Finding Gratitude in 2020 and Hope in 2021

At the end of a trying year I am taking a moment to make sense of 2020, express gratitude for some unexpected silver linings, and express my hope for a better 2021. The beginning of 2021 also coincides with my “cake day,” my one-year anniversary as a member of the Sympraxis team, so what better time to take stock?

Gratitude for 2020

In this most challenging of years, I am fortunate to have a great job with a great team, doing interesting things with people I like and respect. I realize how fortunate this makes me. The things for which I’m most grateful are:

Despite the obvious obstacles to in-person events and the challenges (overload, distraction) of virtual the SharePoint/M365 technology communities found ways to be resilient, with a broad array of virtual events allowing the best community in tech™ to stay engaged and keep learning.

At Sympraxis, we pivoted from larger, in-person events to smaller, more frequent, casual “Ask Sympraxis” events: short, casual bi-weekly “AMA-style” calls where we discuss a current topic of interest in dialog with clients, prospects and other community members. The uptake has been good, and I encourage you to join the discussion with us.

Because of what we do and how we do it at Sympraxis, we’ve always been nearly 100% virtual, with colleagues working from various locations in the US and around the world. Accordingly, we’ve been able to execute our work fairly seamlessly in light of quarantine orders, and demand for our services has stayed high as clients have sought out our expertise in collaboration technology to support new remote work requirements.

Our clients have had to adapt to new ways of working as well, and these ways generally align with our (Sympraxian) “happy place,” ways of working remotely that are part of our DNA.

We are a small team at Sympraxis, with skills that complement one another’s, but the most important support we’ve done this year is not technical: I’ve felt supported by all of my colleagues as we all worked through a lot of change and challenge. From heartache to celebration, I am grateful to have been able to share it with a world-class team.

Hope for 2021

Although 2020 has been a year without precedent in our lifetimes, I’m hopeful for a return to some semblance of “normal” in 2021.

I’m hopeful that with the highly disruptive US election over, much of 2020’s drama/silliness recedes, and I can get out of crisis mode, resume my healthier habits, and re-focus on some professional activities (writing, presenting) that energize me.

That being said, the world changed a lot in 2020, especially in the area of race relations where I live (in the US), and 2020 made me more aware than ever of the privilege that I’ve lived under my whole life. I can’t undo that past privilege, but I intend to use it wisely to help others who haven’t been afforded it.

I’m hopeful for the ability to safely return to in-person work, community events, travel (for both business and fun). I miss my friends and family, and I look forward to more of the in-person social interactions that energize me.

Of course, a post about hope isn’t complete without my hopes for a new Microsoft technology, and there’s one that makes me very hopeful as a Knowledge Management enthusiast: Project Cortex.

Project Cortex is defined by Microsoft as:

“ a Microsoft 365 initiative that applies advanced artificial intelligence (AI) to empower people with knowledge and expertise in the apps you use every day.”

The first service to be released under the Cortex banner is SharePoint Syntex, which uses AI and Machine Learning to automate content processing and automatically tag content. If you have large troves of like-formatted information (e.g., many lease documents for real estate holdings, or incident reports for EHS scenarios), you can train Syntex to automatically tag, categorize and process it to improve knowledge discovery and accelerate workflows.

SharePoint Syntex has been available for months, but the thing that makes Project Cortex real to me is the impending release of topic cards, topic pages, and knowledge centers. These represent how the content intelligently farmed by Syntex (and/or human curators) will be served up to, and organized for, users in applications like Outlook, Word, and SharePoint. I love the degree to which boundaries between applications fade in favor of content grouped by topic, connected via the Office Graph.

The example below shows an example of how a chat in Teams with a reference to a key project (“Project Core”) could include a topic card that the user can drill into to learn more about Project Core:

Topic card in Microsoft Teams

When (not if) Microsoft delivers on this, it has the potential to be game-changing for KMers. I plan to be ready.

So, as we cross the threshold into 2021:

  • I thank you for listening to what I have to say (I intend for you to hear more from me 2021)
  • I urge you to take a few moments to catalog your own gratitude and hope
  • I look forward to seeing you “out there” on the other side of our annus horribilis.

Project management, financial management, and knowledge management. Microsoft 365 aficionado, proud Sympraxian. Opinions and Philly attytood are my own.