Introducing Project Cortex

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Tech Community.

Today, we’re pleased to introduce Project Cortex, the first new service in Microsoft 365 since the launch of Microsoft Teams. Project Cortex uses advanced AI to deliver insights and expertise in the apps you use every day, to harness collective knowledge and to empower people and teams to learn, upskill and innovate faster.


Project Cortex uses AI to reason over content across teams and systems, recognizing content types, extracting important information, and automatically organizing content into shared topics like projects, products, processes and customers. Cortex then creates a knowledge network based on relationships among topics, content, and people.


New topic pages and knowledge centers—created and updated by AI—enable experts to curate and share knowledge with wiki-like simplicity. And topic cards deliver knowledge just-in-time to people in Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Office.




Project Cortex builds on intelligence from the Microsoft Graph, a variety of Microsoft AI technologies, and the leading content services of SharePoint, which recently surpassed 100 million monthly active commercial users as part of Microsoft 365. Cortex also lets you connect to external systems and repositories; use advanced AI to automate content capture, categorization, and management; and protect information with intelligent security and compliance.


Mott MacDonald

With rapid change from automation and a global skills shortage, empowering people to harness knowledge, upskill and learn faster, is the new workplace competitive advantage. Nowhere is that truer than at Mott MacDonald, a Microsoft 365 customer that’s building success—literally—with knowledge. Operating from 180 principal offices in 50 countries, Mott MacDonald is a global engineering and consulting firm helping clients navigate many of the planet’s most significant challenges. They believe in connected thinking – connecting people to knowledge and knowledge to people.


I’m really excited by Microsoft’s vision for creating knowledge networks. It fits completely in with [our] strategy for knowledge. The idea of connecting people to content and content to people, powered by Microsoft 365 – it’s going to be a game changer for us.  

- Simon Denton, Productivity Applications Architect, Mott MacDonald





You can learn more about how Mott MacDonald uses Project Cortex in today’s Microsoft news story.   

Project Cortex

Project Cortex helps customers like Mott MacDonald achieve these outcomes by using AI to:

  • Organize knowledge across your teams and systems
  • Empower people with knowledge and expertise “just-in-time”, in the apps you use every day
  • Intelligently manage and protect your content with built-in security and workflow

Organize knowledge across your teams and systems

Project Cortex applies AI to reason over your organization’s structured and unstructured content, recognizing content types, extracting important information, and automatically organizing it into topics.


Advanced cognitive services capture content, extract information, and automatically tag content.

  • Image and text recognition identify objects in scanned or uploaded images based on an understanding of over 10,000 attributes, and extracts text from images and PDFs.
  • Forms processing enables you to pinpoint important information in forms and extract that information as metadata. In the example shown below, you can establish a rule to automatically tag contract effective dates by analyzing the text of sample documents.


clipboard_image_2.pngUsing AI to tag and organize information


  • Machine teaching, powered by LUIS, lets experts train the AI to recognize information in unstructured documents, such as contracts, proposals, or training materials, which might have varied content and formatting. Just as you might teach a colleague to dig through documents and tag them, now you can teach AI, creating a reusable model based on a small subset of sample documents.


Project Cortex securely collects content that is created and shared every day in Microsoft 365—including files, conversations, recorded meetings and video—and it categorizes the content based on its type, and tags it with extracted metadata.


AI then applies advanced topic mining logic—whether its content contained in Microsoft 365 or connected from external systems—to identify topics and relate content to those topics. Topics can reflect any knowledge that’s important, including customers, products, projects, policies and procedures. Technically, AI is creating knowledge entities, a new object class, in the Microsoft Graph. The relationships between those topics—those knowledge entities—and the experiences that connect this knowledge with people creates your knowledge network.


