Office 365 Personalized Search Leverages Office Graph
As we documented in our whitepaper, Future Tech Trends in Office 365, the fastest growing trend in Office 365 / SharePoint — and, arguably, the entire IT ecosystem — is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In the Office 365 realm specifically, we’re talking about Office Graph.
Office Graph uses machine learning and predictive analytics to map connections between people and information. Large amounts of data are retrieved from a variety of Office 365 sources, such as documents, videos, e-mail attachments, user actions, and Yammer. That information is mapped to individual Office 365 and SharePoint users, effectively connecting together vast quantities of information with the people who somehow interacted with that information.
Personalized Search in Office 365
One manifestation of Office Graph is Office 365’s “Personalized Search”. Personalized Search expands on traditional search results to include people whose skills, interests, and projects are relevant to your search query.
For example, if you perform an Office 365 search on “excel macro development,” the expected results will appear — files, sites, and news — but a listing of colleagues will also appear. These co-workers will have some sort of connection to your search query: one of them may be an Excel expert, another may have just written a document on Excel macros, and so on.
Regarding the mechanics: the People listing will feature basic user entries, such as a photo, name, and job title. When hovering your mouse cursor over the user entry, a people card appears that displays contact details along with a Graph-powered listing of recent files — these files likely include content that relates to your search query. Clicking on an entry displays a variety of user details, such as skills/interests that are likely relevant to your search.
How useful this is and how relevant the returned results are remains to be seen. As we mentioned in our Predictive Analytics and The Problem with Delve articles, there are a lot of ways the results can be insufficient or skew off in the wrong direction.
But with a strong trend in the direction of AI-derived results, we can expect the usefulness to improve. With the huge amounts of data being generated throughout Office 365, Microsoft will continue to find ways to use that “Big Data” – whether for its own purposes or to further Office 365 capabilities for its customers.
AI is a subject we will be keeping our eye on – at least until a robot can do it for us!
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