Delve into this

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. Over the years, we’ve accumulated a large number of data files spread across our many Microsoft-based computers, servers, cloud storage, and mobile devices. Are there any tools that we can use to help us more effectively organize and manage this voluminous data?

A. In years past, file management usually meant moving your files to various folders, but if your files are all contained on Microsoft-based platforms, then moving your files around may no longer be necessary. In January, Microsoft launched a new business intelligence tool called Office Delve, which is included in some Office 365 plans. Delve uses a machine learning tool (called Microsoft Office Graph) to map relationships between people, conversations, calendars, emails, email attachments, SharePoint Online files, OneDrive for Business files, mobile device files, pictures, and videos, all in an effort to automatically organize your data. This means you can leave the data on your Windows computers, Windows networks, OneDrive, and SharePoint drive right where they are, and still improve their “findability.” (The initial release of Delve does not yet connect to external non-Microsoft-based cloud drives such as Dropbox or Google Drive, but connectors are available for those vendors to create such connections to Delve.) 

For example, suppose your company is preparing to audit the (fictional) Addison Factory. Delve enables you to create a Group, which in turn generates a user portal that includes an ongoing conversation feed (using Yammer technology), calendar, document library, inbox, related data files, to-do tasks, and internal and external communications, an example of which is pictured below.

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In a way similar to how Facebook analyzes your friends, high school, and groups to identify additional relevant friends (so you don’t have to search so hard for them), Delve analyzes your connections and data to pull together relevant people, files, emails, tasks, slides, PDFs, videos, etc. (so you don’t have to search so hard for them either). In essence, Delve integrates related content all in one place, thereby reducing or eliminating the need to search across locations and applications to find the most current relevant content. Delve can also perform the following functions:

  • New enhancements to PowerPoint and Outlook’s compose view can automatically display contextual information alongside an email as it is written.
  • Delve can automatically move “graymail” from your Outlook inbox to a clutter box (not junk mail, but less important email such as that newsletter you signed up for but seldom read).
  • Delve can help prepare you for upcoming meetings (scheduled in your calendar) by pulling the latest related information together to produce content or prep cards (similar to notecards you might use to deliver a presentation).
  • Delve offers Cortana-like capabilities (Microsoft Cortana is an artificial intelligence interface that responds to voice, similar to Apple’s Siri and Google Now) that allow you to search and manage your emails, meetings, contacts, and social networks using voice questions and commands.
  • When Delve is used with Docurated (a third-party program that can automatically break data files down into objects and organize that information for marketing purposes), thumbnail views of your data are displayed.

Note: Delve is available to customers with Office 365 Business Essentials and Business Premium plans, and Office 365 Enterprise, Education, and Government E1–E4 plans. 

J. Carlton Collins is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2013, 2010, and 2007 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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