The metadata that’s applied to content—by AI or by experts—is managed in an updated Managed Metadata Service (MMS) that’s been extended to support tagging content across Microsoft 365. Managed metadata allows you define common terms in a taxonomy, including synonyms and multilingual support, to allow for precise tag definitions. Organizations who have used MMS taxonomy will be able to mine those tags to recognize topics in their content. Synonyms also let you retrieve content by any of those tag synonyms. We’re also including new reports to let you analyze content and tagging activity. 


MMS will also support enterprise content types, making it easy to govern document templates and metadata columns across your information architecture. And we’re making it simpler to import, export and integrate custom taxonomy with third party systems.

Empower people with “just-in-time” knowledge and expertise

Project Cortex delivers knowledge and expertise to people in the apps they use every day. It also powers new knowledge experiences that curate knowledge for your organization.


Topic cards appear automatically when a topic is detected, showing you a description, experts, resources, and other information about the topic. Topic cards appear automatically in Outlook, Word, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, and will appear in results in Microsoft Search.

TCinSP.gifTopic card on a SharePoint page




Topics make it easier to find people based on their skills, projects, and expertise. When you search for a topic through Microsoft Search or Bing, you’ll see a list of people who added the topic to their profile.


In addition, topics will be shown prominently in people cards across Microsoft 365, helping you easily identify who’s working on what inside your organization.  And Project Cortex will automatically prompt you to add topics, based on work you’re doing, to help you keep your profile current.


clipboard_image_4.pngPeople cards in Microsoft 365


All this information can be explored in depth in a topic page. Project Cortex builds topic pages automatically from your content, using AI. But pages become better with experts, who can edit or create new topics with wiki-like simplicity, incorporating their knowledge and additional resources, and transparently training your knowledge network at the same time. AI also keeps your topic pages up-to-date alongside ongoing people-centric curation.

TP.gifTopic page in Project Cortex


Topic pages roll up into your knowledge center, which delivers a personalized view of relevant knowledge across your organization, including trending relevant topics, and open questions. In addition, you can create additional, topic-specific knowledge centers—centers of excellence that support specific knowledge sharing scenarios in your organization, such as projects, products, policies and procedures, or customers. The knowledge center also supplies additional web parts to integrate knowledge and training from around your organization. These custom knowledge centers are built with and integrate seamlessly into your intelligent SharePoint intranet.

KC.gifThe knowledge center in Project Cortex


Intelligently manage and protect your content with built-in security and workflow


With Project Cortex enabled, AI-powered capabilities that automate content capture and categorization will come to all SharePoint libraries, as well as to new content centers. Content centers are libraries with superpowers—where you can run reporting and analyses for how content is used. Content centers also enable you to create AI models for content processing and to automate content-centric processes using AI Builder and Power Automate which integrate with Cortex.


The boundary of your knowledge network is your organization. As it is built-in to Microsoft 365, it maintains the privacy, security and compliance you expect from Microsoft 365.


For example, topics will be visible only to people with access to content and information related to the topic. And the information you see about a topic will reflect your access and permissions. In addition, administrators can control which scopes of content are included in Cortex, by excluding sites or documents with certain classification labels (like HBI). And administrators will be able to control whether topics are published for broader visibility, and there will also be a block list to exclude specific topic names.


Importantly, Project Cortex enhances your security profile by automatically categorizing and tagging content with metadata, which can then be used by Microsoft Information Protection (MIP) to apply security and compliance policies. And that same automatic categorization and tagging can be used to streamline business processes with Power Automate.


Cortex can also connect to content in third-party repositories and systems using the new Microsoft Search connectors. These connectors already support:

  • Windows File Share
  • ServiceNow
  • SQL Database
  • Intranet Websites
  • MediaWiki
  • Azure Data Lake Gen2
  • Salesforce
  • and 3rd party connectors through the ingestion API


And we’ll be adding more connectors in the coming months.


Resources and Private Preview

To ensure Project Cortex solves real-world problems we’ve been working with over a dozen customers as part of our private preview, including Mott MacDonald, who are already using Cortex to shape the future of knowledge in their organizations.


