M365 Copilot: The Early Adopter’s View

Even prior to its launch on November 1st 2023, Microsoft 365 Copilot has been generating a wave of interest, as more and more of us come to appreciate how artificial intelligence (AI) can transform our working lives. But what does AI-driven work look like in the real world?

Copilot is Microsoft’s AI companion tool that is being rolled out across a range of their products, including Microsoft 365, Windows 11, Edge and Bing. It provides helpful AI assistance to a huge range of everyday tasks, and helps users get more done in their day by improving speed and efficiency, and reducing human error.

At SCC, my colleagues and I are proud to be part of Microsoft’s Early Adopter Programme (EAP). We’ve been able to get some first-hand experience of what M365 Copilot can do, and give Microsoft feedback on how it can be improved. More importantly, we’ve been able to gain an understanding of how Copilot can now support the workplace experience and productivity of businesses like yours.

The best and the worst of Copilot so far

First of all, some good news: Copilot will not be replacing anybody’s job any time soon. It’s very much a technology that is designed to enhance human endeavour, rather than supersede it. It’s also true to say that the rise of generative AI tools like Copilot, and AI solutions more generally, will upskill employees so that they can get the most from the technology.

Speaking from my own personal experience and avid user of Copilot, here are my biggest pros and cons around the tool at this early stage:

What’s good so far?

Microsoft Word: this is one of the areas where Copilot really shines. You can write a paragraph, ask Copilot to make it more concise, or more formal, or more professional – and it will tidy it up for you. It also allows you to link one document to another, and synchronise the writing styles between the two. For example, as part of my work writing tender documents, I can ask Copilot to answer the questions involved and it will get me 60-70% of the way there.

Meeting summaries: Copilot is great for summarising Microsoft Teams meetings, including taking transcripts and capturing actions that participants need to follow up on. I don’t have to take notes any more: I can just record the interview and ask Copilot to give me an overview, along with any actions that apply to me. It’s so good at this that I can rely on it exclusively.

What still needs works?

Access Management: it’s important to be mindful of how information is stored to avoid any unintentional sharing through Copilot. Let’s say, for example, the PA of the CEO puts a document with everyone’s salary information in the wrong folder on SharePoint. If Copilot can access that folder, it’s possible for anyone within the company to ask Copilot what everyone is earning and gain that sensitive, confidential information ‘through the back door’. Using a solution like SCC’s Data Security Pathfinder can help prevent this, by checking access provisioning across all data before Copilot is deployed.

Outlook: the functionality in Outlook is of limited value at present. It’s handy for summarising long email chains, but for email content creation, it just takes too long to write the prompt that generates the copy. It doesn’t save any time on writing the email yourself.

Powerpoint: this is perhaps the biggest ‘work in progress’ area for Copilot at the moment. For example, it struggles with formatting when it comes to any templates that are already loaded into a presentation, and doesn’t seem to paste the right things into the right places. It works well if you’re starting from a completely blank document, but it needs major improvement on the template front.

Breaking down AI misconceptions

Copilot is full of potential to make day-to-day work much faster, much more efficient and much more productive – and once some of the challenges listed above are fixed, that potential will only increase further. But it isn’t a turnkey solution as such: to get the most out of it, training and educating end-users in how it works is absolutely vital. 

We at SCC have recognised that education is a vital first step on the Copilot journey, which is why we have established our Pathfinder programme. If you’re interested in what Copilot can do for your business, we can arrange one-to-one demonstrations where you can explore Copilot in the context of your business’s specific use cases. You’ll also get the chance to discuss how it works with our experts, and make an informed decision on how best to deploy it. 

We can also provide similar demonstrations and training through our AI Pathfinder, which explores foundational elements and practices of AI; and our Prompt Engineering Workshop, which explores how to write prompts that will generate the best results.

In summary: will you get out what you put in?

Investing in Copilot comes with a cost of $30 per user, as well as requiring an E3 or E5 licence too. So the burning question is: is it worth the outlay?

In my opinion, the answer is yes… as long as you’re willing to commit the time and investment to training users in how it works. Speaking personally, now I’ve got used to using Copilot, I wouldn’t be very happy if someone took it away from me, especially as I know that further improvements and features are coming down the line in the form of monthly updates. It’s also worth noting that Microsoft have recently announced that the availability of M365 Copilot on CSP – and the minimum requirement of 300 seats has been eliminated.

We’ve got a number of our customers that have already adopted Copilot, and they’re similarly enthusiastic about Copilot’s present and future capabilities. However, we’ve also noticed a few people internally within SCC who have struggled with it, and in the main that’s because they haven’t taken the time to understand it.

I can’t emphasise enough that you shouldn’t expect to buy Copilot, roll it out across your business and find transformative gains overnight. This represents a fundamental change in how your business operates, with a solution where you’ll get the rewards out of it if you put the time, effort and training into it first. 

If you’re willing to make that commitment, then now is the time to get started, as early adoption will keep you ahead of the curve, and prevent your business from falling behind with AI – and potentially never catching up.

Ready to start discussing your journey with Copilot? Or learn more about our Microsoft-funded Pathfinder engagements? Fill in the form below and our experts will get in touch…

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