What should I know about Microsoft Copilot for my company?

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If you’re one of the millions of companies running on Microsoft products, then it’s called Microsoft’s AI offering Second pilot will turn your world upside down.

It will be as ubiquitous as Windows. It will be as disruptive as the cloud. It makes Microsoft billions and you contribute a little bit of that revenue because you’re going to be using it a lot. Anyway, I hope you get to use it a lot. If you take the time to really understand the power of what it can and will do, you can significantly improve the productivity of your workforce and increase your company’s bottom line.

However, it is still early for this. But here are six things you should know about Copilot right now.

You can’t use it yet.

Microsoft launched Copilot in March 2023 and made it available to select large enterprise customers. The videos the company has released look exciting, but they were created in highly controlled environments with very limited data and samples. In June 2023, Microsoft expanded the product’s availability to an “invited” list of approximately 600 customers. At the time, the company said a general release will be in the “next few months,” but realistically, I’m betting it will take at least four to six months to complete these tests and roll out the features to Microsoft 365 users. Hopefully we’ll get our hands on this by the end of 2023, but given the amount of attention it’s going to get, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft pushes the general release in early 2024.

Copilot is ChatGPT on steroids.

Make no mistake, this is ChatGPT, but taken to another level. While Microsoft is not sharing the details of its relationship with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, it has been reported that the software giant – which has invested billions in what was once an open-source company but is now becoming a for-profit model company – is entitled to 75 percent of OpenAI’s profits until it recoups its investment, at which point it would own a 49 percent stake in the company. Microsoft is also the “exclusive provider” of Azure’s backend infrastructure, products, and programming interfaces on its Azure platform. Microsoft and ChatGPT are one.

Copilot will be in your face.

Once it’s released with Microsoft applications, you won’t have to look far to find Copilot functionality. You’re going to see it everywhere. In the demos I’ve attended, just about every screen has a Copilot button to “help” more. Once selected, a panel will open in the application that looks like a chat box and you will be taken to the races. Copilot will be everywhere in every Microsoft product. While the company will focus on its Office 365 applications, you’ll also see it in Windows, Bing, and most of its developer tools and platforms.

Copilot saves a lot of time for your users learning.

In Word, it creates a proposal based on the notes you’ve taken in OneNote, adjusts it to look like your previous proposals, and adds clip art or images you request. It can turn a proposal – or any other document – into a PowerPoint presentation, add new slides based on your needs, and take speaker notes. Excel users can ask Copilot to display trends based on data in a spreadsheet, add new spreadsheets by diving into existing data, generate graphs and charts, apply color coding, and run what-if scenarios . Teams and Dynamics users can have Copilot “listen” to meetings, write a summary, create tasks, and email next actions to participants. You and your employees need training to understand not only how to use Copilot, but also where to use it.

Copilot won’t be perfect.

I want to be clear here: Copilot will do all of the above just by asking. It will suggest better formulas in Excel, suggest better wording for an email, make a proposal look more professional with better formatting and graphics, and provide ideas for emails, policies, memos, and other communications. It is literally an assistant that will perform these functions. However, and like any assistant, it’s not you. It won’t be perfect. All the recommendations, suggestions, proposals and brainstorming sessions it makes are aimed at helping you and your employees move things faster. This saves a huge amount of time in doing the mundane tasks that need to be done before people analyze the result. But in the end, people will make the final decision about all these changes.

Copilot has one Achilles’ heel: your data.

Copilot uses a Large Language Model (LLM) that draws not only from information from the Internet, but from all of your internal data sources. It will provide all of its opinions, recommendations, and changes based on what it sees in Outlook messages, Dynamics databases, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, SharePoint files, and any other internal (and external) information it can find and to which it has access. Aside from privacy concerns, the biggest problem it will create for your business is that it will often be inaccurate and incomplete. That’s because your data is likely to be inaccurate and incomplete. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed and it’s something you can do right now – check out some of my thoughts on tackling this problem here.

AI is not for your tech people. Copilot is not just a product. It’s a way to reduce costs, increase revenues and grow profits. If you run a business, you have to understand it. Otherwise, you will be outsmarted by others – especially your competitors – who do.