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For many organizations, the Office collaboration experience is anchored by cluttered, unmanageable Outlook inboxes. With a smattering of new and upcoming Office capabilities that include Groups, Office Graph, the Delve app and Delve Org Insights, Microsoft is setting the stage for more frictionless interactions, content sharing and communications between work colleagues.
Office Groups allows an organization's employees to create teams in Office in a way that "doesn't require any IT approval," said Bryan Goode, senior director of Microsoft Office Collaboration Experiences, during a demonstration of Office's new cloud-enabled collaboration features at the software giant's Redmond, Wash. campus. To spark increased employee participation, "every group they create is open by default," he added. Naturally, users can create more private groups, if they wish to work on more sensitive or confidential projects.
The technology integrates with entire Office experience. "All of our applications use that membership construct," Goode said.
To help business users more easily find the content and communications that bears relevance to their jobs or objectives, Microsoft has released the Delve app last year to Office 365 customers. Powered by Microsoft's Office Graph technology, which applies machine learning to analyze signals generated by Office-based interactions. This brings relevant conversations, updates and shared content to the surface on visual "cards" that users can click or tap to interact with, instead of getting buried under a stack of emails.
Org Insights, an upcoming Delve feature currently being trialed internally at Microsoft, extends the concept to workforces. Instead of displaying Delve content as cards, Org Insights generates a dashboard that allows users and managers to evaluate how well teams are collaborating or determining if one's work-life balance is tipping into dangerous territory by viewing metrics like emails sent outside of business hours and the like.
Such technologies, Goode asserted, are "foundational and important to making sure that our customers can compete in this modern world." Increasingly, that means embracing competing third-party technologies.
In the case of Groups and its slate of Office collaboration features, Microsoft is working to make the technologies "extensible to third-party applications," Goode said. Via APIs, the cloud storage Dropbox application or the Slack messaging app can hook into Office's collaboration tech.
Finally, Microsoft is still hard at work on GigJam, Goode said. The platform, which automates many of the actions required to kick off and manage team-based workflows among teams, is inching closer to release, he said.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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