Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way the world does business, and marketers are at the forefront of this innovation and growth. Not only will AI help them work more efficiently, but it also will help them adapt to changes in the workplace, including the rise of remote workers and an increasing need for more diverse thinking.
Lori Wright, general manager of Office 365 Marketing, has dedicated her career to modern workplace collaboration. She is passionate about creating a culture of purpose, transparency and balance on her own team – living out the mission of the teamwork-focused products she oversees at Microsoft.
We caught up with Wright to discuss how AI is changing workplace collaboration and promoting more diverse thinking. She also shared her advice for other marketing leaders looking to create a culture of purpose and balance in our technology-driven world.
Q: Growing amounts of unstructured data and information can be overwhelming for marketers and make it difficult for them to do their jobs efficiently. How can using AI help them address this challenge?
A: Machines can help improve efficiency, and they’re getting smarter every single day. This helps marketers get better insights, understand more rapidly which campaigns are performing well and find experts on any given topic at any given time. Across the board, AI has boundless potential.
Today, for example, knowledge workers spend more than 20% of their time struggling to find information, according to McKinsey. Marketers need tools to help make their communication more efficient, automating tasks and helping teams uncover knowledge and insights from across different parts of the team or organization more easily.
At Microsoft, we have a product called Microsoft Teams which creates one hub for collaboration and communication. For my marketing team, it brings together everything we use in one place – including chats, files and apps, as well as online meeting and calling capabilities. Marketing is all about big, creative ideas and harnessing the power of the group. Teams helps us do just that.
Secondly, because there’s so much potential for AI to extend human capabilities and help people interact with technology in a natural way, we’re infusing Teams with AI. As a collaboration example, AI improves efficiency by drawing insights from usage patterns. Intelligent searches or bots in Teams help marketers connect with people and content to make their ideas richer and their content better.
In terms of communication, AI in Teams will simplify everything from preparing, scheduling and recording meetings, including automatic meeting scheduling, using proximity detection to determine the best camera angle, and using your voice to command your device or app.
Q: Let’s talk about how these new technologies can promote teamwork and more diverse thinking within an organization, helping marketers identify experts and information outside of their immediate teams. Why is this so crucial?
A: It’s important to seek out the most diverse thinking and use it to build a campaign that resonates with global audiences. Working in silos, or in an echo chamber where like-minded people reverberate back ideas, is an easy trap to fall into. Tools like Teams help marketers collaborate better and ensure everyone’s voice is heard and represented. In Teams, we have a bot called WhoBot that can help discover who the expert is in the organization on any given topic and allow you to access them through chat, calling or an ad-hoc or scheduled meeting. It really drives efficiency to get the right peoples input into the process.
Q: Nearly 42% of U.S. workers spend at least 60% of their time working remotely, with the majority of workers expected to freelance by 2027. What do remote workers miss by not attending in-person meetings, and how can Teams help simulate that in-person experience?
A: We’ve actually done some research on this topic. We surveyed over 14,000 people across the world and found that remote workers use and value tools like video conferencing nearly twice as much as non-remote workers. We also know, despite the rise of remote or freelance work, that people rate in-person meetings as the communication mode that makes them happiest. This shines a big light on a potential gap for modern workers and the role video conferencing should play in meetings. Video allows you to read physical cues and emotions that can be lost in text or voice-only conversations. You can see body language that suggests someone is interested in chiming into the conversation, or head nods, smiles and inquisitive looks that help guide the way you’re sharing ideas and collaborating with the group. Video is a key part of the Teams experience for exactly this reason.
Q: In your role at Microsoft, you focus on modern workplace collaboration. How do you strive to create a culture of purpose, transparency and balance on your team, and what’s your advice for other marketing leaders in doing so?
A: Technology has the potential to fuel both balance and imbalance on your team. Technology can bring together a remote team from around the world and offer the flexibility to work from anywhere. But, the responsibility always falls back on the individual and the marketing leader to make sure you’re not over-pivoting to the point that people are in an ‘always-on’ world, where you can’t get away from work and find your own personal space. As a leader, I try to be thoughtful about the example I set for my team – both in how I work, and when I communicate with them. Sending messages late at night or on weekends – even if you don’t expect a response – makes an impact on your team and their ability to disconnect when not at work.
At the same time, technology like Teams allows us all to come together in a shared space, expressing our personalities and getting to know each other on a deeper level. I try to set the example that sharing GIFs, weekend plans or pop culture references in our chat conversations is a good thing. You get to understand things impacting people outside of work and get a sense for their humor based on the GIFs they use. These things go a long way in diffusing tense situations and bringing out that true sense of teamwork.
Lastly, I think it’s important to think about how information is cascaded across your team. We use Teams to share information frequently and broadly – keeping everyone in the know so they feel empowered to make tough decisions or move things forward. In all, I try to openly communicate, share my priorities and model the work-life balance I want my team to have—which means having a whole life, that enables space for all the things that are personally meaningful.
Q: Do you have any predictions on future AI technology and how it will impact marketing five or 10 years from now?
A: AI will fundamentally change our lives in the next era. From a marketing perspective, AI will allow us to run smarter learning machine algorithms that tap into larger data sets, helping us all be more precise and efficient. It will also be able to better articulate sentiment analysis and help us deliver the right campaign at the right moment. As I’ve mentioned, it will also help us all collaborate better together.
AI is part of a big technological shift that includes machine learning, deep learning, computer vision and natural language processing, with vast benefits. Already some of these features are helping marketers around the world take the heavy lifting out of routine tasks and change the way they collaborate, whether it’s helping someone quickly design an impressive PowerPoint presentation, using the WhoBot in Teams to find an expert at your company, or having a meeting translated and searchable.
At Microsoft, we’re optimistic about the future of AI. By automating routine tasks, AI will allow marketers to spend their time in the right places. It will give us more time to truly get to know our customers and create campaigns that resonate and inspire our customers to do great things together.
Download the guide “Impactful marketing: How teamwork helps marketers excel at everyday projects” to learn more.