Microsoft Copilot — Should You Believe the Hype?
It’s not very often that I feel compelled to write like this, but I felt obligated to weigh in on the launch of Microsoft Copilot based on my early experience with it. This is not intended to be a sales pitch, but rather a public service announcement that I’m not sure anyone can afford to ignore.
I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but this is really worth your time and attention, because in my opinion, Microsoft Copilot may be the single-most impactful technology ever released.
Microsoft first released Copilot to their largest customers on November 1st, 2023, but only for their largest customers. Then, unexpectedly, and unceremoniously, released it to the masses on January 15, 2024.
InsITe immediately jumped in to test it out and see what Copilot could do. As with any new, promising technology, we want to use it first to validate the value for our clients before we make any recommendations. We purchased and deployed Copilot licenses for our leadership team, our Modern Work team, and a few other employees who have highly administrative positions.
I've now used Copilot for one week, and I can tell you that I’ve already saved enough in that time to justify the cost of the entire annual license. And this was with very little training in how to use it. In my 27 years in the technology field, I’ve seen a lot of new technologies that are over-hyped… but not this one. In fact, I don't believe there has been any technology release that has had the potential to immediately impact business like Microsoft Copilot.
It’s my hope that this overview of Copilot for Microsoft 365 (along with some specific examples of how Copilot can positively impact your business) will make you a believer too, so you can seize the value that Copilot has to offer. Read more about it below, check out our checklist for getting started, and share this with others within your organization.
What is Microsoft Copilot?
Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 is an AI Work Assistant that integrates directly into all the Microsoft applications you already use (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Teams), providing you an infinitely intelligent "Copilot" assistant whenever you need it.
But here's the kicker — the AI service is not only connected to Microsoft's (OpenAI) worldwide knowledge-base but is also aware of all the data you have in Microsoft 365, while respecting the permissions each person has been granted.
Paired with additional Microsoft Azure OpenAI services, you can even integrate the AI services to other systems, such as your ERP, your CRM, inventory system, and much more. Imagine being able to simply ask your AI assistant how much you shipped of a certain product last month or answer a quick question from your manager. Or even ask when a certain order is scheduled to ship as you are creating a new e-mail to the customer. The information you need can be right at your fingertips, without switching applications.
How is Copilot different from other AI platforms like ChatGPT?
The general release of ChatGPT in early 2023 created a lot of buzz about what AI could offer. While ChatGPT is a free AI service that can utilize the public web to generate content and provide answers to questions, it does not protect your company’s data. When you prompt (ask a question to) ChatGPT, its learning model will provide you an answer, but will also use any input you provide it to train the public AI model. That means that the email you pasted in to get summarized is now in a dataset that could potentially be provided in an answer to any other public ChatGPT service user.
Copilot and Azure OpenAI are different. It keeps your organization’s data safe and does not use the information you type into it to train itself.
Copilot uses some of the same technology (Large Language Models – LLMs) as ChatGPT but presents the interface directly into your Microsoft 365 applications. This saves time and makes the interface contextually aware by running in the application instead of a website. As a result, the answers that are returned are relative to the application you are in, and the data you have access to within your company’s Microsoft 365 environment.
What can Copilot do for businesses on M365?
Here are just a few basic examples of the things Copilot can do as of today and some prompts that you can use as well. (But knowing Microsoft, this will expand very quickly).
1. Word: You can have an entire document, or just one sentence or paragraph reviewed, rewritten in a different voice, or have Word write it for you in any style you want. This could be useful for any IT professional trying to simplify a proposal or for a manufacturer trying to create an instruction manual. Just ask Copilot to:
- "Review this document and adjust it to be more professional and direct."
- "Expand on this point with more supporting details."
2. Excel: You can gain immediate mastery of complex functions without needing to train employees to analyze shop floor data or calculate gross margin. Simply ask Copilot to:
- "Analyze the data in this sheet and provide me with insights and trends."
- "Create a pivot table based on this data, sorted by total customer revenue, from highest to lowest amount."
- "Show me the gross margin for each line in this Excel sheet."
- “File all emails from firstname.lastname@example.org into your top priority folder.”
- “Rewrite this e-mail in a more direct but professional tone.”
4. PowerPoint: Get a head-start on creating and organizing your PowerPoint slides in seconds by asking Copilot to:
- "Create me a PowerPoint slide, with relevant images, based upon this document [insert document link]."
- "Review this PowerPoint slide and suggest some changes to make it more engaging."
- "Review this PowerPoint and separate it into sections, then create a summary slide at the beginning."
- "Provide me with a summary of what we just talked about."
- "Provide me with a summary of this meeting."
- “Provide me with a quick summary of what happened in this chat over the past 7 days.”
Is Copilot secure?
