Careful where you Delve says Gartner

Office Delve is an Office 365 service that suggests relevant information from across Office 365 to a specific user. It runs on top of Office Graph, a database that captures relationships between objects and people. A report from analyst firm Gartner warns that Delve's recommendations can turn into unwanted disclosure.

Microsoft's servers can discern patterns — who communicates with whom, and who reads what. For example, the system can infer that, if six members of an eight- person department read a specific report, it might be of interest to the other two members. This inference of Office Graph will turn up in Office Delve as a suggested report.

“Office Delve obeys pre-existing permission models. For example, if a user has stored a document in OneDrive for Business and has not shared it with anyone, then that document will not show up in Office Delve. Also, when a document is shared as an email attachment, only people in the email conversation will see that file in Office Delve.

“Nevertheless, Gartner clients sometimes worry that Office Delve will highlight a hidden pattern that they don't want made public to the rest of the company. For example, Office Delve may eventually recognize that nine people - the COO, an in- house lawyer and seven product managers -  are all creating reports about an arch-rival that they're all reading. If that group (working on an acquisition) hasn't correctly secured its due diligence memos, Office Delve may start recommending these memos to other employees looking for information on the competitor. This is not surprising — those same unsecured memos would turn up in a search if someone entered a query about that competitor.

“There currently isn't a way to fine-tune the system -  Microsoft doesn't offer a control panel that allows enterprises to tell the system which events or people it should monitor and which ones it should ignore. Although an individual user can "turn off" Delve, the system still captures that user's activities and relationships within Office 365 — they just aren't visible to others.

“If a company wants to stop any employee monitoring, it must turn off the underlying Office Graph service as a whole. In short, companies need to understand how Office Delve works and what steps they need to take to ensure that Office Delve's recommendations don't turn into unwanted disclosure.”

OneDrive for Business is Microsoft's enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS) product gets a tick for “improving” according to Gartner.

“Microsoft finally fixed the intermittent failures of the Groove-based Windows sync client in December 2015, with the release of the OneDrive for Business Next Generation Sync Client (NGSC). Although the new client is more stable, it does not yet support syncing of files from SharePoint document libraries or OneDrive for Business group folders (scheduled for the end of 2016).

“Therefore, if you require that functionality, Microsoft currently recommends that you run both clients in parallel.”

Examining the integration of Yammer with Office 365, a task that has taken Microsoft years to achieve, Gartner highlights some weaknesses.

“It has a weak and separate security model. Azure RMS, data loss prevention (DLP) and MDM for Office 365 do not work with Yammer. The only way to secure content is to put it in a private group. In addition, Yammer still runs only out of U.S. data centres.”

Unlike Microsoft Exchange Server and Exchange Online, SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online have noticeable feature differences. Some of the limitations of SharePoint Online versus on-premise that Gartner lists include:

  • SharePoint Online has limited BCS features: Microsoft has added support for most of the Business Connectivity Services (BCS). This was previously called the Business Data Catalog (BDC). However, BCS can only connect to data sources that are not on-premises by using the Open Data Protocol (OData). If the data sources are on-premises, then IT needs to set up a hybrid BCS with SharePoint Server as well as a reverse proxy. That's a lot of work to get an external list inside of SharePoint Online.
  • SharePoint Online does not support access to remote binary large object (BLOB) stores (often used for adding imaging to SharePoint). Although SharePoint Online supports document management and Web content management (WCM) workflow and approval, it does not support analytics, faceted navigation or topic pages.
  • limited public web site capabilities:
  • limited search customisation capabilities

The report is available HERE