Social Enterprise, Machine Learning Meet in Microsoft's Office Graph, Oslo

 
 
By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2014-03-12
 
 
 

Microsoft is betting that its Office Graph technology and "Oslo," as the accompanying app is code-named, will take social-enabled business productivity to new heights.

First previewed at the company's SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas on March 3, Office Graph is the "new Office 365 intelligence fabric," according to Microsoft. It leverages the company's machine learning technologies to unearth the connections between workers and to automatically surface conversations and Office content as they pertain to a user's projects, role or day-to-day work.

Office Graph, while tucked "under the hood and never exposed to the user," helps users avoid information overload and focus on the task at hand by delivering "really personalized and relevant views of their world," according to Julia White, general manager of Microsoft Office. This "intelligence layer," which integrates with SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Yammer and Office, is the basis of the company's upcoming Oslo app.

Oslo is a mobile-optimized app that "cuts through the noise by showing you what you need to know today, and even what's likely to be important in the near future," stated Ashok Kuppusamy, a Microsoft FAST group program manager, in a blog post. FAST is Microsoft's enterprise search server software, and its engineering team is based in Norway, explaining the app's name.

Hewing close to the software maker's now-familiar tiled-based UI, Oslo presents users with an at-a-glance view of collaborative Office documents and activities. It filters those activities, enabling users to see "information trending that is associated with what you are working on, and the people within your work network," said Kuppusamy. Users can select from several views, including content that has been shared, liked, viewed or modified.

The app also helps users take a more people-centric approach to search. By entering a colleague's name—instead of keywords or the particulars of a project—Oslo will lead users to their coworker's page, where they can view the documents and people said coworker has been working with.

"With Oslo, you can find anything you need by just remembering a person. It's way easier for us humans to remember names of people than document names or keywords," stated Kuppusamy. "This change, connecting to content through people, hints at something truly transformative: a new way to staying 'in the know' about what's around you."

The technology has already had an effect on the software giant's internal operations, reported Kuppusamy. "Here at Microsoft, when a team is 'on Oslo,' we see fewer meetings. We send fewer status reports. We cut down 'talking about the work.' Instead we all just do our work and see the latest work from each other through Oslo."

Information flows faster and more efficiently, feedback is more immediate, and pace of work accelerates for Oslo teams, claims Kuppusamy. "Oslo is also founded on the openness and transparency that drives new levels of productivity." It's an approach Microsoft calls "working like a network."

Microsoft Office 365 environments won't have to wait too long to test out the ambitious Office Graph and Oslo technologies. Microsoft expects them to hit the market sometime within the next 12 months.

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