Microsoft shines a light on Office Graph & Project Oslo collaboration benefits

Microsoft has shed further light on how it plans to incorporate machine learning techniques into its Office products to transform the way people work.

This forms the basis of Project Oslo, a social and collaborative working application Microsoft first introduced to the world at its Sharepoint Conference in March.

The app essentially provides users with a real-time information hub that aggregates documents that have been publicly shared with them via Office 365, OneDrive for Business and Microsoft's enterprise social platform Yammer.

For example, when users login to the app, they will be presented with a personalised view of recent Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents that have been shared with them via contacts, which they can then comment and work collaboratively on.

Furthermore, users will also be able to search through similar content that has been publicly shared with their co-workers and contacts that may also be of interest to them.

Microsoft has billed the offering as a way of making the way people work more efficient, because instead of having to search through emails and file systems for the documents they need they will automatically be at their fingertips within Oslo.

Also, by allowing people to work more collaboratively, the vendor claims this could cut down the amount of time people spend in meetings.

During a keynote presentation at the Microsoft TechEd Conference in Houston, Texas, this week, Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of the software giant's enterprise and cloud division, said Project Oslo was to make internal communications within companies more open and collaborative.

"We've got to open up our communication internally within our companies. Far too often we're so contained within the organisational structures and by default our communications are closed," said Anderson.

"What if by default all of our communications were open and discoverable across the entire organisation, how much more knowledgeable, how much more smart, how much more productive would we be?"

The app draws on the machine learning capabilities of Microsoft's Office Graph to pull in content that may be relevant to users. This was talked about at length during one of the TechEd breakout sessions.

We've got to open up our communication internally within our companies. Far too often we're so contained within the organisational structures and by default our communications are closed.

Viral Shah, a software engineer at Microsoft who co-presented the session, said Office Graph monitors user's actions within Office 365 to populate the app with content they would find most useful.

So, whenever users open, modify or save documents, this will be logged by Office Graph and influence the content displayed to users in Oslo.

"Ignore is a really important signal. [If] we know the [content] you're skipping over, and we recognise that over time, that informs us to remove that, based on the things you're ignoring," explained Shah.

If users start showing interest in new individuals and, as a consequence, start interacting less with others, their information feed will reflect this, he added.

At the moment, Office Graph is solely being used to underpin the work of Project Oslo, but Microsoft has confirmed the technology will be form the basis of a number of other apps in the future.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.