Time has a way of flying by when you're not paying attention. It was recently the fifth anniversary of my first MVP award and as a result I just attended my fifth MVP Summit!
Now any seasoned MVP tell you that some summits are good, and some are bad. We had a few dark days in 2013-2014 when the whole SharePoint forms and workflow story was just muddled and confusing. A lot of frustrated MVPs seeking clear answers were stonewalled by our chums at Redmond because it wasn't a settled issue. Those weren't the fun ones (though we got karaoke and copious red wine which certainly helped the mood).
Well, it's new days and the general commentary you tend to hear now is that Microsoft has got its Mojo back! That certainly seems to be the case.
I can honestly say that I've never uttered the word "WOW!" so often as at this summit. The future of computing in business has arrived when we were all distracted with something else.
Of course at Summit I got the word on all the up and coming changes to SharePoint and Office 365. Amazing investments there, and SharePoint 2019 is on its way to us. That's all good and will be publicly announced at Build and SharePoint Conference etc in May. However it was actually the non NDA stuff that made me go WOW!
In a couple of words - Cognitive Services. There's a heap of services able To See, To Hear, To Translate, and to have conversations with you. Some is available in preview and some is already General Availability. Now the machine intelligence behind these things is impressive, but there's room for improvement. Perhaps the most impressive thing is how accessible this stuff is. You don't need to be an AI guru - it's been built so you can get basic results in a few clicks, often without any coding. The implications are jaw dropping.
I recently created a demo showing how you could write a flow to automatically tag SharePoint content based on the Key Phrases in that document. That can be done in five minutes, but it's just scratching the surface! With a little more work it's clear that Cognitive Services can be used to aid the humans in your organization at a much deeper level. Imagine being alerted about important emails based on an understanding of that content, rather than having to leap into action whenever an email arrives just in case? Imagine a chat bot that could take you through the whole process of quoting for your motor insurance and setting up the policy, involving humans only for exceptions? This technology promises to take the drudgery out of many working days. Working together with this tech we stand to be happier and more productive individuals.
This whole area has moved to being ready for prime time much quicker than I expected. We live in exceptional times, and we have the power to shape the future by applying these tools in our work.
I'll be highlighting more of these technologies and the scenarios where they can help in future blog and video posts.
The future is already here.
To close this post I wanted to highlight a couple of Demos that I saw at Redmond. The first is an example of AI Speech Recognition being able to transcribe McDonalds drive-thru orders in real time, coping with background noise, changes to the order and sauce preferences;
The second is the 'JFK Demo'. I find the subject matter in poor taste, but it's an excellent example of what we will be able to apply to business problems soon; give the AI a bunch of unstructured data and let it work it's magic to make it navigable.