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The 4 Most Significant Announcements from Microsoft Ignite 2023


AI, Security, and the Future of Work

Last week, we watched a flurry of announcements and unveilings at Microsoft Ignite 2023 as CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote promised that “[Microsoft] Copilot will be the new UI [User Interface] that helps us gain access to the world’s knowledge and your organisation’s knowledge.”

With new products – including Azure AI Studio, Copilot Studio, and Entra – Microsoft continues its mission to make AI accessible to organisations of all sizes, bringing in Copilot integrations across its product portfolio. Nadella’s speech signalled that SMBs will be able to use Microsoft’s AI-enabled ‘agent’ to have conversations with chatbots about their internal company data, overcome productivity bottlenecks, and build an AI-powered security strategy.

Here are 4 of the most important Ignite announcements that IT departments at small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can take advantage of over the coming months.

1. Unveiling the Azure AI Studio

This year’s tentpole announcement was Azure AI Studio. The AI Studio is a new unified platform to easily build, deploy, and manage AI applications. Its no-code interface allows anyone to connect data sources to leading AI models like GPT-3, creating custom Copilot and conversational AI experiences.

This is a game-changer for SMBs, many of whom will not have the machine learning expertise in-house to design AI applications from the ground up. We know many SMBs want to understand how AI can work for them in practice, rather than theory. Think of the AI Studio as a way to test ideas quickly to assess their viability for your company.

If you’re struggling with internal requests, for example, you could create a custom conversational chatbot that interacts with employees via Teams to answer questions about company IT policies, reset passwords, set up accounts, and so on. By testing quickly, you can shelve the unsuccessful solutions and scale up the ones that show immediate results.

If the custom chatbot frees up staff or reduces costs, you could investigate ways to automate entire IT processes, including onboarding new employees, provisioning cloud resources, and managing your software licenses.

2. Microsoft Defender Merges with Sentinel

Given the recent rise in AI-driven attacks, Microsoft unveiled key changes to its security infrastructure at Ignite. Crucially, it has combined Microsoft Defender and Sentinel into a unified security operations platform. This single solution features Copilot’s AI guidance for threat detection and faster response.

Microsoft Entra, the new identity and access management offering, now makes granular access controls easier to implement for hybrid workforces. Integration with Zero Trust networking also strengthens perimeter security for remote workers – a major vulnerability for IT teams at smaller firms.

Together, these updates provide accessible enterprise-grade security and compliance to SMB IT departments dealing with sophisticated threats and increasing regulation. The new capabilities specifically address manpower and expertise gaps through automation and consolidation.

3. Making Hybrid Work Easier with Copilot

In a bid to boost productivity and streamline collaboration in hybrid work environments, Microsoft has revealed a raft of updates to Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop. It is delivering secure desktop experiences across devices and networks, while new governance controls also give IT teams more options for managing remote PCs.

For virtual meetings, Microsoft Teams will gain AI voice isolation, background effects, and post-call summaries with Copilot. Mesh avatars and spaces will integrate directly into Teams for more engaging virtual gatherings. Also, Microsoft 365 apps (Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, etc.) will benefit from new quality-of-life Copilot features: accelerating meeting prep, brainstorming content, and reviewing changes in documents.

If your workforce can collaborate across hybrid environments, this doesn’t just boost productivity; it may also have benefits for the IT department. Take the opportunity to audit your license usage and clean up and organise existing tools – this may render some licenses unnecessary, and it’s a great chance to optimise your budget. On that note, before encouraging your team to embrace these new features, make sure to pace the rollout to not overwhelm users. People can only absorb so much change at once.

4. Protecting Data with Microsoft Purview

If data governance was your focus going into Microsoft Ignite, it should come as welcome news that Microsoft announced updates to its Purview data governance platform. These changes are part of the company’s plan to help you with security, compliance, and oversight across cloud environments.

IT departments at SMBs will be able to access expanded sensitive data discovery and unified data protection policies across apps and clouds. New AI capabilities will support you with the compliance burden for regulated data. You’ll also have enhanced data visibility and control – helping you handle data sprawl and meet the increasingly high bar for due diligence.

To get the most out of this change and keep your business secure, consider how this helps you unify your data governance and reduce tool fragmentation. With consistent data protection and expanded AI-assisted investigations across multi-cloud sources, you can get ahead of emerging threats, even with an increasingly constrained budget. The end goal should be to build a central view of your data and automate your policy enforcement where possible. This gives you the most efficient command possible over widening attack surfaces.

What Does This Mean For Your Company?

For those of you who couldn’t attend Microsoft Ignite this year, we were shown yet again that Microsoft’s product roadmap has AI written all over it. Key reveals like the Azure AI Studio, Microsoft Entra, and the new unified security platform demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to democratising enterprise-grade innovations so that even small firms can access and enjoy the upgrades.

Whether you’re looking to centralise your data governance with Purview, bring in AI-generated insights to save you manual hours on security monitoring, or support a hybrid workforce with Copilot-augmented Teams and Microsoft Office applications, Microsoft has something for you.

Doherty Associates are a long-standing Microsoft Partner. Our four Microsoft Solutions Partner designations span the crucial areas of security, cloud computing communication and collaboration, data analysis, and server infrastructure. This means you can trust us to drive innovative and hard-working solutions, powered by the very latest Microsoft technologies. If you’d like to understand more about what the unveilings from Microsoft Ignite could mean for you, then speak with our Microsoft experts today.

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