In late 2019 Microsoft announced a bunch of new upcoming developments for their apps and services. The Teams app is getting some much needed added features, and Microsoft also announced a major new AI-based project that has the potential to dramatically simplify how we access information in the workplace. It’s fair to say that in recent years Microsoft has become increasingly focused on AI, Machine Learning and Neural Networking capabilities and we’re starting to see exciting projects come to light – Project Cortex is one of these projects.
Microsoft Teams has been widely adopted by businesses since it was launched and has largely been a success. Teams is a unified collaboration and communication platform that enables users to chats, hold video meetings, store files, and access important workplace apps all in one place. However, Microsoft is far from done when it comes to adding new functionality to Teams.
Microsoft has announced that they will be integrating their workplace social media app Yammer into Teams, to allow users an additional avenue of workplace communication. They have also announced private channels, multiwindow chats, pinned channels, and integration with Planner and To Do. Microsoft explained that these additions were in response to requests from users, so we can assume that they will be well received by the user base.
Project Cortex is the first new service to come to Microsoft 365 since Teams was launched back in 2017. In his keynote speech, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said:
“Project Cortex takes what is data today inside of your organization and converts it into knowledge,”
Put simply, the goal of Project Cortex is to streamline the process of searching for internal information by using AI to intelligently compile information based on relevance. As an example of Project Cortex in use, Microsoft demonstrated how you can scroll over a highlighted word or phrase in an Office app such as Word, Outlook, SharePoint or Teams, and a topic card will be generated which cleanly and simply displays internal information about the phrase. This is extremely useful when it comes to projects, where some employees will have a much greater knowledge of a project and may reference it in an email, not realising that not all members are up to scratch on the topic. Currently, you’d have to search through SharePoint in the hopes of finding relevant information or ask another employee, but this isn’t the most efficient solution to the problem.
Project Cortex isn’t an app in its own right, but rather will function in the background, quietly making sense of company data and turning it into usable knowledge for employees. It even has the potential to eliminate the need to ever actively search for internal information since it will simply be presented to you when you need it.
In terms of when we can expect to see Project Cortex, an official date hasn’t been announced but it’s expected sometime in 2020.
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