Two years ago, Microsoft debuted SharePoint Syntex, which leverages AI to automate the capture and classification of data from documents — building on SharePoint’s existing services. Today marks the expansion of the platform into Microsoft Syntex, a set of new products and capabilities including file annotation and data extraction. Syntex reads, tags and indexes document content — whether digital or physical — making it searchable and available within Microsoft 365 apps and helping manage the content lifecycle with security and retention settings.
According to Chris McNulty, the director of Microsoft Syntex, driving the launch was customers’ increasing desire to “do more with less,” particularly as a recession looms. A 2021 survey from Dimensional Research found that more than two-thirds of companies leave valuable data untapped, largely because of problems building pipelines to access that data.
“Just as business intelligence transformed the way companies use data to drive business decisions, Microsoft Syntex unlocks the value of the massive amount of content that resides within an organization,” McNulty told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Virtually any industry with large scale content and processes will see benefits from adopting Microsoft Syntex. In particular, we see the greatest alignment with industries that work with a higher volume of technically dense and regulated content – financial services, manufacturing, health care, life sciences, and retail among them.”
Syntex offers backup, arc1hiving, analytics and management tools for documents as well as a viewer to add annotations and redactions to files. Containers enable developers to store content in a managed sandbox, while “scenario accelerators” provide workflows for use cases like contract management, accounts payable and so on.
“The Syntex content processor lets you build simple rules to trigger the next action, whether it’s a transaction, an alert, a workflow or just filing your content in the right libraries and folders,” McNulty explained. “[Meanwhile,] the advanced viewer adds an annotation and inking layer on top of any content viewable in Microsoft 365. Annotations can be made securely, with different permissions than the underlying content, and also without modifying the underlying content.”
McNulty says that customers like TaylorMade are exploring ways to use Syntex for contract management and assembly, standardizing contracts with common clauses around financial terms. The company is also piloting the service to process orders, receipts and other transactional documents for accounts payable and finance teams, in addition to organizing and securing emails, attachments and other documents for intellectual property and patent filings.
“One of the fastest-growing content transactions is e-signature,” McNulty said. “[With Syntex, you] can send electronic signature requests using Syntex, Adobe Acrobat Sign, DocuSign or any of our other e-signature partner solutions and your content stays in Microsoft 365 while it’s being reviewed and signed.”
Intelligent document processing of the type Syntex does is often touted as a solution to the problem of file management and orchestration at scale. According to one source, 15% of a company’s revenue is spent creating, managing and distributing documents. Documents aren’t just costly — they’re time-wasting and error-prone. More than nine in 10 employees responding to a 2021 ABBY survey said that they waste up to eight hours each week looking through documents to find data, and using traditional methods to create a new document takes on average three hours and incurs six errors in punctuation, spellings, omissions or printing.
A number of startups offer products to tackle this, including Hypatos, which applies deep learning to power a wide range of back-office automation with a focus on industries with heavy financial document processing needs. Flatfile automatically learns how imported data from files should be structured and cleaned, while another vendor, Klarity, aims to replace humans for tasks that require large-scale document review, including accounting order forms, purchase orders and agreements.
As with many of its services announced today, Microsoft, evidently, is betting scale will work in its favor.
“Syntex uses AI and automation technologies from across Microsoft, including summarization, translation and optical character recognition,” McNulty said. “Many of these services are being made available to Microsoft 365 commercial accounts with no additional upfront licensing under a new pay-as-you-go business model.”
Syntex is beginning to roll out today and will continue to roll out in early 2023. Microsoft says it’ll have additional details on service pricing and packaging published on the Microsoft 365 message center and through licensing disclosure documentation in the coming months.
Leave a Reply