Welcome to the AI Index Report, featuring practitioner analyst and entrepreneur Toni Witt. This series is intended to deliver the timely intelligence about artificial intelligence (AI) you need to get up to speed for an upcoming client engagement or board meeting.
This episode is sponsored by Acceleration Economy’s AI Ecosystem Course, December 14. Discover how AI has created a new ecosystem of partnerships with a fresh spirit of customer-centric cocreation and renewed focus on reimagining what is possible.
In this AI Index Special Report, practitioner analyst and entrepreneur Toni Witt takes a look at a wave of AI-driven innovations from Microsoft that will impact everything from customer service to enterprise resources planning (ERP) to low-code development.
AI Empowers New Age of Customer Service (01:14)
Microsoft added new Copilot capabilities for its Dynamics 365 Customer Service, as well as its Dynamics 365 Field Service. It also made additions to its customer service workspace. Some new features include better inbox functionality, a redesigned voice experience, better collaboration through Microsoft Teams, and integrated diagnostics for administrators. All have the underlying goal of increasing the productivity of customer service agents, that human plus AI component.
Microsoft brought up two case studies. The first was from its customer Northern Trust Corporation, a leading wealth and asset management institution that used Copilot to assist the client services team with account reviews, case investigations, and post-resolution wrap-ups. It also brought up a use case with the upgraded Dynamics 365 Field Service from its customer Centrica, an energy services firm with about 12,000 field operatives, who were all managed more efficiently on the Dynamics 365 Field Service with the new upgrades.
AI Transforms ERP Software (02:30)
For the ERP component, Microsoft made updates to Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. There are general improvements in demand planning as well as procure-to-pay processes. It points out that Copilot will now suggest actions that can help purchasing agents make better decisions in response to new and updated information that affects open purchase orders.
For additional context, it brought up a case study from Domino’s Pizza UK and Ireland, where Domino’s used Copilot for purchasing agents and AI-powered demand forecasting to predict food requirements better. The result: reducing food waste, minimizing the environmental impact, and generally driving efficiency in that entire purchase process.
Enhancing Customer Experience with AI (03:18)
For the customer experience piece, with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, and Copilot, customers can use once hidden data and insights, unlock capabilities previously out of reach, and attain new levels of productivity and collaboration.
Microsoft brought up a case study from Kodak. With some of these upgrades to its customer service products, Kodak was able to reduce the independent software vendors (ISVs) it had relied on by 25% in the last few years. Its previous ERP stack was built on Microsoft Dynamics AX, and it was quite messy with a million ISVs and connecting application programming interfaces (APIs). Kodak also used the new AI features in this new and improved Dynamics 365 to tap into previously hidden data about its customers.
Which companies are the most important vendors in AI and hyperautomation? Check out the Acceleration Economy AI/Hyperautomation Top 10 Shortlist.
Low Code Development (04:22)
Wrapping up with low code. The Copilot in the Power Platform got upgrades as well. Microsoft brought up Suffolk, one of the largest U.S. construction companies. Suffolk uses Microsoft Power Automate to let professional and citizen or non-professional developers on the team build flows for material request processes by describing exactly what they need in natural language, not using code.
It also uses Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, a new offering that lets you build and deploy virtual agents using generative AI, again, with no code. It uses those to search through industry resources, without actually looking through and filtering through them manually, which saves a lot of time. In addition to generally enhancing daily business operations, Copilot within the Microsoft Power platform also really improved the governance and administrative experience, overall, which expedited the development of these applications.
Final Thoughts (06:05)
I remember when the idea of Copilots was really just for coding, like development copilots. And Microsoft has, time and time again, shown the viability and extended that copilot concept to every business function and role.
It’s interesting that it’s all still very use-case driven, not these all-purpose copilots like some startups originally envisioned. Generally, this validates my big picture thesis, which is that these hybrid large language models, like GPT-4 or Gemini, are not going to be quite as useful to enterprise customers as smaller, lightweight, use-case-specific or fine-tuned models, which can power these business-function specific copilots that Microsoft is putting out.