The next step in AI-based meeting management


Microsoft this spring has been rolling out intelligent features in Outlook designed to make work meetings both easier to schedule and more productive.

The new features appear in Outlook’s email application and calendar. It seems like a pretty good marriage of artificial intelligence (AI) and enterprise productivity needs — and done in a way that even AI-leery employees can appreciate. You can expect to see more of this type of “smart” functionality as enterprises leverage AI to increase human productivity, as well as organizational efficiency and decision-making.

These features are available only on the early version of Outlook on the web, which was announced in February. Here’s a little bit of what these new features can do for users:

Tired of being the dunce of the meeting? Outlook on the web’s Meeting Insights feature will recommend relevant information so you can be prepared, Microsoft writes in a blog post. This is done through Microsoft Graph, an API that connects multiple devices and cloud-based services such as email, SharePoint, and OneDrive. Meeting Insights also finds relevant information after the meeting, including “emails you’ve had on the meeting topic, content shared during the meeting, meeting notes, and post-meeting content.”

Rather than being from a figurative cookie cutter, the information “is uniquely tailored, so people who are in the same meeting will not necessarily see the same recommendations,” according to Microsoft. That’s pretty cool!

Mulling a follow-up? Outlook has added a feature that will offer a “schedule a meeting” action box if it “detects there is an intent to meet between the people in the conversation.” This allows colleagues to book a meeting without leaving their email app. Sounds trivial, but anything that removes unnecessary steps in your workflow can improve overall productivity.

Speaking of wasting time, is there anything more maddening than trying to schedule a meeting with multiple colleagues? The email back-and-forth can drive you crazy. Outlook on the web can search participant schedules to suggest days and times when the full team can meet.

Outlook also can save you time trying to find an available meeting place. No more getting kicked out of a conference room that’s been double-booked.

Again, the little things add up over the course of a day and week. As more AI features are integrated into enterprise work applications, employees can spend less time on information-finding and logistics, and more time on getting their work done. Or goofing off on Facebook. (Did I say that?)

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