9.20.Paragon.Mircosoft.Ignite.2016.jpgParagon's Knowledge Management strategists shared views on Microsoft IGNITE 2016 in a series of blogs. Here is the final installment on the key themes of Microsoft's big event.

Microsoft IGNITE 2016 is wrapped up. There were no major announcements this year. However, as I listened to keynotes and sessions, I found an underlying thread of themes that made a single sentence in Satya Nadella’s keynote presentation more important to information architects, knowledge management strategists, and those of us who build solutions to meet critical business needs.

Microsoft.Ignite.2016.Review.jpgMicrosoft is standardizing on a semantic data model across its product suite.

What does that mean? At many of the non-infrastructure sessions, the technologies that lay under the hood across the Office Suite, One Drive, the Azure stack and more – are connected

Microsoft Cortana, a personal digital assistance, and Office Graph, a framework and platform that provides data based on user identity and user activity, and related feature provide sort of a “glue” across the Microsoft ecosystem. 

This glue seamlessly connects data across the product suite – which in turn connects people to knowledge, knowledge to people, and people to people.

Now, on terms that impact business needs, what does this mean?

Think of it this way. As Mr. Satya said, there is a standardized semantic data model across the product suite. If an organization is using the full suite of Microsoft cloud products– all that data (knowledge) sits in a connected and transparent (to itself) ecosystem. The products in ecosystem trust one another, and to put it in simple terms, understand one another.

Using what is referred to as machine learning, and the ability for products in this ecosystem to more easily connect to one another and use that data to help people. Let’s look at some examples. Some of these are possible now, and some features will be released over the next few months: Microsoft.Ignite.2016.Key.Takeaways.jpg

  • Ask Word: Working in Microsoft Word, a user can ask Word to look for content related to what is being written. Content that the user has permission to see across One Drive and SharePoint libraries to identify similar content and provide the user with the capability to copy relevant copy into the their document.
  • Content Window: Surfacing recommended content via Delve, which provides a window to content across your colleagues and teams without having to thrash across SharePoint sites and libraries.
  • Effective Teams: Personal and team analytics dashboards to look at trends in email usage and readership, amount of time spent on meetings, etc. all of which can help teams be more effective.
  • Integrating Email: Email integrates with content more effectively, so links to documents include thumbnails of the document and a brief description.
  • Ask Cortana: Asking Cortana to provide analytical answers to questions on large data sets.
  • Smart Pens: Document editing on screen using smart pens, and converting smart pen “ink” to formulas, meeting invites, and other content with Microsoft user applications.
  • Analytical Tools: Press a button in Excel and analytical tools will look at the content and recommend and build heat maps and add those columns to the file. Coupled with Power BI features, and there are more ways knowledge becomes more valuable to users. 
Microsoft presented several high visibility case studies that illustrate this in another way. 

Rolls Royce, for example, produces jet engines. They lease these engines, and they are paid for flight time.  So avoiding unscheduled maintenance is critical. 

Take a page from the Internet of Things (IoT) model, sensors are placed on key engine components.  Massive amounts of data are created, and when the plane lands, that data is uploaded to servers (I believe an Azure platform). Data analytics allows engineers to identify key information that could impact maintenance ahead of break downs. That data hits the analytics applications and is surfaced, collaborated on, and displayed in the Office ecosystem.

While this is not a day-to-day example for most businesses, the same concept applies in business.  Processes that drive businesses such as document review and approvals, movement of information that triggers actions across systems (think product fulfillment), and natural language queries into support desk data – are all important to day-to-day businesses

So did I drink the cool-aid at IGNITE?

Of course, we all do. Pragmatically speaking though, what we see are examples within the perfect storm of applications and scenarios. For this to work in the ideal sense, an organization needs full buy-in to the Office 365 model. Email, SharePoint, One Drive, Azure, and so on. The hybrid models (cloud and on-premise) are not mature enough to drive the model yet, and my opinion is that it will be quite a while for that to happen.

See Also: Ignite Review: A Portfolio Management Perspective

As we look at where SharePoint 2016, One Drive, and the Office Apps are going it’s clear that these applications will go well beyond being used for storing documents and creating emails. There will be a huge impact on the processes of creating and managing knowledge, the flow of information across business processes and applications, and the ability to connect the knowledge held within these applications.

Microsoft.Ignite.2016.Keynote.jpgYet, all of your organization’s knowledge, all that content – sits in the cloud.

Coincidentally, the Microsoft Cloud. So there is a leap of faith about security, compliance, access, recovery and more.  Clearly many companies accept this, as we see many of our clients moving considerable amounts of the data to Office 365.

However, this a journey...What did impress me is that I now see the vision Microsoft has for this paradigm. With all that data, and with a common semantic model and a core unified technology infrastructure – we can see the magic of what can happen with our information. I’ve been involved in knowledge management efforts for nearly 20 years, and the idea of being able to access and use all this knowledge, and have intelligence that helps us connect to that knowledge, has been a pipedream for years. 

See Also: Driving Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing at Microsoft Ignite 2016

We’ll see what happens over the next two to three years, and if Microsoft and the large community of vendor partners and business users can jump over the hype to prove out that these capabilities can, in fact, let us optimize use of our own knowledge as we all hope. For now, those organizations who can take advantage of the features Microsoft is providing should do so. I think it will get more and more interesting in the near future. Look for the term “smart bot” to become more prevalent in the future, and not just in the Microsoft arena, though Microsoft is poised to have machines bring our knowledge to us in very interesting ways.