Implementing AI Within Existing Business Systems: Microsoft 365 Copilot

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Key Takeaways

  • For Microsoft users, M365 Copilot provides an accessible and secure point-of-entry into harnessing the power of AI within existing business systems.
  • Copilot empowers users to increase efficiencies within their existing applications and workflows using natural language processing but must be configured properly to ensure data security.
  • To deploy AI — or any new technology — successfully, organizations must create a long-term digital strategy.

Tech giants like Salesforce, NetSuite, and Microsoft have all launched in-platform AI tools to enhance their capabilities. The easiest way for most organizations to start harnessing the power of AI is by utilizing the features built into their existing platforms.

For Microsoft users, M365 Copilot provides an accessible and secure point-of-entry into embarking on an AI journey that will fuel productivity and efficiency within their organizations.

The Intelligence Driving Microsoft Copilot

The intelligence driving Microsoft Copilot is a combination of large language models (LLMs), content from Microsoft Graph, and Microsoft 365 applications.

Because Microsoft retains exclusive rights to use the Open AI model — the leading LLM responsible for ChatGPT and Dall-E — M365 Copilot is the only AI productivity tool with access to its vast repository of data, giving users better, more valuable query responses.

Microsoft Graph, the API for Azure Active Directory, is the technology that allows users to access emails, chats, meeting invitations, documents, and more in Exchange, Teams, SharePoint, or OneDrive. Copilot leverages Microsoft Graph to learn about your organization and provide value-added insights to your end users.

Data from Microsoft Graph, coupled with information from your Microsoft applications, means the longer you’ve been using Microsoft tools, the more Copilot can learn about how you work and improve its response to queries. For example, Copilot will know to open PowerPoint when it is prompted to convert a document into a presentation. If an action is incorrect or unhelpful, user feedback helps improve its performance over time.

Copilot for Productivity

The 2023 Work Index annual report highlights the struggle the workforce is facing when it comes to digital debt, or the inability to keep up with the inflow of data. Sixty-four percent of people report they don’t have the time and energy to do their job. Sixty-eight percent say they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday. This has led to a stall in workplace creativity — two in three leaders are concerned by a lack of innovation on their teams.

Common efficiencies with Copilot include:

  • Summarizing long documents or Outlook e-mail threads
  • Drafting emails
  • Generating images
  • Getting answers for specific, complex questions
  • Recapping meetings and providing action items
Copilot leverages the power of generative AI and wraps it in a context that the user understands. This empowers users to increase efficiencies within their existing applications and workflows using AI’s natural language processing.

The above efficiencies can be driven with prompts like these:

  • “Transform this document into a 10-slide presentation.”
  • “Provide a summary of the updates and action items related to my sales campaign.”
  • “Write a session abstract of this presentation.”
  • “Check this framework for inconsistencies.”
  • “Recap this meeting transcript and provide a list of actions discussed.”

Copilot in Teams

Since 2020, the number of Teams meetings has increased 192%. With Copilot, users can ask questions about the meeting in real-time. For example, a user who is late to a meeting could ask Copilot, “What have I missed?” and receive a meeting summary up until that time. After the meeting, Copilot will compile meeting notes, including follow-up tasks, for all attendees.

Copilot in Outlook

Copilot can help manage email more effectively by sorting important emails, summarizing long conversations, and drafting replies. It can also manage overlapping calendar appointments with a “follow” feature that provides a follow-up and notes when the meeting ends.

Copilot in Word

From generating and editing text to transforming copy into visual tables, Copilot in Word helps create better content more efficiently, whether users are creating product descriptions, social media captions, or blog posts.

Copilot in Excel

Users can ask Copilot to analyze, summarize, or visualize data in their spreadsheets. Natural language prompts like “Analyze this data and provide three key trends” or “Help me visualize what contributed to this decline” save users time and eliminate manual, repetitive tasks.

Copilot in PowerPoint

With prompts like “Create a 15-slide presentation,” Copilot can create presentations from notes, meetings, or documents using original, AI-generated images for visuals.

Building a Long-Term AI Strategy

A Work Trend Index special report shows that early adopters of Copilot have seen significant efficiency and productivity gains. But getting the maximum value out of an AI initiative requires building a long-term strategy.

The fastest way to see a return on an investment in new technology is to ensure it is suited for your business challenges and is adopted by users. Helping your organization understand the capabilities and best use cases will drive the most business value.

While Copilot is a logical place for organizations to start, it’s not as simple as buying the licensing and having access. Copilot’s “secure by design” data infrastructure allows leaders to feel confident in the technology’s security and data protection, but there are still many configurations organizations must consider before launching, such as:

  • Security: It is necessary to ensure that the data Copilot is trained on is secure and that Copilot’s answers only expose internal data to users who are authorized to view that data.
  • Privacy: You must demonstrate that Copilot complies with your organization’s privacy policy through rigorous testing. For example, employees’ private HR data should only be shown to the user that the information applies to.
  • Compliance: If your organization has compliance requirements (PCI, HIPPA, FedRAMP, etc.), you will need to validate that your Copilot follows those regulations.

At Eide Bailly, we help organizations of all sizes on their digital journeys — from planning to execution. We use our combined business and technology expertise to ensure that our clients receive the maximum business value from their technology investments. And as a Microsoft Partner, we know the ins-and-outs of Copilot, so we can help you make the best decision for your organization when it comes to getting started with AI.

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About the Author(s)

Jeff Hensel

Jeff Hensel

Jeff helps clients develop strategies to leverage technology to meet their business vision and journey to becoming a digital organization. He develops longer-term strategic roadmaps, as well as shorter-term iterative execution plans to accomplish those goals.