Microsoft 365 provides a robust suite of productivity and collaboration tools used by millions of organizations worldwide. However, with extensive features across multiple applications, it can be challenging to optimize and get the most value from the platform.
AvePoint recently launched a new webinar series aimed at helping organizations on their journey to redefine and elevate their SaaS experience in order to advance their digital workplace initiatives.
In our recent webinar, Chief Technology Officer of 2toLead and AvePoint Community Champion Richard Harbridge teamed up with AvePoint Senior Product Strategy Lead Maja Kukolj to discuss how you can elevate your SaaS experience with AI, analytics, and recommendations.
Richard and Maja provided an excellent high-level overview of how AI is starting to transform experiences in Microsoft 365 through new capabilities like Microsoft Viva. They shared early insights from Microsoft Copilot previews, along with real-world examples of using analytics and recommendations to drive adoption, engagement, and productivity. If you’re looking to enhance your Microsoft 365 deployment – particularly through the use of AI, analytics and recommendations – keep reading for the major webinar takeaways.
The Accelerating Pace of AI Transformation
A consistent point emphasized by both Richard and Maja was the exponentially accelerating pace of AI transformation. AI has the potential to impact organizations, work, and industries more profoundly and rapidly than previous technological shifts.
Some of the key insights shared include:
- AI is now the number one strategic priority for most executive teams as they look at business priorities for 2024 and beyond. There is an intense focus on how AI can be harnessed across operations, collaboration, communication, and the employee experience more broadly.
- Whereas most past technology changes took place incrementally over decades, meaningful AI adoption is expected within years, not decades. The pace of change is unprecedented compared to previous eras.
- A defining capability of AI is removing existing skill barriers by giving people skills they don’t personally possess. AI essentially provides skills and expertise users can apply to their work.
- We’re entering a “post-generative AI” era with large language models like GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 that showcase the acceleration in AI capabilities compared to just a few years ago.
The clear takeaway is that AI transformation is happening extremely quickly, presenting opportunities along with risks. Organizations need to embrace AI proactively now to realize the benefits while also steering its direction responsibly before it is too ingrained.
How AI is Transforming Microsoft 365 Experiences
AI is already transforming Microsoft 365 applications to provide more intuitive, intelligent experiences. Microsoft Viva represents a major investment in embedding AI capabilities directly into the daily flow of work.
Some examples of AI-powered experiences highlighted during the webinar include:
- Microsoft Copilot – Acts as an AI “co-pilot” to enhance productivity across Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and other Office apps. Early testing shows around 60% productivity gains and 20% boosts in output quality when using Copilot, with even bigger gains expected as the technology improves.
- Viva Topics – Leverages AI to automatically surface topic pages with recommended experts, content, and conversations relevant to the topic. Makes organizational knowledge more discoverable.
- Microsoft Clarity – Provides AI-powered analytics on how people interact with webpages to help improve site design. Clarity can automatically extract insights from user data.
- Viva Search – Applies AI to index and enable semantic search across content in Microsoft 365 and other data sources. Helps people more easily find information spread across silos.
- Viva Insights – Brings together data from Microsoft 365 and third-party sources, applying AI to generate productivity, collaboration and wellbeing insights and recommendations tailored to individuals and organizations.
As Richard and Maja emphasized, the core value proposition of these AI capabilities is enhancing human abilities and skills, not replacing them. However, organizations need to embrace AI transformation to realize the benefits while monitoring its direction carefully.
The Crucial Role of Analytics
Analytics was another major theme for how to elevate your SaaS experience. AI and human judgment come together most powerfully when guided by data and insights. Some key points Richard and Maja made include:
- Every Microsoft 365 application has embedded analytics capabilities. Users should make an effort to understand the analytics and recommendation features in the apps they use.
- The embedded analytics are very fragmented across different apps, focused on individual productivity scenarios. Organizations need more holistic cross-application analytics.
- While analytics surface insights, determining what actions to take requires human judgment. Third-party vendors like AvePoint can help you make the jump from insights to recommendations.
- Usage, sentiment, and benchmark data should be analyzed to focus AI capabilities on priority use cases first, since organizations can’t tackle everything at once.
- Combining Microsoft 365 analytics with data from other sources like HR systems can enable even richer AI functionality that addresses organization-specific needs.
Richard shared that while AI will lead to higher productivity and quality, it’s crucial to prioritize the data quality, prioritizing security, sensitivity, compliance, and right uses early. The presenters both emphasized the complementary nature of AI and analytics, with analytics providing the objective data to guide AI in purposeful directions based on each organization’s needs and priorities.
Using AI to Drive Adoption and Engagement
Richard and Maja shared multiple examples of how AI can help drive greater adoption and engagement across Microsoft 365 apps and services:
- Copilot for SharePoint lets users easily create SharePoint sites and pages using natural language prompts, opening up SharePoint to more non-technical users.
- Answers in Viva proactively surfaces relevant Q&A threads based on what users are working on, tapping into collected organizational knowledge to promote participation.
- Copilot Conversation Starters reduce the anxiety of posting in Viva and Teams by suggesting potential content ideas, helping less outgoing users contribute more.
- Campaign analytics in Viva Amplify provides data to optimize targeting and messaging for employee communications campaigns.
Combined with strong analytics, AI can make participating in Microsoft 365 experiences far more accessible to drive adoption.
Key Recommendations for Success
Based on the webinar, some best practices to ensure success when deploying SaaS applications for your digital workplace include:
- Take an iterative, focused approach: Start with 1-2 high-ROI use cases, set measurable goals, and iterate based on data. Don’t boil the ocean.
- Combine signals: Blend Microsoft 365 analytics with other data sources to address organization-specific needs, not just out-of-the-box insights.
- Enable power users first: Target AI capabilities to users who will benefit most. Champion groups can help drive viral adoption.
- Monitor closely: Continuously analyze usage data, sentiment, and benchmarks to identify new opportunities and tweak efforts.
- Govern carefully: Ensure AI adherence to corporate principles around ethics, compliance, and responsible AI. Don’t underestimate change management needs.
As Microsoft continues to advance its commitment to infusing AI and analytics deeply into Microsoft 365 to unlock productivity, collaboration, and employee experience at new levels, organizations need focus, governance, and an embrace of data to guide decisions. Those that strategically activate AI and analytics will gain a competitive advantage through more empowered, engaged employees, and optimized operations.
Sign up for the next installment in our webinar series, Mastering Microsoft 365 – The Winning Trio of Automation, Governance, and Adoption.