In previous coverage of Office Delve and the functionality that it brings to Office 365 tenants, including how email attachments are surfaced, I could be criticized that I ignored other technology that can deliver the same kind of dissolution of information silos within companies. After all, Microsoft is not the only software developer to realize that users have long been stuffing away documents and other data inside repositories that largely remain invisible to other users. It's also fair to say that some have expressed privacy concerns about how the data gathered about user activity into the Office Graph will be used, something that was emphasized by Microsoft's recent purchase of Volometrix.
Apparently it's all about "innovative new solutions are emerging to objectively measure and prioritize our time at work", Microsoft said when they compared gathering data about work activities to be similar to how we use fitness trackers to tell us how many steps we have gone in a day. Associating fitness with the number of messages I send or the number of SharePoint documents I edit is a new take on the topic. We will need to see just how these analytics are surfaced and how they can be controlled and protected when Microsoft launches them within Office 365 and Delve.
In any case, Docurated is one example of a product that is broadly similar to Delve. Docurated has been available for three years or thereabouts and its big selling point is that it unearths information from SharePoint, DropBox, Box, file shares, and other places. In other words, it recognizes that non-Microsoft repositories exist and have been used to store information. And because Docurated has been around for a while, it has had the chance to develop industry-specific approaches.
All of which sounds very good for Docurated, but it then leads to a discussion as to why an Office 365 tenant would buy something like Docurated when Microsoft makes Delve available for free. Of course, the discussion is completely different in the on-premises world because Microsoft has so far not announced any intention to package the Office Graph technology and products like Delve that depend on the Office Graph in a form suitable for on-premises deployment.
Returning to Office 365, Delve is free and it makes use of information held in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business today and accepts some “signals” from Exchange. Over time, it’s likely that Microsoft will expand the sets of data that it feeds through Office Graph and makes available to Delve. For instance, I’ve speculated on what might happen if Delve was to be able to surface information held in Exchange shared mailboxes, site mailboxes, groups, or even public folders. Interrogating the most popular information repository in use today just seems to make sense and we've seen the start of that with attachments.
Obviously Microsoft can access all this information because it is held inside Office 365, even if sometimes the best-laid plans of the engineers don't quite go to plan and it's available to all enterprise tenants. In the future Delve might be able to sort out the complexities involved in extending into on-premises repositories in hybrid deployments. But the current cloud-only nature of Delve means that some opportunities exist for other software vendors.
Another advantage might arise through client choice. For much of its life, Delve has been a browser-only story. Now Delve has a an iOS app. Other applications might support a wider variety of platforms, but you have to anticipate that Microsoft will extend the reach of Delve as time goes by.
The biggest advantage that exists today for the non-Delve option is the chance to cover other repositories. Although Microsoft is making scads of low-cost storage available through OneDrive for Business, it’s been slow to the market and its synchronization mechanism is, shall we say, maddeningly inconsistent. Customers end up using DropBox or other solutions like Citrix ShareFile to share information, all of which remains blissfully invisible to the Office Graph and Delve.
But that advantage is likely to close over time. The big question is how quickly Microsoft can develop and enhance Office Graph and Delve to incorporate new sources of information and how quickly other software vendors enhance their products to remain competitive. Good ISV solutions force Microsoft to improve their software. In turn this causes ISVs to have to respond with new features to maintain their advantage. It's a form of horrible virtuous circle.
It’s an interesting time for customers. Sit back, enjoy the show, and watch the fight.
Follow Tony @12Knocksinna