Microsoft today unveiled updates to its portfolio of business apps that it refers to as the “next generation” of AI products.
Both Dynamics 365, the company’s collection of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and Power Platform, a set of low-code tools from Microsoft for creating apps and workflows, are discussed.
The updates are the logical next step in Microsoft’s automation journey, according to Charles Lamanna, CVP of business apps and platforms at Microsoft, who discussed them in an interview with TechCrunch.
The new features follow the introduction of OpenAI text-generating AI models in Power Platform four years ago and the more recent introduction of generative AI features in Viva Sales, Microsoft’s seller experience app.
Both are powered by technology from AI startup OpenAI and developed using the Azure OpenAI Service, a Microsoft service that offers enterprise-tailored access to OpenAI’s API.
Lamanna stated via email that “over the last four years, we’ve been on a journey to bring generative AI and foundation models to the workplace.” She added that Microsoft and OpenAI have a long-standing partnership to commercialize the vendor’s technology in Microsoft’s own products as well as through the Azure OpenAI Service.
And we’ve come to the point where technology and products can give customers truly transformative experiences.
Microsoft is introducing Copilot, a feature that broadly aims to automate some of the more repetitive sales and customer service tasks, as part of Dynamics 365 (borrowing branding from GitHub’s Copilot service).
Copilot can assist with writing email responses to customers and producing an email summary of an Outlook Teams meeting, for instance, in Dynamics 365 Sales and Viva Sales.
According to Lamanna, the meeting summary incorporates information from the seller’s CRM, such as product and pricing details, along with key points from the captured Teams call.
At runtime, we safely and shrewdly access data from our clients’ enterprise data sources, including their CRM, ERP, and other enterprise data sources,” Lamanna continued.
To produce responses customized for each customer, we combine enterprise data with underlying knowledge using large language models. Importantly, we do not train the models using customer data.
Copilot can create “contextual answers” to customer questions submitted via chat or email in Dynamics 365 Customer Service.
It can also give customer service representatives an “interactive chat experience” that incorporates case studies and knowledge bases.
These go along with Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft’s chatbot builder, which now has a “conversation boosters” feature that enables businesses to connect a bot to websites or knowledge bases in order to use that information to answer queries that the bot hasn’t been trained to answer.
Conversation boosters support Microsoft’s new “GPT” model in the AI Builder tool, which enables businesses to integrate text-generation capabilities into their Power Automate and Power Apps solutions.
For instance, according to Lamanna, a researcher could use it to summarise text from regularly released reports and have it sent to their email.
A marketing manager could use the GPT model to generate ideas for targeted, generated content by entering particular keywords or topics.
One might be cautious of using Microsoft’s technology for an app because of the company’s recent foray into generative text, such as Bing Chat, for fear that it will go awry.
However, according to Lamanna, each customer’s CRM, ERP, and other data sources provide conversation boosters, the GPT model, as well as Copilot, that are “grounded in reality”.
AI-generated content is always prominently labeled, and users are encouraged to confirm the accuracy before using it.
To help the user more easily confirm the accuracy of the response, we also cite the sources from which the answer was obtained when pertinent, according to Lamanna.
If any problems manage to get past the above lines of defense, we have monitoring and controls in place to enable us to quickly respond with manual intervention.
Marketers can create target segments by describing the segment in their own words using Copilot in Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and Dynamics 365 Marketing, which allows them to receive suggestions about customer segments they may not have previously thought of.
Copilot, which creates email campaign ideas by drawing from an organization’s current marketing emails as well as “a range” of online sources, can be used by users to get these ideas by typing requests to see topics into the Copilot website, according to Lamanna.
According to Lamanna, Copilot can create product attributes such as color, material, and size with descriptions that can be customized by changing elements like tone of voice, format, and length.
Lamanna indicated that it is similar to Shopify’s recently released AI-generated product description tool. In “just a few clicks,” he noted, Business Central users who are also Shopify users can add products with AI-generated descriptions to their Shopify stores (hopefully after checking them for accuracy).
Copilot in the Microsoft Supply Chain Center can proactively identify problems like weather, finances, and geography that might have an impact on supply chain processes, riding the wave of automation in the supply chain sector.
The automation of emails, according to Lamanna, is just one example of a straightforward AI-infused process that can increase productivity.
Nine out of ten workers, according to a recent survey we conducted on business trends, expect AI to eliminate repetitive tasks from their jobs. Business apps now come standard with AI-powered assistants, according to Lamanna.
Dynamics 365 Copilot, in our opinion, will enable workers to complete tasks more quickly, freeing up time for businesses to focus on more imaginative and creative aspects of their work, such as establishing long-lasting relationships with clients.
Every time, some marketing jargon obscures the truth. Microsoft’s investments in automation and artificial intelligence aren’t slowing down, though, as is evident.
Microsoft only recently made a significant additional investment in OpenAI, totaling billions of dollars, and the company is eager to see a return on its capital.
According to Microsoft, Copilot will be a free add-on to existing Dynamics 365 licenses like Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and Dynamics 365 Customer Service Enterprise.
Beginning on March 6, it will go into preview. Later, it will become generally available.