In my previous post, we looked at the exciting new possibilities of Office 365 as a development platform, including Add-ins implemented as independently hosted web applications and programmatic access to enterprise assets in Office 365 via APIs like the Graph API.

Today we’ll look at a rich example of leveraging the Office 365 platform: Microsoft’s Matter Center.

Matter Center

Originally developed as an in-house solution for Microsoft’s legal organization, Matter Center is now available to the public for consumption and contribution as an open-source project on GitHub.

With Matter Center, users organize their work by Client and then by client Matters. The user experience is tied directly into Office native and online applications, and leverages the power of Office 365 and SharePoint Online to provide features like:

  • Confidentiality of sensitive information through permissions controls
  • Search across all content or within a particular Matter
  • Document version history
  • Simultaneous editing of documents and comment tracking

Matter Center provides extensive integration with Office 365 services, including:

  • An Office Add-in for Outlook.
  • A SharePoint provider-hosted Add-in that integrates a two-tiered Azure hosted web application stack:
    • A web application front-end
    • A web service that makes calls to SharePoint Online API and other Office 365 APIs.

Here is the System Architecture diagram taken from the Technical Specification document on GitHub:

Matter Center Architecture

Matter Center in Action

Let’s say I’m a legal professional going through my daily avalanche of emails, and I come upon one that has a document attachment pertaining to a particular legal matter. I could:

  1. Download the attachment locally
  2. Switch to a browser and navigate to SharePoint
  3. Find the site for this matter, or create a new site if this is a new matter
  4. Upload the document to the site

Wouldn’t it be easier if I could just press a button and upload the attachment directly to the Matter of my choice? And create a new Matter right in Outlook if I needed to? With Matter Center, you can.

After deploying Matter Center and installing its Office 365 Outlook Add-in, a link will appear in the email viewing pane:

Matter Center Outlook Link

Here’s what it looks like when we click and expand the Matter Center Add-in:

Matter Center Outlook Open

Now if I want to add a new Matter, I can do it without leaving Outlook:

Matter Center Outlook Add Matter

After adding my new Matter, I can simply upload the attachment from the email by clicking “Upload attachments”, clicking on the relevant Matter, and choosing “Upload to a matter”:

Matter Center Outlook Upload 2

From there I can drag-and-drop attachments to the Documents folder and even file the email itself in the Emails library:

Matter Center Outlook Upload 3

If I then want to see all of the related information for the Matter, I just click it in the list and choose “View matter details”, which takes me to this view:

Matter Center Outlook Matter Details

All of this without leaving Outlook.

What Will You Dream Up?

Learning about the capabilities of the Office 365 platform, and seeing it in action with Matter Center, has been an eye-opening experience. Now as I’m thinking about developing great web apps and user experiences, I’ll also be thinking about ways to integrate them directly them with the Office applications and content that people use every day.

Further Reading from our Office 365 Series:

Office 365 as a Development Platform

Unlocking the Enterprise in Office 365

Office 365 and the Graph API: Under the Hood

Improving Productivity With Office 365 Add-Ins