Copilot Could Revolutionize your M365 Experience Soon. Is Your Company Ready?

by

May 15, 2024

Adel StraussMicrosoft Copilot is easily one of the most hotly anticipated tech advancements to your desktop in decades. Does that sound like a bold statement? I assure you, it’s not. For companies that buy into Microsoft’s new, proprietary AI engine, Copilot will be woven throughout the already compelling M365 productivity platform—dramatically amplifying what you can do in these programs. Copilot promises to change how you retrieve, process, store, and present your information. Used well, Microsoft’s AI assistant will streamline how you work and think about the information in general.

 

So, as Copilot gets rolled out worldwide throughout 2024, companies of all sizes will be faced with a choice:  do I invest in Copilot now? Or do I take a wait-and-see approach to analyze better how useful it will genuinely be? The answer will be different for every company. But, if you stick with me in this article, I can preview what Copilot will offer and discuss the concerns you’ll need to address—before you sign up for your new AI-driven assistant.

 

What is Microsoft Copilot?

 

I like to think of Copilot as an all-knowing information concierge that sits on your computer. It allows you to pull information from the web or your company files/meeting transcripts and parse it, rewrite it, analyze it, and present it in meaningful, time-saving ways. According to Microsoft’s initial testing of the product, one in three users said Copilot shaved more than 30 minutes off their workday, and 87% said they were far more productive overall using the technology.

 

Specifically, Copilot weaves these features throughout Microsoft 365’s platform:

 

  • A conversational chat interface that allows you to ask questions and receive intelligent answers
  • Search/information retrieval from the web and your files
  • The ability to write creatively or to format and summarize/organize the information you give it
  • Creation of imagery and video based on your text prompts
  • Code writing based on your text prompts

 

These capabilities are beneficial on their own. However, the possibilities are endless when you overlay these powerful tools into the M365 productivity platforms we use daily. Let’s explore what a Copilot-enabled M365 environment would look like for your company.

Copilot Features Coming to M365

 

A promotional video thumbnail for "Copilot in Teams Live Meeting" featuring the Microsoft 365 logo and a woman in a virtual meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Copilot in Teams

 

With Copilot, the transcripts of your Teams meetings will become a new source of wisdom and tracking for your company. As this video demonstrates, you can parse and summarize the agreements made during a meeting and catch up on discussions quickly if you join the meeting late. Similarly, you can go to the meeting transcript after the fact, ask Copilot to pull out the salient points and agreements, and provide a summary. Meetings can get more precise and focused when your conclusions are recorded in real time. It also makes it easier for broader groups of employees to stay up to date with critical decisions at the company.

Copilot in Word

 

A screenshot showing the Microsoft 365 interface in Word with a feature titled "Copilot in Word" highlighted, alongside a blurred background.

 

Imagine having an AI assistant that pulls from your notes, marries them to an existing document format, and writes a document for you. That’s the power of Copilot for Word. Instead of spending hours reading over reference documents and putting together outlines, Copilot for Word can even search your company databases, fetch the information you need, and write professional copy that’s ready to use.

 

This capability is terrific for generating summaries, writing business documentation, and more. You can even ask it to write “with a little humor, ” “in the style of our last proposal,” or something similar. What’s not to love?

Copilot for Excel

 

A screenshot of a Microsoft Excel interface labeled "Copilot in Excel" with a partially visible data analysis chart and numerical data.

 

If you’ve ever been in charge of tracking your company’s data, you know how labor-intensive it is to gather the information, enter it into Excel worksheets, and create the rules to output the needed data. With Copilot, those days may be over. Copilot can instantly use your data to create new sheets and graphs, even forward-thinking models based on your submitted scenarios. All you have to do is type a prompt, and sheets that would’ve taken hours to make now are generated in seconds. Even better, you can ask Copilot questions and get its suggestions on presenting your data in more valuable and compelling ways.

 

Copilot in PowerPoint

 

Copilot for PowerPoint

 

With Copilot at your side, you can cut hours out of the processing time it takes to make a PowerPoint presentation. You tell PowerPoint what you want, and it does it for you. Do you have a Word Document that’s the basis of the information you’re using for the presentation? Feed it to Copilot, which will translate the information into slide-worthy bullets, drop it into a beautiful, branded format, and even generate artwork and photographs to illustrate your points.

 

Don’t like what it’s generated? No problem. Tell it to drop slides, write more copy, change images, and add information from other documents. When you’re done, you can even transfer the presentation information into a summary in Microsoft Word without writing a sentence yourself. It’s just another one of the great ways that Copilot has knit the power of M365 tools together and multiplied your productivity while they’re at it.

