Microsoft Ignite 2019 Announcements: Content Services Management: Project Cortex: Part 2

In this second article on Project Cortex, we will discover, in closer detail, what Project Cortex involves. As discussed in the first article, Project Cortex leverages AI, content mining, machine learning, and machine teaching to extract content and data from various sources, and then categorize and organize this data. Even though Project Cortex is AI-powered, how does it manage all this content?

Metadata and Management

AI or experts will be able to apply metadata to content and this metadata is managed in the Managed Metadata Service (MMS) which had been updated to support content tagging across Microsoft 365. Defining common terms in taxonomy, including synonyms and multilingual support, through managed metadata allows for more precise tag definitions. With MMS taxonomy, organizations who utilize this will able to mine those tags to recognize topics in their content. Synonyms allow content retrieval to be performed based on tag synonyms. To assist in analyzing content and tagging activities, a report can be generated.

Managed Metadata will support content types across an enterprise and by doing so, will provide ease for governing document templates and metadata columns. Third-party systems are becoming easier to import, export, and integrate with a custom taxonomy.

Topic Cards

When a topic is detected, a topic card will appear. Appearing automatically in SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Word, Outlook, and in Microsoft Search results, topic cards will show a description, the resources, the experts (people), and other information (related topics), and project details on the topic. Additionally, users can follow the topic or suggest an edit should it be needed.

Across Microsoft 365, topics will be prominently shown in people cards, which will assist easy identification of people belonging to teams who are working on projects. Searching for a topic in Bing or in Microsoft Search will provide a list of people who have added the topic to their profile. By adding the topic to their profile, the search encompasses not only the topic but also their skills, expertise, and projects they are assigned to. With Project Cortex, automatic prompting will ensure that users add topics based on the work they are doing to assist in keeping their profiles up to date.

Topic Page

Information from the topic cards can be explored further, in greater detail and depth, on the topic page. Topic pages are automatically built and kept up to date with Project Cortex’s AI as well as with user infused curation. Topic pages become better and more accurate with information contributed by experts. Experts can edit or create new topics, add additional resources, and incorporate their knowledge. By doing this, experts are training the knowledge network in a transparent fashion.

Knowledge Centre

Topic pages roll up into the knowledge centre. The knowledge centre provides a personalized view of relevant information across the organization. This information includes relevant and trending topics and open questions.

Within the knowledge centre, topic-specific knowledge centres, centres of excellence, that support topic-specific knowledge sharing scenarios can be created. Centres of excellence can be created to share topic-specific knowledge such as policies, projects, products, procedures, or customers.

Custom knowledge centres can be created with web parts to integrate training and knowledge from across an organization. These custom knowledge centres are built-in, seamlessly integrating with, the organization’s SharePoint intranet.

Content Centres

Content centres are libraries where reports and analyses can be generated to see how content is being used. AI-powered capabilities that automate content capture and content categorizing will be delivered to all SharePoint libraries and content centres when Project Cortex is enabled. Creating AI models for content processing can be done in content centres. Additionally, automating content-centric processes with AI Builder and Power Automate, which integrates with Project Cortex, will be available in the content centres.

Security

Project Cortex is built into Microsoft 365. As such, Project Cortex maintains the privacy, securities, and compliances that can be expected from Microsoft 365. Within this framework, IT Admins will have control over which scopes of content are included in Project Cortex by excluding sites or documents, whether content is published with broader visibility, and the exclusion of specific topic names based on a block list. Only users with access to content and related information will be able to see topics. User access is reflective of the topic information they are to see.

Project Cortex, by automatically tagging content with metadata and categorizing content, enhances an organization’s security profile. Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) uses metadata to apply security and compliance policies.

Enabling Project Cortex and AI automated tagging and categorization allows Power Automate to streamline business processes.

