New social tools for Office 365 will help organisations become more responsive

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 06 March 2014
New social tools for Office 365 will help organisations become more responsive

At this year’s SharePoint conference, Microsoft showcased how it is harnessing the four technology megatrends – cloud, social, mobile and big data – to transform the way people work.

In a keynote address at SharePoint 2014 – held from 3-6 March in Las Vegas, US – Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Office Service and Servers group, explained that Microsoft believes that the future of the workplace lies in organisations working like a network, building relationships and sharing real-time information. According to Teper, Microsoft believes that by leveraging personalised and proactive insights from individual employees, organisations can develop networks similar to social media channels to gain a competitive advantage.

"Today, the world has become a giant network where connections make information more relevant and people more productive,” said Teper at the event. “Most organisations are not working like a network, which we believe is vital for their ability to improve collaboration and respond to customers, competition and market changes.”

Delivering on this vision, Microsoft showcased innovations in Office 365 for end users, which integrate social capabilities while prioritising the trusted platform fundamentals of security, privacy and industry compliance.

Extending Yammer’s Enterprise Graph across the Office 365 platform, Microsoft has created Office Graph, which uses signals from e-mail, social conversations, documents, sites, instant messages, meetings and more, to map the relationships between employees and relevant information. According to Teper, Office Graph is the point at which social, cloud, big data, machine learning and mobile capabilities come together to provide a range of new, personalised and contextual experiences for individuals within organisations. The new technologies offered in Office 365 will enable a networked way of working together in teams, in groups and across organisations, which will improve services for consumers and citizens, while increasing collaboration and information sharing.

“By helping people work more openly, we believe organisations will work more like a network and become more responsive and successful,” said Teper. “We’ve spent a lot of time studying trends, talking with customers and thinking about how we can connect experiences in Yammer, Lync, Outlook and Exchange with a social fabric that permeates Office. It also needed to be intuitive to help organisations gain the benefits of network effects, simply by people doing their natural work in Office.”

Powered by Office Graph, Microsoft’s Office 365 ‘user experiences’ leverage cloud, social, mobile and big data technologies to enable people to find the right connections and most relevant insights to increase productivity and enhance services.

'Oslo’ (code name) is powered by the Office Graph, the application uses personal interactions and machine-learning to offer a view of the most relevant, timely information for each individual using information from SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Yammer and Office. By leveraging information from applications such as meeting schedules, e-mails and recent documents, ‘Oslo’ enables organisations to build a digital memory across applications, creating a personalised experience that boosts productivity.

Groups Experience, based on the popular Groups tool in Yammer, enables users to create a group anywhere in Office 365 and automatically provision a corresponding Yammer conversation feed, calendar, document library, or e-mail inbox to foster collaboration. The group’s Yammer feed and inbox will both display the same conversation, enabling users to participate using the most familiar interface. Groups will be open by default to enhance collaboration, but can be made private to suit all business needs.

Inline Social Experiences is offered throughout the Office 365 suite, Microsoft Dynamics and other applications, to enable organisations to post updates, documents and e-mails to Yammer from SharePoint Online and Outlook. It also enables employees to conduct social conversations inside documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. In future, Microsoft plans to integrate Yammer with Lync and Skype to enable a full spectrum of social interactions.

Office 365 Video Portal is built on SharePoint, Yammer, Office Graph in Office 365 and Windows Azure Media Services. The next-generation video portal enables an organisation to leverage social interaction and multimedia to deliver more relevant information to employees. Businesses can upload, store and access secure videos to the portal and these can then be categorised into channels for specific business needs. Office 365 can also compress and optimise videos to ensure they can be streamed on mobile devices.

To enable more than 3.4 million Office and SharePoint developers, customers and partners to build contextual productivity solutions across browsers, PCs and mobile devices, Microsoft has also released a range of other Office 365 enhancements.

For example, developers can now leverage new Office 365 software development kits for Windows 8 and Android to build mobile productivity solutions powered by Office 365, while enhanced application programming interfaces (APIs) have been launched for PowerPoint and Outlook. New APIs for files, people, e-mail, calendar and tasks also provide an intuitive, open- standards approach, while Office 365 documents that include app information can now be seamlessly shared by recipients.

In addition, Microsoft has developed new capabilities that enhance Office 365 security and privacy, giving IT professionals the tools they need to help protect their organisations. The company has also released Office 2013 and SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1, which allow organisations to take advantage of Office 365 via a full- or hybrid-cloud deployment, or a dual transition through platforms such as OneDrive for Business and Yammer.

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