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Innovation

4 generative AI tools your enterprise can leverage to boost productivity

Administrative tasks like answering messages, making presentations, or attending meetings are a pain. Let these AI tools do it for your business.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
Curved design with balls moving through them
Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

After seeing ChatGPT's success in attracting worldwide interest, many competitors entered the space, resulting in a generative AI application market saturated with an overwhelming amount of options. Finding the right application for your business can be a daunting task, and we're here to help. 

Generative AI can help you tackle a variety of business tasks large and small -- from generating a quick email to creating an entire marketing campaign.

The biggest advantage of generative AI is that it can help employees perform time-consuming and routine tasks, thereby freeing up human workers to focus on the more creative and changing responsibilities that add real value to the business.  

Also: Thanks to my 5 favorite AI tools, I'm working smarter now

For example, instead of spending hours cleaning data in a spreadsheet, that task can be delegated to generative AI, and the person can get to doing what they really need to do, which is working with the data.  

The areas where generative AI can help will vary by business, but for the most part, businesses can benefit from assistance with day-to-day communications, such as creating memos, agendas, presentations, and more -- the sort of tasks with which the tools below can help. 

When seeking out the best AI tool for your enterprise, do keep in mind one important caveat: There is a privacy risk involved when employing generative AI models.

Generative AI models oftentimes use the user's input data to train themselves and become more intelligent. That capability can pose a security issue for enterprises that don't want their data to be saved, and possibly used to generate future answers for other users. 

Also: 6 ways business leaders are exploring generative AI at work

The good news is that enterprise versions of generative AI applications nearly always have those security and privacy boundaries in place, a feature that differentiates them from general consumer versions of these products -- think ChatGPT versus ChatGPT Enterprise. This is also one of the reasons enterprise versions of tools are nearly always paid services. 

As an AI writer, I write, cover, learn about, and research new AI productivity apps every day, and from my findings, these four tools are at the top of the list because of their broad functionality, workspace integration features, and the value they can bring to your business compared to other alternatives with more specific functions. 

Although I haven't been able to demo all of these tools in full, my research and coverage of updates on these tools inform my evaluation of their features, and when I do get full access myself, I will update this piece with my perspective. Where applicable, I've also included insights from my fellow ZDNET reporters. And while the tools are not accessible for individual use now, enterprises can enroll in free-trial versions.

Now that you are familiar with what these tools can do for you, and what the potential risks are, your next step is to figure out which application to invest in. Here are the best options to get started. 

Copilot for Microsoft 365 

Microsoft Copilot logo
Microsoft

With staple applications like Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams, Microsoft's 365 productivity software family has become the default for many businesses. If your company happens to rely on these applications, the Copilot for Microsoft 365 add-on could be a game-changer.

Like the rest of Microsoft's Copilots, this add-on is designed to function as an AI companion or assistant that helps you complete tasks across all of the company's 365 applications. 

Copilot for Microsoft 365 can perform a wide range of tasks, such as summarizing your conversations in Teams, creating and fine-tuning your documents in Word, creating an entire PowerPoint presentation from a prompt, and even helping you analyze and visualize data in Excel. 

I have had the opportunity to go hands-on with Copilot in Word, and it is really as impressive as it sounds, doubling as a writing assistant that can rewrite your text, present you with alternate options, and even write full documents based on other content within your Microsoft workspace. 

The premier tool is Copilot's chatbot, which can answer questions based on the content and knowledge it has from your various Microsoft 365 applications. 

For example, you could ask Copilot to provide a summary of your emails or messages without requiring you to open Outlook or Teams. Then, within the same chatbot, you could ask Copilot to generate and send a response. 

"Copilot is already proving to be a confident first step in generative AI for many organizations," said Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft 365. "With Copilot's commercial data protection, prompts and responses are not saved," Stallbaumer told ZDNET. "Microsoft has no eyes-on access to it, and it's not used to train the underlying models."

Microsoft recently released data on users' experiences with Copilot during the eight months since it was first introduced, and the results seem promising. According to the report, 70% of Copilot users said they were more productive, and 68% said it improved the quality of their work.

ZDNET's Microsoft expert Ed Bott, who demoed the tool, said, "it's a startlingly effective way to automate the drudgery of turning data into content. That content still needs careful curating, of course, but it's liberating to power through the first draft with the help of one of these assistants. 

