Understanding challenges and choosing wisely: how businesses can use AI

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In the 12 months since ChatGPT became widely available and revolutionised the way millions of people work, organisations have spent significant time and resources to better understand how to use AI in the workplace. As the technology advances at a rapid pace, and as the opportunities of how businesses can use AI expand, Advania’s Products and Services Director Chris O’Brien looks at the current state of play and what future AI readiness looks like.

How businesses are adapting to AI after a year of ChatGPT

A recent survey undertaken by Advania, focusing on small and medium-sized businesses, revealed that AI is one of the keenest areas of focus for organisations today.

The interest in generative AI has been like nothing the world of technology has experienced before. Millions of people across every industry imaginable have been exploring the possibilities that ChatGPT has put into their hands, and the excitement isn’t limited just to frontline workers. CEOs and C-suite personnel all want to capitalise on the latest technology and avoid their organisations being left behind.

Employing the latest tools provides short-term satisfaction, but working out how to tap into AI and data transformation is key. Discovering routes to lasting business value is the real aim.

For organisations considering how to use AI in the workplace, a good place to start would be to look at where to focus the AI lens and what basic tasks AI can assist with.

How to use AI in the workplace combined with your data

The range of business functions that AI can improve is potentially unlimited.  Some initial uses could include summarising documents, extracting information and analysing data and content to perform categorising and sensitivity rankings. By considering how AI can fit into your business processes, you can better understand how best to use the tools available to you; by considering how AI can help you derive greatest value through incorporating your own organisational data, you can better implement your chosen AI solutions and stay ahead of the competition.

Beyond this preliminary set of applications, organisations can open up a world of possibility by combining the power of AI with their own organisational data. So many benefits of AI can be tailored to an organisation’s mission – its clients, projects and services. Combining the power of AI technology with their own specific data is where organisations can accelerate the benefit they derive from these tools to generate maximum value.

Let’s take a look at some specific AI tools and their applications in the workplace.

Generative AI, ChatGPT and the benefits of AI as business tools

Everything about smart AI use is geared towards simplifying processes and streamlining workflows.

We have many clients who want to address business-wide challenges, such as data fragmentation, and are considering AI to answer their problems. Traditional solutions to these challenges might often take a long time to execute, where people may have to deal with multiple platforms and technologies, talking to many different teams and organisations. With AI, these processes can be accelerated, allowing your people to focus on higher priority tasks and removing time consuming and expensive workflows.

By speaking to all the data sources simultaneously, AI can pull the information together quickly and provide a clear and focused picture. Able to ask all the questions immediately – what happened, what were the circumstances, what the likely validity of the claim is – AI produces an answer that allows us to remove the human burden but conclude with the same information.

Able to ask all the questions immediately – what happened, what were the circumstances, what the likely validity of the claim is – AI produces an answer that allows us to remove the human burden but conclude with the same information.

The reduction in time and labour required to produce these answers has a significant effect on the cost of such a critical business process; the increased data and knowledge base has a significant effect on accuracy. Overall, this constitutes an enormous leap forward in what is possible.

AI for data beyond GPT

We have found that clients will often be concerned that, due to their data being stored beyond GPT or their LLM, they aren’t sure whether AI can help them achieve their goals. GPT – or Generative Pre-trained Transformer – is a family of AI language models, with the technology used in numerous solutions.

The extraordinary pace of AI evolution has led us to consider this need – being able to engage with data outside of GPT – where just a few years ago it wasn’t a common question.

A practice that has surfaced in the last 12 months is retrieval augmented generation (RAG). RAG allows users to stitch together their data, enabling them to bring data together from different sources and act as an aggregation point for further solutions. Whether your data is stored in Microsoft 365, Azure or a unique SaaS platform, RAG supports its integration.

To successfully implement RAG, the first stage is to retrieve your company data and gather all required information in a structured way. You can then construct a detailed prompt for AI to generate a response based on the data you have gathered.

Leveraging technology in this manner presents the best of both worlds – squeezing the most out of your organisational data, with the power of generative AI and LLMs.

How Copilot for Microsoft 365 can influence and improve your workflows

The AI landscape has become very busy in recent months, with confusion about which tools are appropriate for which tasks. Copilot for Microsoft 365 is an AI tool aimed at accelerating work and tasks that form part of your regular responsibilities.

Fundamentally, Copilot for Microsoft 365 assists with similar tasks to other generative AI solutions, but it works primarily with data in your Microsoft 365 tenant. All your day-to-day tasks related to Microsoft Teams, email, your contacts, calendars and documents can be positively influenced by Copilot’s power.

