our employees communicate and spend time? How are goals set within the organization, tracked and ultimately measured to provide validation? What is the organizational health of the company?

A Gallup poll recently stated that 47% of time spent in meetings is unproductive, and that workers typically spend 28% of their time triaging email. These numbers definitely ring true for me! When you add up all this wasted time throughout the week, months and years, it becomes easy to see the need for an intelligent system that can provide insight into our day-to-day.

Enter Microsoft's organizational productivity feature within the Office 365 suite called Delve Analytics. I’ve heard many people relate Delve Analytics as the “Fitbit for the enterprise."

What is Delve Analytics?

With Delve Analytics, Microsoft makes the argument that time and relationship are highly predictive of major business outcomes like sales, performance and overall employee engagement. So, by examining key signals of employees, you could predict the percentage of chance to meet sales outcomes, for instance. Interesting thought.

Back in September 2015, Microsoft acquired organizational analytics leader VoloMetrix to help harness the power of machine learning by leveraging the Office Graph. With this acquisition Microsoft is hoping to carve out its own niche within the organizational productivity market.

The main thrust of Delve Analytics is to help gain control of how you invest time during the workday. How many hours a week that you spend in meetings or how long it takes to respond to emails are data points that are already reside within your Exchange Online mailbox. The insight that Delve Analytics produces through custom dashboards is the way in which all these different data points are presented in an insightful and actionable way. Delve Analytics will capture information about emails, meetings, collaboration, the amount of time spent working to focus free of meetings and time working after hours.

A unique feature that Delve Analytics brings to the table is the ability as a meeting organizer to see how relevant your meetings are. For instance, how many attendees send email to recipients outside of the attendee list during the meeting? How many hours a week are spent in meetings or sending email? How many people actually read emails that you send? The answers to these questions produce actionable data through the Delve Analytics dashboard that will allow you to make decisions on where you may choose to invest your time.

You can see a demo of Delve Analytics here to evaluate the potential within our own organization.

How does it work?

Many of the actions that each user takes within Office 365, such as opening and responding to an email, are stored within the Office Graph database. Using machine learning, the Office Graph is able to connect many of the dots we would personally miss to create a tailored health assessment. The Office 365 Unified API is able to parse through the information and surface data points of interest. Right now, the Microsoft Graph learns by indexing email, files, Skype and Yammer conversations to contextualize the end user experience through a predictive algorithm. This service examines signals from a users’ mailbox and calendar behavior. The end result is a detailed costing of process and relationship for each user through the use of Delve Analytics.

Requirements

The Delve Analytics feature leverages an E5 license for all cloud-based users within an Office 365 tenant. One thing to keep in mind is that on-premises Exchange mailbox activity is not captured by the Delve Analytics algorithms, nor is a hybrid approach supported. Only cloud mailboxes within the same tenant are surfaced, and the initial discovery phase to produce actionable data typically takes several weeks. With Delve Analytics, you don't just turn it on and start sorting through reports.

Should we be concerned?

Microsoft has ensured us that the data is scrubbed and does not link to specific users within the reporting dashboard, but rather provides the ability to connect behavior to outcomes. The majority of information that Delve Analytics yields is based on your own actions but can includes insights from what other people are doing within the company. Each person has the ability to turn on or off Delve Analytics for his or her mailbox. The team at Microsoft has also stated that in addition to the anonymized data, Delve Analytics will further protect privacy by ensuring that information about teams is provided only if the group is large enough to protect individual users from being singled out.

Conclusion

It seems that Delve Analytics provides a strong first step to enable users within the enterprise to help improve overall productivity. Turning on and managing Delve Analytics also seems a bit easier than leveraging IBM’s Watson, the cognitive machine learning platform. Much of the information that Delve Analytics surfaces (such as how long it took you to respond to a message) is available publicly already, but presenting the information within a portal view provides a new sense of self awareness. I see this as insight that most executive teams utilizing the Office 365 suite will be interested in.

With the release of Delve Analytics, Microsoft is clearly asking whether your organization's health is fit enough. What is your answer?

Justin Harris is a Microsoft Certified Master on Exchange Server and a Microsoft MVP for Exchange Server.  Justin is a Principal Solutions Architect with Binary Tree where his primary responsibility is designing the next generation of migration products. Justin can be found on Twitter at @ntexcellence or on the web at http://www.ntexcellence.com

 

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