Office 365’s AI Updates – Brilliant, but unfair for some?

I’ll keep this one fairly short (if that’s possible for me?) as I was in the middle of writing my main blog on a different topic and am writing this on the train home. Anyway, thought I’d try my hand with blogging about something I think might be a little more thought provoking 😊

Those who know me will know that whilst I try to be vendor agnostic, I’m a huge fan of the Microsoft product stack (I do work for a leading Microsoft partner after all… and I’m not forced to say that!). With that said, I think the most recent Feb Office 365 releases are absolutely brilliant, although some of the new AI releases have left me a little apprehensive shall we say…

The ability to add guests in MS Teams without Office 365 accounts is a brilliant (and overdue) addition. I say overdue, I think that’s a tad harsh, the product is still in its infancy and MS are pumping out so much development in Teams its crazy. The feature roadmap is fantastic and takes Agile Project Management to a new level in terms of their release pace and iteration cycles.

The Staff Hub updates seem useful, although I can’t say I’m a user of the solution, so I wouldn’t take my word for it. The Visio Online updates are a welcomed addition, with plenty more objects (including Network Topology shapes for those techies out there) gradually bringing it up to a decent standard for a web-browser based application.

The Compliance Manager tool is a big hitter too, especially for those organisations panicking over UK GDPR compliance with that mid-May date rapidly approaching. The AIP Scanner is also pretty cool (not to be confused with the recently released public preview of SQL Information Protection, which I recommend researching into). The intelligence built into these solutions is real clever stuff, which moves me onto the main announcements in the recent update and the point of this quick blog.

The other two major releases are two fantastic AI-powered features for productivity. The first is the new Editor function in Microsoft Word. This service can scan your documents and optimise the whole process of reviewing, editing and refining your document. These capabilities have come a long way from the original spelling and grammar, which then progressed to making recommendations on restructuring sentences and content, making them more efficient and easier to read. Now, with the new AI features and the Machine Learning, Word can scan the context of what you’re writing and make recommendations tailored to the context and purpose of your actual content. Not only that, it can flag up specific terminology in one paragraph but not flag the same thing in the next. Why? Because the ML is able to understand the difference in language and context between them, understanding that the same terminology is being used with a different context and purpose. Pretty cool stuff huh?

Even more powerful is the Resume Assistant. Taking the above into account, it not only analyses the context of what you’re writing but is able to use information gathered from various other resume sources to assist with presentation, how to showcase talents and achievements better and also integrates with LinkedIn to provide personalised insights into your CV and profile.

Now while these features are fantastic for so many people, is there a risk they’re taking away the differentiator for some of us? If you’ve got two equal job candidates in terms of skills and competencies, yet one is able to present themselves better and write a better-quality CV, shouldn’t that be the differentiator to enable them to be the successful candidate? If the Resume Assistant is making huge improvements on behalf of the other, is it fair? What is ethical? The same can be said for those who have taken the time to learn and become great document writers. If the Editor function is now able to polish up lesser quality work so well using AI, is that fair on the consultant who’s spent so much time developing their written skills?

All that said, these AI tools are great for so many. For organisations wanting to increase productivity and enable their staff to work more efficiently, these are changing the modern workplace immensely. It’s also an enabler for those who have lots of talent to offer yet struggle with written skills. Some of the most talented Consultants and Architects I know have sometimes suffered from dyslexia or other such disabilities, which sometimes meant they were unable to translate their brilliant ideas and knowledge into a format for others to review, use or learn from. These new tools from Microsoft can help these individuals stand out and articulate better the things they’re so passionate about, so a big high five to MS on their continued push for innovation and excellence.

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