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'Discover and be discovered.' Delve into Office 365 two years on.

1 Mar 2016 by Doug Davis

Delve is very forvirrende, that’s confusing in Norwegian – for those not up to scratch on the language (spoken by 6 million people worldwide). 
The history of what is now Delve goes back to Microsoft’s purchase of Norway’s Fast Search in 2008. It was (and still is) some very cool and advanced search technology. Microsoft weaved FAST into its SharePoint technology stack and there it has mostly stayed. You may recognize it under its more ‘Microsoft’ name, Search Server.
Fast forward a few years, and a challenge within the growing number of Office 365 tenants was becoming clear: finding stuff in Office 365, even for a small company, can be tricky. A process which only gets more and more daunting the bigger the organization you want to search.
So a merger of Fast Search and some compelling UI was conceived, duly named Project Oslo, and the preview started to emerge late 2013, early 2014.
Oslo, now renamed Delve, was officially unveiled in March 2014. Two years into its launch, it’s available to all Office 365 customers and Microsoft is still putting efforts into it. Along with Sway, it’s one of two “new” office applications that are positioned as valuable add-ins for Office 365. There are now mobile apps for these as well, so you can Delve wherever you are, whenever you need to. Didn’t know you even had it? Open up your Office 365 Apps block, I’m pretty sure it will be there.
o365 app block
Here is how Microsoft describes Delve: “Delve helps you discover the information that’s likely to be most interesting to you right now – across Office 365. You don’t have to remember the title of a document or where it’s stored. Delve shows you documents no matter where they’re stored in OneDrive for Business or in Sites in Office 365.”
Who wouldn’t want that, right?
Well, the devil is in the detail, and it is how it defines that search that can be problematic. It not only shows what you are working on, but what your AI-defined “team” is also working on.
It does this by making connections between you, and users in your organisation that you have interacted with. If you both work on documents together, or viewed the same document, Delve makes a connection between the two of you, and if the other person modifies a document and you have access to that document, it most likely will pop up in your Delve stream. It doesn’t distinguish between the type of document. So you may work with somebody on a Project doc, but recently they’ve been working on hotel reservations, and lo and behold their reservation spreadsheet is in your Delve stream. The hope is that most of the time the docs are relevant, but this is by no means guaranteed. Also email isn’t really included, (although attachments are indexed, it’s often missing the context surrounding them) so it is missing a huge chuck of inter-office communication.
It’s hard to really tell what the uptake on Delve is, but I’m guessing it’s still not that high.
I can see a few reasons why this might be the case:
1. The content it searches (documents for the most part) has to be fully on Office 365 (and then only in Sites, OneDrive and Attachments)
2. It’s not all that great at actually showing you information that is interesting to you right now.
3. The initial experience is hard to grasp, and it takes a lot of tweaking to improve the usability.
4. As it is set up for use, it has the potential to unearth data that perhaps shouldn’t be exposed
My main concern with Delve is number 4, that it exposes documents that you shouldn’t have access to. This is easily done, somebody can accidentally open something they shouldn’t have access to, equally someone can unwittingly put their ‘sensitive’ document into a location that is open to a large number of people than expected. Microsoft claims Delve allows you to, ‘Discover, and be discovered’, and this is exactly where potential issues could arise.
Here is the scenario. Janice (not her real name) creates a new folder called “Project Review” in an existing document library. She is pretty smart as far as technology goes but it’s not always clear what the default security is on a folder, or a site. In this case, the inherited security for her new folder is pretty good, but has a few groups with fairly wide membership, and to review the membership takes time, so she suspects it’s probably fine.
As it turns out there were three or four people who can actually get in to ‘Project Review’ who should not have access. Around 99% of the time, since it’s not a folder, these folks aren’t even aware, and a ‘no harm, no foul’ environment continues. But Delve is on the job, and finds that the document has a lot of common wording and phrases.
One of these folks is Jacob (also not his real name), he manages one of the projects being reviewed and possibly scaled back. It’s an average Tuesday morning at XYZ Corp, Jacob fires up his computer and, out of curiosity, goes into Delve to see what’s there. Right at the top is a document “Project Review Lists of Projects to scale back”, modified by Janice who Jacob works with. This becomes a very interesting document for Jacob right now, but not something Janice wants any of her co-workers’ eyes on.
Jacob then skypes Janice
And, suddenly, everybody’s day (or week) goes downhill.
Microsoft goes to great lengths to indicate that you can only see the documents you have access to and that you can trust it. The first thing you see is a security statement.
trust delve
This is fair and quite true, but what Delve does is expose documents that you may have been given access to without your knowledge, enabling them to pop up in your timeline of documents, regardless of whether or not they really should be there.
Here are a few tips to make Delve useful, (and avoid workplace tension between Janice and Jacob.)
Run Delve yourself, and find out what it comes back with. Also check with a few other folks and see what they are getting. Most likely you will see some odd files you don’t expect, and hopefully a lot more you do. See if it adds value to your working day, it is a productivity tool after all.
Make sure your permissions are up to date. Be fully aware of the unflattering capabilities Delve has: it can expose data that is strictly for certain eyes. Yes, it is difficult to figure all the permissions out, which is why there are tools like Cogmotive Reports. Run a full, and comprehensive permission report, or at least gather as much data as you can from your environment. Is it worth the risk? Do you know exactly what is out there?
Ensure that users are aware of where ‘sensitive’ documents should be stored, and educate them on the best practices for protecting their information. It is important for your users to be proactive in protecting and storing their documents. Encourage users to be aware of which folders or documents they can access, who else can see these files, and how they can be best managed within their environment.
Educate your users about Delve. Nobody seems to click on the tile as the name really doesn’t mean anything. Why Delve on something? There isn’t much in the way of online help but get the facts across to your users and have them give it a go. Delve will let you know what your closest co-workers are working on, and ‘help you better connect through relationships to content’, according to Microsoft. Sound useful? Give it a go, and after a bit of company-wide use, pass on feedback to Microsoft – they’re certainly listening a lot more than in the past.
Have a different insight on Delve? Let us know in the comments section.