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Microsoft Continues to Deepen Integrations: Updates include stronger tie-ins between Dynamics and other Microsoft products.

Through a series of recent technology upgrades, Microsoft is advancing down a path to help customer-facing professionals better represent their brands and drive digital transformation, the company revealed at its newly collocated Envision and Ignite conferences in Orlando, Fla., in late September.

"Every piece of enterprise technology should help embellish the capabilities of human beings," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, during his day one keynote. "We definitely want more productivity and efficiency, but we do not want to degrade humanity; we want technology to provide new levels of inclusiveness."

To that end, Microsoft has bolstered its portfolio with several releases, including artificial intelligence-driven capabilities for its customer care solutions in Dynamics 365, tightened integrations between its LinkedIn and Microsoft 365 properties, and intelligent search options via Bing for business.

Microsoft 365, released in July, ties together the capabilities of Office 365 and Windows 10 with enterprise mobility and security. A critical part of the solution is the Microsoft Graph API, which enables users to interact with the data of millions of other users in the Microsoft cloud.

The Graph "captures the knowledge of your people, their relationship with other people inside and outside the organization, their work artifacts, their projects, their schedules, and it's a very rich data set that you can reason about, that you can create a vision about inside your organization," Nadella explained. "That's the vision of Microsoft 365. It's not about trying to build individual tools, but it's about creating that next platform to be able to drive digital transformation."

Integrating the LinkedIn Graph with the Microsoft 365 Graph gives companies a more "modern workplace," Nadella said. Information from LinkedIn profiles will now appear directly within Office 365 applications. To prepare for customer meetings, salespeople now don't need to leave their Outlook 365 calendars, since information about the people involved, drawn from their LinkedIn profiles, will appear directly within their contact cards.

"This is the first of many LinkedIn integrations you will see in Microsoft 365 in the upcoming months," said Li-Chen Miller, a partner program manager in Microsoft's artificial intelligence and research group, during a demo of the technology.

Microsoft's Bing for business applies AI capabilities to the Microsoft Graph to help surface relevant results about organizations within Bing search pages. This information includes company data, answers to common questions, documents, information about people, and public web search results. The solution also aims to save users time and increase productivity when searching for basic information located in different parts of the Office suite--to speed up email exchanges, for instance.

"We're going to continue investing in search across Microsoft 365 in order to make it more intelligent, more personal, and more contextualized," Miller said. "We are also going to invest to bring it to more employees."

At the conference, which boasted 25,000 attendees, Microsoft also released Microsoft 365 for First-Line Workers, a product tailored for customer-facing employees like sales associates and customer service reps.

The user base includes 2 billion people worldwide, according to Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office 365 marketing. "It's a user base that has been largely underserved by technology," Markezich said. "So it's important for us to give them a solution that meets their unique needs and allows them to represent a company's mission and brand with their customers directly."

Microsoft also deepened the integrations between its PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 solutions. Business users familiar with InfoPath forms, Access databases, or SharePoint can build their own apps to extend and automate business processes with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow.

Additionally, Microsoft added AI capabilities to help customer care professionals. Additions include a virtual agent for customers, an intelligent assistant for support staff, and conversational AI management tools.

"This is just the beginning of a complete new journey of building AI-first business applications," Nadella remarked. "We're really looking forward to the next year, where we take this module and scale it out in your businesses and learn from it, and have it go to all the other areas of your operations."
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Author:Smilansky, Oren
Publication:CRM Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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