Microsoft Beefs Up Office 365 Content Management With New 'Boards' Feature

Microsoft on Wednesday debuted a new content management feature for Office 365 that it claims can help customers turn mountains of information into smaller, useful chunks.

The new feature builds on Office Delve, a technology based on Microsoft's 2012 Yammer acquisition, which parses all of an organization's SharePoint sites and OneDrive For Business accounts, then automatically grabs content that's relevant based on how often it's being accessed, and by whom.

The new Delve feature, called "Boards," makes it possible to manually sort this content by subject, Microsoft's Office 365 team said in a blog post.

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Microsoft's goal with Boards is to make it easier for project teams to access and use the information that Delve digs up. As is the case with SharePoint, individual users can only see Board documents they have permission to access, even if they're part of the project team that created the Board.

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, an Oakland, Calif.-based Microsoft partner, said his company often uses Delve Boards for brainstorming conversations.

When Delve recently surfaced a document about a corporate website update, several Convergent Computing employees jumped in and added links and related materials, Morimoto said.

This was a much better way of collaborating than having everyone chime in on a single threaded Yammer or SharePoint comment thread, said Morimoto.

"Rather than simply piling onto comments in a single thread, the Delve Board added an extra dimension to the conversation," he said. "Our early users have found Delve Boards actually do things that they've wanted to do for years."

Microsoft is making Delve Boards available to members of its "First Release" program in the next few days and expects to roll it out to the rest of its Office 365 customers "in early 2015."

Delve will incorporate email attachments and Yammer social newsfeeds "in the coming months," Microsoft said in the blog post.

Yammer created the concept of an "enterprise graph," which draws connections between individual users based on their social network likes, posts, replies, shares and uploads.

Microsoft took the enterprise graph concept, added in some of its own engineering and started rolling out Office Graph, the key driver behind Delve, last September.

Microsoft has said Delve is the first of several coming Office 365 features that will use Office Graph.

While Delve is a bit complex from a technology standpoint, Microsoft partners believe it'll help the software giant keep the ball rolling with Office 365 sales.

"I use Delve a lot -- at first it was a little random, but all I can say now is, 'Oh my god, how did it know I wanted to see that?'"Jerod Powell, co-founder and CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based Microsoft partner InfinIT Consulting, told CRN. "It works great, and is a huge time-saver."