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Microsoft’s Project Cortex Might Finally Make Company Wikis Useful

Microsoft’s Project Cortex is the first new service announced for its Microsoft 365 cloud service since the launch of Teams, and its aim is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the creation and maintenance of an internal wiki for your organization.

Microsoft debuted the new service at its Ignite conference in November, and it has been touring the service with its smaller follow-up conferences in cities across North America. Cortex is “like Wikipedia for the enterprise but AI does the work for you,” explained Kelly Albano, Microsoft 365 product marketing manager, as she presented in Toronto. “It takes your organization’s data and, with AI, organizes it into topics.”

Cortex builds on the universal Microsoft Search feature that’s integrated into 365. By shifting data from companies’ on-premises servers into Microsoft’s cloud, Microsoft has created more capability to massage customer data in useful ways. Now it can apply AI services to the data residing in its Office software and unite the data across applications without significant effort on the part of the customer.

Project Cortex uses AI to sort organizational data and then surface it in useful ways across different applications.

Image: Microsoft.

Office 365 users will interact with Cortex by delving into encyclopedia-style pages that are automatically assembled from semi-structured content. Imagine being emailed about an important project by your boss but having no context to know what the project is about. Normally, you’d have to wait for your boss to be free to have a discussion and provide the details. But with Cortex, you’d click on a page that has all the details pulled from internal documents, conversations, meetings, and videos.

Currently, Project Cortex is in private preview, so you’ll have to apply to access it. Microsoft says it will be released in the first half of 2020.

Our Take

Organizational wikis were a hot trend about a decade ago. The rise of Wikipedia as a default go-to source for general knowledge on just about anything motivated organizations to consider the same approach for documenting and disseminating internal knowledge. The idea may have been exciting, but in reality the task proved too onerous for many organizations. Creating well-structured organizational knowledge graphs and keeping them up to date can be a full-time job in itself. When organizations count on everyone to pitch in and make it happen, it can often result in no one doing much of anything at all. So what if AI could just automate the task? Project Cortex aims to find out soon enough.

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