The Microsoft Graph is about to light up a new way for business users to search

The Microsoft Graph API is the 'secret sauce' behind Bing for Business, new contextual search for SharePoint and Delve, and more.

These are the top business tech stories from Microsoft Ignite

In May 2017, SharePoint execs said Microsoft was working on a new search experience across Office. At Ignite this week, Microsoft officials are filling in the details about exactly what this is going to mean.

At the center of the strategy is the Microsoft Graph, Microsoft's centralized application programming interface (API), formerly known as the Office 365 Unified API. The Microsoft Graph -- to which Microsoft is adding more and more endpoints -- will allow search to work for Sites, Files, People, email, and documents.

Microsoft's strategy is to allow business users to search from wherever they are. If they're in SharePoint, they can search directly from there; if they're using the web, they'll be able to use a new variant of Bing, called Bing for Business; and if they're in MyAnalytics (aka Delve), they can search from inside that data-visualization and search application.

Instead of expecting users to go to a particular site to search for information pertinent to their business requests, Microsoft is trying to bring search to where the users are, said Naomi Moneypenny, senior product manager for SharePoint, OneDrive, and Yammer.

"Intelligent search happens wherever you are doing work," Moneypenny said. "Our vision for enterprise search is personal, contextual and boundryless."

Under the covers, all of these searches -- whether in SharePoint, Bing for Business, or Office -- are using the same Microsoft Graph and the same dataset. To enable this capability, Office 356 administrators will need to switch this on for their organization and opt to activate some or all users. In order to test-drive the Bing for Business private preview, which is live as of today, individual employees will then log into Bing.com/work to access their work-related results on any device and in any browser.

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Credit: Microsoft

With this enterprise search functionality, Microsoft wants to simplify users searches for things like, "How to I enable Bitlocker on my work PC?" or "How do I pay my healthcare provider?" If a user is looking for information about someone named "Jeff" working in their company, the coming enterprise search offering will give priority to results for Jeffs that are inside that users' organization, rather than just web-search results for individuals named Jeff.

(I haven't tested this new enterprise search capability, but it sounds like it works a lot like the way Cortana on Windows 10 works, in that it provides locally relevant results first and web results, secondarily.)

Also announced at Ignite today, Microsoft also is integrating LinkedIn data with Office 365 profile cards, which will make these enterprise searches for people-related information even richer. This is another step toward Microsoft's stated goal of integrating the Microsoft and LinkedIn data graphs.

Microsoft isn't providing a target date for releasing these more personalized business search capabilities across Office and Bing for Business, beyond saying they're going to be available in the coming months.

A possibly related aside: Last week, a reader contacted me about Microsoft dropping Advanced Search in Outlook without any warning. After he contacted Microsoft about this, Advanced Search quickly was reinstated. I wonder if Microsoft was/is preparing to replace the existing Outlook Search with this new unified business-search experience. I asked. No word back so far...

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