What is Delve, How Does it Work, and Why Should You Use It?

Posted by Inge Rush on Nov 1, 2016 8:22:10 AM

You may have noticed a relatively new feature in Microsoft Office 365 and wondered what it is and whether you should use it: “Delve”. So, should you use it? Your question can be answered with a resounding “YES” and this article will tell you why and how.

If you are like many of us and cannot find the document you created just a few months ago or cannot find the file everyone is talking about, Delve may be your answer.

To understand Delve, it helps to look at the dictionary definition and synonyms of the like verb:

“to carry on intensive and thorough research for data, information, or the like; to investigate”

“Synonyms: research, inquire, probe, examine, explore”

The definition of the verb is an apt description of what Delve helps you to do: Inquire. Research. Explore.

Microsoft’s introduction to the product provides further insight:

“This more ambitious goal drove us to ask how we could remove the information silos that exist across applications, better support information discovery, and enable teams to work together as a network. The result is not just a search solution, but a new way of working – proactive, transformational, and delightful. Delve is the first in a new breed of intelligent and social work experiences.”

How does Delve find content?

Delve indexes content in your OneDrive for Business folders, SharePoint, Yammer and Outlook. But it is more than your average search engine: It is smart. Delve not only indexes both filenames as well as the document content, it also determines how important your document is to you based on various criteria. For example, Delve evaluate how many users you may have shared the document with or how other users related to you and what you do are interacting with it. It examines these criteria leveraging machine learning with what Microsoft calls “Office Graph”.

As is the case with SharePoint’s (separate) search capabilities, all content is security “trimmed”, that is: you only see what you have the rights to see.

Intrigued? Let’s see how you and your teams can take advantage of this tool.

How can I use Delve?

When first opening Delve, you will see the “Popular Documents” View. This view shows you documents that are currently trending based on when they were uploaded, how the authors or editors are connected to you, etc.

(PICTURE HERE)Figure 1 - Popular Documents (Default View)

In the “Popular documents” view, which is your landing page, you can find the following

  1. Previews of trending documents
  2. The ability to email documents to others
  3. See who this document is currently shared with
  4. Determine the document type (e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, etc.)
  5. A “Home” link, which will return you to this page no matter where you are
  6. A “Me” link, showing your most recent contributions
  7. Favorites, to show you documents you have marked that way
  8. “People” which shows you content accessible to you submitted by people in your network
  9. “Boards”, which group content for all users in the organization.
  10. “Search” box.

General Search

The most powerful feature of Delve, in my opinion, is search. The search bar is located at the top left of the screen (Figure-1 / Number 10). In my testing I noted that this feature performs astonishingly well. I was readily able to find documents. In fact, one document we had recently been unable to find, was shown fairly high in the search results when leveraging Delve.

My content or the “Me” Page

Conducting a similar search when clicking on the “Me” link in the left-hand navigation showed my content, including Outlook content. As indicated above, Delve searches across SharePoint Online, Yammer, Outlook and OneDrive. Virtually all my content was at my fingertips regardless of where I had loaded it.

In the Me screen, you can perform the following actions

  1. See and edit your profile information
  2. View your most recent documents regardless of storage location
  3. Access your colleagues’ documents
  4. Find other documents from individuals you interact with frequently
  5. View your role in the organization

“People” Pages

If you are unable to find a document authored by a co-worker in the “Popular documents” or “Me” page, click on the corresponding user listed under the “People” header in the left-hand navigation. Even content not directly shared with you, that you have rights to read, will be quickly surfaced. For example, if in conversation your co-worker referenced a document he authored or edited, you may be able to find it when searching in his page.


The People page is similar in layout, to the “Me” page, but focuses on content authored by or connected to the person you clicked on. As indicated before, you will only see content you have rights to.

  1. You can Skype call (if enabled / incorporated with your Office 365 subscription) or email the resource directly
  2. You can access the person’s contact information and OneDrive content (as shared with you).
  3. You can see where in the organization this individual is aligned
  4. You can view his recent documents

In addition, you can also filter the search results by document type, by clicking on the “See All” tab under “[Name] > Recent documents”.


  1. Click on the filter icon
  2. Select the file type.


In order to readily retrieve documents for future use or reference, Delve provides access to both Favorites and Boards. Marking a document as a favorite couldn’t be easier:

  1. Favorite boards
  2. Favorite documents
  3. The blue ribbon shows the favorite marker. Simple click on the ribbon to mark / unmark the document


Boards are a great way to organize content for the organization. They are similar to favorites in providing a way to readily reference them. They are different because others also see them and because they can be organized in a meaningful, topical way. Every user can create a Board, however boards are shared and others will see them. To add a board, follow these steps.

  1. Click on the ^ icon to slide up the document card
  2. Notice that this primary view of the card permits marking as favorite
  3. The source location of the document is shown
  4. The tab provides insight into permissions for this document.
  5. Click on the “Add to board” icon to add this document to existing or new boards.

How to optimize your Delve experience

Saving and sharing your content

The more users within your organization use OneDrive and / or SharePoint Online to store their content, the more content will be indexed. Content stored in other systems, such as your desktop, local file system, the file server, or external cloud-based file services like Google Drive or Box, cannot be indexed by Delve.

When saving your information, be both prudent, but not over-protective of your data. It is likely fair that some content stored in your OneDrive, for example, is sensitive or not worth sharing. Certainly protect this content by securing it. However, content is often neither confidential to the organization as a whole, nor embarrassing. Open this content up as appropriate, to your team(s) or your organization.

Content “on the go”

Lastly, Delve apps are available for tablets and smart phones. The Delve application has been developed leveraging responsive design, that functions beautifully regardless of which device you use. With Delve, you can have ready access to your content on the go.


In summary, I am impressed with the strength of the search and collaboration experience as well as the flexibility in defining your search scope. I think this is one of the best search experiences for file-based content that I have seen. Give it a try! You have nothing to lose and much to gain … or find …

Topics: Microsoft, Microsoft Office, Delve