Third-Party Repositories

New Microsoft Search connectors allow Project Cortex to connect to content in third-party repositories and systems. Connectors that are currently supported include Windows File Share, ServiceNow, SQL Database, Intranet Websites, MediaWiki, Azure Data Lake Gen2, Salesforce, and third-party connectors through the ingestion API.

Project Cortex extends the collaboration ability of SharePoint and Microsoft services. It strengthens the collaboration of an organization by providing relevant and organized knowledge across the enterprise with ease of access for users. Knowledge is valuable. By providing this value to individuals, teams, and the organization, the accumulation of knowledge provides the power for success.

Microsoft Ignite 2019 Announcements: Content Services Management: Project Cortex: Part 1

Project Cortex is the latest and newest content service for knowledge management in Microsoft 365, and it is SUPER EXCITING! Being cloud-based, Project Cortex is easily and proactively accessible by users in SharePoint as it helps to organize content across an organization.

What is Project Cortex?

Project Cortex is an “interactive knowledge repository” of customer content. Being interactive, it leverages AI to intelligently ingest content in a variety of forms from analyzing documents and content to allowing subject-matter experts to teach the system how to understand semi-structured information extracted from conversations, videos, and meetings.

Project Cortex reinvents enterprise content management by leveraging the cloud and AI whereby users create a knowledge network. What is a knowledge network? A knowledge network is a result of creating a union between content, people, and work processes together. Every user in an organization will have the opportunity to access knowledge and to upscale themselves. Knowledge is the key for organizations to gain a foothold, advance, and maintain a strong presence in today’s competitive markets.

How does it Work?

There are many new technologies and apps across Microsoft that many users would benefit from. Project Cortex brings knowledge to the users through the use of these new technologies by integrating the many apps that are available to reach the greatest number of the organization’s audience. Behind the scenes, Project Cortex builds on the intelligence of Microsoft Graph, a variety of Microsoft AI technologies, and leading content services of SharePoint. It brings these together while providing a simple and seamless experience to the user.

With the increase in apps and platforms available, Project Cortex allows organizations to connect to external repositories and systems by using advanced AI to automate content capture, categorization, management, and protection of information with intelligent security and compliance.

Basically, Project Cortex applies AI to reason over structured and unstructured content in an organization. Advanced cognitive services recognize content types, extract the important information, and then automatically organize it into topics along with tags.

What Types of Content can Advanced Cognitive Services Recognize?

1. Text and Image Recognition: identify objects in uploaded or scanned images. The library is vast as it on over 10,000 attributes and text extracts from PDFs and images;

2. Forms Processing: important information can be pinpointed in forms. This information can be extracted as metadata; and

3. Machine Teaching: as opposed to machine learning, machine teaching has experts training AI similarly as one would train a person to read and tag information in documents. With machine teaching, experts can train AI to recognize information in unstructured documents, including contracts, proposals, and training materials, which contain various formatting styles and vastly different types of content. Machine teaching is powered by LUIS and through machine teaching, a reusable model is created based on a small subset of sample documents.

Project Cortex creates and shares content in Microsoft 365 by categorizing the content based on the type and tags it with extracted metadata. The content is securely collected and includes conversations, files, and recorded meetings and videos.

Next, AI applies advanced topic mining logic to identify topics and relate content to those topics. The content can be extracted from Microsoft 365 or from externally connected systems. Customers, projects, policies, products, and procedures are a few examples of important knowledge that can be created by AI as topics. These topics are knowledge entities, a new object class in Microsoft Graph. By connecting knowledge entities, experiences, knowledge, and people, a knowledge network is created.

Project Cortex is the next step in true knowledge collaboration across an enterprise. Microsoft is taking a huge leap in AI and integrating it with human actions to provide value to organizations. This value is knowledge which is the basis for communication and collaboration. By empowering individuals with knowledge, individuals will band together, collaborating and bringing successful solutions and results in the projects that they are tasked with.

In our next article, we will explore Project Cortex in greater detail.

