Insights From An Early Adopter Of Microsoft 365 Copilot

Microsoft will eventually launch many different AI Copilots, such as Windows Copilot, Security Copilot or Sales Copilot, and we’ve been trialling Microsoft 365 Copilot. It’s a large language model (LLM) such as Bing Chat or ChatGPT, but it exists within your 365 environment, so it’s used for productivity tools such as Word, PowerPoint or Teams.

With access to an individual’s entire Microsoft graph (essentially your data), it knows who you are, who you work for and who you’re interacting with. It also knows what documents you’ve shared and which you can access. 

A Completely New Way Of Working

The Copilot Semantic Index is how Copilot understands who you are and what you need to do. It creates a sophisticated graph of your organisational data and identifies relationships and connections. It then uses conceptual understanding to determine your intent and generate the information you need.
 
The main point is that Microsoft 365 Copilot is not just another button to use within Word or Outlook; it’s an entirely new way of working. It’s about coaching and training it as a manager to return the right information for you.

The more you use it, the more sophisticated its support becomes by returning information that helps you. 
 
It’s crafted to be accessible for everyone - thereby eliminating biases, fostering inclusivity and ensuring equal treatment for all users. For example, it allows individuals who struggle with language, dyslexia, etc, to deliver the content they need, reducing time to delivery, improving confidence, and reducing stress. 

Microsoft 365 Copilot In Action

Within our team, we’ve been embedding Copilot into the systems and processes we’re using, and we can already see that the value we derive from Copilot varies according to department. However, some uses will benefit all users, which is true of the 365 Chat function. 365 Chat provides sophisticated across-app intelligence, including Teams, Bing, Edge and the full suite of 365 applications.

I found it to be an incredibly powerful way of quickly locating documents and getting needed insights.

This is where you can use it as a sounding board or a way of organising your tasks for the day. For example, you can ask, “Did I miss anything yesterday that I needed to action?” For booking sales meetings with a customer, you can ask who has more availability the following week or who has the best expertise in a particular area. In the latter scenario, not only will it state the person, but it will also give you the reasons why based on work they have done in that area. 
 
It has sped up the process of drafting content such as PowerPoint documents from scratch and pulling data from numerous sources in less than an hour. We would previously outsource similar tasks, and the fee for an external consultancy would be in the region of £5,000. For a monthly fee for Copilot, you can see how the savings soon add up for one task alone.  
 
Copilot also comes into its own for productivity saving within Excel data files. Pull up a data sheet and click on the Copilot icon; you can then add different formulas and review them before inputting them into your spreadsheet. You can also ask Copilot for other ways to interpret the data you may not have thought of, which may spur other trains of thought. We’re now maximising the capabilities of Excel in a fraction of the time. And once you’re happy with your data, Copilot can pull this into a PowerPoint for you.  
 
One of the productivity metrics we found was to analyse the time taken to summarise a meeting. In the test, I found that users of Copilot summarised it four times faster than non-users. Copilot users took, on average, 11 minutes and 13 seconds to summarise the meeting compared to non-users, who took 42 minutes and 34 seconds.  

Data privacy & Data Accuracy

We were surprised and pleased to find that Data Privacy was much more straightforward than we imagined. Copilot did not return sensitive requests, such as asking for salary details, as it understands the nature of the request and what is appropriate to surface. 
 
Each user has their own index and personal boundary to ensure data security. Therefore, organisations need to ensure their Data Governance is as strong as possible - if you have access to something, so does Copilot.

Word Of Advice

Copilot is a tool that enables you to do your job; it doesn’t do your job for you. You remain responsible for the output and must check and verify its accuracy. On the technology side, you also need to make sure that your data is governed well and remove anything you no longer need access to. 
 
I believe Copilot is the bridge that will make AI more accessible to all, but it must have leadership from the top. Copilot is a significant investment for organisations, and without the understanding and support from the C-Suite, the ROI will not be recognised - both from a financial benefit perspective and an employee productivity and wellbeing perspective. 

Scott Dodds is  CEO of Ultima

Image: Ideogram

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