Microsoft Focuses On Productivity And Workflows With AI Automation And Collaborative Tools At Ignite 2022

By Patrick Moorhead - November 22, 2022
Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella speaks to attendees virtually at Microsoft Ignite 2022. MICROSOFT

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella speaks to attendees virtually at Microsoft Ignite 2022. Source Microsoft

Last week, Microsoft held its annual developer event, Microsoft Ignite, where it announced many new features, services, and tools for its ecosystem of developers and IT professionals. Every year Microsoft has so many new announcements that it would be practically impossible for me to cover all of the announcements. I attended Microsoft Ignite virtually alongside its Surface Event, which you can read here. I want to cover the announcements that stuck out to me the most. Let’s dive in.

Power Automate

Power Automate is Microsoft’s automation platform that allows a company to automate and create business-grade apps without the need for technical or programming experience. Power integrates with Microsoft 365 and third-party applications, and every year Microsoft continues to build on the Power Automate platform.

At Microsoft Build in 2021, Microsoft added Process Advisor for automation recommendations and GPT-3 with Microsoft Power Fx for building low-code apps. Microsoft has implemented new artificial intelligence (AI) features within Power Automate, allowing users to create no-code apps. Microsoft says users can describe in text what they want to automate in a sentence, and an AI-based copilot will build the flow.

It runs on OpenAI Codex, which translates natural language into code. I believe we are seeing significant real word progress with AI and its ability to create productive content, in this case, automate workflows with data given to it. This powerful tool allows people with little to no programming experience to create flows. I imagine this integration of OpenAI Codex would be useful with Microsoft’s Process Advisor, where Process Advisor tells you what would be efficient to automate. Then Power Automate automates it for you. I believe the goal would be to support all Microsoft 365 and third-party apps for creating a flow and, eventually, creating full business applications simply by describing the app.

Power Automate: Describe your flow in everyday words. MICROSOFT

Microsoft also updated its Power BI with new connectivity with OneDrive, Sharepoint, and self-service data analytics. Power BI is Microsoft’s tool that allows businesses to analyze and visualize data using AI. Microsoft is installing it for Office users and users will be able to view and edit Power BI reports from OneDrive and SharePoint. These updates come alongside what Microsoft announced back in May to integrate Power BI within PowerPoint, Outlook, and Office. I believe it should be a strong utility within Office with the ability to have data analytics on Office datasets available to collaborate.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft is introducing its Teams Premium service with more customization, intelligent integrations, and security over the classic Teams.

Teams Premium has meeting guides which are like meeting templates, and the ability to put custom logos and backgrounds for the Teams lobby. Teams Premium gives users personalized highlights, AI-generate tasks, automated chapters for playback, Insights within a Meeting, and Intelligent searching within the transcript. For security, Teams Premium has a new watermark feature, limits who can record, and has additional protections for private discussions. It also has advanced webinars, a registration waitlist, automated reminder emails, and a virtual green room for presenters.

I believe these new features and services are enough to justify a premium experience. Microsoft has matured over the past couple of years to become a hub for collaboration for businesses, and I am glad Microsoft did not put what it has been building behind a premium paywall. These premium features are quality-of-life enhancements for Teams, and I believe Microsoft has kept the classic Teams collaboration hub largely intact.

Intelligent Recap showing how a user would access meeting information including files, recordings, and transcripts. MICROSOFT

Microsoft has enhanced the collaboration experience of Teams within some of the Microsoft Office apps. Cameo integrates the Teams camera feed into PowerPoint Live presentations allowing for more customization within live presentations. Similarly, Excel Live brings Excel to Teams calls for real-time collaboration of Excel within Teams.

Another collaborative feature that I’m not too fond of is the Together mode, where meeting participants can be assigned seating by presenters or meeting organizers. I think Microsoft is going for the ability to sit next to a peer as a virtual expression of affection. The flip side would be a pull for favoritism and a lack of inclusivity for the “black sheep” of the meeting.

Microsoft has also included some welcomed features to Teams chats. Teams chat now included short video clips, more emojis, suggested replies, scheduled send, delete chat, and the ability to mention everyone in a group chat. I am interested to see how well the short video clips feature catches on. If Microsoft integrates it right, it could be used as a better way to communicate important content that is not easily communicated in text and is not big enough for a video call.

Edge Workspaces

I recently had trouble using Microsoft Edge with hotel Wifi and, for a brief period, had to use an alternative browser, namely Chrome. In the past, before I used Microsoft’s updated Edge browser, which is now built on Google’s Chromium, I used Chrome. I realized that Edge is such a core part of my everyday workflow that switching back to Chrome slowed down my productivity. Many features within Edge are not natively in Chrome, like vertical tabs, Collections, and the ability to group vertical tabs.

Everyone with access to the shared Edge Workspace can update the tabs in real-time and see where their teammates are to stay on the same page. MICROSOFT

Everyone with access to the shared Edge Workspace can update the tabs in real-time and see where their teammates are to stay on the same page. Source Microsoft

Microsoft is turning the Edge browser experience into a multiplayer experience where I am able to share and collaborate with others on what I am researching and looking at on my browser. I believe this powerful feature built into Edge puts collaboration at the forefront of a project. Most collaborative tools like note-taking and whiteboarding tools bring content to the collaboration app, whereas Edge Workspaces brings collaboration to the content. I am excited to try this out and see how well it works into my everyday workflow.

Wrapping up

While many applications today for AI and ML are for data analytics and bringing insights to a company, Microsoft is focusing on productivity and making workflows easier for businesses through automation. The ability to create no-code flows through natural language is a powerful tool, and I don’t see Microsoft stopping at flows but moving into business apps and creating apps using Process Advisor.

The addition of Teams Premium brings many quality-of-life features without putting up a paywall between the classic Teams and Teams Premium. Edge Workspaces also brings collaboration to web browsing for more productive and efficient workflows. I am excited to try out Edge Workspaces within my own workflow. Between Edge Collections, vertical tabs, and Edge Workspaces, the Edge browser has become the ultimate companion to my OneNote notebooks.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.

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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.