Microsoft Ignite 2019 Announcements: Microsoft Teams: Part 3

These announcements, enhancements, and new features are super exciting and will help streamline, provide easy access, and seamless communication and collaboration within Teams. But we also know this comes with greater responsibility, more intense support, and meticulous organization on the part of the IT Admins.

Microsoft continually acknowledges the complexities that the IT Admins face from the very beginning of planning the architecture and every step in between towards a successful deployment and post-deployment support. In Teams, the IT Admins are receiving some game-changing enhancements to make their responsibilities more manageable.

Managing Teams and Protecting Data with Planning and Administration Tools

1. Advisor for Teams: Advisor for Teams provides IT Admins assistance in the planning for a successful Teams deployment across the organization by offering recommended plans, encompassing a collaboration space for the deployment team to streamline the rollout of all the Teams workloads, including meetings, messages, and calling;

2. Microsoft Semi-Annual Channel: With Office ProPlus, Teams deployment will be streamlined with the Click-to-Run, which will install the Teams client on all PCs that are already on the semi-annual channel. Going forward from January 14, 2020, the client will then update itself regularly;

3. App Catalogue: The new App Catalogue will provide administrators detailed information for applications that are available in the Teams environment. These details will include name, description, publisher, certification status and policy details;

4. Policy Packages: A Policy Package is a collection of pre-defined policies and policy settings. These can be easily assigned by IT Admins to users in an organization who have similar roles thus ensuring that users have access to the Teams capabilities that they need;

5. Policy Assignment to Security Groups in PowerShell: This will be available at the end of this year;

6. Microsoft Teams Room and the Teams Admin Portal: IT Admins will be able to manage device inventory and execute device tasks such as restarting, assigning configurations, and monitoring and diagnosing issues. This can all be performed with the Microsoft Teams Room in the Teams Admin Portal;

7. Managed Meeting Rooms: This is a cloud-based IT management and security monitoring service offered by Microsoft. This service ensures that Teams meeting rooms are up-to-date and secure with proactive monitoring;

8. Safe Links in Microsoft Teams: Safe Links in Microsoft Teams safeguards Teams messages against harmful links when a URL is shared in a channel conversation or in a private chat in real-time. Teams will perform a time-of-click verification of URLs. If there is a risk of malware or viruses, the user will be alerted. Safe Links is powered by Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection;

9. Additional Compliance and Security Capabilities: By the end of this  year, audit log search (deleting and editing messaging events within audit log search), information barriers policies (extending to include files stored in a Team’s SharePoint site); retention policies (applicable to short retentions like one day); and e-Discovery (results will now include search results for keywords and conversations around them) will become available.

Automating Workflows, Integrating Custom Apps and Data Insights within Teams using Power Platform

1. Power Apps and Teams Apps: Power Apps creators can publish their apps as Team apps. This will provide users easy access to these apps in Teams and users will be able to access them in Teams. Admins will have the ability to publish custom apps directly into the app library in Teams which will make them more easily discoverable to users;

2. Pinning an App: An app created with Power Apps can be pinned in Teams to the left rail. By pinning an app, the user will have easy access to frequently used apps;

3. Teams-Centric Actions & Triggers – Power Automate: Users can use Power Automate Teams-Centric Actions & Triggers to create new automated workflows within Teams; and

4. Power BI Interactive Cards in Teams: Users will be able to quickly find and act on their data with Power BI Interactive Cards in Teams.

With the many new and improved features in Teams, users across the organization along with external clients will have the ability to communicate from varying platforms such as Linux, iOS, and android. Flexibility, versatility, and ease of access being provided by Microsoft Teams strengthen the cohesiveness for users to work together. Microsoft continues to improve and innovate collaboration through communication.

