Copilot for Microsoft 365: Our first impressions

Copilot for Microsoft 365 QuoStar first impressions

Copilot for Microsoft 365 was announced to much fanfare back in March 2023. It promises much: to free staff from the drudgery of day-to-day workplace tasks and in so doing unleash a new wave of productivity growth. But what’s the actual experience of using it like?

Our experts have had a few weeks to road test the tool. There are certainly some impressive features. But organisations should also be aware of what it can’t yet do, without them first spending significant extra time and resources on assessment and preparation of their data architecture.

What Copilot for Microsoft 365 does well

The bottom line is that Copilot for M365 can add value for employees using it for basic tasks in Teams, Excel, Word, Outlook and PowerPoint. In that respect, it could save users a few hours per month depending on their role. Here are our initial first thoughts:

  • The potential for time saving is clear to see, but doesn’t feel like the finished article just yet
  • Preparation needs to be done; organisations shouldn’t just dive right in
  • Word and PowerPoint Copilot work especially well for inspiration and a starting point in documents. But not to give you what you want without manual intervention.
  • It is worth the money. Even though we’ve not used Copilot to its full extent yet, users don’t need to be saving too much time in their workload for the ROI that under £30 a month provides
  • Time savings will just be the beginning. It could increase employee satisfaction, improve the quality of work and reduce digital debt
  • Remember that improper deployment without the right security measures may expose confidential company and employee details

Copilot for Microsoft 365 is particularly good at specific tasks/use cases. These include:

  • Effective meetings: Using Microsoft Teams CoPilot to take notes/summary enables users to concentrate on presenting and engaging.
  • Data Analysis: Bulky spreadsheets andare easily summarised, using CoPilot in Excel—whether that is producing diagrams, creating Pivot tables or projections.
  • Content Creation: Copilot in Word and PowerPoint is useful at providing starting documentation when users need inspiration, or for rewriting paragraphs with a different tone/language.
  • Email Processing: Copilot in Outlook can summarise emails when users have been out of the office, draft responses to emails, and rewrite emails with a different tone.

Where there’s AI, there’s risk

However, there is one major challenge for organisations wanting to jump into Copilot for Microsoft 365 from day one. It’s only as good as the policies and data they put in place. A lot of work needs to be done first to structure and segment corporate data correctly. This could run into the tens of thousands of pounds of consultancy work to review the data, understand how the organisation wants to structure it and then move it into the Microsoft cloud data storage ecosystem.

There’s a significant security and compliance dimension to this. Although we’re not talking about an open data ecosystem like ChatGPT (instead, data is restricted to an organisation’s Microsoft Graph and 365 apps) there is a risk of users inside the company accessing data they don’t have permissions to view.

Licensing costs and considerations

Stripping out the upfront costs mentioned above to get your data organised and structured, whilst the licensing cost per user for Copilot for Microsoft 365 may feel significant, it isn’t if organisations are genuinely saving those two hours per month per employee. Copilot is now available for just £27.30 per person per month, billed annually and upfront.

However, it’s worth remembering that licenses must be paid up front on an annual basis, and this will only get you the basic Copilot tool. Without an E5 license, organisations won’t have the required security functionality. There’s also functionality such as automatic subtitling of foreign language speakers that requires a premium Teams license.

Note that in order to benefit from those Teams capabilities listed above, the meeting organiser needs to have a Copilot license, which effectively means every employee needs one to be truly effective. This could significantly increase licensing costs across the organisation. Beware those hidden costs!

Organisations should also bear in mind user training is key to learn how to work with AI and provide the right prompts to get the information you need – we found the effectiveness of Copilot initially lower than expected until we knew the right questions to ask, and whilst Copilot is still developing, some time efficiencies may be eroded as users are forced to chop and change between apps.

Getting started with some quick wins

That said, there are things organisations can do today to extract value from Copilot for Microsoft 365. Consider the following tasks:

  • Summarising large volumes of emails in the mailbox to catch up/prioritise quickly
  • Drafting new emails at speed
  • Recapping Teams meetings
  • Creating new images at speed
  • Summarising lengthy documents
  • Finessing/rewriting existing content with a specific tone/audience in mind

However, to gain true value from the product, organisations will need to:

  • Reach out to third-party experts to assess and prepare:
  • Structure and segregate relevant corporate data
  • Work out data security, privacy and compliance controls
  • Purchase Copilot for Microsoft 365 and any relevant additional licenses
  • Expand and extend with third-party plugins. As the ecosystem grows, this could add significant value

It’s worth noting (as with all things Microsoft) the product is constantly evolving – Microsoft has recently announced incoming additional functionality, with Restricted SharePoint Search coming early April, focused on simplifying site audit permissions, and CoPilot for OneDrive scheduled for release in Late Aril / early May, which promised to hep users quickly retrieve information from files stored in OneDrive.

Microsoft has several resources to help organisations discover how the Copilot tool works, how to prepare their tenant, and the technical onboarding requirements for IT admins.

If you’re looking to introduce Copilot for Microsoft 365 into your organisation, get in touch with QuoStar today. Our team of Microsoft experts are here to help you get started.