Lightbulb Technology

AI and Microsoft 365: A Powerful Partnership called Copilot

Sharp UK's Director of Technology, Simon Jefferies explores Microsoft Copilot AI and answers key questions regarding it.

Microsoft has built a service in Microsoft 365 over past years, providing organisations with a platform to host their critical services, data, devices, and users. As a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, Microsoft continues to introduce developments and enhancements which further improve user experience. All with the goal of streamlining how people undertake their day to day work activities.

More recently, Microsoft has invested heavily in OpenAI – the company that developed ChatGPT which has captivated us all in recent months, by demonstrating the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI platforms like these can now evaluate questions and combine the most relevant content it has indexed to provide users with an accurate response and output. This technology has now been integrated into their Bing search engine, and a competitor of Google is also developing their AI tech.

The OpenAI technology is now being brought to the Microsoft 365 platform in the form of a service known as ‘Copilot’, a chatbot that will assist with many day to day tasks across the entire Microsoft 365 suite. The idea being that AI can take over repetitive elements of day to day work tasks, allowing users to be more creative and productive, focusing on what’s most important.

Many of us use the Microsoft apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.) in our daily work lives and have done for many years. There are however many features that we rarely leverage. Copilot is designed to allow us to become more productive and leverage these features, here are  some examples of how Copilot can help us:

  • Analysis of emails, providing suggested replies.
  • Ability to listen in on a Teams meeting, highlighting key points and suggesting actions based on these.
  • Creation of an entire PowerPoint presentation from a Word document, for example, a written proposal for a client can be transformed into an interactive presentation.

Another interesting area of the Microsoft 365 suite is the Power Platform, something that many will not have heard of or used. The Power Platform provides several business intelligence and automation tools that help you connect Microsoft 365 apps, data, and services. With Power Platform we can visualise data, create automation and build low-code apps to streamline business processes. Through Copilot, there is the potential to have these created for us by simply asking a question.

In addition, Copilot also offers a feature called Business Chat in which Copilot scans all data across your Microsoft 365 platform to provide insights. There is a plethora of data we produce and retain and being able to ask Copilot to search for information and provide a summary is a real game changer. It will enable users to quickly search data about a specific subject, person, or project from SharePoint, email, chats, OneDrive, etc. in seconds.

What does AI mean for Microsoft 365?

Many of us will have used Chat GPT and will know the capability of an AI engine. This technology built into the Microsoft 365 suite is going to take the platform to the next level, allowing us to increase productivity, analyse our data better, and create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations at the click of a button.

Is there a data privacy concern?

Naturally, many will ask how much AI is learning about us as individuals and what happens to that data. Everyone is already aware that data is already being collected through our devices, analysed by organisations to help understand behaviours and buying habits.  Web browsers record the sites we visit, loyalty cards analyse what we buy and now AI will understand how our organisations operate and how we work.

Data stored in Microsoft 365 should not bring any additional risks. Microsoft adopt and adhere to many different data regulation standards, and these won’t change. Of course, more data will be gathered for analysis, which already happens in the platform as it stands. The data we store in Microsoft 365 is at more risk for malicious activity, poor configuration and users copying data to unmanaged devices and locations.

Will AI take over job roles as it continues to develop?

AI and technology itself are and will continue to replace some jobs, this is a well-known fact. There are already some industries where employees have lost their jobs. However, naturally, as AI technology advances it will create additional jobs in tech and AI industries themselves, such as robotics and software engineering. When it comes to knowing if AI-related job losses will impact every industry, it’s hard to know at this time, but it’s not likely AI will replace or replicate everything without some degree of human input.

Overall, AI is being built into everyday tools to increase efficiency by enabling us to complete tasks and activities more quickly. Copilot will only build on this, enhancing our productivity and efficiency in the workplace. It will make some of the other toolsets in Microsoft 365 much more accessible and enable us to build automation into everyday tasks. Copilot has the ability to eliminate the repetitive tasks that many of us undertake daily, as well as help bring teams together to work more efficiently.

Copilot is an exciting and interesting new technology that I look forward to exploring further once Microsoft makes it widely available.