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Introduction to Microsoft Copilot: the AI assistant for Microsoft 365

By 7th June 2023October 9th, 2023No Comments
A friendly robot appears on a tablet screen introducing Microsoft Copilot for users.

Copilot is coming – look busy. There’s a lot of buzz about Microsoft’s upcoming AI assistant.

You may have heard that Copilot is going to become the most powerful productivity tool on the planet. Meanwhile, initial research from GitHub suggests that the AI tool could help us work 55% faster.

Big claims… but what on earth is Copilot? We caught up with Mark and Kirsty, two of our resident Microsoft 365 experts at The Inform Team. Together we’ll find out what Copilot is, what it isn’t, and how it could change the way you work.

What is Microsoft Copilot?

In the simplest terms, Copilot is a Microsoft assistant that uses AI to speed up busywork and help you get things done.

It’s a user-friendly tool that will be embedded in Microsoft 365 apps, including Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Excel. You can ask questions and set tasks through chat, just as you might ask a colleague for help on Teams.

Copilot is powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 model. This is the same AI technology behind ChatGPT, the popular tool that has taken the world by storm in 2023.

While the research preview of ChatGPT is free to use and open to anyone, Copilot is designed for business use. It will come with a price tag and Microsoft’s industry-leading data security systems.

What can Copilot do?

Copilot isn’t widely available yet. But from what we’ve seen so far from Microsoft, Copilot is both practical and powerful. According to Kirsty, the initial previews reveal some exciting use cases for Copilot:

“There’s a couple of things that Copilot can do,” Kirsty explains. “Let’s imagine we’re in Teams and just finished a meeting. Copilot can create a meeting summary and action list automatically.

“In Outlook it can help you manage your inbox – which I’m really looking forward to – and in Excel, it can quickly turn a boring spreadsheet into a visual dashboard, with all your key insight ready to go.”

There’s more. Copilot can pull information from related documents to help you re-use existing work in new ways. For example, Copilot can help you turn a detailed report into eye-catching slide deck in PowerPoint. It can also generate text from a simple prompt.

This makes an excellent starting point to help you write bids, press releases, articles, reports, strategies, and more using Microsoft office tools.

What can’t Copilot do?

Copilot isn’t magic, and it isn’t a substitute for hard work (we know, we’re sorry).

As Mark explains, “Copilot can suggest content based on your existing work and create a draft for you to work on.

“You’ve still got to do your work, you’ve still got to bring the humanity to it – your knowledge, and your judgement and empathy and all that other stuff. But I see Copilot as a tool to do that heavy lifting at the start, the manual work of pulling together information and getting some initial words on the page.”

When we talk about AI, we often talk about how it could threaten our jobs. Should we be worried about Copilot? Mark doesn’t think so:

I’m definitely a glass half full kind of person. I see people spending less time catching up, less time looking for stuff, and more time doing work that matters. I don’t see less people doing work, I see the same people doing better, more meaningful – more productive – work that takes the organisation forward. I think that the organisations that have that view are the ones that are going to flourish.

So great news, it’s unlikely that you’ll be replaced by a robot. At least not one named Copilot. But while tech leaders are still puzzling over how to do that one, we can revel in the knowledge that writers’ block is heading for the chopping block instead.

Is Microsoft’s AI assistant secure?

With Chat GPT we’ve heard the news about the Samsung developers that accidentally made protected source code public. These kind of stories highlight the business risks of using free AI tools, especially when organisations don’t have a clear policy in place.

Can we expect the same concerns with Copilot?

According to Mark, Copilot’s ability to access documents across your organisation can initially set alarm bells ringing, but – as with many things – the solution comes down to good data governance.

“Microsoft 365 only lets you see what you’re allowed to look at,” he explains. “If you see a file in SharePoint that you’re not supposed to access, it’s because someone got the permissions wrong or filed it in the wrong place.

“It’s the same with Copilot. It can only access data with the correct permissions in place. If I ask Copilot to update me on a project while I’ve been away, it can only update me on the parts I’m allowed to see. If there are aspects of the project that are classified, I can’t get that data. It won’t exist to me without the correct permissions.”

Putting the right policies, communication and training in place is the key to making sure your people can use Microsoft 365 tools, including Copilot, securely.

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How to Get Microsoft Copilot: When will Copilot be available?

Microsoft have announced they’ll be rolling out Microsoft 365 Copilot on 1 November, when it’s generally available for enterprise customers to buy as a premium add-on to their existing licence.

Microsoft Copilot in Windows has been available since 26 September, easily accessed using the Win+C keyboard shortcut or on the taskbar. It features the new Copilot icon, the new Copilot user experience, Bing Chat, and is available to commercial customers free of charge.

What will Copilot cost?

According to Microsoft’s July 2023 announcement, Copilot will priced at $30 per user per month. This pricing applies for customers with Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium licences.

How can we prepare for Copilot?

The arrival of powerful AI tools on our work devices is probably one of the biggest cultural changes we’ve seen in the workplace since the introduction of email.

To make it a success, you’ll need an engaged and informed workforce, a people-first culture, and AI governance policies that are fit for purpose.

At Inform, our specialists in governance, culture, communications and training can help you navigate Copilot successfully. We’ve developed a tailored AI planning workshop to help you start your journey.

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