Microsoft Ignite 2019 Announcements: Microsoft Teams: Part 2

As the day progresses and the sessions continue, there are more announcements for Microsoft Teams. Just as exciting as discussed in the previous article, the new additions and enhancements in this article are just as exciting! As mentioned previously, Teams is utilized by users and organizations in many ways and Microsoft not only recognizes this, but it encourages and has focused on these aspects.

Conduct Inclusive and Effective Meetings

1. Microsoft Whiteboard: Whether in the same room or working remotely, Teams participants can collaborate and ideate on a digital, never-ending digital canvas. Microsoft Whiteboard is available from the Share Tray in Teams Meetings;

2. Live Captions: Users and participants have different needs, and with Live Captions, differences in hearing and language proficiencies are addressed. This provides an alternate way to follow along and participate with the conversation;

3. Presenter and Attendee Controls: Meeting organizers will be able to pre-define roles for participants as presenters or attendees. Participants designated as presenters will have full control over the meeting. Participants designated as an attendee will not be able to take control, share content, admit people waiting in the lobby, remove other participants, and start/stop recordings;

4. Citrix: Microsoft Teams Calling and Meetings for Citrix virtual environments will be optimized, allowing the delivery of high-fidelity Teams experience for users who are on-prem or for users who are Azure-hosted by a virtual desktop or application;

5. Cloud Video Interop (CVI): The latest partner to the CVI partnerships, Cisco is enabling customers to use Teams meetings with the use of Cisco Webex Room devices and SIP video conferencing devices in the meeting rooms;

6. Direct Guest Join Capability: Working together with Zoom and Cisco, Microsoft is trailblazing a new approach that will enable Microsoft Teams Rooms devices to connect to meeting services through browser-based technologies. As this technology is developed, additional vendors will be added;

7. Collaboration Bars for Microsoft Teams: Working with partners to convert small spaces into online meeting and collaboration spaces, this new category of device is affordable and can be installed and managed with ease. These video conferencing collaboration bars attach to touchscreens, displays, or TVs and provide experiences such as one-touch and proximity join, Microsoft whiteboard, and content sharing. The first two partners to launch are Poly and Yealink;

8. Microsoft Teams Speakerphones: These new speakerphones have a dedicated Teams button that provides seamless interaction with Teams. The first peripheral partner, who also has the first certified speakerphone, is Yealink; and

9. Enterprise Phone System Capabilities: New enterprise-wide phone system capabilities will include emergency calls, administrative control, call queue functionality, call delegation, voicemail management, and music on hold. The Enterprise Phone System also performs Compliance Recording and coupled with the Contact Center, it is suited to be a cloud phone system solution for enterprise clients.

Firstline Workers and Ease of Access to Teams

1. SMS Sign-In: With their phone number and a one-time SMS passcode, Firstline Workers can easily sign into Teams on their personal device;

2. Off Shift Access: IT Administrators will be able to enable this new setting. By enabling this setting, Firstline Workers, when outside of their payable hours, will receive a notification when they access their Teams app on their personal device. The Firstline Worker must provide consent to the notification before they can access their app;

3. Global Sign-Out: It is not uncommon for Firstline Workers to be using shared devices. By providing a global sign-out where the user is signed out at once from all the apps they use on their shift, it secures their sessions while saving time;

4. Delegated User Management: To reduce the burden of identity management on IT, Firstline managers will be able to manage user credentials and approve password reset requests via the My Staff portal; and

5. Graph API: Enhancements will provide a two-directional communication flow between a workforce management system and Shifts to enable enterprise configuration. Customers will be able to integrate Teams with Kronos and JDA with the open-source integration templates on GitHub.

Enable Industry-Specific Scenarios in Healthcare and Other Industries

1. Virtual Consults: B2C virtual consultations can be easily scheduled and conducted via Microsoft Teams and attendees can join through their Teams mobile app or from their web browser. Conducting healthcare consults with patients, conducting interviews, or holding meetings has never been more convenient or easier; and

2. Patient Coordination: Providing health care to patients and patient-centered care requires a secure platform for physicians, nurses, health aides, and other care team members to communicate clearly. In Teams, Patient Coordination is HIPAA compliant with enterprise-grade security. Meeting HIPPA compliance means that patient care can be streamlined by centralizing and digitizing patient information that is accessible to the patient care team for multi-disciplinary meetings, rounding, handoffs, and huddles.

