All roads lead to… “Oslo”
Any information worker knows the difficulties of finding content and information. The majority of search solutions implemented in companies today require that you – as a user – have some sort of idea that what you are looking for, and that it is there. Well, not anymore..
At the 2014 SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas this week, Microsoft announced a new product – codenamed “Oslo” – that is going to find the information that is relevant to you, and present it to you in a modern and clean interface.
The “Oslo” User Interface looks a bit like some of the other social clients you can find out there. But the difference with this, that is sits on top of your Office 365 identity, and “listens” and learns from everything you do. Overtime it will know exactly what you – as an information consumer – is all about and it will get what ever is out there to you.
I remember that Microsoft had something of the sort in an earlier version of SharePoint, but that feature got dropped before the final product was released. I don’t remember exactly what it was called, but the name “Knowledge…” something keep coming back to me. But this new product is built on the Fast Search technology Microsoft acquired a few years back and have integrated nicely into SharePoint Server 2013. The Fast technology have brought so much more to the capabilities of Search in SharePoint, opening up many new search driven usage scenarios and the “Oslo” product is just the latest one.
Now “Oslo” is a client App, but when it ships in a few months (no exact date is available from Microsoft at this point) it will also have a web version, so users can get it when they are working in SharePoint. Currently it’s not clear to me exactly how this will be brought into the UI, but since the standard SharePoint social functionality – with MySite Newsfeed etc. – is kind of up in the air, you could think that “Oslo” may replace the newsfeed as you know it. That still leaves the interface to Yammer a bit unclear to me, but will be interesting to watch…
Behind the “Oslo” app, there is another brand new technology, that deliver all the “machine learning” capabilities to the SharePoint Online platform. This is called “Office Graph” and will be open to other application – not only “Oslo”. In fact, Microsoft are also working on a new Video Portal for Office 365, where they are using the Office Graph to show “Other videos that might be relevant to you”. Even if this is a simple suggestion engine (that functionality have been available in the Fast engine for some time) using Office Graph may be able to make even more relevant suggestions, based on a lot more parameters.
On a high level, what the Office Graph does, is to register every single “signal” (social interaction that goes on around an object) and saves that into a database. From there, Office Graph analyze what went on with documents you wrote, has access to, was written with someone in your network, meetings, yammer etc. to find out exactly what is most relevant for you in a given context.
This technology can have a major impact on information worker productivity in companies. If you are in KM or responsible for collaboration, this is something you need to watch. There are still questions unanswered; like how will this work with companies in hybrid or all on-premise architectures? Jeff Teper announced a new version of SharePoint in 2015, so perhaps Office Graph will become available on premise as a part of that? From talks with people inside Microsoft I get the impression that the product teams are exploring different ways to support customers with on premise SharePoint already, but we just have to wait and see what comes out of that.