Viva Las Vegas: 5 Reflections from the 2023 Microsoft 365 Conference

5 minute read

Team BA Insight

By Mark Aschemeyer, Enterprise Account Executive 

Since 2008, I have attended every national SharePoint/O365 Conference. I have also attended a handful of international SharePoint events. In dog years, I think I’m 115.    

Over the past 15 years, I have made so many amazing friends from all over the world. Attending the Microsoft 365 conference is like a high school reunion, except you like everyone. 

During this time, technological advancements have been mind-blowing. In 2010, no one was talking about the cloud. The buzz was around Microsoft’s acquisition of the industry-leading enterprise search vendor FAST. By 2013, FAST was integrated into SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online. By 2017, if your organization did not have a cloud strategy, the survival of your business was at risk. And in 2019, the SharePoint Conference became the Office 365 Conference. Microsoft Search became the search backbone of O365. 

But back to this year’s event. Upland BA Insight was a sponsor at the Microsoft 365 Conference. Here are a few takeaways I’ve been ruminating on since leaving Las Vegas.

1. Shows are back. 

This year’s Microsoft 365 Conference at the MGM Grand was amazing. You could feel the energy from the 2,000 attendees. Why? It was in person and life felt normal again.   

There were major technological themes I noticed at the event, all of which can impact enterprise search.

2. Viva. Viva. Viva.

Viva is Microsoft’s employee experience platform which you can launch from Microsoft Teams. Viva is built on top of the Microsoft Graph. In 18 months, Viva has grown from four applications to ten.   

The application most of my enterprise search software customers ask me about is Viva Topics. Viva Topics uses Microsoft AI technology to identify topics important to your organization in your O365 environment. Think of it as Wikipedia for your Intranet.   

One big drawback for Topics is the lack of support for indexed external content. This includes content being indexed by Microsoft’s out-of-the-box graph connectors.

3. Microsoft Syntex continues to add functionality.

On Wednesday, I attended my friend Chris McNulty’s session on Microsoft Syntex. Chris is the Director of Product Marketing at Microsoft for Microsoft Viva, Viva Topics, SharePoint, Syntex, OneDrive, Stream, Project Cortex, and Content Services/ECM.   

Fun fact: there are two billion documents added daily to O365, primarily to SharePoint. 

When the content haystack gets bigger, how do you enhance your content’s value? How do you manage these massive data sets? Microsoft’s answer is AI-driven entity extraction and classification. That is what Syntex is all about. Common use cases for Syntex include claims processing, order management, contract management, and employee onboarding. 

The biggest challenge my customers face is harnessing their unstructured content. Syntex does a great job with forms-based content. But, due to the black-box nature of Syntex’s AI services, it does not handle unstructured content. 

To tackle unstructured content, best-of-breed classification solutions, like Upland BA Insight’s Autoclassifier, offer more flexibility with AI assisted classification, rules-based, and machine-learning options. This gives you the ability to mix and match classification options to address every possible business use case.   

Support for external content also appears to be at least two years away.

4. Copilot will be everywhere, and ChatGPT will dramatically transform our work.

Microsoft 365 Copilot blew my mind.  Copilot, which I’m pretty sure is ChatGPT under the covers, combines the power of large language models (LLMs) with your data in the Microsoft Graph—your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings, and more. 

I saw several demonstrations in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, highlighting ways to automatically create and graphically enhance content. The applications seem endless and will lead to exponential leaps in employee productivity.   

I can’t wait to see what the Upland BA Insight R & D Team has cooking in the search lab as it relates to integration with ChatGPT. I envision some fantastic use cases leveraging Upland BA Insight’s 90+ enterprise search connectors.    

5. Everyone wanted to know what we were up to.

Our booth at the event was packed. The Upland Team of Skip Vish, Skailar Hage, and I rocked the house.  Numerous folks scheduled follow-up meetings with us to learn about BA Insight’s web-like search for enterprises.  

I left Las Vegas exhausted but also renewed with energy. I know that seems like a contradiction, but I learned so much, and the announcements were invigorating. It was nice to connect with old friends and make new ones after all this time.   

I can’t wait until next year’s Microsoft 365 conference.  

Want to learn more about BA Insight, or chat about where the world of enterprise search is headed? Find me on LinkedIn or book time with me below. 

Let’s connect

About Mark Aschemeyer, Enterprise Account Executive 
With nearly 20 years of expertise working with website search, portal search, and enterprise search (SharePoint Search, Microsoft Search, Azure Cognitive Search, Elastic, Solr), Mark has helped over 150 enterprise customers build intelligent, personalized, relevant search experiences that customers and employees love to use. He is passionate about helping organizations solve business problems through the use of disruptive, best of breed, AI & Machine Learning search solutions. 

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