Everyday AI in Microsoft 365

When you think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), you might picture robots and far-fetched sci-fi dreams. But chances are, you are already using AI every day — perhaps without even realizing it. AI has crept into your lives – through personal assistants on your phone, shopping recommendations on your social media feeds, or chatbots who answer your questions with speed and accuracy. While tech companies and app developers around the world look for ways to make your life easier with AI, new tools are appearing in popular software — and solving all sorts of problems.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way people and organizations work. As knowledge workers begin to adopt AI, they can expect to be more informed with greater insights into the activities going on around them, more focused on productive tasks, more creative using design and writing assistance, and happier by not getting bogged down in repetitive tasks.

A Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Microsoft found that AI can help knowledge workers make better business decisions by using graph-based discoveries. Typically, knowledge workers spend their days working in information: searching for it, analyzing it, and developing insights to create content that informs major business decisions. By analyzing and contextualizing data, AI helps knowledge workers find the information they need to make decisions faster, locate relevant experts more easily, and make decisions more confidently. Furthermore, decision-makers surveyed in the study noted the potential for knowledge workers to benefit from streamlined business processes and increased business agility through proactive suggestions, and reduced burnout and improved customer focus through the automatic completion of tasks.

Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We believe that by putting AI in the hands of knowledge workers with Microsoft 365, organizations can transform how their employees work. With capabilities that are broad, deep, and accessible to everyone, AI-infused Microsoft 365 can help amplify employee skills, foster teamwork, uncover hidden insights to improve decisions, and proactively manage threats to protect business and personal data. These benefits do more than just extend an organization’s capabilities and drive unique value; they create opportunities for every person and every organization to achieve more.

The AI features built into Microsoft 365 can help employees be more creative and efficient every day, not just in a crisis. Microsoft has integrated AI capabilities into the tools employees use daily. This everyday AI enhances creativity and improves efficiency—oftentimes without employees even being aware they are using it.

AI can mean a lot of things to different people. AI represents a broad range of technologies that can perceive, learn, reason, assist in decision-making, and act to help solve problems. AI technology continually learns from user interactions and organizational data to provide better insights. These technologies can interpret the meaning of data from text, voice, and images, identify trends, and form conclusions from imperfect datasets to assist in decision-making. These capabilities represent a huge shift in technology: earlier we needed to learn how to use technology, but now, technology is learning from us.

Microsoft uses an interconnected dataset of world knowledge, organizational knowledge, and individual knowledge, called the Microsoft Graph, as the foundation for its AI capabilities in Microsoft 365. The graph spans the world around us, our business applications, and individual user data to surface valuable insights and experiences to our customers. Comprised of signals across Bing, Office 365, Windows, and many other sources, the graph enables ground-breaking possibilities for customers.

To democratize AI for employees, we are infusing intelligence throughout Microsoft 365. Employees can leverage AI in existing workflows to amplify the skills of individuals and teams, uncover hidden insights, and actively monitor and secure the organization against modern threats and the risks caused by the proliferation of devices and workplace flexibility.

Amplify skills and foster teamwork

AI technology is providing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Microsoft to deliver new, transformational value to organizations. These capabilities can help employees focus on their strengths to further amplify their skills and enhance their work as both individuals and team members. 

Machine translation is one area where AI provides many capabilities that can amplify an employee’s skills. Using Microsoft Teams, employees can communicate with colleagues who speak different languages by providing real-time translation of chat messages. With meeting recording capabilities in Teams, invitees who miss a meeting can watch it on demand using Microsoft Stream. They can also search across audio to find action items and catch up with work quickly and easily.

PowerPoint also helps a speaker to connect with a diverse audience by providing on-screen subtitles in the spoken language or one of 60+ translated languages—while a presentation is being delivered live. And, within Word and PowerPoint, employees can choose to have content translated with the click of a button. As helpful as these capabilities can be, employees cannot always find them easily, or they may not be aware they exist. To solve this issue, Microsoft surfaces key AI capabilities in Office apps in one place via Ideas, which provides suggestions to make employees more productive without leaving the flow of their work or even being aware of the feature they are using.  In PowerPoint, Ideas automates the creation of slides and presentations, helping everyone get more out of Office. With a cloud-powered recommendation engine and smart animation technology, anyone can create polished slides and captivating motion effects with just a few quick steps. Employees can spend less time figuring out how to produce high quality designs and more time preparing for their presentation.

Another proactive AI capability, Editor in PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook assists employees as they put the finishing touches on their files by providing an advanced proofing and editing service. Behind the scenes, Editor identifies spelling, grammar, and writing style issues by leveraging machine learning and natural language processing mixed with input from Microsoft’s own team of linguists. The Editor pane then makes suggestions to help employees improve their writing.

Outlook also has many AI capabilities to amplify employee skills. Focused Inbox helps filter out the noise and surface the most relevant information, so they don’t miss what’s important. Employees can also use suggested replies when they need to respond with a short message. Intelligent technology in Outlook can also help employees find the best room for a meeting based on attendees, time, availability, and their own preferences.

