Project Cortex Unveiled at Microsoft Ignite

Project Cortex, a new cloud service from Microsoft, was just introduced to attendees at the 2019 Microsoft Ignite conference. In January, Protiviti will host a webinar reviewing Project Cortex’s features and functionalities. Registration will be available soon, but in the meantime, let me introduce you to some of the most compelling features of this new solution.

Project Cortex Overview

Project Cortex will help enterprises organize their corporate data. The new cloud service from Microsoft uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automatically and intelligently process content so organizations can immediately start to turn that data into knowledge. The solution leverages AI to make sense of content shared across teams and system. It can recognize content types, extract important information, and automatically organize content into shared topics.

This is the first new service in the Microsoft 365 product offering since Microsoft Teams was launched in 2017, so this is a significant new capability that Microsoft is bringing to the cloud space.

Key Functionalities

Project Cortex will capture and ingest content from multiple sources and will automatically process that content to extract key data elements based on a model that can either be built or taught.  Companies can then use that data to automatically kick off internal processes or publish it for others to immediately start seeing benefits.  The AI models used by Cortex can be both built, through Microsoft AI Builder, or taught through a new machine teaching interface.

Project Cortex will automatically organize content into shared topics like people, projects, processes, industry-specific terms and customers. It builds a knowledge network based on the relationships that are found among the topics, content and people from an organization’s data. That knowledge can then be surfaced to employees through automatically built, wiki-like topic pages.  Users simply hover over a term that appears on a page and a topic card appears with additional information about that topic.

That same experience will also be available in Outlook emails, where employees can easily find more information about words and topics that appear in an email by just hovering over the word and clicking on the topic card.

People cards in Microsoft 365; Source: Microsoft

Enterprises can use the automatically generated topic pages or can modify them to suit their business needs. Along with these capabilities, Microsoft is modernizing the Term Store Management interface in SharePoint Online, and over time elevating it to a Microsoft 365 capability. This will allow non-technical people such as knowledge managers or information architects to manage and update the terms that are surfaced to people visiting those pages. Ultimately, they will be able to curate the terms and topics that are relevant to their organization and business context to better manage the flow of information. Topics and terms feed into Microsoft Search as well, helping employees more easily find the relevant information they need through Microsoft’s enterprise search capability.

Empower People with Knowledge

Project Cortex will help make sense of organizations’ data. Because organizations have data and information that is spread out across countless documents across several Microsoft systems, it is difficult for employees to locate information. Project Cortex will address this pain point through searches and, when its algorithms deem it appropriate, in the form of hover-links inside of Microsoft products like the Office apps, Outlook and Teams.

Project Cortex can be thought of as an organization’s knowledge network in Microsoft 365. At a high level, it helps:

  • Empower people with knowledge and expertise in everyday apps
  • Automatically connect and organize knowledge across teams and systems
  • Manage and protect content with AI and built in security and workflow

Project Cortex Use Cases

Project Cortex will allow business users to gain valuable insights with their data, improving search, data accuracy and productivity.  There are several use cases for this solution, including:

  • Employee onboarding: When new employees quickly ramp up on a company project or process, it can be challenging to get up to speed when the information is dispersed, full of industry specific terminology or technology acronyms. Project Cortex can help employees quickly get better and more information when they need it, and within the context of the business. This improves productivity by helping new hires get up to speed and get productive faster.
  • Images to Data: Other key use case that Project Cortex will initially address include the ability to extract data elements from images and add them as metadata to SharePoint Online libraries leveraging Azure Cognitive Services.
  • Image and text recognition will identify objects in scanned or uploaded images based on an understanding of over 10,000 attributes, and extracts text from images and PDFs.
  • Forms processing enables the user to pinpoint important information in forms and extract that information as metadata. In the example shown below, users can establish a rule to automatically tag contract effective dates by analyzing the text of sample documents.

For example, Project Cortex will not only be able to extract data from a contract, but will also be able to determine which customer that contract is with and how much that contract is worth, automatically storing that information as metadata with the document. Automated sensitivity labeling policies can then be based on that metadata to automatically secure contracts that refer to specific customers and/or are over a particular dollar amount.

Project Cortex is built on top of SharePoint Online, integrating a number of services across Microsoft 365, so there is no need for migration – the solution will work with content already in place or being brought into the Microsoft cloud platform.

These are two of many examples and use cases of what Project Cortex can do for enterprises; we are confident Project Cortex has a bright future.

Project Cortex promises to bring exciting new capabilities to organizations of all shapes and sizes. Imagine what improved content curation and accelerated knowledge sharing can do to improve productivity and process efficiencies. We anticipate that the hundreds of applications Project Cortex brings to market will open a new world of online collaboration for users, regardless of their role within the company. We will be blogging more on this and will be demonstrating the solution’s capabilities during our January webinar. Stay tuned for registration information.

Other Microsoft Ignite Resources

Those attending Microsoft Ignite, or viewing sessions online, may be interested in these keynote presentations from this year’s show:

Antonio Maio

Associate Director
Technology Consulting – Software Solutions