Microsoft AI event audience
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It was somewhat fitting that the first customer event hosted at One Microsoft Place following the launch of our new campus in Dublin focused on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fundamentally changing the way businesses operate.

For our own business, the growth of AI has a material impact on how we collaborate, engage customers, and transform operations – becoming even more tangible in recent years. Sometimes it manifests itself in subtle new features within Office 365, like Acronyms which can help you determine the meaning of an organisational shorthand instead of – as is the case in Microsoft –  having to dive for the 450-page company glossary. In other instances, the advancement of AI internally takes on a whole new meaning – Bots have now penetrated our working life. Our company address book is a Bot; handy when you’re looking for a needle in a 124,000-strong global employee haystack.

One major shift for our business was the move to support our financial forecasting with machine learning. Our financial department understood the frustrations of our old spreadsheet forecasting. It was expensive, error-prone, tedious, and ultimately time consuming. Internal IT worked with our senior finance leaders to build a new approach, using our own platform (there’s a great case study on it here) which could ultimately streamline, improve, and in some places automate the process. The impact was immediate on our accuracy and our predictions. We augmented traditional forecasting, rather than replacing it. And, for me, the cultural impact was fascinating and serves as a great example of people being integral to how AI is fundamentally changing the way business operates.

AI has become an essential tool to the finance team, saving them time to focus on providing insight to the business in areas that were previously unventured. Finance is now ahead of the curve and their team is positioned to provide context in a whole new way.

We had over 100 attendees last week from across major industry in Ireland and I was asked on a number of occasions “how do you start the journey into AI”. My response was always the same – ask your teams. Engage them in the process, hack your ideas, venture into new and innovative territory and don’t be afraid to fail from time to time. Our finance and IT team trialled a number of solutions before we got our methods right but together they understood the problem, led the innovation, and drove the change.

With AI, we have more power at our fingertips than entire generations that came before us. What will you do with it?

Paul Shanahan

Intelligent Cloud Business Group Lead

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