Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

AI capabilities benefit IT through data management and automation

Software vendors add useful AI features to their biggest products, showing that the emerging technology is something to pay attention to, as it will change the way we work.

Artificial intelligence in business applications can make tasks easier and less time-consuming for both users and IT.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be commonplace in organizations of all sizes now that end-user computing vendors, including Microsoft, Box and others, have baked it into their products. These AI capabilities automate processes that would be time-consuming for a person to perform manually and organize large amounts of data, so it's easy to locate. Software vendors also incorporate AI in smaller features that are helpful to users, such as capabilities that translate video chats or organize images in presentations.

"AI can handle and organize an amount of data that is beyond anything a human could hope to consume or comprehend," said Dominic Namnath, CIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center, a nonprofit in Santa Barbara, Calif. "AI is really going to be something special."

Tri-Counties Regional Center has medical records dating back 50 years. The organization uses electronic document management software IRISCapture Forms to scan paper documents; the tool's AI capabilities identify the type of information in those documents, decide where each document should be stored and verify who should have access to it.

The AI capabilities are especially important because Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations require Tri-Counties Regional Center to be able to locate individual files and know who has had access to them, Namnath said.

"The premise of AI is for the software to learn our preferences and our patterns," said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., an analyst firm based in Cupertino, Calif. "The more it can automate for us, the better ... and recommend courses of action."

Upcoming Microsoft Office AI capabilities

Microsoft showed new AI capabilities for Office applications this week at its Inspire conference and will roll them out later this year.

AI in Excel will analyze and organize large amounts of data automatically. For example, if a user enters survey responses that are written out in sentences, Excel will be able to decipher how positive or negative each response is and put them all in order from most positive to most negative.

These things may seem really subtle, but they'll really change the way we work.
Alan Lepofskyvice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research

The PowerPoint AI capabilities will help users build more aesthetically pleasing slides and presentations. If a user adds multiple images to a slide, PowerPoint will automatically organize them and any text in an appealing way. It will also suggest background colors for the slide that looks best with the images.

AI will help Office users get their jobs done faster and do better work, said Doug Grosfield, president and CEO of Five Nines IT Solutions, a consultancy in Kitchener, Ont.

"It's helpful by performing large tasks without having human intervention," Grosfield said. "Being baked into Office can help people be more creative and efficient in developing content."

AI fuels collaboration tools

Microsoft Stream, the company's video collaboration software for businesses, already includes AI capabilities. The application can transcribe what a person says in a live video, and it can even translate and transcribe it in real time into a language of the user's choosing. This feature is helpful for international business meetings or one-on-one video chats with employees who speak different languages.

Users can search for a term that's said in the recording of a video, and Stream will indicate the point where a speaker said the term.

"These things may seem really subtle, but they'll really change the way we work," Lepofsky said.

Box recently announced AI capabilities through its integration with Microsoft Azure. Users and IT departments will be able to more easily organize and search for multimedia Box content stored in the Azure cloud.

"If AI is used in any place you store your files, it will be really helpful," Namnath said. "Retrieving data can be a nightmare, so that is really cool."

Next Steps

An HR team puts AI to use

Assess the current state of AI

Exploring the need for a chief AI officer

Dig Deeper on Windows applications