Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe And More Bring Generative AI At Work To Where Work Is Done

By Melody Brue, Patrick Moorhead - June 22, 2023

AI is quickly changing the business landscape in nearly every category. Many leaders are giddy with the promise that AI will automate mundane tasks, write code, contextualize data to support decision-making and more. However, amidst these dreamy AI promises, a new narrative of opportunity and growth is taking shape as AI tools move from press conference announcements to true productivity tools

Since Microsoft’s first announcement of generative AI (GAI) search using ChatGPT in February, GAI has been a top priority for businesses worldwide as they envision a future where AI catalyzes increased productivity, efficiency and innovation. But it’s not just Big Tech that has its sights set on AI. Business visionaries from companies of every size have embarked on a quest to uncover the true potential of AI and its transformative impact on how work is done. Companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe, Zoho and more are helping those businesses realize that potential.

This year’s Microsoft Build 2023 developer conference was a prime example of companies setting up users—from developers to SMBs to individual contributors—for success. Moor Insights & Strategy CEO and chief analyst Patrick Moorhead wrote a complete analysis of the vast number of AI advancements Microsoft announced at Build 2023 that included some of my own insights. I want to build on that summary by looking further at how GAI tools introduced by Microsoft and others impact the everyday worker and how companies are building copilots and assistants into people’s workflows to make them more productive in their day-to-day functions.

Extracting the most value from AI

At Microsoft Build 2023, one of the central themes was “copilots.” While AI promises to accomplish incredible feats in many different areas, for scope of impact copilots are especially important because of how these AI assistants help people with their everyday tasks. Take the Copilot experience in Windows 11 and Edge, for example. Users can access this feature from the taskbar, providing a consistent pane across all apps. The side-pane design reduces the toggle time for accessing information and aims to boost productivity. It certainly can save time, even compared to the first integration of ChatGPT into Windows 11, which took just a few clicks to access.

Microsoft’s approach aims to complement people in their roles by integrating copilots directly into users’ workflows. In Microsoft 365, the Copilot feature acts as a companion in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams and more, running alongside users in apps they use daily. Microsoft 365 Copilot can boost productivity by providing real-time suggestions and assistance as users work on documents, presentations or spreadsheets. As users create content, Copilot analyzes the context and offers relevant tips, such as recommended phrases, data formatting options or relevant images to enhance the document. 365 Copilot is available now in a limited private preview, with broader availability coming soon.

Zoho recently announced similar ChatGPT-driven capabilities for current users across several applications, including Desk, Social, Writer and Mail, where people do their regular daily tasks. Zoho’s AI-powered assistants are currently available to all users, and the company says it is adding GAI to products across its platform.

Firefly and the content flywheel

Earlier this year, Adobe announced Firefly, its family of generative AI models that I believe delivers a human-centered approach to AI by empowering creatives to do their best work. As part of The Six-Five Summit this week, I enjoyed chatting with Ely Greenfield, CTO of digital media at Adobe, for a spotlight session: Adobe’s Approach to Generative AI. For Adobe, Firefly is just one small part of the company’s AI journey.

As Greenfield explains, Firefly is the initial step in a broader plan to create additional models catering to different content types and addressing various use cases. This could potentially (likely) mean that Firefly will expand into video, audio and 3-D vector artwork, covering a wide range of creative applications.

Additionally, Adobe digital experience products will further benefit from GAI with the company’s Sensei AI tool that can assist in developing campaign briefs, analyzing customer data, adapting images, targeting specific customer segments and optimizing customer journeys. The company aims to leverage these capabilities to generate compelling content and gain insights for continuous improvement.

For individual creators or large marketing teams, having the power to generate and iterate on content quickly—and on platforms they already use—is transformative. “We know from hearing from customers that the demands for content creation and content generation are bursting at the seams right now. As customer interactions get more personalized and focused, the content needed to be generated increases exponentially. Integrating generative AI into their tools and workflows will be a massive benefit,” Greenfield said.

Cisco calls in GAI for its suite of Webex products

This week at Cisco Live in Las Vegas, Cisco Webex announced several GAI summarization capabilities. Catch Me Up meeting recaps will offer meeting summaries with action items so that attendees won’t miss anything. This is useful, for example, for someone coming in late from another meeting, plus it saves the more punctual attendees from having to repeat themselves for the latecomer. Conversation summaries within Webex allow users to give prompts and ask questions using AI as the keeper of information—allowing collaboration among participants without everyone needing to be present.

What I am most excited about in this context is summaries for Webex’s Vidcast video messaging tool. Vidcast summaries will organize video information into chapters on specific themes or areas as well as overall highlights, so users can navigate to the information they need. These days, it is common enough to be double-booked and miss a meeting, only to watch it later. It is also not uncommon for a manager or coworker to benefit from knowing what transpired during a meeting they didn’t attend. AI summaries are a game-changing time saver for these and other asynchronous collaboration scenarios. I am actually a big fan of “live” meetings, whether in person or by video call, but watching a playback of a meeting is my idea of torture. So summaries and transcripts are a big win for people like me.

Cisco also announced conversation summaries in Webex Cloud Contact Center. Conversation summaries for contact centers allow for a seamless handoff during escalation or dropped calls and undoubtedly will make customer interactions more efficient. There is little that’s more frustrating than a lousy customer service chatbot or infinite-loop phone-tree failure when you need customer service. With conversation summaries, when you call back, the next agent will have all that information and be ready to resolve the issue.

All of the Webex summary capabilities will be available by the end of the year. While many of Webex’s competitors like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have already announced similar capabilities, these were necessary and smart additions for the Webex platform.

In Summary

In this ever-changing business landscape, the potential for humans to flourish alongside intelligent machines is vast when used responsibly. The copilot model shows how AI can enhance operations and workflows beyond mere automation by providing contextual help that extends the effectiveness of humans rather than trying to replace them. By harnessing the power of AI alongside human ingenuity, these companies are reshaping the future of their industries.

Melody Brue
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Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders. 

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.