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Leaders’ guide to Copilot for Microsoft 365: Copilot features, benefits and impact

A mysterious book is open on a table in a modern office. Above the book, the Copilot logo glows with a sense of magic and possibility.

Microsoft 365 Copilot is pitched as the most powerful productivity tool on the planet. And, amongst the hype and LinkedIn chatter, many leaders are caught between the promise of enhanced productivity and serious sticker shock at the monthly subscription.

In this article, we’ll take you through everything leaders need to know about Copilot. We’ll explore the benefits and limitations, and help you make an informed decision on whether Copilot can add value for your organisation.

Microsoft Copilot features

The key feature of Copilot is that its AI-powered chat functionality is embedded within the Microsoft 365 applications we use every day. Rather than starting from scratch learning new software, there’s a Copilot interface built into the app you’re working with, along with some suggested prompts to get started.

Copilot in Microsoft 365 is a user-friendly generative AI tool that works with your M365 apps, including Microsoft Teams, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel.

You can ask Copilot questions and set tasks through a chat box, just as you might ask a colleague on Teams.

Microsoft 365 Copilot works by combining information from a large language model (LLM), with the information held securely in the documents, folders and chats within your organisation’s Microsoft 365 tenant.

Copilot use cases: what can Copilot for Microsoft 365 do?

Copilot has been widely available for less than six months – there are a lot of use cases to explore and discover. Here’s a few starters for ten:

Copilot in word

Copilot use cases: Microsoft Word

In Microsoft Word, Copilot can kickstart workable drafts from a simple prompt. This gives you an excellent starting point to write announcements, press releases, strategies, reports and tender responses – in a fraction of the time.

Copilot in Teams

Copilot use cases: Teams

Imagine you’re late to a Teams meeting (it happens to us all). Copilot can create a quick summary to catch you up in seconds. This includes updates you missed, decisions already made, and questions to resolve. Copilot can also prepare minutes and an action list to share afterwards.

copilot in outlook

Copilot use cases: Outlook

In Outlook, Copilot can help you find messages, draft replies, and summarise long email chains. It can also review the tone of your emails, and share quick tips to help you get your message across effectively.

Copilot in PowerPoint

Copilot use cases: PowerPoint

Copilot can also pull information from related documents to help you re-use existing work in new ways. For example, Copilot in PowerPoint can help you turn a dry report into an eye-catching slide deck, complete with speaker notes ready to go.

Copilot for business pricing: how much is Copilot for Microsoft 365?

Copilot for Microsoft 365 is currently priced at £24.70 per user per month, available on an annual contract at £296.40, not including VAT. This works out at £5.70 a week, and around 81p per day.

As a business or enterprise user, you’ll need a Microsoft 365 Business Standard, Microsoft 365 Business Premium, E3 or E5 licence to purchase Copilot in M365.

Benefits of Microsoft Copilot

From what we’ve seen so far, Copilot is both practical and powerful, with a lot of potential to streamline everyday tasks. There are three key benefits of Microsoft 365 Copilot:

Benefit 1: Copilot users save time

According to a survey of Microsoft 365 Copilot early adopters, on average, Copilot saves 1.2 hours a week. These time savings came from a broad range of everyday tasks, including finding information, catching up on meetings, processing email, and writing documents.

Top down view of a woman's hands, holding an analogue alarm clock

Copilot users catch up on missed meetings nearly four times faster

Abstract image showing envelopes connected by lines

64% said Copilot helps them spend less time processing email

Blank sheet of paper surrounded by earlier drafts

85% said Copilot helps them get to a good first draft faster

A lightbulb emerges at the side of a search bar

75% said Copilot saves them time finding whatever they need in files

Copilot has real potential to cut through the noise and help people get through their digital to-dos. Think about it: how many unanswered emails are living rent-free in your head right now, chipping away at your focus? Copilot could help you tackle them effectively.

Benefit 2: Copilot enhances productivity

According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, 70% of Copilot users reported being more productive. While 68% said Copilot improved the quality of their work.

It’s still early days for peer-reviewed research papers looking at the effect of Copilot on productivity. While the above statistics came from a survey commissioned and reported by Microsoft, these findings do seem to be supported by initial academic research on the impact of generative AI.

Consultants at work

According to a joint study between researchers at Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania, MIT, University of Warwick and Boston Consulting Group, generative AI has a positive impact on productivity.

The research team conducted a controlled experiment with 758 BCG consultants. Some were given access to GPT-4 generative AI tools, and others were not.

In a series of tasks, they found that consultants using AI were significantly more productive.

On average, the people with access to AI completed 12.2% more tasks, and completed them 25.1% faster. They also produced 40% higher quality results for some tasks compared to the control group.

Benefit 3: Copilot eases the mental load

Copilot can free up employees’ time and focus by summarising non-essential meetings, signposting the latest conversations on current projects, powering through the inbox, and helping people stay on top of actions, tasks and unanswered queries.

Anything that eases that mental load could be great for reducing burnout and enhancing employee wellbeing.

According to Microsoft’s survey stats, 85% of early adopters said Copilot reduced the effort needed to complete their tasks. So people aren’t just working faster – their work feels easier too.

