To accomplish your tasks at work, you need to have one-on-one conversations, team meetings, customer calls, and focus time. It can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to several days of back-and-forth with multiple stakeholders to schedule any meeting to take action or make decisions. The amount of effort is multiplied especially when you try to coordinate with people outside of your organization.
In Outlook, we continue to innovate on calendar features to make meeting scheduling easier. However, there is a new possibility. Harry Shum, Microsoft’s EVP of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Research, states, “One thing we firmly believe in is that the ultimate form of AI is a digital assistant.”
Today’s digital assistants are limited by their ability to understand simple and explicit commands. As a result, you must be very precise and determine the details ahead of time. However, Scheduler creates a new possibility for digital assistants, by focusing on understanding what you want to achieve and unburdens you from the details. As an example, you know that you need to meet with “Jane” at work, but you don’t care if it’s 10am or 3pm, or Tuesday versus Thursday. With Scheduler, you can simply ask Cortana, “Schedule a meeting with Jane next week.”
Just like emailing a personal assistant. You can start a new thread or reply to an existing one and cc: Cortana to let them know what you need to have a successful meeting, include other important details like booking a conference room or setting a remote conference call. Just say, “Cortana, find time for us to have a Teams call this week and also book a room.” And move on with your day. Let Cortana find a time that works for everyone, reserve a room, add a Teams meeting, and send out the invite for you.
AI today don’t handle ambiguous and complex tasks well. Scheduler has created advanced AI to handle most of the scheduling tasks, including sending emails, negotiating times, finding available rooms, respond to emails 24x7, and process hundreds of requests a minute to schedule meetings even when you are busy. However, when there is a lack of machine confidence in contextual understanding or deadlock in attendee responses, Scheduler augments with support escalation to resolve escalated issues to deliver optimal results.
See how Cortana interacts with attendees to schedule a meeting
By handing off your scheduling to Cortana, you can reclaim the time to focus on higher value tasks. It can take anywhere from two to forty plus minutes to schedule a meeting depending on how protracted the negotiation is or complexity of requirements. Each email and phone call become a distraction that breaks your focus. Research has shown that it can take up to twenty minutes to regain focus after switching context. By delegating the entire scheduling process to a digital assistant, most office workers can save one to two hours a week, and those in roles where scheduling is integral to their jobs could claw back more than four hours of time each week.
Do more of what matters
Focus your time on what you can uniquely accomplish and not on scheduling meetings. Instead of scheduling meetings, salespeople can meet with more customers, recruiters can seek more top talent, and lawyers can take on higher workload.
We are working to make Scheduler available in 2020. To learn more about how Scheduler works, watch our session at Microsoft Ignite 2019. And to try it out, you can apply for the exclusive preview here.
If you have any questions or have been using Scheduler and have any feedback, please let us know your thoughts in our UserVoice channel.
Gabriel and @Charles Lee on behalf of the Scheduler team
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