Most enterprises have to wrangle countless data buckets, some of which inevitably become underused or forgotten. A Forrester survey found that between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial, with a Veritas report pegging it $3.3 trillion by 2020 if the current trend holds. That’s perhaps why the corporate sector has taken an interest in cognitive search and robotic process automation products that ingest, understand, organize, and act on digital content from multiple digital sources.

Building on that trend, Microsoft today previewed improvements coming to Microsoft Search and Project Cortex — two enterprise search platforms powered by AI — and announced the public preview of Microsoft Power Automate Desktop. In addition to powering new Microsoft Teams and Windows experiences, Microsoft Search will expand its reach across first- and third-party services to include integration with Azure Cognitive Search and connections to content from over 100 external sources. As for Project Cortex, it’s splintering off into a product calledSharePoint Syntex — with several more to come.

Microsoft Search

When Teams’ refreshed search tool rolls out later this year, it will show answers, people, files, meetings, and messages in the context of chats and channels. On Windows, Microsoft Search will bring personalized results to the desktop search box, aligning the experience with, SharePoint, Bing, and Edge.

Broadly speaking, Microsoft Search will soon gain an “AI-powered augmentation” of user profiles, with more accurate skills and projects listing, as well as an AI-powered image tool that finds photos, logos, and other pictures across organizations. Meanwhile, new dashboard Microsoft Search Admin Feedback in Microsoft 365 will let employees submit feedback about search success rates, failure rates, and suggestions.


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On the backend, Microsoft Search is getting an enhanced analytics flow that will break down how search is used within organizations. Microsoft Search will also gain Microsoft Graph connectors (in general availability), including a new connector from Microsoft for Salesforce that will extend Microsoft Search to external services.

As alluded to, Microsoft Search will also integrate with Azure Cognitive Search. In the near future, Microsoft Search will be able to display search results from existing Azure Cognitive Search indices, such as those powering mobile, web, and custom line-of-business apps.

Project Cortex

Project Cortex, a Microsoft 365 service that analyzes documents, conversations, meetings, and videos to identify domain experts and populate a knowledge database while surfacing info in Office apps, Outlook, and Microsoft Teams, is exiting preview. But rather than launch it as a single platform, Microsoft plans to make Cortex’s capabilities available as “a set of unique innovations,” starting with SharePoint Syntex.

SharePoint Syntex taps AI to automate the capture, ingestion, and classification of content, building on SharePoint’s existing content services. Customers can train Syntex’s algorithms to read a document and extract information, as they would with no-code models. Syntex uses the trained models to automatically process content, extract information, and apply metadata that can be leveraged to automatically apply sensitivity and retention labels for compliance and business processes.

Microsoft says SharePoint Syntex will be available to purchase for Microsoft 365 commercial customers on October 1, ahead of new services stemming from Cortex.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop

Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired robotic process automation (RPA) startup Softmotive to bolster its Power Automate Platform. The move has borne fruit: Today, Microsoft unveiled Power Automate Desktop, an app developed atop Softmotive’s RPA technology that provides desktop automation features for developers and non-coders alike.

With Power Automate Desktop, users can automate Windows-based tasks that can be imaged across both desktop and web apps. Power Automate Desktop doesn’t require knowledge of code, and it supports legacy tasks involving data transfers between systems for complex processes and workflows. For instance, Power Automate Desktop can search for images on the screen, scrape data from PDFs, work with different kinds of documents and folders, and send emails.

In a related announcement, Microsoft revealed that a new Power Automate app will arrive in Teams later this year. It’s designed to make it easier to automate workflows, with templates and a visual automation-building experience. Power Automate also enables automatic approval processes in Teams, including the ability to integrate e-sign services like Adobe Sign to automate signature collection.

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