The Microsoft Graph offers up exciting possibilities to develop Office 365 functionality and related integrations in ways that can really help your business and engage your users. Here at Content Formula we’ve been busy leveraging the Graph’s features and versatility to create some great solutions for our clients based on Teams, SharePoint Online and other elements of the Office 365 suite.
What is the Microsoft Graph?
The Microsoft Graph is essentially a unified API that connects into the whole of the Office 365 landscape and even beyond into Windows 10, Azure and enterprise mobility and security services. Microsoft itself defines the Graph as “the gateway to data and intelligence in Microsoft 365” and a “unified programmability model”.
The Graph was first released in 2015, but it’s functionality and features have been continually expanded. Just as Microsoft continues to invest in Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, it has continued to invest in Graph. This is opening up new possibilities every week.
Why is the Graph so exciting?
There are a number of reasons why the Microsoft Graph API is exciting.
It has such wide scope
Because the Graph connects into the whole of the Office 365 suite and beyond, there is a very wide scope that offers up many opportunities to present relevant data and content. For example, the Graph understands the profile of an individual and knows where a person is located, which division they might sit in, their preferred language, who their manager is and so on. It also has product-centric information such as the latest files an individual has uploaded to OneDrive, the Microsoft Teams spaces a person belongs to and so on. Because the Graph links an individual’s profile to their contributions to different parts of Office 365, this data can then be served up in ways which are highly relevant to the individual user.
It’s much easier for developers
One of the thing’s that is truly beautiful about Graph is that it is just one endpoint. Previously you’d have had to query the SharePoint User Profile Service, then query something else for another application and then again for another. Graph is just one API and makes development much easier, particularly for less confident developers.
There’s also additional features such as the Graph Explorer that really help with your development. Here you can query the Microsoft Graph through a straightforward interface to test out what works. It’s a powerful tool that can really help you develop compelling experiences for users.
You can reuse components across the whole of Office 365
One of the great things about Graph is that you can query it in the same way across the whole of the Office 365 suite. This means you can create a component in one tool such as Microsoft Teams and then use pretty much the same code within a SharePoint page. Reusing components allows for continuity in the user experience and easy integration across Office 365.
There’s loads and loads of extras
We’ve only scratched the surface here with what the Microsoft Graph can do. From integrating features of Excel, to working with multiple calendars to converting various documents in different formats to PDFs, the list of capabilities continues to expand.
What can you use the Graph to do?
Graph opens up dozens of possibilities for developers within organisations to improve processes, add value to existing applications, create a more integrated user experience and add value to Office 365.
Create and improve custom business apps
Office 365 already provides lots of functionality to create your own business apps and the Graph extends that capability to make your apps even better, for example utilising real-time information to surface the latest documents or to find relevant people. It’s also possible to create apps outside of Office 365 using and still use the power of Graph, although you will need to set up Azure Active Directory (AD) and related authentication to do this.
Integrate the Office 365 experience
As we already said, one of the strengths of Graph is that you can reuse components across the whole of the Office 365 suite allowing for a continuity in the user experience and reducing some of the inherent silos between products. It can also make Office 365 more relevant and personalised. For example, querying the Graph works really well for personalised intranets based on SharePoint Online where you want to embed Yammer feeds, or allow people to see a list of all the Teams spaces they are a member of and view a related activity feed.
In some of our own projects we’ve used the Graph to create solutions that can be accessed both within a SharePoint-based intranet or within separate Teams spaces.
Improve personalised search experiences
Graph takes a different approach to search from traditional Microsoft search capabilities as it is completely personalised. This means you can create bespoke, highly targeted search experiences for different needs. For example, you could specifically create a search which picked up documents from both OneDrive, Teams and a centrally-controlled SharePoint library. Microsoft are currently busy working on full Graph integration with search, and the results are hotly anticipated.
Leveraging two-way notifications
Graph also has notification capability so for example, you can receive push notifications from Graph, which are then consistent across wherever they need to appear – for example via email, within an intranet or within Teams. Graph also supports two-way notifications so if a user responds to the original notification with an action then a new “status” could be updated right across different tools within Office 365 that are querying the Graph. This is particularly useful for managing things such as approvals where different users might want multiple views across an intranet, an app on their mobile device and within a Teams space.
The Graph is your friend
We really like the Microsoft Graph both from a geeky development standpoint, but also because it means we can create fantastic solutions for our clients. If you’d like to discuss how you can leverage the power of the Graph in your organisation and how we could possibly help you then don’t hesitate to get in touch!