Today, we’re opening a limited number of additional seats for the Project Cortex private preview. You can apply to join the preview, register for more information, and learn more about our vision and experiences in the Project Cortex Resource Center


And, you can learn more about our other innovations for knowledge in Microsoft 365 in today’s update from Jared Spataro, From New Microsoft Teams Experiences to the All-New Project Cortex—Here’s What’s Coming Soon to M365.


We are very happy to finally share our vision for knowledge and we are looking forward to hearing your feedback. Let’s learn more together.     


-- Seth Patton, General Manager, Microsoft 365 Marketing


Learn more


If you’re at Microsoft Ignite, you can learn more at any of these sessions, or just visit our Project Cortex booth in the Expo Hall:







Microsoft Ignite offers extensive opportunities to participate remotely or watch recorded sessions afterwards.  We’ll also be introducing Project Cortex as part of Microsoft Ignite the Tour.


And we’ll be sharing the news live at KMWorld in Washington DC on November 7.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is Project Cortex?

Project Cortex is a new AI-powered service in Microsoft 365. It uses AI to create a knowledge network that reasons over your organization’s data and automatically organizes it into shared topics like projects and customers. It also delivers relevant knowledge to people “just-in-time” through topic cards and topic pages in the apps they use every day. 

In addition, Project Cortex enables business process efficiency by turning your content into an interactive knowledge repository—with innovations in smart content ingestion—to analyze documents and extract metadata to create sophisticated content models; machine teaching, to allow subject matter experts to teach the system how to understand semi-structured content; and knowledge retrieval, to make it easy for people to access the valuable knowledge that’s so often locked away in documents, conversations, meetings, and videos. Building on the content you already have in SharePoint, Cortex connects content across Microsoft 365 and external systems and enables you to manage information and streamline processes with built-in security, compliance, and workflow.

How does it relate to Microsoft 365 and to SharePoint?

Project Cortex adds new capabilities to the apps and content you already have across Microsoft 365.  It includes abilities to find and share knowledge and expertise in apps like SharePoint, Outlook and Microsoft Teams, and lets you apply AI to classify and organize content in SharePoint libraries.


Why is Microsoft building a new product?

In a world of rapid change and global skills shortage, learning to learn faster, harnessing knowledge and upskilling employees is the new workplace competitive advantage.


Empowering our people to adapt and gain new skills is more critical than ever. Today it takes too long to come up to speed on a new role, a new team, a new project or even a new topic. It’s too hard to find relevant content, answers and experts. And it’s too hard to connect and manage all your knowledge across organizational boundaries.


With Microsoft 365 we are focused on helping all our customers solve these challenges. With the combination of a massive content repository, vast signals from the Microsoft Graph and advancements in AI, we have a unique opportunity to realize the true promise of knowledge, to empower people, to fuel innovation, to accelerate learning and protect information.


Where can I go to learn more?

We will have new materials available in November 2019 at on the Microsoft Tech Community.


Is there a preview program?

Microsoft is opening our private preview program at Ignite 2019 to a select number of new applicants.  Customers can learn more and apply to join the program at the Project Cortex Resource Center at


How is it priced?

Pricing and packaging have not been finalized. Project Cortex will be a premium service in Microsoft 365, and final packaging will be determined in part based on customer feedback as part of the private preview.


When will Project Cortex be available?

Project Cortex is currently in private preview and will become generally available in the first half of 2020.


What does Project Cortex offer for traditional content services / ECM workloads?

Project Cortex offers integration of content from remote sources, such as file shares or third-party data sources. Cortex also applies AI to automatically tag and organize captured content. And content tagging can be used to drive automated security and retention policies enforced by Microsoft 365 data governance labels.


How does Project Cortex protect the security and compliance of content?

Project Cortex is based on the security and compliance of content enforced across Microsoft 365.  For example, access, retention labels, data sovereignty and information barriers are all maintained consistently before and after the activation of Cortex. In addition, organizations can apply even more stringent restrictions on the scope and availability of topic information shared by Cortex.

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