HCL Technologies, an Indian multinational information technology service and consulting company, is transforming their modern workplace with everyday AI. In improving the employee experience, AI bots in Microsoft Teams are helping with transactional work, looking through FAQs or providing analytical insights around productivity.

Ashu Kakkar, Vice President, Global IT, HCL Technologies, said, “Eliminating the need for separate IT tools, we’ve consolidated all of these tasks on Teams through a seamless, connected experience for employees. With the whiteboarding feature on Teams, employees across the world are collaborating for virtual workshops and meetings, significantly optimizing on travel. Live meetings with transcription, especially broadcasts on Teams from CXOs and business updates, has been effective for communication and employee engagement. “The everyday AI features, with intelligent security across M365, have helped us enhance employee productivity in a significant way.”

Uncover hidden insights and improve decisions

Today, knowledge workers are mired in an unprecedented volume of data. This information overload can be costly because employees are too overwhelmed to innovate or make decisions quickly. To uncover trends hidden in data, analyze data effectively, and improve their productivity, employees need better, more intelligent tools. Microsoft 365 provides several capabilities to improve data analysis to drive better decisions and manage information overload.

Finding insights by turning Excel data into pivot tables or charts used to be out of reach for many employees. Now, Ideas in Excel delivers AI-powered insights to help people take advantage of the full power of Office. Ideas helps identify trends, patterns, and outliers in a data set and provides suggestions on the best charts to present the insights—helping employees analyze and display their data in seconds and enabling better, faster decisions.

Power BI has long been a pioneer in applying AI through capabilities such as natural language search, which enables employees to get answers by asking questions in plain English, or Quick Insights, which automatically finds patterns in data. By harnessing the power of AI, employees can perform complex tasks that typically require technical know-how—key phrase extraction, sentiment analysis, understanding drivers, creating machine learning models—with just a few clicks and without code. For example, sophisticated, pre-trained machine learning models incorporated into Power BI provide employees with powerful ways to extract information from sources like documents, images, and even social media feeds.

Workplace Analytics identifies how employees across an organization spend their time and provides insights into how groups collaborate. Dashboards highlight potential problem areas, while custom queries offer flexible data access to create valuable insights. By quantifying Office 365 collaboration data, Workplace Analytics gives business decision makers a powerful tool for evidence-based cultural transformation.

Similarly, MyAnalytics uses data analysis to help employees improve productivity and teamwork. Improving personal productivity requires making better decisions about how to use personal time, but that can be difficult without data. MyAnalytics gives employees insight into two key factors governing productivity: how they spend their time and who they spend it with. With insights into meetings, key relationships, email effectiveness, and focus time, employees can choose to work on more meaningful tasks and produce more value for the organization.

Search has been around for nearly as long as computers have. But today, with the help of AI, search does much more than help employees find a file. Microsoft Search is a cohesive search capability across the Office apps, Windows, Edge, and Bing that learns from past actions to provide results spanning apps, files, settings, and people in the context of an individual’s current work. With the power of zero-entry queries, many times employees won’t even have to begin typing; Microsoft 365 will present the desired result just based on recent activities. And search isn’t just for text anymore. Microsoft 365 can determine where photos were taken, recognize objects, and extract text in photos.

This object recognition and text extraction helps make searching for images as easy as searching for documents. Microsoft 365 also facilitates searching audio and video files. For example, in Microsoft Stream, employees can use facial recognition to jump to a point in a video where a specific person is speaking or jump to a point where a specific name is mentioned.

Data is key and businesses can unlock unique insights from their data using ideas in Excel and Power BI. Business functions at Mahindra & Mahindra are using the power of that data for better decision-making and even optimizing employee productivity. Simplicity is core to the organization and everyday AI features in M365 are helping them on their journey. 

Proactively secure data and devices

Securing the organization grows more challenging every day. Data is proliferating at unprecedented rates and becoming more valuable, threats are becoming more sophisticated, and flexible workstyles increase security risks. AI technology in Microsoft 365 is here to help protect all data and devices.

Microsoft AI-enhanced security begins with the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph. The Threat Intelligence service uses data in the Intelligent Security Graph to provide recommendations for security settings based on the current threat environment. This intelligence is continuously applied across Microsoft services like Microsoft 365, without any need for customer configuration or action.

These tools are great for defense, but with five billion attacks detected every single month, organizations must still optimize security protection through a combination of human security admins and AI to back them up. Microsoft Threat Protection is always running in the background of Microsoft 365. It uses data from Microsoft services around the globe to analyze an environment for attacks. Using AI technology to learn about attacks and remediation, Threat Protection can often remediate a successful attack without employees ever knowing that something happened. When they need to act, Threat Protection will use information from the Intelligent Security Graph to guide system administrators though the recommended remediation steps to quickly defuse the threat.

With a strong focus on innovation, Microsoft is constantly pushing the boundaries of AI to create fast, agile, and powerful tools for the enterprise. Built on top of Azure, our AI capabilities are reaching new milestones every year:

2015: Image recognition human parity

2017: Speech recognition human parity

2018: Machine reading comprehension human parity

2018: Machine translation human parity

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