Microsoft has launched Microsoft Syntex, a rebranding of the application as the vendor transforms it into a set of content applications, low-code tools and services that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline how organisations work with content.
Part of a new category of technology that Redmond calls “content AI,” Microsoft Syntex — announced at the company's Ignite conference, and formerly called SharePoint Syntex — uses AI to automatically read, tag and index large volumes of content, connecting it where it’s needed in context and integrating offerings from across the Microsoft Cloud, from Microsoft 365 (the newly rebranded Office 365) and Azure toPower Platform and Microsoft Purview.
As processes have become increasingly digitised during the past 10 years or so, a growing number of businesses have moved all their documents into the cloud.
Jeff Teper, president of collaborative apps and platforms at Microsoft, says that for Microsoft 365, that rate has grown tenfold over the last five years alone, with an average of 1.6 billion documents added to Microsoft 365 every day.
While moving toward a paperless society brought with it the promise of efficiency, the number of documents now being stored digitally has reached a critical point, meaning people are wasting vital time searching and sifting through digital files to find necessary information. Furthermore, organisations are estimated to spend $46 billion a year storing and managing content from which they derive little value.
“It's not to say you shouldn't have lawyers review contracts, but if you can have the AI scan a 200-page contract and say: 'These are the three clauses that changed from the boilerplate,' that can dramatically save companies time and money,” Tepper said.
Syntex offers 11 core capabilities
Microsoft Syntex supports more than 300 different types of content and comprises 11 capabilities. These are:
Enhance: No-code AI that enhances your content to help you understand and structure information, simplifying your business workflows.
Document processing: Helps you understand, tag, and secure information, integrating AI from Microsoft Azure, AI Builder, and other Microsoft sources.
Summarisation: Uses AI to generate summaries of content to distill key points, on demand.
Content assembly: Helps users automatically generate that document with templates and metadata using content assembly.
Images, audio, and video processing: Allows users to process and tag images with nearly 10,000 automatically recognised objects “out of the box” and extract text from images in SharePoint and Exchange using optical character recognition (OCR).
Connect: Helps users connect, discover and reuse content with AI-powered search.
E-signature: One of the fastest growing type of content transactions is e-signature. You can send electronic signature requests using Syntex, Adobe Acrobat Sign, DocuSign or any of Microsoft's other e-signature partner solutions.
Search: Builds on top of Microsoft Search to provide powerful ways to query, shape, and discover the content and data embedded in your files.
Annotation: Use annotations—like ink, notes, redactions, stamps, and comments—to any content without modifying the original files.
Content rules processor: The Syntex content processor lets you build simple rules to trigger the next action in a sequence of tasks, such as a transaction, alert, or workflow.
Accelerators and templates: Microsoft is providing a range of application accelerators for common patterns and scenarios faced by organisations.
Larry Cannell, senior director analyst at Gartner said that rebranding SharePoint Syntex as Microsoft Syntex indicates that the new capabilities will play a broader role in Microsoft’s AI portfolio.
Cannell added that he’s skeptical of Microsoft’s use of “content AI” to describe Syntex, as its description of this market looks a lot like what the industry has called content management for years.
“Nevertheless, if the value is there, Syntex will give Microsoft customers more choice in meeting their content processing needs,” he said.
Employing the use of low code and no code
Tepper explained that the technology Microsoft uses for its so-called prebuilt AI models, which include optical character recognition or language translation, have become increasingly refined as part of Azure Cognitive Services. This has allowed Microsoft to take platform capabilities from elsewhere in its technology stack and build them into Syntex.
However, while Microsoft is still offering APIs for professional developers, the company has tried to identify patterns that make it possible for customers to solve their unique needs without writing any custom code.
As a result, many of the capabilities that make up Microsoft Syntex employ the use of low code and no code, enabling users with little to no coding experience to get the most out of Microsoft Syntex.
Built on Microsoft’s Power Platform, a set of low-code tools for building apps, workflows, AI bots, and data analytics, Tepper explains that the coding capabilities will allow users to easily create workflows and automate business processes in a way that allows them to be tailored to their exact needs.
“Success with this integration will be more dependent on Power Automate’s resiliency than Syntex’s ability to call a flow,” Gartner's Cannell said, adding that although he is intrigued by Syntex’s integration with Power Automate, it’s still unclear if customers will embrace the use of a no-code solution built into their mainstream content processes.
Microsoft Syntex is available now, including document processing, annotation, content assembly, content query, accelerators and more. More services are coming to public preview later this year with the rest to follow in 2023.
Microsoft will also be introducing a consumption business model for Syntex, allowing customers to scale up the family of services to best suit their needs.