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In your career as a technology professional, you’re privy to changes coming in waves – an enhancement here, an improvement there, and suddenly a whole new solution appears right when you’ve finally grasped the last new solution. It’s relentless. And in order to stay competitive in the industry, your employers and clients rely on you to stay ahead of the tech curve. At Mecer Inter-Ed we ensure world class training, by Microsoft Certified trainers, to ensure the most up-to-date knowledge transfer and skills enablement.

Let Mecer Inter-Ed help your team to you move to the cloud, let us assist in solving existing problems and point you to an existing tech stack for solutions. Whatever the scenario, you can be sure that the skills we bring to the table are critical on many levels. For instance, achieving tech intensity is the ability to use existing tech capabilities to create new capabilities – and it’s this type of job skill that comes back to you and your powerful team time and again. Since the success of any organization depends on whether tech intensity is achieved, training and certifications become even more important, especially right now, during the rise of AI – and what the impact may be to you and your career possibilities.

The use of AI in day-day operations is rapidly growing.

The number of organisations using AI solutions in their day-to-day operations continues to grow rapidly. Estimates suggest that by 2040, the overall adoption rate of AI will reach 34.8%, with 1.3 million businesses using AI. With more than half (56%) of businesses already using AI to some extent, now is the time for organisations to replace exploration with AI implementation at scale, or risk falling behind.

Yet for many business decision-makers, the biggest question continues to be: “How do I start the journey?”

To help answer this question, I want to outline some practical applications of AI that can help your team achieve more today. I will then end with some high-level implementation tips.

As your organisation implements AI, you’ll embark on a change-management journey in which departmental and data silos tend to disappear. In fact, you’ll get the best out of AI by nurturing:

- Organisation-wide participation, so all staff can contribute new solutions to business problems

- Two-way communication, right across a diverse and inclusive team

- Experimentation, including opportunities to learn from mistakes

Your new AI-driven “learning culture” will increasingly be powered by data, with richer insights and new analytical tools. To support this major shift, we’ve developed an end-to-end analytics solution, Microsoft Fabric, unveiled at Microsoft Build 2023. Infused with the Azure OpenAI Service at every layer, Fabric integrates the most advanced D&A tools – from Data Factory to Power BI and Synapse – in one place. Enabling you to surface business insights faster than ever.

Responsible AI by design

It will also be important to consider the ethical, cultural and compliance aspects of deploying AI technology. You can rest assured that, in designing AI solutions, Microsoft puts people and principles first. Our team of researchers, engineers and policy experts is guided by our AI principles and Responsible AI Standard, along with decades of research on AI, grounding and privacy-preserving machine learning.

Our design process ensures Microsoft AI systems are scrutinized for potential harms and mitigations. We also make it clear how a system makes decisions by noting its limitations, linking to sources, and prompting users to review and adjust content based on their subject-matter expertise.

5 ways to start implementing AI at Work

The following scenarios highlight how Microsoft AI can help you work smarter and faster, using natural language to cut through the drudgery of search and manual compilation. Our solutions put technology, AI, data, cybersecurity and advanced usability through natural language at your disposal.

1. Transform workloads with an AI copilot.

Imagine next-generation AI embedded into the Microsoft 365 apps you use at work each day – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams and more. That’s Copilot in Microsoft 365.

Using Copilot in Word, you can now quickly create a first draft to edit and develop using a language prompt. Want more help? Copilot will shorten, rewrite, or give feedback on it.

You’re always in control. You can (and should) review, fact-check, and fine-tune content yourself.

Creating a presentation? With Copilot in PowerPoint, you can easily bring in slide content from any previous deck. And Copilot in Excel will help you rapidly analyse trends and create data visualisations.

Create reports in seconds

With our Business Chat AI tool, you can use a natural language prompt (such as “Tell the CEO how we’ve updated the campaign strategy”) to instantly create a status update, based on your relevant meetings, documents, emails and chat threads.