 

 

Copilot for Outlook

 

Copilot for Outlook

 

Have you ever wished you could hire someone to answer your emails? Copilot isn’t quite that good yet. But, it can allow you to write your intentions for an email replay into a query box, and it will generate a professionally written reply. You can also create a library of standard responses for emails you get often, like job queries. With a few clicks, Outlook can generate the email, and you can send it off. This can be especially helpful when using Outlook on your mobile phone.

 

Outlook can also help you search your email database more accurately, filter emails by attachments, or summarize email threads. You can ask more specific questions, like “What kind of emails has my boss sent me this month?” it will provide you with a summary of the discussion threads, topics, and links to the emails. It’s a great way to ensure you’re not missing critical communications.

 

All this is exciting, of course. However, the realities of working with Copilot are a bit more complex, and everyone is learning as they go. While the productivity gains promise to be significant, there are dangers inherent with AI that your company must mitigate. Let’s look at what you need to know before you take the plunge with this new technology.

 

Paving the Way to Work Safely with Copilot

 

The chief benefit of AI is its ability to fetch and process information. That’s hugely beneficial, as long as:

  1. The information is correct and not polluted by out-of-date data or misinformation
  2. It isn’t part of a restricted record, like HIPAA-protected health information or personal financial information, for instance, and
  3. It isn’t part of a confidential document with company secrets unauthorized personnel aren’t supposed to see

 

Harnessing AI’s power presents a challenge, and everyone is working hard to implement safeguards to mitigate these risks. AI is only as good as the information it’s being fed. Microsoft suggests what companies should do to lay the groundwork for Copilot before they begin. I’ll touch on some of these suggestions here.

 

Copilot safeguards

 

Essential Safeguards Your Company Should Take—Before You Install M365 Copilot

 

Success with Copilot starts well before the capability is installed. If you’re serious about adding these new capabilities, your IT leadership needs to sit down with your vendors, MSP, and possibly your HR/training departments to discuss AI safeguards for your company. Specifically, we recommend you start with these critical AI guardrails.

Build Copilot into Your Annual IT Budget

 

Copilot is an additional cost that adds to the expense of your M365 license. It costs $30 per seat per month, and Microsoft requires you to pay for a whole year of service upfront for your first year. The larger your organization, the more it will eat into your IT budget. Make room for that now.

 

Create Conditional Access Protocols

 

If you’re like most organizations, your SharePoint system is probably pretty open, with only a few areas with restricted files. Version control and access are generally handled by the teams working with that information every day. For the most part, there’s not a lot of organic document sharing across teams.

 

Due to the comprehensive nature of its searches, Copilot will change all that. To ensure only the “right” information is being pulled, you’ll need to enable the conditional access features, controlling who sees what documents and when. Historical documents or first drafts will need to be deleted or managed so that they can’t be searched. This will change everything about how your company manages its files and thinks about information flow.

 

Bolster your Endpoint Management and Multi-factor Authentication

 

If the wrong actor gains access to your systems, they’ll benefit from your AI-enabled search systems. That means they can search your documents and gather critical information in far less time, They can even use AI to create codes to drop worms into your system.

 

If you don’t already have a good endpoint management tool guarding your systems, now is the time to get one. This will continuously scan the devices accessing your system. A robust, multi-factor authentication system that accounts for identity, device, location, and network will also be critical.

 

Build AI into Your Documentation and Training

 

When implementing Copilot, it’s not enough to show employees how to use the new functions it allows. You must also teach them how to think differently about their documents. Document security and accuracy will become more critical than ever before. You’ll need to teach them to use the conditional access tools and think carefully about what they create and where they store it. Encourage all your departments to develop file-sharing protocols amongst themselves and other departments.

 

 

Copilot preparation

Jumping on the Copilot Bandwagon—Safely

 

Your Copilot rollout will improve if it’s done slowly and used in a targeted way. Start by asking your organization which capabilities will create the most benefit. When you’ve agreed on those priorities, the next step is creating a pilot group of employees to test the technology. These early adopters can test the system to see if Copilot adds value, while your IT management can help build a safe data management strategy around it. Together, you’ll be able to create a roadmap for best practices you can roll out, group by group, within your organization.

Are You Interested in Getting Started with Copilot?

 

If you’re interested in starting safely with Copilot, Integris can help. We can set you up with Responsible IT Architecture, manage your Cloud licenses, and do the security consulting you’ll need to work safely in the era of AI. As of this writing, in the spring of 2024, we’re signing up clients for Copilot previews/testing. Contact us now, and we’ll help you get on the list! We also have a number of instructional Copilot educational webinars coming up in a few months. Stay tuned for more.

 

 

Adel Strauss serves as VP of Product & Portfolio for Integris.

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