Jul 01 2024
Digital Workspace

What Should Small Businesses Know About Microsoft’s Copilot Pro?

Businesses using the Microsoft 365 suite have a powerful new tool.

There are moments when businesses must decide whether a new tech offering represents the future or is just a passing fad. If they choose correctly, they can give themselves a competitive advantage. If not, their rivals may gain the upper hand.

The introduction of the cloud was one such moment. The dawning of the generative artificial intelligence era is another. To their credit, the business leaders I speak to recognize that generative AI is no passing trend. On the contrary, they’re trying to figure out how to securely leverage it to benefit their own organizations.

But that’s not easy. Generative AI is such a new development that both the possibilities and the risks remain opaque.

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What Is Microsoft Copilot?

That’s why Copilot Pro, a new offering by Microsoft, is so exciting. For most users of Microsoft 365, a basic version of Copilot is free, giving organizations the opportunity to experiment with it.

What is Copilot? If you’ve used Microsoft’s Bing Chat Enterprise, then you’re already familiar with the version of Copilot that’s free to most users of the Microsoft suite; Microsoft simply rebranded Bing Chat Enterprise and baked it into Office. Copilot helps users get information that an ordinary web search can’t, and it can help compose emails, proposals, articles and memos. 

Many workers are already experimenting with ChatGPT and similar large language models to help them draft business documents and conduct research. The free version of Copilot is a nice feature of Microsoft 365 that allows leaders and employees to do that in a secure way, delivering the productivity benefits of AI without employees turning to models outside the organization, where they might be inputting sensitive data.

The Paid Model of Copilot Is Revolutionary

However, a far more powerful, premium version of Copilot is also now available to organizations. Leveraged correctly, it has the potential to be transformational. But it’s not available for free, and before splurging, organizations would be wise to understand exactly what they’re getting and how to safely use it.

The main difference between the free and paid versions of Copilot is that the latter can be configured to look deep into your own environment and provide detailed, customized help.

For example, the free version of Copilot might help an HR employee get started on a memo on a topic such as workplace bullying, perhaps providing a general definition, some high-level examples of unacceptable workplace behavior and some best practices. It would draw on public sources to respond to the employee’s prompts.

But suppose this memo was also intended to provide colleagues with a reminder about the main points of the organization’s own policy on workplace bullying. That’s where the HR employee would have to take over; Copilot would not have the requisite knowledge about the organization’s policies to write such a memo.

But what if it did have that knowledge? Suppose that Copilot were configured to search the company’s HR files, the employee’s emails and Microsoft Teams chats, the organization’s PowerPoint presentations, and anything else that might be relevant. In that scenario, Copilot might become an expert in the organization’s bullying policy and be a far more powerful tool in the employee’s toolbox.

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How CDW Can Help You Implement Copilot

That’s the promise of the more advanced version of Copilot: It can scan an organization’s own data and become an expert on that organization’s business, people and customers, helping its employees prepare detailed business proposals, prepare for vital meetings and much more. That’s why it’s potentially transformative.

But perhaps you can see why I also say that businesses must understand what they’re getting and how to work with it securely. With AI that can scan all an organization’s data, it’s vital that the organization configures permissions carefully, lest employees ask it questions that lead to the discovery of confidential information that they are not authorized to see — salaries, for example, or performance reviews.

It’s also vital that the organization’s data be optimized for Copilot’s purposes; the technology won’t be of much value if it can’t find vital information or understand what it sees.

DIG DEEPER: Adopt artificial intelligence the right way for your organization.

A crucial step in this process is the Copilot Readiness Assessment. This is where we help customers get data ready for Copilot to access and ensure that the data is secure and well governed.

Another big part of succeeding with AI is devising a plan that includes a vision for what the business can achieve with it. Our Readiness Workshop can help deepen your understanding of what Microsoft 365 Copilot can do for your organization. During the workshop, we’ll help you define next steps and develop a timeline to implement the solution, plus define the scope of any technical and licensing prerequisites standing in your way.

Generative AI is going to be a game changer for businesses. And Microsoft’s Copilot is a great way for businesses to get started on their AI journey. But before you leap in, let’s have a conversation.

This article is part of BizTech's AgilITy blog series.  

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