Since Copilot can see all the data in your Microsoft 365 environment, there are many questions as to how your data will remain secure. The simple answer is yes, Microsoft has gone to significant lengths to ensure your data is secure, and available only to you. So secure that I could write another lengthy article about it. Instead of doing that, here’s a link to all the details, direct from Microsoft.
However, when implementing Copilot broadly within your company, it will be important to evaluate the access and security within your company. Because Copilot leverages the security and access that each person has within your Microsoft 365 tenancy, it is important to perform an audit of your user access setup through a Governance Audit project. That sounds complicated, but don’t worry, InsITe has you covered there!
How to take advantage of Copilot (and AI in general) for your business
Do I have your interest yet? Would it help if I said that it’s not hard to implement and even easier to use? In fact, you could turn it on yourself today if you’re already using Microsoft 365. But we recommend taking a measured and careful approach to expanding use of Copilot within your organization.
As with any technology, there are several considerations and potential risks. Because Copilot has visibility to all the content within your organization, it is critical to ensure that permissions are appropriately set within the Microsoft 365 environment to ensure Copilot does not provide unnecessary information to an employee inadvertently.
You can contact us, your MSP, or have your internal IT department set Copilot up correctly. As a high-level outline, we recommend the following steps.
A checklist for implementing Copilot
At InsITe, we’re prepared to help you on your journey to get the most out of Microsoft Copilot. Check out our checklist below and reach out to us to help you make it happen. InsITe can provide the licensing, technical configuration, training, and customization of Microsoft Copilot and Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI services!
- Launch a Proof of Concept with highly trusted employees.
- Procure 1–5 Licenses necessary to enable Copilot
- Perform some basic preparation of your Microsoft 365 tenancy for Copilot
- Get training on Microsoft Copilot, so you can use it to its fullest.
- Expand Copilot within your organization.
- Perform Microsoft 365 Governance Assessment & Access Optimization. Get creative. How could this technology impact your entire organization?
- Expand adoption of Microsoft 365 Teams & Sharepoint
- Many benefits of Copilot are driven by the data you have in Microsoft 365 Teams & Sharepoint.
- The more you use Microsoft 365, the more powerful Copilot becomes!
- Evaluate additional data sources to connect to your new AI Assistant.
- There’s so much more you can do.
How much does Microsoft Copilot cost?
It’s quite affordable, given the value it unlocks.
- Microsoft 365 Copilot Professional: $360.00/yr* (one year up-front required).
- We recommend pairing Copilot with Microsoft Teams Premium, which costs $9.60/mo.
In my opinion, $39.60/mo per user is a small price to pay to immediately expand the capabilities, let alone realized time-savings, for the employee that is assigned the license. I’ve already saved enough time in one week to justify the entire annual expense for my license.
*At the time of this writing, Microsoft is only offering Copilot as a 1-year or 3-year up-front purchase. InsITe will continue to monitor the licensing options from Microsoft and will update as we have more information.
Additional Copilot Resources to share with your team:
- Word: Copilot in Word | Enhance Your Writing and Design
- Excel: Microsoft 365 Copilot in Excel
- Outlook: Microsoft 365 Copilot in Outlook
- PowerPoint: Microsoft 365 Copilot in PowerPoint
- Teams: Copilot in Teams and Intelligent recap | After the meeting
And here is a video that provides a great overview of Copilot: How Copilot for Microsoft 365 works.
My final thoughts on Copilot
At InsITe, we believe technology is more valuable and impactful when it improves business, improves lives and creates new success for all. To that end, it is our mission "to transform business by increasing the value of technology, impacting lives and creating success."
Our mission is all about creating success for you through technology, and Copilot directly aligns with our mission. It can help you work smarter, faster, and more creatively. Whether you need to write an email, create a presentation, analyze data, or collaborate with your team, Copilot can assist you with natural language chat, productivity tips, and automation features.
And unlike ChatGPT, it is integrated with the Microsoft 365 apps you already use every day, such as Teams, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, and more.
To learn more about how to get started with Copilot or if you’d like to learn more about how we’ve integrated Copilot into our business practices, talk to one of our advisors today.
ABOUT INSITE BUSINESS SOLUTIONS:
InsITe helps businesses and manufacturing companies get the most out of current and emerging technologies with a customized IT approach to maximize growth, efficiency, insights, and productivity. InsITe is not a typical IT company selling products for short-term, short-sighted fixes. We invest in long-term solutions for a company’s growth by taking the time to learn its products, process, and business goals before bringing tech into the conversation. In this way, we become much like our Clients’ very own internal IT department with familiar faces who understand the business.
If you have any questions about this post please leave a comment. We read and respond to all comments. Or better yet, give us a call and ask to talk directly to our Founder and CEO Mike Schipper 616-383-9000.