Ever since OpenAI made its technology available to the world, most people have been experimenting with isolated use cases. That might be the (in)famous ChatGPT ‘write my homework’ or DALL.E 2 ‘create an image for me’.
However impressive the result, it involves users inefficiently context-switching in order to complete their activity. Microsoft’s introduction of Copilot to the Microsoft 365 (M365) ecosystem is about to change that forever by embedding the power of generative AI into familiar business setting.
In this article, we will explore the concept of M365 Copilot and discuss how your company can prepare for its arrival, while highlighting the potential industry challenges that it might raise.
Understanding M365 Copilot:
Copilot leverages Microsoft’s multi-billion-dollar investment into OpenAI, providing users with a ChatGPT-driven personal assistant they can interact with, using natural language. M365 Copilot sits within your existing Microsoft tenant, seamlessly integrating with familiar applications including Teams, Word, Excel etc. – And with the pace of announcements from Microsoft it seems likely that all areas of M365 will receive the Copilot treatment.
Current Copilot Features:
- Copilot serves as an assistant for core M365 applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, Power BI, Visio and more.
- Copilot enhances Microsoft Teams meetings allowing users to request Copilot summarise key discussion points, generate action points automatically and even analyse the ‘feel’ of the meeting through sentiment analysis.
- Copilot integrates into Outlook providing coaching tips and suggestions to enhance the clarity, sentiment and tone of emails, enabling users to write more effective messages and communicate with confidence.
- Copilot integrates into OneNote utilising prompts to assist in drafting plans, generating ideas, creating lists, and organising information, making it easier for users to find the information they need.
- Copilot integrates into Loop facilitating team collaboration and alignment by swiftly summarising all the content on the Loop page, ensuring everyone stays on the same page and can collaborate effectively.
- Copilot integrates into Viva Learning employing a natural language chat interface to help users create personalised learning journeys. It assists in designing upskilling paths, discovering relevant learning resources, and scheduling time for assigned trainings.
Microsoft are currently engaged with selected customers in a private preview to ensure they get the public release correct. With such a new and wide-ranging capability comes the need to deeply understand how real humans and businesses experience Copilot, iterating builds to deal with challenges as they arise. Such is the clamour for Copilot, businesses are actually paying Microsoft to be part of the program and with a little thought you can see why.
Just consider a simple Freedom of Information (FoI) request. Previously this would be a hugely time-consuming task, but with Copilot it could become a simple matter of pasting the query into Copilot and curating the response.
Industry Changes and Challenges:
With all the promise of AI delivered through Copilot there will be accompanying challenges, which organisations will need to be aware of to get their implementation right:
- Shifting Workforce Dynamics: The introduction of Copilot will likely transform the way employees work within M365 applications. With intelligent suggestions and automation, mundane tasks can be offloaded, allowing workers to focus on higher-value activities. This shift may require companies to re-evaluate job roles and redefine the skill sets needed for the workforce of the future.
- Corporate Messaging: Companies will need to ensure their messaging around Copilot is handled carefully to address concerns particularly relating to redundancy fears. It is also foreseeable that recruiters may use Copilot in the early adopters as a differentiator in a competitive marketplace. – Who wants to work somewhere that makes you do the mundane repeatedly?
- Data Privacy and Security: As Copilot interacts with sensitive data within M365 applications, data privacy and security become critical concerns. Companies must ensure robust security measures are in place to protect their data from unauthorized access or potential breaches. Employing encryption, access controls, and regular security audits will be essential.
- Workflows and Processes: Copilot’s AI capabilities can optimise workflows and streamline processes by automating repetitive tasks. However, businesses must be prepared to adapt their existing workflows and align them with the new capabilities introduced by Copilot. A thorough review of processes will be necessary to identify areas where automation can be integrated effectively.
- User Training and Adoption: While Copilot aims to simplify user experiences within M365, companies must prepare their employees for this new paradigm. Providing comprehensive training programs and resources will ensure a smooth transition. Companies should educate their workforce about Copilot’s capabilities, encourage its usage, and help employees understand how to leverage its benefits effectively. Messaging should also include guidance on the responsible usage of output from Copilot, reinforcing the need to review responses.
Preparing for Microsoft M365 Copilot:
Although there is no release date for public availability of Copilot, organisations need to take the scale of the impact seriously and ensure that dedicated programs of work are planned to ensure the best possible implementation.
- Data Hygiene: Review your SharePoint and Teams data lifecycle, governance, and compliance policies. How well you manage your organisation data is going to be critical to the quality of Copilot responses. Check how accurate Active Directory is and update staff information held there. Test what Copilot will return by using Semantic Index for Copilot against your data with a limited scope. This will help confirm that your data is in the best shape possible.
- Security and Compliance: Copilot will return information that the user can access so up to date and accurate security policies and permissions are more important than ever. Companies should seriously consider the introduction or enforcement of Data Loss Protection (DLP) and Data Classification using Microsoft Purview to help prevent unintended data loss surfaced by Copilot.
- Assess Your Current Workflows: Evaluate your company’s existing processes and identify areas where automation and AI assistance could enhance productivity. Look for tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming, or prone to errors.
- Employee Awareness: Develop communication programs to familiarize your employees with the features and capabilities of Copilot. Encourage employees to embrace the technology and highlight the benefits it brings to their daily work. Foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability.
- Monitor and Optimise: After implementing Copilot, closely monitor its impact on productivity and user satisfaction. Collect feedback from employees and make adjustments as needed. Regularly reassess your workflows to identify further opportunities for optimisation.
M365 Copilot represents a significant leap forward in productivity and efficiency within the M365 ecosystem. By intelligently automating tasks and offering contextual suggestions, Copilot can help businesses unlock the full potential of their employees and streamline their workflows. However, organisations must be prepared to address the industry changes and challenges that arise from this technology. By embracing Copilot, assessing existing workflows, ensuring data security, providing employee training, and monitoring progress, companies can position themselves for success in the era of intelligent assistance.
So, gear up, embrace the possibilities, and prepare your company for a more efficient, productive, and collaborative future with M365 Copilot.
Get in touch to learn how we can help drive the deployment, enablement, adoption and utilisation of Microsoft 365 Copilot.
Watch our recent webinar on Copilot to answer more of your questions.
Modern Workplace Consultant