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Becoming AI Ready


Ever since Microsoft bought into OpenAI’s ChatGPT, it has been busy developing ways in which AI will be useful to every worker in the workplace. The newly emerging product is called ‘Copilot’, and it promises to offer companies and individuals the freedom from what Microsoft calls ‘digital debt’ - the excessive inflow of data, emails, meetings and notifications.

In its recent Work Trend Index annual report, Microsoft identified that; - nearly 2 in 3 people (64%) say they struggle with having the time and energy to do their job in the allotted hours, and because of this they are 3.5 times more likely to feel unable to release their best creative thinking and innovation ideas.


Microsoft’s line of thinking is that by automating away some of the more mundane and frustrating parts of jobs, ie. inefficient meetings, responding to emails, searching for information, etc., time can be released for the more interesting aspects of jobs.

However, to harness the full potential of using AI products such as Copilot, it will involve, for many, a switch of mindset away from the trepidation of experimentation with AI to one of embracing new ways of working that are now only possible because of AI.


The immediate future is about becoming AI ready. Currently around 73% of workers have no experience of AI tools (results from Leadership IQ - AI Readiness and the Road Ahead). This is further broken down into 31% having no experience, 32% are at beginner level and 10% as struggling novices. (The full study has tabulated results from interviews with 1,148 Executives and Managers in the US).


The results bear out the fact, that if employees had less trepidation about the use of AI and replaced this with eager anticipation, then it would allow them the freedom to discover new ways of working with AI.


Microsoft has already launched Copilot 365 to a select number of American large enterprise clients in March 2023, and in June 2023, expanded the availability of the product to an invited list of 600 customers. It is an AI-powered productivity tool that uses large language models (LLMs). The product which is expected to generate billions for Microsoft will probably not be on general release until around Christmas 2023 in the UK.


We are promised that Copilot is ChatGPT on steroids (Forbes July 12 2023) and it has taken ChatGPT to a whole new level. Soon it will be infused into every Microsoft product, primarily focusing on their Office 365 applications, but it will also be seen in Bing and other platforms such as Azure.


There are a variety of tasks that Copilot will be able to help with; it will be able to create proposals from the notes taken in OneNote, add artwork, turn this into a PowerPoint presentation, generate graphs, add new slides and create speaker notes! In Excel it will be useful to identify trends, generate graphs and charts and, if asked, can suggest better formulae to use.


Copilot can also be asked to recap a Teams meeting (if you logged on late), identify the main thrust of the meeting and be able to summarise it for you. It can make sense of multiple meeting feeds and chats, and will be able to get you up to speed fast. It is just like having a real human assistant!


As Copilot uses large language models (LLMs) to bring in data, it will look not just within the company, but also anywhere outside. It will conduct a sweep of information from Outlook messages, databases, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, SharePoint files and any other internal (and external) source that it is allowed to access. However, some of this amassed information will not be correct.


Therefore, although Copilot is exceedingly clever, it is not in control; as much of the amassed information will not always be accurate or complete. It will still require the careful and strategic analysis by a human to systematically go through the charts, notes, formulae, and presentations provided to it, to polish the results.

The early signs are that Copilot will save company employees huge amounts of time, increase company revenues, and grow profits, giving them the time back they need to be creative and innovative.


Janet Butler 17 August 2023

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