Woman pauses to enjoy a cup of coffee at work

Copilot limitations: what are the disadvantages of Microsoft 365 Copilot?

These are impressive early results, but do they tell the full story? What about Copilot’s limitations and disadvantages?

As with any new technology, there are some aspects of Microsoft 365 Copilot that just aren’t quite there yet:

Limitation 1: Copilot in Excel

When Copilot was first announced, there was a lot of excitement about the data analysis tools in Microsoft Excel. But since the product launched, the consensus is that Excel’s AI tools are not as powerful as we all hoped.

According to one of our Copilot test users at The Inform Team, “the Copilot experience in Excel needs some development. You have to be so granular with your prompting, that in the time it takes, you could just do it yourself.”

Man pointing at spreadsheet print outs

In many ways, Copilot in Excel is very similar to the ‘analyse data’ button, available for free in the latest version of Excel. This function suggests potential charts, pivot tables, and metrics to explore from a dataset. These suggestions are useful starting points but are no replacement for data literacy.

So far, Copilot in Excel doesn’t live up to the hype. But we’re looking forward to seeing how this tool develops as the software improves and users explore different approaches and prompts.

Limitation 2: Generative AI makes mistakes

As with any generative AI tool, Copilot is great for some things, and not others. But knowing which tasks to avoid is not always intuitive.

Let’s return to the Harvard/BCG study we mentioned earlier. The researchers found that generative AI could significantly boost or harm performance, depending on the task at hand.

AI-generated outputs were 40% higher quality than the control group for a task centered around product development. However, using GPT-4 for a business problem-solving task resulted in performance 23% lower than the control group, who didn’t use AI.

Taking complex, nuanced information and asking AI to make a data-driven decision sounds like the kind of thing computers should be good at. But they aren’t yet. Large Language Models are good at generating responses that sound plausible, using the vast amount of text they’ve been trained on to produce something new.

If employees take AI-generated outputs at face value, they can end up sharing inaccurate information, otherwise known as an AI hallucination.

A woman dressed in corporate attire reviewing a document. On the other side is a cyborg, looking deep in thought. There's a thought bubble between them. Each is thinking "does it sound ok?"

Although Copilot does include references to files and data sources, there’s still a risk of sharing inaccurate or misleading information through Copilot, just as with any other generative AI tool.

Limitation 3: Old habits die hard

Imagine you go ahead and get a Copilot licence. What happens next? For a lot of new users, they’re dropped in at the deep end, working things out as they go. What can Copilot do? What should they use it for? Where could AI assistance add value, and where would it take them down a rabbit hole?

A white rabbit peeking out of a burrow. There's a thought bubble that reads "could we do that with Copilot?"

As with delegating any new tasks, the first time you do something with Copilot, it might take longer. You’ll need to break down the task, set up your prompts, and refine your instructions to get the results you’re looking for.

For many of us, we already have our go-to method for getting stuff done. Figuring out how Copilot could add value is a job in itself. As such, it can be challenging to change our behaviour to incorporate an AI assistant. In a high-pressure environment, where time is of the essence, you may find that Copilot gets forgotten amid more established ways of working.

If you want to see results from new technology, you need to identify where Copilot could streamline your workflow. Then, develop your adoption strategy, and empower your people to embrace the change.

Is Copilot worth it?

That’s the question leaders across the country are tackling. Is Copilot worth the investment?

At the current price point, rolling out Copilot across your whole organisation isn’t likely to give you a dramatic ROI. However, since Microsoft scrapped their 300-licence minimum, leaders can now introduce Copilot slowly, strategically, and in a value-driven way.

Right now, the key strength of Microsoft 365 Copilot is that it saves time around meetings and emails, surfaces information, and generates documents quickly.

Where Copilot can really make a difference is for high-wage employees who have broad responsibilities. With effective training and change management, Copilot could boost efficiency for senior staff juggling back-to-back meetings and a diverse range of projects and priorities.

Executive board meeting

What is the ROI of Copilot for Microsoft 365?

Working out the return on investment from Copilot is not always as simple as weighing up the cost of Copilot vs an employee’s hourly rate and time efficiencies.

Remember that average time saving of 1.2 hours a week? To figure out whether Copilot is worth it, leaders need to ask themselves which individuals and job roles are most likely to see this benefit, and consider what they’d be doing with the time Copilot can save.

Senior manager is mentoring a junior colleague. They are both laughing

Will they use that time to connect with customers, mentor colleagues, and focus on deep, strategic work – or will more meetings simply spring up to fill the void?

Leaders who generate true value from Copilot will be those who empower their organisation to work smarter with AI. By enabling your people to strip back the busy work, you can set up your team to deliver meaningful outcomes.

But that doesn’t happen automatically. To get results, you’ll need a people-first approach to Copilot adoption.

Start planning your value-driven Copilot strategy

Copilot is a powerful productivity tool. But unless you put your people first, AI is just power without purpose.

Wherever you are on your journey, our AI support squad has got your back. We’re already equipping clients with the skills and behaviours to help their people thrive with AI, and we can work with you to build your people-first plan for Copilot.
Explore our AI adoption services, or get in touch today to set up a free consultation call.

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