That added productivity carries a hefty price tag: Copilot for Microsoft 365 costs an additional $30 per user per month for enterprise customers. Just how pricey is that? The Copilot add-on alone is more expensive than the lower-cost Microsoft 365 business subscriptions, which range from $12 to $23 per user per month. There is also a free-trial option for 30 days.

However, as you will see below, most of the other business-focused services are priced around the same. 

Duet AI for Google Workspace

Duet AI for Workspace hero image
Google

Typically, companies that don't rely on Microsoft 365 for business operations go the Google Workspace route instead. If your company already relies on Google Workspace, Duet AI is for you. 

Duet AI does nearly everything described in the Microsoft 365 section above -- but for the Google Workspace suite of applications, including Slides, Docs, Meet, Gmail, Chat, and more.

"Large language models are most useful when they have the context of your life, and because Workspace is cloud-native, that privacy-compliant context is readily available in sources like your Gmail and Drive," said Kristina Behr, VP of product management, Google Workspace.

"This means," Behr told ZDNET, "Duet AI in Google Workspace can be a powerful collaboration partner and productivity booster that has the potential to change your life with suggestions that are hyper-personalized and relevant to your work -- from kicking off or refining an email draft, creating custom images for a presentation, building bespoke project trackers, and much more."

Other examples of what Duet AI can do include reading and summarizing hefty emails, creating slide decks with information found on other Google Workspace applications, helping you write in Google Docs and Gmail, and even attending meetings for you.  

The feature that most stood out for me is Duet AI's "attend for me" feature in Google Meet, which, as the name implies, allows Duet AI to attend meetings on your behalf and even give you a recap of what you missed -- including notes, action items, and video snippets. 

Duet AI can also do a series of other noteworthy things for video calls, such as providing a studio look for participants, generating real-time translated captions for 18 languages, and catching up with participants on what they missed when they joined late. 

Duet AI's capabilities will expand even further in 2024 due to the integration of Google's most advanced LLM, Gemini

Also: Google Workspace's AI assistant Duet AI is about to get a whole lot smarter

On December 13, Google announced Duet AI for Google Workspace will roll out Gemini in early 2024, which will make DuetAI's assistance more comprehensive due to Gemini's multimodal model abilities that make it capable of understanding images, videos, and audio in addition to text. The exact details on pricing for the Gemini integration and whether it would stay the same or increase have yet to be revealed. 

The price of Google's AI tool matches Microsoft's. Duet AI for Google Workspace costs $30 per user per month after the free trial expires. However, it has a flexible subscription style. "Duet AI in Google Workspace is generally available to enterprises everywhere, and," explained Behr, "unlike other offerings on the market, there is no minimum seat size, so businesses have the flexibility to start small and work within their budgets as needed." 

While useful in Google Workspace, Duet AI has also been implemented into other Google offerings to optimize other aspects of your enterprise, such as cybersecurity. ZDNET's cybersecurity expert Charlie Osborne details Duet AI in Mandiant Threat Intelligence, Chronicle Security Operations, and Security Command Center.

Otter.ai for Business

UI of OtterPilot service
Otter.ai

Otter.ai became known for its AI transcribing services, which makes workflows that require transcribing audio often, like my own, a lot easier. However, since then, Otter.ai has created an Enterprise version of its platform, which leverages its transcription abilities for meetings. 

With Otter.ai for Business, you can have OtterPilot sit in meetings to take notes, provide live transcriptions, offer key takeaways, and more. 

All you have to do is connect your Google or Microsoft calendar to your Otter.ai account and prompt OtterPilot to auto-join the Zoom, Microsoft Team, or Google Meet meeting -- during which it can take and share notes. 

Even if you can't make the meeting, OtterPilot can join the meeting and take notes so that you don't miss a thing and can better distribute your time.

If there are slides in the presentation, Otter.ai takes screengrabs, which are included in the AI's meeting notes, along with timestamps, the names of speakers, and the full audio recording. 

"At Otter we conducted research that suggests that nearly 30% of meetings are unnecessary, and it is costing companies millions of dollars in lost productivity," Sam Liang, CEO and co-founder of Otter.ai told ZDNET. 

"AI meeting assistants like OtterPilot are changing that -- by automatically joining meetings and sharing the meeting notes whether you attend or not. Everyone can get the information they need without spending countless hours in meetings."