Communication and collaboration are strongly emphasized in this set of enhancements and features for users within a Team, potential Team members, and clients. Super exciting! And we have more announcements in the next article.

Microsoft Ignite 2019 Announcements: Microsoft Teams: Part 1

As we already know, Microsoft Teams is the grand central station for collaboration and business processes for all users, whether internal or external that are associated with that organization.

At today’s session of Microsoft Ignite 2019, there were some big announcements for Microsoft Teams. These new and innovative enhancements will provide new capabilities to Teams by providing and responding to the dynamic and evolving needs of both users and their organization.

New features to Teams provide users the abilities to customize Team conversations and experiences, manage conversations, tasks and files from other Microsoft 365 apps that are within Teams, conduct effective meetings, provide easier access to Teams for Firstline Workers, enable industry-specific scenarios in healthcare and other industries, manage Teams and protect data with new planning and administration tools, and use Power Platform within Teams to automate workflows, data insights, and integrate custom apps.

The real excitement comes when we look at each of these a little closer but because Teams is evolving so much, we will cover these new features and enhancements spanning over three articles. Now, for the Teams excitement!

Customizing Team Conversations and Experiences

1. Private Channels: Within existing Teams, users will be able to create channels that can be accessed and viewed by select members of that Team. Creating a Private Channel can be accomplished by selecting Private under the Privacy Settings of the new channel;

2. Multiwindow: Streamlining workflows, users in Teams will be able to open separate windows for chats, calls, documents, and meetings;

3. Teams Client for Linux: Teams Client for Linux will support Linux users with calls, chats, and meetings with other members on Teams who are not Linux based. Users who use Linux client at work or educational institutions will be able to install native Linux packages in .rpm and .deb formats;

4. New Messaging Extensions: Available in Teams chat and channel conversations, the new messaging extensions include Polls and Surveys. These can easily be accessed in the chat or channel by clicking the “…” at the bottom of the compose message box, soliciting instant feedback for shared items or questions; and

5. Pinned Channels: Who doesn’t like pinning?!? Pinning channels allows the user to pin their important channels at the top of their Teams list for quick and easy access.

Managing Conversations, Tasks, and Files from other Microsoft 365 Apps Within Teams 

1. Outlook and Teams – A New Integration: In Outlook, the user can now move an email conversation, including attachments, into a Teams chat or channel by clicking on Share to Teams. A conversation can also be shared from Teams to Outlook (reverse of above) by clicking on the More options, the “…” icon, in a conversation. This makes collaboration much easier as it no longer matters where the conversation is taking place.

Missed an activity in Teams? No worries. Actionable emails, missed activity emails, will be sent to the user. These actionable emails will allow the user to respond directly from the email, which shows the latest replies from the conversation;

2. Tasks in Teams: Within Teams, the user’s tasks across Microsoft, such as To Do, Planner, Outlook, and Teams channels, are consolidated to provide a unified view of both personal and assigned tasks. Users will be able to choose the view that works best for them. These views include lists, charts, schedules, and boards. With smart views, the user will see assigned tasks along with the start and due date as well as the priority of the task; and

3. Yammer App for Teams: Accessible within Teams, Yammer communities, live events, and conversations not only provide current information to users but also the opportunity to participate in organization-wide conversations. Users and IT Admins can pin the app on the left navigation rail in Teams, thereby providing easy and clear access.

These updates and additions are focused on the user and their experience in Teams; however, as we know, Teams is multi-faceted and serves users in many fashions. You will discover in the next article how Teams is being leveraged for meetings and Firstline Workers.