New Office 365 Profiles Take the Mystery out of Org Charts

Microsoft updates the Office 365 user profiles, enabling organizations to better tap into the workforce's collective expertise.

Microsoft Office 365

Practically every business is sitting on a wealth of knowledge that employees bring into the workplace, but capitalizing on it can be a challenge.

To help businesses unlock the collective skills and expertise of their workforces, Microsoft is rolling out a new Office 365 user profiles. They blend elements of the Office 365 graph, which analyzes users' work relationships, and the software giant's work on artificial intelligence (AI), to encourage collaboration across different teams.

"Traditionally, employees looking for specific information had to manually connect the dots between people and units of knowledge," wrote Tom Batcheler, senior product marketing manager of Office 365 at Microsoft, in a blog post. "By tapping into the Office 365 graph and machine learning, the new Office 365 profile card can identify information relevant to you based on the person you’re looking up. This can help you quickly look up documents that have been shared with you, independent of how they were sent."

The new Office 365 user profile takes cues from today's social networks, showing workers how they are connected to their colleagues. It lends visibility to org charts by displaying the direct relationships between workers and their bosses and/or subordinates in a new Organization view. In a twist, it also clues users into other working relationships based on their communication patterns and work habits, added Batcheler.

Rather than dump all this new information on users, Batcheler said his group worked to integrate the experience in a subtler manner.

Hovering over the name of a coworker will display a summary of their contact information, recent shared documents and whom they report to. With a click, users can peruse an "extended flex pane" that includes more information without leading users away from the current page they are viewing.

The new Office 365 user profiles are being gradually released to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online for Office 365 customers that have signed up for the First Release early-access program. Microsoft plans on switching the updated profiles on for all Office 365 users in the coming months, said Batcheler.

In another move meant to dissolve the barriers that divide workforces, Microsoft recently announced a new Yammer integration with Office 365 Groups. (Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion.)

Although structurally similar, the Yammer enterprise social network and Office 365 Groups can operate independently. The new integration enables customers to more seamlessly manage the overlapping services and their users. It also opens the door to integrations with other Office 365 offerings down the line.

"The full rollout of Office 365 Groups will take place in phases, which will connect Office 365 Groups with existing non-connected Yammer groups and remaining Office 365 tenants," Connie Woo, product marketing manager for the Yammer group at Microsoft, said in a March 2 announcement. "You can also look forward to integration with Outlook Calendar as well as greater enhancements to Yammer integration with SharePoint Online and Planner."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...