Microsoft Unveils SharePoint Syntex, First from its Cortex AI Initiative

Microsoft unveiled the first knowledge solution to emerge from its Project Cortex artificial intelligence (AI) initiative at the company's recent online Ignite event. Syntex, currently in private preview, builds on the leading content services of SharePoint to connect content in Microsoft 365 with external content to enable users to manage their information and streamline processes with advanced security, compliance, and automated workflow.

Speaking during an Ignite session, Chris McNulty, senior product manager for Project Cortex, said Syntex would reach general availability for all of Microsoft's commercial customers worldwide on Oct. 1 of this year. Syntex will be sold as an add-on for Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 plans, priced per user, he said.

Microsoft had introduced Project Cortex at last year's Ignite event as a knowledge network built using SharePoint and AI. The solution relies on the Microsoft Graph, which aggregates content and signals and uses Microsoft's machine learning (ML) and machine teaching AI technologies, explained, Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, Teams, OneDrive, and SharePoint. Microsoft defined "graph" as a cloud-based data store that uses AI technology.

Teper explained that Project Cortex "will be coming to customers through a series of innovations," and Syntex is the first product after Microsoft improved taxonomy services for SharePoint back in July. Essentially, Syntex is trainable AI for finding important metadata within organizations. 

"Syntex applies AI to amplify individual human expertise to convert content into knowledge at scale for the entire organization," Teper said.

Microsoft sees metadata as critical for content management in organizations, according to Naomi Moneypenny, director of product development for Project Cortex, who spoke during the Ignite talk. She described how Syntex could be used to surface information, such as looking through legal contracts for specific information.

"Take a specialized skill like contract processing, for example," she said. "Your contract-processing expert can teach Syntex to read a contract like they do -- to recognize that key information and automatically tag contracts. Syntex lets your experts capture their knowledge about content, and AI models that. They can build with no code. For an example, an expert can teach Syntex to extract the value of a contract, along with the expiration date and key terms and conditions. Syntex then uses your model to automatically process content, and capture that important information as metadata."

The idea is to use human experts to first train Syntex, and then use that model more generally. Syntex taps SharePoint content services, plus advanced AI capabilities from Azure, Microsoft Research and Microsoft 365. It works with Power Automate, Microsoft's low-code toolset for connecting workloads. It also works with the Microsoft Information Protection service, which adds security to an organization's content, Moneypenny explained. She said Syntex "gives you content management superpowers, enabling you to capture, scale and repurpose the expertise of your people."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.