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Published: 4th August 2023 | In: Tech Blog
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this year, you’ll be aware of a little thing called ‘Generative AI’. It’s a tool that can create, from scratch, content like text, images and even video. The cool thing about this is it’s able to interpret and comprehend human language (finally something we can really talk to), hence why you’ve heard of ChatGPT. In collaboration, OpenAI, the company behind it, and Microsoft have come together to embed this Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT) technology into Microsoft cloud technology. This is being marketed as CoPilot (being a copilot to the human being).
There are going to be several different Copilots, that will each be aligned to specialisms such as Office, Security and coding to name a few. But one that’s really got everyone talking is Microsoft 365 CoPilot. This will allow you to combine a chatbot with creation within Microsoft Work, Teams and PowerPoint. If you’ve not seen it yet take a look at this short intro video.
A brief overview of Microsoft 365 Copilot and its benefits
Just some of the use cases allow you to do great things such as pulling in your notes from OneNote of a meeting and building a whole proposal based on your human direction through chatting to Microsoft Word and combining that with your notes to create an output. Writing ‘prompts’ to CoPilot to say something like “Summarise my notes with this meeting, and provide a structure that outlines the insights, and topics that will create a business proposal”.
The idea behind this technology is to perform tasks even quicker and more efficiently. It’s not like this technology is going to replace a human being, but it acts as a powerful tool to do more of the exciting things in work than pulling together your notes.
Just think if you’re using Microsoft Teams today for meetings, this can summarise key discussion points including who said what. What actions were assigned to whom, and the full action list! This all can happen in real-time, so no need to take detailed minutes anymore.
Microsoft has tried to make this solution as transparent as possible, with the core benefits of using these tools over and above productivity, being the fact that security and privacy are built-in by incorporating various features and settings to protect users’ personal data. It provides granular privacy settings that allow users to control who can see their data, including calendar, email, and documents, and offers data encryption both in transit and at rest using industry-standard protocols.
The platform supports robust access control models, enabling administrators to restrict access to sensitive data based on user roles, permissions, and group membership. Additionally, it supports multi-factor authentication (MFA), requires regular password resets, and provides detailed auditing and reporting capabilities. Microsoft 365 Copilot stores data in secure data centres that are protected by robust physical and digital security measures, and the company conducts regular privacy impact assessments to identify and mitigate privacy concerns.
The importance of preparing for the transition to Microsoft 365 Copilot
At the end of the day, as with any data or technology, if you’re not set up for success, then things won’t work as intended. Although this generative AI seems to work like magic it still depends on the information you’re providing it, and the data it’s looking at. You might have some cleaning up to do before you start getting to search your entire data estate.
Talking about search, there’s a concept called Semantic Index for Copilot, which, although it’s not released yet, will create a map of your user and company data, so you can more simply ask CoPilot questions like, “August Sales Report”. If doesn’t just look for any document with that name, but instead, it understands that it’s the report created by Jane in the Sales team and created within Excel. This is the next generation in search and indexing within Microsoft 365. There’s also talk of its extensibility for third-party connectors.
Preparing for Microsoft 365 Copilot as an organisation
Assessing your current environment will be the first step in readiness for CoPilot. You’ve still got time as there’s no published timescales yet about when this is coming, but it won’t be long.
Data security is a challenge for any organisation, however, Quorum Cyber can provide not only an impact assessment for how CoPilot will work in your business, but what to turn on and configure such as data loss prevention (DLP), insider risk, Microsoft Defender services at the endpoint. This is all to prevent oversharing of information or CoPilot access to information unintentionally or intentionally. This is one of the benefits and challenges of having a technology that can fully understand data and surface information that users shouldn’t have access to.
There’s another toolset from Microsoft that we believe will be inherently useful in automating much of this need, through automatically classifying content, metadata understanding and data modelling. This is called Microsoft Syntex and combined with Viva Topics these tools can be used to surface information with the business as a knowledge base – now, wouldn’t that be useful? (Again, this is something that Quorum Cyber can assist with.)
List of steps to assess the current environment
Here’s how you could get started right now:
- Identify existing applications and services – what things are going to be the most useful in your organisation? Let’s start a plan rather than just seeing what sticks. The announcements include this new service to cost $30 per user per month, so if you’re happy with paying for everyone to have the benefit then great! But if not, how will you decide who gets this productivity tool?
- Review data storage and management practices – this should be done regardless but having a clear policy on what information you keep and what to delete is a great start to data governance. Building a map of your data repositories even just as a paper exercise will help you understand what information might be useful for CoPilot to look at.
- Start building your own generative AI policies. Define what this technology is going to provide within your business and some rules around data handling.
Training and adoption
As with any Microsoft technology the reasons why your team members should be using this technology, what’s in it for them, and how to use the tools to the best of their ability is paramount. Here’s a question, who knows all the features possible within Microsoft Excel, even today? There might be something you do manually today – like pivot tables – that you’re never learnt to streamline.
The reason why this technology is here to stay isn’t just because it’s the coolest thing on the block at the moment, it’s because it’s the biggest, most useful thing that humans can interact with like anything before. Chatbots have been around for years now but to be able to point it at any information it can not only comprehend the question, but piece together and interpret the answer you want. Any organisation not looking at AI today will be struggling to keep up with others that are using these tools. Remember that this technology is designed to work alongside human beings and not as a replacement.
Here’s a list of relevant links and materials for further reading:
If this is all too much, we’re at hand to assist with any questions about this. We can provide impact assessments for Microsoft CoPilot and how to ready your organisation for this.
We also provide an overarching Data Security Assessment.