2. Detect cybersecurity threats faster

For security operations and response teams, constant vigilance against threats can drain resources and exhaust individuals.

Microsoft Security Copilot reduces the burden. It uses AI to integrate insights and data from security tools, detecting vulnerabilities earlier and shutting down cyberattacks.

Microsoft Security Copilot provides intelligent guidance informed by 65 trillion daily signals.

It also puts your people first by improving usability. To understand functions, users can simply ask for step-by-step guidance.

As with all our AI solutions, Security Copilot strictly follows our AI principles and Responsible AI Standard. It also runs on Azure’s hyperscale infrastructure for a fully privacy-compliant experience.

3. Reinvent search with an AI copilot for the web

Our new AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser tools are like a copilot for the web. They give you more complete search answers, a new chat experience, and the ability to generate content.

“We’ve launched Bing and Edge powered by AI copilot and chat, to help people get more from search and the web.”

Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft

With the chat experience, you can easily fine-tune your search by asking for more details and clarity. You’ll get relevant links to follow up, too.

Merging search, browser and chat opens up exciting possibilities. Need the highlights of a long annual report? Just ask for it using the Edge Sidebar. Want to compare it to a competitor and see them side-by-side in a table? Just use the chat function.

Even as AI transforms search, the privacy policies of Bing and Edge AI ensure your user identity and behaviour are safe and protected.

4. Improve services and solve problems with AI

Rapidly improve your customer service and data insights by tapping into the power of generative AI models, including GPT-4, Codex, and DALL-E 2. All are available through the Azure OpenAI Service, backed by built-in Microsoft Azure security, compliance and data privacy and the Responsible AI Standard.

Solve your business problem in seconds

Looking to speed up clinical communications or automate an accounting process? Any team member can now do it using AI and low-code. We’ve added Copilot to Microsoft Power Platform, so you can create apps, flows and bots in seconds through natural language. And whatever you build, you can easily query the data for instant, actionable insights.

You can develop Power Automate workflows in 50% less time with Copilot.

5. Unite teams, communicate and collaborate in one place

We’ve also improved usability. Instead of having to keep an eye on your chat while presenting in Teams, you can use Copilot to auto-answer any questions – and save time to collaborate.

Copilot finds Teams notifications, messages and information rapidly and helps you manage work with personalized suggestions. Asking Copilot for a summary can help reduce that Monday morning weekly status stress by putting you one step ahead.

Implementing AI at scale: 4 practical steps

Scaling your AI journey can be confusing with so many technical, business, cultural and ethical considerations. To move smoothly from experimenting to implementing, follow these steps.

1. Think business transformation

Approach AI as a business change programme, with tech as a key component. AI will transform your culture, so this might help you think big. It will also stop you from seeing AI as belonging solely to IT.

2. Get your people onboard

Take the time to explain to stakeholders the reasons for change. Highlight the benefits they can expect. No one should feel they’re having AI “done to them”.

3. Identify a problem to solve

Scope a business problem, then plan how AI can help solve it. That way, your solution can create measurable value. Don’t use a new business problem – start with one you know and understand.

4. Build an organisation-wide strategy

Create a strategy that allows AI to scale organically. Businesses that focus on scale do better than those hoping multiple, smaller projects will automatically lead to scale.

Integrating AI into your business shouldn’t be a daunting process. We’ve designed our AI solutions to fit in with the way you work, not the other way around. This includes applying robust ethical AI principles at every step, and its why Copilot automatically adopts your organisation’s security, compliance, and privacy policies and processes. It also protects your tenant, group, and individual data.

Upskill your staff and implement AI with confidence.

Let Mecer Inter-Ed and Microsoft help you to take the first step. Book your Microsoft Azure AI fundamentals course and see how AI helps you unleash innovation, unlock productivity, and expand skills across the team.

For more information contact Surita Du Plessis at suritadp@mecerintered.co.za 

By Glen Robinson, Microsoft National Technology Officer