My own experience confirms that: I joined a press briefing held on Google Meet that used this service, and the results were pretty amazing. Instead of feeling like I had to jot notes throughout the meeting, I could be more present and then review what I needed after the meeting from the Otter.ai transcription. 

Folllowing a meeting, Otter.ai will share a generated summary with hyperlinks to the meeting notes and slides with all of the meeting participants, where everyone can collaborate to add more comments, action items, etc. 

Separately, Otter.ai has also partnered with Slack to help share meeting insights with participants before, during, and after the meeting. Before the meeting, it will remind the participants about the meeting, and after, it will share the AI-generated summary, as well as human- and AI-generated meeting notes via Slack. 

Otter.ai also offers more tailored offerings of this service to better suit specific professions including such as Otter Chat, Otter.ai for Sales, and Otter.ai for Media

The cost for Otter.ai for Business, which applies to teams of less than 25 people, is $35 per user per month. Teams of 26 or larger require Otter.ai for Enterprise, and pricing is determined only when contacting the company directly. The business tool offers a 7-day free trial.

Slack 

Claude AI in Slack
screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Slack, a business messaging app used by companies for cross-organization communication, has some generative AI offerings on its application. The AI assistance on this application is the least comprehensive of the ones on this list, but it can still help boost your current workflow, especially if you use Slack every day for workplace communication. 

Since Slack is used for workplace communication, the chats that take place on the platform hold lots of information, such as documents, messages, team plans, spreadsheets, and more, which can make finding what you need on the platform difficult. That's where Slack's integration of Anthropic can help. 

Slack supports Anthropic's Claude within its platform. With Claude, users can message the AI chatbot right from the Slack platform and ask it to perform a variety of tasks, such as drafting copy and answering questions about content shared with it, such as websites. 

You can also invite Claude to your conversations with other team members and have the AI summarize lengthy threads, generate action items, turn conversations into structured data, and get assistance in brainstorming ideas and giving you advice.

Also: How to use the Claude AI chatbot in Slack

Getting access to Anthropic in Slack is easy and free. All users have to do is download the app from the Slack app directory for free and open it in Slack. This integration of generative AI in a business platform is the most economical since it's free with a Slack subscription. 

Although I have not tied the Anthropic integration myself, ZDNET expert Lance Whitney went hands-on with the feature and shared his entire experience, where he found it to be an effective tool for answering questions, providing information, and generating content. 

A Slack Pro subscription starts at $8.75 per use per month but is meant for small teams. A Slack Business+ subscription starts at $15 per person per month, and the Enterprise Grid, meant for the "most complex" of enterprises, would require you to contact sales. Slack offers free trials of the Pro and Business+ plans. 

Slack has also shared that it is working on adding generative AI natively into Slack to summarize text with one click and find the content you need more readily with a more intelligent search. 

"So as we began the process of building generative AI in Slack, we decided to start with AI-powered summarization and search, which we believe best and most immediately capitalizes on getting value from existing data and knowledge within Slack," said Jackie Rocca, VP of Product, AI at Slack to ZDNET. 

These native Slack AI features have not been released to the public yet and are in pilot this winter. However, if you are interested, don't worry; the wait won't be long, as they will be available in 2024. 

Other alternative AI tools to consider 

Developments in generative AI are booming, and there is a big focus on using the technology to optimize enterprise operations. As a result, there are many other tools to consider on the market than the ones listed above that offer more specific functionalities.

If you are interested in using a standard AI chatbot for your business operations, ChatGPT for Enterprise or Microsoft Copilot (a chatbot version previously called Bing Chat for Enterprise) are great options. Although neither of these tools won't integrate into your workspace like the ones listed above, they can do everything an AI chatbot does, such as generating text and coding while keeping enterprise protections in place. 

For AI assistance with meetings, Zoom's AI Companion, formerly known as Zoom IQ, is another option to consider. The tool, only available to paid accounts, can attend meetings for you, automate chat responses with customizable tone and length, highlight important meeting points, and even summarize the contents of a meeting. 

Final advice

As you can see by the list above, the generative AI tools offered by Microsoft, Google, Otter.ai, and Slack would all be helpful in optimizing your workflow significantly, especially when it comes to tedious administrative tasks like reading messages, taking notes, or attending meetings. 

Some factors to consider when picking which generative AI tool is best for your business are what application your business currently has a subscription for, which is especially important when considering add-on services, what tasks your business could best benefit from AI assistance with, security protocols, and is the cost of the service worth the productivity gains. 

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