Microsoft unveils next-gen AI solutions to boost frontline productivity amid labor challenges

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Microsoft today unveiled a suite of tools and integrations designed to empower frontline workers across the globe. Central to this release is an innovative Copilot offering, which harnesses the capabilities of generative AI to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of service professionals on the frontline.

The tech giant underscores the considerable magnitude of this workforce, estimating their global count at 2.7 billion, more than twice the number of desk-based workers. These individuals perform diverse roles, from customer-facing associates to dedicated healthcare providers and operational stalwarts who navigate on-site tasks.

 

Microsoft says that over 60% of these workers grapple with monotonous tasks that detract from more meaningful endeavors. Confronted by mounting challenges stemming from labor shortages, skill gaps and supply chain disruptions, frontline workers have been increasingly tackling complex work demands.

To address these concerns, Microsoft aims to equip frontline workers with the necessary technological support and resources.

 

An AI-driven frontline Copilot

Key among the new tools is the Copilot integrated into Dynamics 365 Field Service to assist frontline service managers and technicians. Microsoft says the generative AI-driven tool optimizes workflow by automating repetitive tasks — creating work orders, for example.

Other integrations within Microsoft 365 further enhance these capabilities. Microsoft said that service managers will gain the ability to generate, schedule and oversee work orders directly within their workflow in Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams. Simultaneously, frontline technicians will be able to access vital work order information through Teams.

The company also unveiled a new Dynamics 365 Field Service “mobile experience” enabling frontline technicians to cut down on the number of taps for key tasks. This includes Dynamics 365 Guides integration, to provide technicians with step-by-step instructions for tasks, and access to Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, to problem-solve with remote experts in real time using 3D spatial annotations.

“We believe investment in technology for frontline workers will drive positive outcomes for employees, customers and their businesses. Technology can relieve pressures on the frontline that are causing burnout as well as help organizations drive engagement and a sense of belonging that can help increase retention,” Charles Lamanna, CVP of business applications and platform at Microsoft, told VentureBeat.

“Today’s announcements,” he added, “are the first steps we are taking to infuse next-gen AI and data with productivity tools like Dynamics 365 Field Service to help address the challenge of repetitive tasks and burnout. The new AI-powered Copilots use generative AI to automate the repetitive and taxing digital overhead that burdens frontline workers.”

Aiding frontline productivity with generative AI 

Lamanna contends that AI and process automation can alleviate the burden of essential yet exhaustive procedures for frontline workers, enabling them to render swifter, well-informed choices.

And says that the novel Copilot within Dynamics 365 Field Service allows frontline managers, who receive service inquiries via emails, to harness cutting-edge AI in Copilot for the direct streamlining of work order creation from within Outlook. 

Copilot will auto-populate pertinent data, including customer escalation summaries, into draft work orders within their workflow. Once preserved, these work orders can be synchronized with Dynamics 365 Field Service.

“With updates coming soon, Copilot will streamline technician scheduling by offering data-driven recommendations based on travel time, availability, skillset and other factors as well as accelerate responses to customer messages by summarizing key details and next steps in email drafts,” explained Lamanna. “Copilot will also become available to assist frontline managers in their flow of work within Microsoft Teams.”

Through Copilot in Dynamics 365 Field Service, augmented by Teams collaboration and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist’s mixed reality, Lamanna said that frontline workers will be able to maintain contact with their entire team, ensuring punctual project completion in adherence to timelines.

Teamwork

Within Microsoft Teams technicians can now receive and dispense updates and engage with specialists for remote assistance. The freshly introduced Dynamics 365 Field Service (Preview) application within Teams will present essential work order information to frontline technicians and make them conveniently accessible in their home interface.

“Frontline technicians will be able to see upcoming work orders as Tasks, click in to see key details such as location, and easily make updates that sync to Dynamics 365 Field Service,” Lamanna told VentureBeat. “Our new Dynamics 365 Remote Assist app in Teams mobile will enable problem-solving in real time with remote experts using 3D spatial annotations that lock to the physical world.”

Microsoft said that the new 365 Copilot enhancements will harness data sourced from an upcoming Shifts plugin within Teams. This will include user and company data, enlisting information from Teams chat, SharePoint, emails and other sources to extract insights.

Frontline managers will be able to source the most recent corporate resources for facilitating the onboarding of new personnel through SharePoint. Additionally, data harnessed from the Shifts plugin within Teams will empower workers to assess available shifts and gain greater visibility into outstanding tasks relevant to their team and location. This visibility is informed by the history of Teams chat and emails.

The company noted that Microsoft 365 E3 and E5, as well as business standard/premium subscriptions, are prerequisites for customers to avail themselves of the benefits of Copilot.

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