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Have you ever wished you had a wingman or woman sitting alongside you while working? Microsoft 365 Copilot could be the answer for you.
M365 Copilot was announced in March 2023 and is currently in testing with a small group of customers. Copilot will work alongside users inside their Microsoft 365 apps to reduce the drudgery of many day-to-day activities and reconnect people to the ‘soul’ of their work.
Copilot harnesses the power of next-generation generative AI by combining the power of large language models (LLMs) with data stored inside Microsoft Graph (e.g., your calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings, and contacts). It also works effectively with other Microsoft 365 apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and so on) to benefit individual workers and organisations alike.
How does Copilot work?
As above, M365 Copilot uses natural language processing to generate text. These programs are trained in billions of words and can speak seemingly ‘naturally’ to users when prompted with a question or instruction.
Copilot also uses data stored in Microsoft Graph to personalise and contextualise results for each user. For example, if you ask it to prepare some meeting notes ahead of time, it will use the permitted information from inside your organisation to create a relevant and coherent draft.
Copilot is integrated into M365 in two ways: as an embedded feature in the Microsoft 365 applications and as a standalone experience called Business Chat. The latter is essentially a new app through which users can chat with Copilot and request it to do things. It’s also worth noting that Microsoft 365 Copilot – like all M365 applications – is designed to be secure. It complies with Microsoft's commitments to data privacy and protection and does not store or share your data outside of your organisation.
Microsoft 365 Copilot aims to transform work in three ways:
- Fostering creativity – Copilot helps generate content, ideas, insights, and more. It can be used to write documents, create presentations, design graphics, and so on. The user, however, is always in control and Copilot can simply be used to drive ideas forward, e.g., by asking it to shorten, reword, or give feedback.
- Boosting productivity – Copilot is designed to lighten the load by doing our ‘busywork’ for us. From summarising documents to formatting data and suggesting quick email replies, Copilot can save time and effort.
- Uplevelling skills – By prompting Copilot to give feedback, offer explanations, or rewrite text, e.g., it can be used to improve users’ writing, communication, collaboration, and learning skills. Essentially, it’s a tool that makes us better at what we’re good at and that also assists in learning new skills while we’re at it.
Some key features of Microsoft 365 Copilot
Copilot will evolve over time (probably very quickly), but some of the features we can expect to see from the outset include:
Copilot is always ‘on’, it provides contextual suggestions as you work, and, e.g., can help draft emails, create documents, and generate code. It also anticipates your needs, offering relevant content and saving you valuable time.
By recognising patterns in your work, Copilot can automate repetitive tasks, e.g., scheduling meetings, organising files, and creating reports. It can also help users complete time-consuming tasks more quickly by, for example, summarising articles or offering deep insights from customer data.
Collaboration and knowledge sharing
Copilot facilitates seamless collaboration by providing intelligent suggestions during meetings, brainstorming sessions, and team discussions. It also helps users find relevant information and insights, enhancing the overall effectiveness of your teamwork.
Copilot is intelligent and will adapt to your work style and preferences over time. It learns from your actions, analyses data patterns, and customises suggestions accordingly. It's truly like a personal assistant and its side bar stays consistent across your apps, programs and windows.
Microsoft 365 Copilot is a powerful new AI assistant that has the potential to revolutionise the way we work. At this stage, it is still within its development cycle, but it has the potential to save us time, improve our accuracy, and enhance our creativity. If you are looking for a way to be more productive, then Microsoft 365 Copilot is a great option.
Richard Hutchings is Chief Technology Officer at Littlefish, a managed IT and cyber security services provider based in the UK.