At Ignite 2019 in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft had announced their Microsoft 365 initiative that would leverage the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to organize organizational data into shared projects – Project Cortex, which you can refer to in our previous articles Project Cortex: Part 1 and Part 2.
In the early days of knowledge management, there were plenty of discussions but despite all the theories, very little could be delivered. Theories remained theories due to the then limited capacities of technology but as the years progressed, technology began advancing quickly, and now, it advances at lightning speed. With greatly improved technology and the dynamic growth of SharePoint and Microsoft, integrating AI within Microsoft 365 and SharePoint provides real-life addressment towards knowledge management.
What is Knowledge Management?
To understand the principles guiding Knowledge Management (KM), we have to understand the Nonaka and Takeuchi Knowledge Spiral Model. These two leading Japanese business experts were the first to connect the success of Japanese companies with their ability to create new knowledge and use it to produce successful products and technologies, which is reversed in western business.
Based on this model, there are two types of knowledge: explicit knowledge, knowledge which is written such as in manuals and procedures, and tacit knowledge, knowledge that is gained through experience but can be communicated indirectly. Nonaka and Takeuchi observed that Japanese businesses have learned to transform tacit into explicit knowledge, which they believe is the underlying reason for successful businesses.
They believed that the ability to create knowledge would become the key to sustaining a competitive advantage. It was their theory that the environment changes constantly, which causes customer preferences to constantly change, which in turn pushes for new knowledge. This they termed as knowledge creation.
Nonaka (proposed in 1991) and Takeuchi (together expanded in 1995) the SECI model, the acronym for socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization, of knowledge.
What does this mean?
All four categories refer to knowledge as either tacit or explicit:
1. Socialization involves the creation of physical or virtual space (Teams, Yammer) where a given community (Teams) can interact on a social level while sharing tacit knowledge through observation, imitation, or practice (News Feed, SharePoint);
2. Externalization is the expression of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge (Teams, SharePoint, Yammer). Because tacit knowledge is highly internalized, this process is the key to sharing and creation of knowledge;
3. Combination is the process of taking concepts and turning them into knowledge, such as trend analysis, analytics (SharePoint), organization of data from another database (DataFlex), or an executive summary; and
4. Internalization is the incorporation of explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge.
What does this have to do with Project Cortex?
The core of the SECI model is to make personal knowledge available to others in an organization by continuously creating knowledge that occurs and is created at all levels of an organization. (We experience this with SharePoint and Teams, as well as other Microsoft applications.) This concept of Knowledge Management involves structuring and ordering a large variety of dynamic information, extracting relevant data, and delivering it to the right person at the right time. (We have begun seeing the changes in Microsoft 365 and SharePoint, but this is only the beginning.)
By integrating and leveraging AI within Microsoft 365 and SharePoint, Project Cortex will re-invent knowledge management. Starting at the foundation, Project Cortex’s AI capabilities will use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the context of the documents in an organization and categorize them accordingly.
Running silently in the background, AI will allow Microsoft 365 to bring the most relevant information to the top for each user and organization, not only personalizing each of their experiences but also improving collaboration and workflow.
What Will Project Cortex Affect?
As explained, Project Cortex is re-inventing how knowledge is managed and we can expect to see automatic categorization and content organization in Office, Outlook, and Teams while machine learning will deliver to the users innovative and personalized experiences including topic cards, topic pages, and knowledge centres.
Because documents are categorized based on content and context, Project Cortex is able to use machine learning to determine the security level of particular pieces of information. This in turn allows Microsoft 365 to automatically retain all sensitive data within internal perimeters.
When Will it be Released?
It was announced that Project Cortex will not be a single product, but a suite of products that will be available as add-ons. The first product, SharePoint Syntex, will be available in October 2020. SharePoint Syntex is extremely exciting as it brings everyone in the Microsoft World one step closer to making KM a practical reality.
AI and machine learning are powerful tools. When combined with SharePoint, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Search, Office.com, they can be used to streamline business operations, increase efficiencies, easily share knowledge, and support effortless collaboration. Most importantly, AI and machine learning can be leveraged to manage knowledge across an organization so each user has current and relevant information that is easily and readily accessible so they can perform their responsibilities. Project Cortex is an umbrella for many exciting AI-driven suites in the Microsoft 365 and SharePoint realms.