First, let me get the disclosures out of the way: My company is a Microsoft partner specializing in some of their Dynamics applications. I'm not being paid to write this, and I love Google and Apple. But I admit that my point of view may be a bit Microsoft-skewed.
We're also users of Office 365 and other apps from Microsoft. However, we're using these applications like it's 2018. I bet you are too. Meanwhile, Microsoft is already in 2028. How so?
Based on announcements made in advance of the company's annual developer conference this week, the software giant is planning (and, in some cases, has already released) a bunch of new features to its various offerings that--with the right amount of investment and training--could make a huge difference to the way your employees get their jobs done. Here are the four biggest.
Your employees can now more deeply leverage LinkedIn data
It's been two years since Microsoft purchased the professional networking giant. Some integrations have already happened and more big ones are coming. For example, Office users will soon be able to email their LinkedIn connections directly through Outlook and collaborate with them on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. When meetings are scheduled, LinkedIn data about the contacts will be included in the event. LinkedIn data will also be used to enhance both sales and customer service interactions by providing more information about the prospect or customer in advance of an interaction.
A.I. technology is slowly but surely creeping in.
Have robots taken over? Well, not entirely--at least not yet. But the company announced that users of Microsoft 365--its integrated bundle of Windows 10, Office 365, and other security and networking applications--will soon be able to take advantage of some very powerful artificial intelligence capabilities. You want examples? How about taking an image of a graph, chart, or report and having it automatically converted into an Excel spreadsheet? Or facial recognition technology that will blur the backgrounds on video calls and automatically create a transcript of the call? Or the ability for experts back in the office to provide assistance for remote workers in the field and collaborate on different layouts and scenarios together, using their augmented reality HoloLens hardware and software.
Your developers now have a lot more goodies to help your business.
As your developers build applications using artificial intelligence algorithms, new tools on Microsoft's Azure Learning Machine will be able to automatically help them select the best algorithm to use and optimize it without any human involvement. Speech synthesis technologies have been enhanced and a new toolkit for the company's voice assistant, Cortana, was introduced to help developers create custom voice applications with the goal of making "conversational computing" in the workplace as easy to use as smartphones.
Your sales and service teams will be able to do their jobs faster and better.
The company announced Dynamics 365 A.I. for Sales, an analysis tool that looks at a salesperson's pipeline and suggest actions and subjects to bring up in future sales meetings based on intelligence it gathers from a variety of online sources. The tool will also analyze the positive and negative interactions a sales and service person is having from his or her communications with customers and recommend people in a manager's LinkedIn network who may be able to help make improvements. Dynamics 365 A.I. for Customer Service is using natural language and automated bots to identify problems and automatically respond to customers with the goal of creating "virtual agents" that can perform mundane or automated tasks without human involvement.
One final note: There's still a new Office for the old-schoolers. If you're one of the remaining holdouts who's resisting the cloud, then don't worry, you're not being left behind. Microsoft released a new version of its on-premise Office 2019 for both Windows and Mac users. Lots of new features and updates are included but be forewarned: Although Microsoft has promised that this won't be the final version of Office, the writing is on the wall.
That's because companies that are already living in 2028, like Microsoft, don't have the time to deal with 1998 stuff.