Microsoft Office 365 Is Getting Smarter

This week at Microsoft Ignite in Atlanta, I was fortunate to see an up close preview demonstration of the new Office 365 cloud-powered intelligent capabilities first hand. This followed on from a panel discussion press Q&A with Microsoft’s team who gave an insight into this and other keynote announcements. Here’s what you need to know.

Tommy Carron will be reporting on all things Microsoft and enterprise IT at Microsoft Ignite Atlanta 2016. Read his previous post here.

The improvements include Maps, a new chart type in Excel that transforms geographic data into high-fidelity visualisations. It recognises continents, countries, states and even councils as it is powered by Bing. If the data contained only countries within a single continent, maps dynamically updates and zooms into that continent.

Even more interesting was the demonstration of new feature Tap that makes re-use of colleagues work easier for use in your own documents. This is available in Word and Outlook and uses the powerful Office 365 Graph API to analyse and retrieve data. This may be cause for future heated discussions around the water cooler but only documents you explicitly share will retrievable by others. Complementing Tap is the update to the Researcher citation feature that was announced in July as been enhanced to support the citation of internal documents in addition to those available on the internet.

Next was a new feature to help spark creativity when beginning a new PowerPoint or Sway presentation. The keywords electric, cars and sales volume were typed into the search field. One press of the enter key and Quickstarter curated a coherent presentation outline including images sources from online resources. Education editions will provide hints rather than pulling content directly.

I explored these new features at today’s main Power IT transformation with Office 365 session. Jeff Teper, Corporate VP of SharePoint and OneDrive, dived into several new features:

  • It is possible to now browse SharePoint sites using the new OneDrive web experience
  • Drag and drop reclassification of documents without the use of a form
  • Every new Office 365 Group now includes a SharePoint site that will soon be a team site by default
  • SharePoint News for team sites allows page authoring experience using the Office 365 Graph. It is easy to add Power BI and Yammer web parts
  • Profiles creates instantaneous people cards
  • PowerApps is a no-code solution to generate smart device Apps. Powerful mobile Apps with workflow can be easily created when connected with SharePoint lists and Flow pp is now available in preview for Android & Windows mobile (iOS has been available for some time)

Kim Kischel, product manager for Microsoft mobile, demonstrated the updated Outlook App. Opening a word document from an e-mail will launch the Word app and the new inking capability facilitates annotation and highlighting. The Outlook Apps’s Calendar will be adding integrated mapping of locations and coloured grading of invitee availability. As you scroll through potential times, the colour of the meeting slot changes colour from red to green if the time matches availability. New intelligence apps and services include:

  • Word spelling now uses machine learning to give advanced context based suggestions.
  • Word Tap makes it easy to find and reuse relevant content from within your organization without leaving the document.
  • Machine learning analysis is built into Excel
  • PowerPoint Designer extended to text as well as image design suggestions

A run through of the new Office 365 Admin Dashboard card interface was provided by Ben Walters. Next, I’ll be meeting with Bryan Goode, general manager of the Office 365 shared product team. Keep an eye out for my post as I’ll also be discussing Microsoft’s cloud platform, Windows and ECM with a few Microsoft Corporate VPs.

IT Pro will be reporting on all things Microsoft and enterprise IT at Ignite Atlanta 2016. Join us for the chief takeaways from the keynote tomorrow.

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