Get Ready for Launch with Microsoft Copilot

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Fuelled by ChatGPT being thrust into mainstream awareness, 2023 has been dominated by discussion around “Generative AI”. From boardrooms to dining rooms, conversations about the opportunity, challenges and risks of Generative AI technologies have demanded attention throughout the year and looks set to continue in 2024.

Microsoft, like many other technology providers have been investing heavily into AI technologies, and indeed invest directly into OpenAI upon which ChatGPT is based.  However, their enterprise offerings – expressed under the “Copilot” terminology offer fundamental differences in terms of security and governance for enterprise organisations, which offers the first of a number of answers required about the use of AI technologies in terms of the risk to IP and corporate data that are a byproduct of publicly available tools such as ChatGPT.

What was most notable about the Copilot launches initially was not the rate of innovation that Microsoft were offering, nor the pragmatic security controls for enterprise customers, but the pricing.  At $30 per user per month, Microsoft 365 Copilot’s announcement generated an audible intake of breath as customers and partners considered how such an uplift beyond current licensing investments could be justified.

The product has been in early preview for some months and ahead of the launch the marketing messages have amplified significantly.  A virtual assistant that can help you draft and iterate documents, build presentations, or aid you in data manipulation is helpful functionality.  While the demos are certainly impressive in terms of the technology deployed, the questions about the measurability of productivity benefits will continue, alongside the concerns around risks associated with AI generated content that need to be considered and addressed – but let us put that to one side for a moment.

The sceptics are drawn to the pricing.  But let us look  deeper at the functionality and what it offers -

  • the ability to summarise the discussion content, sentiment and decisions made in Teams meetings that you did not attend.
  • summarising of chat threads or email messages that continue to arrive even while you are taking that break from work.
  • The ability to generate draft responses to improve your analysis of detailed content and accelerate response and decision making.

All these factors serve to resolve one of the fundamental challenges from the information era: the deluge of data that is thrown at them from various channels.  With Copilot users can now regain control of their workflow and productivity.   Certainly, all of this functionality has huge appeal to me – so the business case starts to develop…..

What is clear however, is that there are some fundamental principles for adoption of this technology in the short term, that should guide organisations: 

  1. First, is an understanding of the use cases where Copilot can add value.It is probably not a technology for all users, particularly given the pricing so a Workstyle Analysis or Persona Segmentation to identify the use cases where Copilot will be effective is key.

     

  2. Second, any adoption of this technology must be preceded with a significant review of data security and access policies within your organisation. Data quality is the key to good AI and has been the cornerstone of our Data Centre of Excellence (COE) activities to help customers establish solid foundations before being seduced by the compelling notion of transformative use cases.

     

  3. The third relates to user adoption.The technology is definitely intriguing, and deployment (once assured by step 1 and 2) can provide huge benefit.However, like many new technologies, what may happen is an immediate novelty of testing out the new functionality.And what is clear already is that there is some level of digital aptitude required to command the Copilot effectively –it is still only a “copilot.”Continued encouragement and support to users through a defined adoption programme is critical to ongoing usage and return on investment.

This is however an extremely exciting time, and as more has been shown about the Copilot suite the anticipation has reached fever pitch.  Today marks the global launch, and no doubt some early adoption, though I expect many organisations are still working through the considerations above to not only set up the platform effectively, but to have clarity on justifying the investment against tangible benefit.

Through the hype of Generative AI and the rapid explosion of innovation we are certainly entering the Era of Intelligence that creates numerous opportunities to leverage insight and foresight to support users and service customers.

Microsoft 365 Copilot is just one branch of this journey to enable and empower users.  But there are many wider opportunities of Generative AI to drive differentiation and value creation across many other use cases…..Exciting times ahead as we start to work through these with you.


Paul Bray

Chief Technology Officer -UK&I

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