All your day-to-day tasks related to Microsoft Teams, email, your contacts, calendars and documents can be positively influenced by Copilot’s power.

Where this differs from broader AI tools is in its regular application. While the solutions we can build in Azure OpenAI are much more varied in scope and ability, and can talk to far greater sources of data because of the intermediary of Azure AI Search, Copilot for Microsoft 365 empowers your workers to be more productive and efficient day-to-day.

A tandem AI strategy is developing and becoming popular, which sees organisations having a few tools in their kit: one or more Microsoft Copilots to accelerate most repeated and familiar tasks, with another tool to live alongside it, focusing on your more fragmented data sources and broader requirements.

At Advania, we’ve been at the very forefront of embracing these exciting tools. As part of the Copilot for Microsoft 365 Early Access Program, we were able to glean insights into the technology before it was available to the wider market, and engage in conversations with our clients on Copilot’s power starting almost on day one. Some of our people have even presented at Microsoft and international technology events on the potential that these new solutions can offer.

As a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Modern Work, our experts have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the often-complex process of onboarding the right AI solutions for your needs. We can explain how to get the most from the technology at your disposal.

The new SharePoint Premium services: how businesses can use AI for cutting-edge document automation

Microsoft Syntex, a widely-used Microsoft AI document analysis tool, has evolved into SharePoint Premium. SharePoint Premium offers a wide array of AI-driven capabilities, including AI content understanding, automation, document assembly, content governance and eSignatures. It uses intelligent document processing, content artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning to not only automatically organise your documents, but also to extract the most valuable information and automate document classifying and categorising processes.

But have SharePoint Premium and Syntex been outshone by Copilot and other emerging AI solutions? Not so.

As a SharePoint Premium launch partner, we have a firm understanding of the power that the Syntex capabilities within SharePoint Premium wield and the unparalleled understanding of multiple document formats  that are supported.

Unlike Copilot for Microsoft 365, users can teach Syntex the specifics of each document type that it will engage with, such as clarifying contract and invoice layout or spreadsheet structure. The AI allows users to build a knowledge base for its analytical capabilities which answer questions for each organisation’s specific needs.

Neither Copilot for Microsoft 365, nor ChatGPT, offer such granular detail for specific document automation and recognition. When used in conjunction with one another, such as by employing the Syntex plugin for Copilot, users can create powerful tools that offer Syntex’s recognition and analytical capability combined with Copilot’s functionality.

The future of AI in the workplace

With the pace of evolution and unrelenting, incremental improvements in AI technology, the next 12 months present an almost blank canvas of potential. As Microsoft put it, we have entered a new era of AI. In particular, the era of Microsoft Copilot sees all of the previously announced Microsoft AI tools unified into a single experience, one which incorporates the context and intelligence of the internet, your work data and whatever you are doing at any given moment.

Although it is impossible to make any direct predictions, it’s likely that the solutions we use will follow two angles of attack – use cases and technological possibility.

The use cases that AI continues to feed into show how the application of the technology will increase and how even greater value can be gained through its use. We are having so many conversations with clients about this, discussing the raw capability of AI and the multitude of ways it can optimise and improve. Everywhere you look in an organisation, there are so many ways of how businesses can use AI, whether in marketing, sales, commercial, products or others.

From a technology perspective, AI is going to continue evolving at express pace. What we were limited by a few months ago may well be possible in 12 months’ time. Interacting with organisational data with AI is certainly going to be a focus for many, and it will likely become simpler as it becomes a more common requirement. How we interact with AI will also change, with it becoming even more seamlessly integrated with our familiar tools and workflows.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in AI and the results we are seeing so far are incredibly encouraging. Seeing our clients’ end users engage with AI and ask fairly simple questions, they are receiving complex and structured answers which include organisational data and information that would take significant time and resources for a human to provide.

That is the true strength of combining LLMs with internal data. How businesses can use AI is down to each business to decide, but the results are almost magical and speak to why so many organisations are turning to these tools of the future.

Why a managed service provider supports how businesses can use AI

What is clear is that embracing the benefits of AI isn’t simply about employing an off-the-shelf solution. Rather, it’s about understanding what your organisation needs, where benefit and value can be generated most strongly and discovering how to achieve this with AI.

Whether you want to prepare and organise your company data to be able to engage with your AI solutions, or you want support to begin your initial journey into how to use AI in the workplace, Advania can help you make the right choices.

Our experts have already amassed significant experience in the field and are able to guide you through the entire process of selecting and onboarding AI tools to optimise your work. How businesses can use AI is a question which will shape the future of modern work. With our assistance, you can make the right choices for your needs and your people.

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