The State of Analytics in SharePoint and Office 365

John White

by John P White on 5/4/2016

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Date Revised:

Applies to:
analytics, Delve Analytics, document scoped, Office 365, SharePoint Online, site scoped, tenant scoped

After a company adopts SharePoint or Office 365, one of the first things an organization will look for is some understanding as to how the product is being adopted, and what its impact on resource allocation is. Historically, options for reporting on SharePoint have been limited at best.

Microsoft introduced the Web Analytics Service application with SharePoint 2010, and it relied on a series of connected Excel workbooks and a fairly Byzantine series of staging and reporting databases. It worked so well that Microsoft removed it from SharePoint 2013. The Usage logs contain a rich set of information, and they are rolled up into the Usage database, but accessing the data or persisting it beyond a short time period required a fair bit of work.

There were also third-party analytical solutions, but most of these came with a hefty price tag, and they focused on page views, embedding code on a page. This approach works well enough for web pages, but it doesn’t capture everything. For example, document access though the .NET API. They’re therefore not always well-suited to collaborative environments.

SharePoint in Office 365 was initially devoid of analytics, but some basic reports have been creeping in in recent months. With the new administration portal going live, these reports moved from the relative obscurity of the compliance center to the brand new report center, and were augmented by some additional reports.

With the release of SharePoint 2016, and the announcements made at the Future of SharePoint event on May 4 2016, we can see the additional areas where Microsoft will introduce analytics into the core product. For the rest of this article, let’s step back and have a look at the analytics landscape as it pertains to SharePoint and Office 365.

At the moment, the analytics offerings can be grouped into four major categories: tenant scoped, site scoped, document scoped, and Delve Analytics. Let’s have a look at each one in turn.

Tenant scoped

The tenant scoped reports are the aforementioned reports that are now available in the new Office 365 Reporting Center.

Reports now available in the Office 365 Admin Center

Figure 1: Tenant scoped reports in the Office 365 Reporting Center

There are a number of interesting reports in here that focus primarily on the tenant as a whole. How much OneDrive space users are using, Yammer message counts, Skype meetings, emails sent and received, etc. In addition, these reports can be interacted with to show four different time periods, 7, 30, 90, and 180 days. Year over year analysis is not available.

These reports will primarily interest administrators, and it therefore makes sense that they are only available in the administration center, where administrative permissions are required to access them.

Site scoped

Site scoped analytics contain data that is of concern to site administrators. These users are more concerned with content usage than resource allocation. These analytics features were initially announced at the Future of SharePoint event on May 4 2016, and as of this writing, have not yet rolled out.

The initial rollout will focus on content consumption, visits to the site and document views.

Site visits in Office 365

Figure 2: Site scoped analytics will include Office 365 site visits

A site report in Office 365

Figure 3: Site scoped analytics will include Office 365 site reports

You can see recent views of documents

Figure 4: You can see recent document views, but not really in a report

This is welcome data to beleaguered site administrators, and it will help to identify important content, and content that maybe could be pruned. While site scoped analytics will be initially rolling out to SharePoint Online, the good new is that on premises users will also be able to get this through the new Analytics service application.

In a similar model to the new hybrid search, the new Analytics service application connects to Office 365 and delivers your on-premises usage data to the service – essentially everything that is kept in the logging database. From there, the service can act on it to do interesting thing. One of those interesting things will be to deliver content-based activity reports like the ones seen above.

There are a few things to take note of about site scoped analytics. They are scoped to the site, not the site collection. They do not roll up into a master report, so each site must be visited in turn (they live in the “site contents” section) to see the results. As far as I’m aware, the data is only persisted for a short time (I have only seen 7 days), so time-based analysis is not possible.

Document scoped

Document scoped analytics have been in the service for some time now, and the new document library exposes them. I call them analytics, but they really are just the activity stream for a document or a folder. The do offer insight, so we’ll stick with the term.

From a new style document library, you select the information icon on the right to open up the information pane. Part of that information is the activity stream of the document. In the example below I have selected a folder.

Select a document and then click the information icon to see recent activity about that document

Figure 5: Select the information icon to open the information pane to see the activity stream of the document.

It’s a welcome addition, and it is what it is. There’s currently no way to aggregate the data or to pivot on it focused on anything other than the document/folder.

Delve analytics

Delve analytics is a new offering from the Office team that focuses on the user. It analyzes a person’s communications and schedule to provide insights into their work experience, with measures like time spent in meetings, time spent in email, work life balance, etc.

Delve Analytics relies on Exchange data

Figure 6: Delve Analytics, which just analyzes Exchange email data (so far), requires an Office 365 E5 license.

Delve Analytics doesn’t really belong in a blog post about SharePoint because it doesn’t analyze any SharePoint or OneDrive data, so I’ll keep this section short. For the moment, at least, it is restricted to Exchange email data as a source.

Delve Analytics requires an Office 365 E5 license or it can be purchased separately. Unlike the rest of the analytics options here, there is an extra cost associated with it.


The analytics options available in Office 365 and in SharePoint have improved drastically, but are still in their infancy. Each of the approaches are targeted at different audiences (IT Pro, site admins, content authors, individuals). This approach is both good and bad. Tailoring an approach to an audience means that the specific audience will be satisfied, but the different approaches can become somewhat disjointed. It depends on what is necessary.

Analytics at the moment are also limited to specific time slices, if time can be sliced at all, and to specific dimensions/measures. This is no problem if recent activity is the only thing of interest, but if more fine grained time slices or year-over-year analyses are needed, then the out-of-the-box approaches will fall short.

Finally, most of the reports focus on activity; there is very little information provided about the SharePoint or Office 365 inventory.

The good news in all of this is not only that Microsoft has made analytics a priority, but that all of its features in this area use publicly available APIs. this means that there is plenty of room for third-party vendors to step in to fill gaps and to provide complete analytics focused solutions. In that vein, I’m very proud to announce that my company, UnlimitedViz, will soon be releasing a product, tyGraph for Office 365 to do exactly that.

You can read John's original blog post here:

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Topic: Future of SharePoint

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