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New Tool Aims To Bring AI to Outlook via Microsoft Graph

Looking to make Outlook the center of the digital workspace, Harmon.ie has launched a new tool which brings together commonly used business apps and services into one place that gathers information from disparate apps and cloud services using AI and machine learning to apply context to a given task. Harmon.ie, which claims its namesake Outlook plugin is used in 1,200 organizations as a common interface to interact with information stored in SharePoint and Office 365 files, has widened its scope by supporting additional tools such as Yammer, IBM Connections, ZenDesk and Salesforce.com's Chatter and CRM offerings.

The new tool, called Collage, is among the first enterprise applications to make use of the Microsoft Graph APIs, released last year, according to Harmon.ie CEO Yaacov Cohen. "It's a very important API," Cohen said in an interview. "During the last six months, Microsoft has released more and more of Graph APIs, which give not just information but insights such as who I am working with. Based on these APIs, we can deliver an experience that can deduce things for you."

Cohen indicated that Collage will work with numerous other popular workplace tools. Collage seeks to make Outlook the center of an employee's workspace. But with the AI and machine learning APIs of the Microsoft Graph, Collage also provides more context with its ability to recognize keywords used across different apps, according to Cohen.

During a demo, Cohen showed how Collage recognizes topics people are working on and associates them with related relevant information among different apps. Collage lets users access information from Outlook in their native app experiences and brings documents from SharePoint and Office 365 as links rather than attachments to ensure information is current, Cohen explained. While it works with SharePoint Server (on-premises), it requires organizations to use OneDrive for Business to store data, Cohen said, noting its dependence on the Graph and Office 365.

"The tool is great for organizations who use Office 365 as well as other services that Collage can connect to," SharePoint MVP Vlad Catrinescu, who is president of vNext Solutions, said via e-mail. "By showcasing information 'in-context' from multiple services directly in Outlook, it allows users to be more productive, really get work done and make the right decisions because they have all the information available to them. I think Outlook is a great place to be the 'hub' of this information because, let's be honest, that's where most of the work of the classic information worker is."

In a review posted on his Web site, Catrinescu illustrated how Collage connects users with SharePoint sites relevant to a given topic, letting users view, open and drag and drop documents into SharePoint. Users can also drag and drop documents from the sidebar in Outlook and create an e-mail with a link to the document. As users with access to that shared document make changes, it ensures everyone has the most recent version, he noted.

"The big challenge for Harmon.ie is really to make sure their AI engine and Machine Learning will do an amazing job in tagging content from so many systems, so it becomes useful for the users," Catrinescu said, adding that it performed well in his recent tests.

Harmon.ie first introduced Collage last fall at Microsoft's Ignite conference in Atlanta, offering the free preview as a separate tool outside of Outlook. Now it's available to enterprise customers at a price of $6 per user per month and is unified with its flagship Harmon.ie client.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/22/2017 at 5:12 PM


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