If you’re curious about Delve, Microsoft’s artificially intelligent search and discovery application, you’re not alone. Since its launch last year, many of our clients have asked how they can use Delve to get more from Office 365.

Some forward-thinking organisations also want to know if Delve can replace information architecture. It’s a reasonable question, particularly for organisations struggling with poorly maintained information environments.

These organisations are overwhelmed by duplicate documents, incorrect or missing metadata and general information chaos. They see Delve as a way to cut through the clutter.

But can Delve really replace information architecture? And is it a smart move?

In this post we’ll outline how Delve works and how it adds value to Office 365. We’ll also explain six reasons why information architecture is still vital for effective information governance.

How Delve works

Delve uses machine learning to find and deliver personalised content from anywhere in Office 365. It presents relevant information to each user based on:

  • what they’re working on
  • who they’re working with
  • their permissions

Instead of using metadata to identify content, Delve understands connections and signals between people and the work that they do, including information that is “trending” in their organisation. Most of the time, you don’t have to worry about remembering a document’s name or where it is stored. Delve finds it automatically.

While Delve solves many information architecture challenges, it’s not a viable replacement. Here are a few reasons why.

Delve doesn’t yet support all Office 365 content types

Microsoft has Microsoft Delve blogs in Delve’s first year, but it will be a while before the application’s potential is fully realised.

Depending on where you are in the release program, for example, Delve may not extract all available information from Exchange. As a result, documents you receive by email won’t always appear in Delve. Some Delve environments also don’t support content types like OneNote sections.

In fact, most of the information that Delve displays at the moment comes from SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.

This means it’s too soon to rely on Delve to connect to all information stored in Office 365. This will change as Delve matures; particularly when it introduces features like Yammer integration and support for private documents.

It’s a great reason to configure your Office 365 tenancy to be on the first release program, but not to replace your information architecture.

You still need information architecture to manage security permissions

Delve can make connections between content from all over Office 365, regardless of folder or location. But that doesn’t mean you should start dumping documents anywhere you like.

Even though Delve can find documents filed at random, it’s not recommended. The first reason is that users can’t find information. The second is that administrators can’t manage security roles.

Security roles are usually set by a document’s location. If you don’t have a set folder structure, you either need to share documents with all employees, or prevent sharing altogether.

Neither are desirable or productive options, which is why it’s best to use Delve within the confines of your existing information architecture and folder structures.

Information architecture is better for advanced searches

Delve is great at locating content that is connected to you, including documents authored by team members or your own meeting requests.

However, Delve can’t filter content by classification, metadata or tags. This means it’s not so flash at:

  • filtering document with multiple authors
  • finding content that isn’t obviously connected to your work
  • fearching through large amounts of information

Every organisation should have an information governance structure that leverages classification, metadata and tags, so that users can quickly filter down and find the exact document they need. Think of Delve as complementary to your existing search tools, rather than superseding them.

Good information architecture makes sites user-friendly

Renovate your information architecture is the skeleton on which everything else in an environment hangs. You need to assemble all of the parts in the correct way, in a logical order.

It takes a bit of planning, but good information architecture means content ends up in the right place and the navigation makes sense. This leads to user-friendly environments that people want to use.

It’s the opposite for environments with poor information architecture. Bad planning leads to disorganised, counterintuitive workspaces that are quickly abandoned.

So while you could use Delve to find content without information architecture, you might end up with a chaotic environment that nobody wants to use.

  1. You need a way to manage outdated information

If you don’t archive old content, Delve will bring up connections to irrelevant information. This diminishes its value as a discovery tool.

With or without Delve, organisations need formal processes for managing outdated content. This is usually part of a larger governance plan that includes:

  • Automated site provisioning
  • Archiving – you can store documents for a specific time and then archive
  • Disposal

Delve may not meet your organisation’s compliance regulations

As a solution architect who has tried to enforce metadata standards for years, I can tell you it’s often a hopeless exercise. It’s still worth getting right.

Compliance regulations and policies are often driven by metadata. This is something to keep in mind, as Delve does not automatically add metadata to documents. Metadata can apply policies to documents to ensure you keep them for the right amount of time (i.e. all documents tagged “finance budget” are only deleted after seven years).

But if you don’t tag at all, and you replace information architecture with a dumping ground surfaced by Delve, documents could stay forever, or they could be deleted after 20 minutes. There is no automatic application of policy, which can lead to reduced compliance.

If you choose to manage information and content with Delve alone, you risk exposing yourself to regulatory breaches and compliance issues. Get advice to make sure you meet all regulatory requirements before changing how you collect, search or manage corporate information.

Delve is a clever application that we believe will only get better with time. While it won’t replace information architecture anytime soon, it’s certainly moving in the right direction. Have you tried it yet?

Why not check out what our consultants think of Delve and other Office 365 features video now.

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