Microsoft Gives Sneak Peek At Its Plans For Yammerizing Office 365


Microsoft on Monday offered a sneak peek at Office Graph, a coming technology that takes the enterprise social philosophy of Yammer and infuses it throughout the Office 365 portfolio.

Microsoft, which shelled out $1.2 billion for Yammer in 2012, was attracted by its ability to map "relationships between people and information" by keeping track of likes, posts, replies, shares and uploads, Jared Spataro, general manager of enterprise social at Microsoft, said in a blog post.

Yammer called this an "Enterprise Graph," and now Microsoft is applying that same thinking to Office 365, the company said Monday at its annual SharePoint conference in Las Vegas.  

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Office Graph, slated for launch in the second half of the year, aims to map relationships between people in an organization based on their Exchange, Outlook, SharePoint, Office, Lync and Yammer usage, and create groups based on these interactions.

The first app to use Office Graph is code-named Oslo, and uses machine learning to deliver relevant information to the people within these groups.  Oslo serves up in a single user interface personalized insights based on meetings, people, conversations, documents and more," Spataro said in the blog post.

Reed Wilson, founder and president of Palmetto Technology Group, a Greenville, S.C.-based Microsoft partner, is bullish on the new direction that technologies like Office Graph and Oslo represent.

"We are already looking into ways to extend this into our existing customers to help us drive more services revenue and help our customers squeeze more value out of their online services," Wilson said in an email.

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, an Oakland, Calif.-based Microsoft partner, said the new technology will make it easier for Office 365 users to find what they're looking for. "What Microsoft is doing with Oslo and Office Graph really brings the value of information, data, and access into the experience of users," he said in an email.

Yammer is a very different product for Microsoft and its partners, and so the integration has proceeded slowly. Last November, Microsoft launched its Customer Engagement Partner Program for Yammer, in which partners get training on how to sell and position Yammer as a tool for improving cross-department communications.

At the same time, Microsoft changed its licensing to include Yammer Enterprise in its Office 365 Enterprise plans at no extra charge, and stopped requiring  customers to buy Yammer licenses for users on external networks.

Microsoft's desire to weave social networking into Office was evident long before the Yammer deal. In 2008, Microsoft tried to acquire Xobni, a startup that Bill Gates once described as "the next generation of social networking," for $20 million. Xobni backed out of that deal and ended up being acquired by Yahoo last July.

With Office Graph and Oslo, Microsoft believes it's about to open a whole new frontier for connectivity.

"We believe this is the start of something game-changing -- building digital memory across applications to create a highly personalized experience that helps people get more done," Jeff Teper, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Office Service and Servers group, said in a blog post.

PUBLISHED MARCH 4, 2014

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