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How AI Boosts Office 365 and Your Org

Artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially be the next big thing in IT. If AI’s presence keeps increasing within widely used solutions, it may very well be. With the latest version of Office 365, Microsoft expanded artificial intelligence capabilities. For example, AI can now provide insights from Excel data within Office 365.

Let’s explore that and other ways AI enhances Office 365, and in turn, benefits your organization.

Excel-lent Intelligence

Microsoft Excel has boasted intelligence-driven features for some time. User favorites like Flash Fill populate a spreadsheet based on adjacent cells, easing tedious processes like cleaning up or transforming data.

PivotTable Recommendations simplified the process of exploring data with PivotTables. The newest feature, Insights, promises to build on this power with more powerful AI to analyze data, extract insights, and derive value. Best of all, this power is simple to summon, lessening the intimidation factor behind doing this kind of work on large or complex data sets.

Based on machine learning, Insights can automatically find trends, identify outliers, and recommend visualizations to help present and gain perspectives on your data. The feature is already rolled out to all Office users via automatic updates.

Acronyms in Word FTW

Every company’s employee hive-mind will start making up abbreviations sooner or later. It’s inevitable that long team or product names quickly become QAM (quite a mouthful) and dissolve into a mess of internal acronyms scattered across company documents and communications.

Microsoft’s machine learning will read these docs and decipher the shorthand, building a custom lexicon of company vernacular. A new feature in Word, Acronyms, will identify, well, acronyms in a doc and popup their definitions. Never again miss warnings about JHNHCY (Joe has not had coffee yet) or DPDJIPD (don’t put dirty jokes in product documentation).

Master Chief’s iPhone

Outlook on iOS has a bit of a bad rap. Apple users generally don’t care for Microsoft products and Microsoft devs generally don’t give much love to their iOS apps. One big boost has finally come to Outlook on iOS with some Cortana-powered AI.

Got an appointment on your calendar for today? Cortana knows not only the what, but the when and where. She will take advantage of this knowledge, along with your current location and live traffic info, to give you notifications about when to leave and the best route to take (either for driving or public transport). We’re hoping a future upgrade also helps you avoid the Covenant with help from the OG Cortana.

Too Cool for Paper

Anyone lucky enough to have a Microsoft Surface or another Windows tablet should know about Whiteboard. The app, just like the name says, is a freeform digital canvas, letting you sketch, write notes, and mockup your next big industry-disrupting project.

Seamless collaboration allows everyone on your team to view and contribute to your creations on their device. The AI comes into play with recognition of certain items like diagrams and flowcharts, converting them from freeform drawings into clean, rendered shapes, making your sketches slicker.

Coffee with That One Guy

We all use our cell phones as second brains, which generally have far superior memories to our first brains. Taking a quick pic of receipts, business cards, signs, and whiteboards is a super convenient way to remember important information. But the images are only that — images. Contact info from a business card still needs to be typed in to create a new contact. Receipts still need to be transcribed into expense reports.

While automating such tasks isn’t quite here yet, seeds have been planted with searchable text and metadata from images uploaded to OneDrive or SharePoint.

Need to find pictures from your business trip last month to Eugene, Oregon? Just search “Eugene,” all the images were geotagged. Need a receipt from the coffee shop in Eugene? Search “coffee,” the receipt text was recognized and associated with the image. Need the phone number of that guy you had coffee with in Eugene? Search his name and up pops the pic you took of his business card.

 

As Microsoft pushes us closer and closer to an AI-enhanced future, we can only hope that our super-powered Office productivity keeps us one step ahead of the robot uprising. At the very least, we can take solace in this period of peaceful coexistence we enjoy where our computers are only capable of making charts and helping us be on time to appointments.

 

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