A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see a working demo of Microsoft 365 Copilot at Microsoft’s SMB Security Scholarship invitational event. Microsoft’s excitement for this new service cannot be overstated, and it’s truly impressive how responsive and intuitive this AI-powered assistant is in person.
What if you could empower every employee with their own personal assistant? One that can complete tasks in seconds which would usually take someone hours? One that doesn’t take holidays, desk space, or a salary?
Hopefully this article can explain why Copilot is going to be a hot topic over the next few years and provide a few actionable items about how to get your business ready for Microsoft 365 Copilot and this new way of working.
Microsoft has been working on their Microsoft 365 Copilot service for several years now, and has taken an influential position in OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT and the underlying GPT models. There is a huge buzz within Microsoft about the impact that this technology is going to have on the world – they think AI is the biggest thing since the Internet, and they’re doing all they can to get ahead of the curve. ChatGPT and Copilot’s intelligence lies in Large Language Models (LLMs), but that’s where the similarities end.
Copilot and ChatGPT are both AI tools to help people perform tasks more efficiently, using natural language interfaces to prompt for useful results, but Microsoft 365 Copilot connects to your Microsoft 365 tenant data (known as the Microsoft Graph), so it can perform tasks based on your own data, like calendar, emails, chats, documents and anything else that’s securely stored in your Microsoft 365 tenant. It can even access your third-party apps and data (if the developer has made a plugin available). Furthermore, Microsoft 365 Copilot is integrated into the apps you already use, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams, and introduces a new experience called “Business Chat”, which works across all your data and apps.
You might ask it to summarise missed emails in Outlook, reformat and visualise data in Excel, draft a proposal in Word, then create a presentation in PowerPoint from that proposal, using those same graphics from Excel. You can converse with it like it’s a human, but one who happens to have all your business data at their fingertips and can perform complex tasks in the blink of an eye. There are plenty of great examples and demos available from Microsoft worth checking out.
Microsoft have also recently announced Windows Copilot, which will provide AI-powered assistance at the operating system level, performing general system tasks and automation, interacting with apps and web searches. It will be useful on its own, but I think it will also drive adoption of Microsoft 365 Copilot in future as end users get more comfortable with natural language interaction and want their Copilot to be powered by their business data and Microsoft 365 apps.
Research shows that although half of people surveyed are worried that AI will replace their jobs, two thirds would love to delegate to an AI to lessen their workload.Microsoft research
Employees surveyed say they want to use AI to find info and answers, summarise meetings and action items, perform analytical work and admin tasks and, to a lesser extent, creative work and planning.
Microsoft 365 Copilot gives each employee their own AI-powered assistant that can help take care of some tasks so as to let them focus on tasks they value. It’s safe to say you couldn’t afford a human assistant for each staff member, so AI is arguably not replacing a human’s job. That’s why Microsoft called it Copilot – it’s a tool to empower your staff, not replace them.
The reality is that AI will change the way we work, just like the Internet before it, and Microsoft knows that businesses that leverage AI will be more competitive, whether it’s using Microsoft’s tools or someone else’s. Likewise, your competitors will soon be using AI to increase their staff productivity, improve employee experience, and put their business growth on a new trajectory. Now is the time to think about how you’re going to use AI in your business workflows.
Microsoft has announced a $30 per user per month price for Microsoft 365 Copilot – news which has been well received by the share market. The higher-than-expected cost might result in a slower uptake of the service, but this might be offset by the co-announcement of Bing Chat Enterprise, which enables businesses to use Microsoft’s ChatGPT-like tool without leaking commercial data.
Fortunately, it will be included in Microsoft 365 subscriptions, including Business Premium (or standalone at $5 per user per month). It doesn’t empower the AI assistant with direct access to your Microsoft Graph, but it might be enough for many organisations in this early adoption stage.
Microsoft 365 Copilot uses your Microsoft data as its source, so getting your business data into OneDrive, SharePoint and/or Business Central is essential. Now is a good time to look at your line-of-business apps to see if there is a Copilot plugin available, so that your core business data can be used in your AI-assisted workflows. Also speak to your third-party vendors about their future roadmap for supporting Copilot.
It’s also important to be on the latest versions of Microsoft 365 apps, be using modern apps like Microsoft Teams (and Microsoft Loop!), and have the right security and management systems in place to protect your data in the cloud and on endpoints – having Microsoft 365 Business Premium or E3/E5 is a great start, but having the right configuration and policies in place is even more important.
AI represents a paradigm shift in the way your staff work with their technology, so having a knowledgeable IT support team for your end users is critical. It will be important to have a continuous improvement process that covers your business data and app environments to ensure successful adoption over the coming years.
If you’re already a Virtuoso customer, please talk to your Technology Success Manager – they will be ensuring you’re on the right track to benefit from Microsoft 365 Copilot. If you’re not yet a customer but are interested Copilot, or any other topics around technology, contact us to discuss a technology partnership that will keep you competitive.