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How Microsoft’s built-in generative AI, Microsoft Copilot, intends to change how people work

Nov 03, 2023

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is getting safer to use in the workplace and one step closer to meeting its potential.

On November 1, Microsoft 365 Copilot was released for general availability for enterprise customers. Billed as an “everyday AI companion,” Copilot crosses all of Microsoft’s applications, as well as Microsoft 365, Windows 11, Edge and Bing. It also includes a business chat tool.

Basically, it brings the power of large language models (LLMs) to all the data Microsoft already manages in the workplace: emails, Office documents and Teams meetings. You can ask it to summarize unread email messages, suggest appropriate action items after a Teams meeting or use it to visualize data in Excel. Once in the hands of users, you will likely really see creativity take over as employees figure out new ways to use Copilot and streamline their everyday work.

Generative AI has been racking up uses cases in personalization, marketing and contact centers for months, but it’s remained a novelty for everyday employees. Until now. Microsoft says Copilot will change the way people work and create groundbreaking efficiencies.

Work is broken

Do we need to change how we work today? According to Microsoft, yes.

Microsoft’s 2023 Work Trend Index found that employees spend the majority of their time (60%) communicating and not much time getting things done.

Nearly 70% of workers said they don’t have enough interrupted focus time. And more than 60% said they spend too much time searching for information. It’s a struggle to find the time and the energy (and the files) to get work done.

The amount of time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings and calls has tripled since 2020. And people are ready to hand off some of the drudgery. About 70% of workers told Microsoft they’d delegate as much as possible to AI to lessen their workloads.

People want new ways of working, and Microsoft says Copilot can deliver.

Is your organization ready for Copilot?

Enterprise users (over 300 users) of E3, E5 or Business Premium versions of Microsoft 365 who have an Azure Active Directory account can access Copilot, as long as they’re running requisite apps, such as Teams, Outlook, OneDrive and SharePoint. Some Copilot experiences launch automatically, while others need to be activated. If your organization chooses to license Copilot, a Copilot icon will appear in the ribbon menu for an app (e.g., Word); users click on it to turn on the service.

While initial Copilot deployment is simple, properly controlling your environment is more complicated.

Microsoft says that data will be isolated and protected within your Microsoft 365 environment. It uses existing permissions to deliver relevant information — which means you need to have good content management and access control practices in place. Otherwise, Copilot may have access to data your employees shouldn’t be able to see.

IT departments should also review their privacy settings for Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise, because they affect Copilot’s access and features.

Is Copilot worth it?

Companies that use Microsoft 365 regularly and have troves of data may get more benefit and personalized responses from Copilot, since LLMs need abundant data to learn from. Companies that underutilize Microsoft tools may not find it worthwhile. At $30 per user per month, Copilot could double your Microsoft investment (depending on your license agreement and add-ons).

Whenever you invest in technology, it’s important to look at the longer-term ROI — not just the upfront costs. Other generative AI tools are available for less (OpenAI runs around $20 a month); however, nobody else is as integrated with the business applications your team already uses, leverages your existing security architecture or is as embedded as deeply into employees’ daily work lives. Unlike OpenAI and other tools, Copilot has functionality and solutions that employees could touch (or take their hands off) every day.

How Wipfli can help

Talk to Wipfli to see whether you have the foundational requirements in place for Copilot and whether your organization would benefit from using it. If you’re not ready to launch, we can create an implementation plan focused around important new capabilities — and help you find smarter, faster ways to work. Contact us today to learn more.

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Tom Wojcinski
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