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Copilot for Microsoft 365 – from a CEO’s perspective

28 Jun 2024

It’s been about a year since Microsoft first introduced Copilot for Microsoft 365 for selected customers. There has been a lot of excitement ignited by this ground-breaking technology, but also a great fear of the unknown. What will happen if we give employees access to Copilot for Microsoft 365? What information will they be able to access? Is our corporate information safe? With a year’s experience working with customers and our own employees at Storyals with Copilot for Microsoft 365, a lot has crystallized, and as the CEO of Storyals I thought I would share my experience and recommendations with you.

Generative AI: A Year of Unprecedented Adoption and Hype

Copilot for Microsoft 365 was first introduced in May 2023. At the time it was limited to 600 selected enterprise customers in a private preview. In November 2023, Copilot for Microsoft 365 was made generally availabe to any organization that committed to at least 300 users, paid upfront for a full year. There was a definite “hype” around this new technology that was fueled by the overall frenzy over ChatGPT. And the hype was real – the end user adoption of ChatGPT was unforeseen. Where it took the Internet 7 years to reach a global audience of 100 million users, it took ChatGPT a mere 3 months.

Paragrah Copilot vs Internet

Source: Microsoft Copilot Customer Success Kit

Microsoft’s strategic alliance with OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, positioned them to offer both consumers and commercial customers access to this powerful AI technology under the Copilot brand. However, as with all corporate tools, adoption is not viral, changing the way people work takes time and effort.

Lead the Change - Start with Copilot with Commercial Data Protection

Leaders can't ignore the rise of AI in the workplace, or passively let it be used without control. The 2024 Work Trend Index shows that 75% of global knowledge workers already use generative AI, and 78% of them bring their own AI tools to work.

My advice to CxOs is to lead the change. Generative AI will benefit organizations in all sectors and industries, but the tools need to be managed by your organization and employees need guidance on ethical and responsible use.

 

If you have Microsoft 365 as your digital workplace platform, your users can access Copilot in Edge (with commercial data protection) as part of their existing license. This is a powerful generative AI tool that many leaders and users don't know about. The benefit of Copilot in Edge is that it does not have access to any of your corporate data and anything your users type/paste into the prompt is kept safe and will not be used to train the model (unlike free online AI tools). My recommendation is that you inform your employees that you support and encourage the use of AI in a responsible and ethical way. Run an awareness campaign where you inform them of the corporate AI tools they have access to and their responsibilities as of using them.

 

You can use Storyals' AI policy as an example, which we have published on our website and included in our mandatory training. Once users get the hang of using Copilot in Edge to improve their texts, complete their sentences and summarize long texts, they will want more. That's when they are ready for Copilot for Microsoft 365 - the version of Copilot that has access to your corporate data and is integrated into the Microsoft 365 productivity apps (that costs an additional USD 30 per user per month).

Make Copilot for Microsoft 365 available as an option

Initially, there was a bigger hurdle for organizations to get started using Copilot for Microsoft 365. Today, Copilot for Microsoft 365 is available for organizations of all sizes - and, you can purchase any number of licenses. This means that you can purchase licenses only for those for whom the investment makes sense. This way, users who have the will to embrace new modern ways of working, and show the commitment to learn by going through the mandatory training, can do so using professional, managed AI tools. Also, advanced analytics are available as part of the platform to track how much and how often Copilot for Microsoft 365 is used. If the employee does not use it proficiently, the license can be handed over to another employee. We advise organizations to emphasize in the training and onboarding of Copilot for Microsoft 365 that the license can be revoked if it is not used properly for optimal business results.

Don’t believe the Copilot for Microsoft 365 commercials

If you watch the YouTube Shorts by Microsoft, you will see a preppy woman happily smiling as she goes through her mailbox with “a breeze” with the help of Copilot for Microsoft 365. The reality is, that even though the technology is extraordinary and the results from time to time are astonishing, Copilot for Microsoft 365 is still in its infancy. The time saved, and the great results achieved, need to be balanced with the many disappointments or failed attempts of getting the result you would expect. The ROI shouldn’t just be focused on time/productivity vs. the cost of the license. You need to look at “the bigger picture”. Without a doubt, users who start using Copilot for Microsoft 365 actively will over time produce higher-quality work in a shorter amount of time and your business with benefit.

Secure your data – but don’t delay your AI initiatives too long

So what about the fears of security and data being exposed to users who have Copilot for Microsoft 365 licenses? Undoubtedly, protecting information from unauthorized access is a top priority - always! With that said, Copilot for Microsoft 365 does not grant users any additional access to information that they are not authorized to see. Therefore, the security and privacy of your data depend on how well you manage your access permissions, regardless of whether you use Copilot for Microsoft 365 or not. We recommend that CxOs establish a strong information security policy before using Copilot for Microsoft 365, but they should not postpone the advantages that Copilot for Microsoft 365 brings – especially for senior executives who already have high-level permissions. Also, since there is a risk of users bringing their own AI tools for work without IT oversight, it might be safer to offer them corporate tools that have built-in safeguards.

Embrace AI in the workplace sooner rather than later

In conclusion, Copilot for Microsoft 365 is an innovative and evolving technology that can help users produce higher-quality work in less time. However, it is not just a productivity tool, but a strategic decision for CxOs who want to make their organization more attractive to the top talent of the future. There will likely become a significant gap between those who embrace AI and those who don't, and leaders need to ensure that they are on the right side of the digital divide. Hence, I advise CxOs to embrace Copilot for Microsoft 365 (and other AI-powered productivity tools) as a key component of their long-term digital workplace strategy, along with strong information security and investments in digital upskilling.

 

- Ulrika Hedlund, CEO Storyals

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