Copilot: What Is It… and How Will It Change the Way We Work?
Generative AI (aka GenAI) and ChatGPT were the new buzzwords of 2023. Well, in 2024, it’s Copilot. Microsoft has released their new Copilot product line that will apply generative AI to solutions we’ve used for decades with the hope of improving the quality/quantity (or both) of work. You, no doubt, have many questions. Let’s start with the obvious.
What Is Copilot?
First off, Copilot is not an application. It’s AI-based virtual companions or assistants based on the power of large language models that take on different forms. There are two primary flavors: Microsoft Copilot and Copilot for Microsoft 365.
Beyond these two flavors there are other Copilots Microsoft has created like Copilot in Windows 11 (as a PC settings and generative assistance AI tool built into the OS), GitHub Copilot (for developers), Security Copilot (which pulls data from Sentinel, Defender, Intune to improve threat insight), Power Platform Copilot (for smart app development), Dynamics 365 Copilot (for greater insight into sales, marketing, supply chain and more).
These, and others in development, all have their own power and purpose, but let’s focus on the two flavors above from a user perspective.
The difference between the two is that Microsoft Copilot, formerly known to us as Bing Chat, is free (no subscription required) and provides generic responses to inquiries, can help with coding, document or email content creation or revision of existing text to improve grammar or overall professionalism, image generation, and more. If you have tried out ChatGPT you’ll be comfortable with Microsoft Copilot (https://copilot.microsoft.com/).
Copilot for Microsoft 365
The Copilot for Microsoft 365 experience includes Microsoft 365 Chat, which goes beyond generic combing of the Internet to assist with your work problems, but it uses your Microsoft Graph data (emails, meetings, files, chats and so forth) to provide a more personalized response to your requests.
It does come at a cost (an additional $30 per user per month so long as you have a Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 license to start) but in return it provides enterprise level security and compliance and integrates with your Microsoft 365 Apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook Teams and more).
How Will Copilot(s) Change the Way We Work?
It’s hard to explain the value of an AI virtual assistant if you have never used one. But once you have, you do not want to go back. Imagine having an assistant by your side day-to-day and that assistant eliminates time-intensive aspects of projects you’re involved in. Perhaps they transcribe your notes, build PowerPoint decks for you to review and improve, draft up email templates you confirm before sending, and much more.
That’s exactly what Copilot for Microsoft 365 can do, and why people who have already started to use those copilots are saying it’s well worth the additional $30 per user per month and they “cannot work without it” going forward.
Organizations have some decisions to make. The price point may make it somewhat prohibitive to deploy universally but considering the potential return on investment and wide range of value for Microsoft 365 users, we will see it deployed more widely than originally thought. But there is a key to the overall success of AI assistants like Copilot: training.
Utilization of Copilot requires users to learn the functional basics of how to request Copilot to assist them in day-to-day tasks like summarizing a meeting in Teams, creating a base PowerPoint, makes the tone of your email sound more professional, and so on. But, another key learning aspect is the conceptual so that users can go beyond the basics and begin to really push the limits of what Copilot can do. And, with the proper training provided through company policy the ethical use of AI will be clear, understood… and followed.
Microsoft has an important reminder on their site regarding Copilot (Microsoft Copilot help & learning)… that Copilot is NOT autopilot. Review, moderate, and iterate. As exciting as it is to contemplate a future with endless Copilots to assist us, creativity is driven by you… the human.
At least for now. 😉