Possibilities of Delve within organizations

3 januari 2018

Firstly this blog will provide a short summary on the workings of Delve and will then cover the connection between machine learning and Delve. Finally, this blog will present ways in how Delve can support networks in organizations. In doing so, this blog will cover the current and future possibilities of Delve within organizations.

What is Delve?

Delve helps in providing a new way to gather information. But what exactly is Delve and what role does it play within organizations?

Delve can be described as:

“a new way to discover relevant information and connections from across your work life. Delve displays information that is most relevant for each person based on the work they are doing and the people with whom they are engaging.  With Delve, information finds you versus you having to find information”[1]

This novel way to gather information is different from finding (clicking) your way through an array of databases. Delve instead finds its information from OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Video content, Yammer and email attachments[2]. Delve provides this information by applying machine learning to content and interactions within the Office 365 environment. Delve hereby helps in the discovery of content that is shared with you, related to you or is otherwise relevant to you[3]

Delve and machine learning

Delve follows the credo of Microsoft to ‘work like a network’ and is aimed to connect the dots, via machine learning, between information, interaction and interests. This again enables the user to find relevant or trending information (more quickly) but also enables the user to spot relevant content within streams of data.

When looking more closely at Delve it can even be argued that it is a necessary step in the evolution of services. Machine learning is essential to Facebook[4], Linkedin[5] and many more services. Also in popular fiction the use of machine learning is often described. Take for example the current bestselling book ‘Homo Deus’[6] predicting that machines will eventually know us better than we know ourselves.

The potential of Delve within organizational networks

When we look at networks at an organizational level we see a somewhat different construct. In organizations a network can be dependent from social history, following that: “A network in which individuals are variably connected as a function of prior contact, exchange and attendants emotions[7]. Delve on its turn can provide information based on these prior contacts and exchanges, although leaving out emotions. This means that Delve has the potential to enhance networking within organizations through the power of recognizing relationships and translate these relationships in providing relevant information.

Already it is found that networks affects performance outcomes of organizations[8]. Delve on its turn is a most likely challenger for meeting new demands in dealing with information within these networks. Perhaps Delve can fulfill a pivotal role in selecting and providing relevant information within the always increasing databases of organizations.

An ability of Delve is to provide information stemming from common relationships. Delve could do this by (cross) matching your personal information and/or your relationships with others. For example, if you are person B and you are interacting with person A but not often with person C, Delve is therefore able to recognize that information from person C could also be relevant to you. Especially if person A, B and C have their function, interests, or skill set in common (via the personal details of O365).

Figure 1: ‘interaction between actors’.
Delve provides B and C information that is otherwise only received through A

As figure 1 describes an arguably simple relationship, more complex algorithms can be thought of in the mindset of organizations. Such an example can be found in the form of example small world theories, where someone is always 'close’ to another even if they are perceived to be far away[9] (think of large organizations). Another example for the practically of Delve is the brokerage[10] of information through algorithms (by bridging information from person to person in different groups, that otherwise would not happen). Delve makes it possible for people to find information that would otherwise be hidden from them, because of organizational structures.

Given the described 'hot 'topics it will be very interesting to see Delve evolve within organizations, especially in the light of social interactions, organizational performance and of course technological advancements. My recommendation is to really start leveraging the capabilities of Delve to support "working like a network".


[1] https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2014/09/08/milestone-office-delve/

[2] https://blogs.office.com/en-us/2015/03/16/office-delve-discover-exactly-what-you-need-when-you-need-it/

[3] https://support.office.com/en-us/article/How-does-Office-Delve-know-what-s-relevant-to-me-048d502e-80a7-4f77-ac5c-f9d81733c385?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

[4] https://research.fb.com/category/applied-machine-learning/

[5] http://www.zdnet.com/article/linkedin-machine-learning-is-like-oxygen-but-the-human-element-is-not-going-away-anytime-soon/

[6] Harrari, Y.N. (2016). Homo Deus, A brief history of tomorrow. Penguin Random House UK.

[7] Burt, R. (2007). Brokerage and closure : An introduction to social capital. Clarendon lectures in Management Studies.

[8] Ahuja, G. (2000). Collaboration networks, structural holes, and innovation: A longitudinal study. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45, 425–455

[9] Watts, D. J. 1999. Networks, dynamics, and the small-world phenomenon. American Journal of Sociology.

[10] Burt, R.S. (2007). Second-hand brokerage: Evidence on the importance of local structure for managers, bankers, and analysts. Academy of Management Journal, 50

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