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Microsoft Inspire events are held annually for all global partners and resellers. BCN’s CTO, product experts and tech teams give the highlights on their announcements below.
Microsoft has recently announced the introduction of Microsoft 365 Copilot, an AI-powered tool that combines the power of large language models with your data in the Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft 365 apps to turn your words into a powerful productivity tool. At Microsoft Inspire 2023, the company announced the next steps in their journey to empower every person on the planet to work in a new AI-powered way.
First, they are significantly expanding Bing to reach business audiences with Bing Chat Enterprise, delivering AI-powered chat for work.
Second, to help commercial customers plan, they are sharing that Microsoft 365 Copilot will be priced at USD30 per user, per month for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard, and Business Premium customers when broadly available.
Last but not least, they announced that there were multiple other Copilots being developed to augment other applications across the Microsoft stack.
Microsoft have launched a Chat GPT style experience that’s accessed through https://bing.com/chat, or the Bing sidebar. This allows customers to access the OpenAI LLM capabilities, with the additional benefit of being able to provide details that are internal to their business, without data being shared externally. This enables Users to provide context to their prompts and generate content that’s specific to their business.
Bing Chat also has web access, allowing Users to provide prompts that require web searching to provide additional detail. This enables use cases such as competitor comparisons from public website information.
Bing Chat for the Enterprise leverages Microsoft Entra ID & other Microsoft Cloud enterprise security features to protect business data and aligns with Microsoft’s AI Principles. All inputs and responses are encrypted in-transit to and from the backend model, and no data inputted to Bing Chat for Enterprise will be stored or used to train AI models, meaning Users can use confidential data in their interactions without fear of data leakage.
Bing Chat for the Enterprise is available to all Users assigned with an M365 Business Standard, Business Premium, M365 E3 or M365 E5 license. It will be enabled by default for all Users unless an organization explicitly opts out. There are also plans to make it available via a stand-alone SKU for $5 per month. There are no usage limitations currently.
As it will be enabled for users with qualifying licenses by default, this will be most organisations’ first foray into generative AI, and in a lot of cases their first AI experience. Organisations will have to either embrace the technology & prepare for it, or risk restricting users and hampering productivity. Some users will have played with the public ChatGPT instance individually, and this interface is designed to work in exactly the same way, with the addition of security around company data. This added security layer enables administrators to block the public version of ChatGPT for their employees but also provide a secure alternative. Users won’t lose functionality, and the business won’t have the risk of data being leaked; win-win.
Microsoft have been very explicit that they have incorporated enterprise security measures to safeguard confidential data. This should ensure peace of mind; however we’d suggest discussing with an expert any concerns, and those in public sector or regulated industries should research their compliance requirements. Customers can opt out of the service if they want to, and for heavily regulated companies this may be the best option initially.
However, on a recent Data & AI Webinar, Gartner suggested that “Copilot” could enter our vernacular in a similar way to “Google” or “Tweet” something has, so there are big expectations around the value it will bring to users. ChatGPT is already common knowledge worldwide and is being used to disrupt almost every industry out there; this release is the first step to bringing that disruption to your organization securely.
Employees are also becoming more aware of the technology that is out there to make their work lives easier, so providing support through Bing Chat is a strategic advantage when recruiting. By denying access or lagging behind, you risk missing out on the best talent out there.
Customers who don’t embrace AI are likely to fall behind the technology curve quickly as developments are moving at an accelerated rate. Bing chat is a simple first step, and a gateway to Copilot & other generative AI technologies.
Copilot is integrated deeply into Microsoft 365 across the full stack. It works alongside you, embedded in the Microsoft 365 apps you use every day—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and more—to unleash creativity, unlock productivity, and uplevel skills.
In terms of licensing, Microsoft announced that Copilot will be licensed as an M365 add-on at $30/user/month. This makes it an expensive addition to what some would consider an already expensive license.
This pricing was not plucked out of thin air. Microsoft have trialled this with 600 of their larger customers, and identified the price based on the feedback of the value the tool can bring to customers. Microsoft have made AI the centre of their strategy, and there must be real value there for them to come to this conclusion.
I’d expect a lot of organisations who are looking at Copilot will be looking to identify certain User personas to provide a license to, rather than blanket-licensing every User. For example, users who generate business collateral or sales content would benefit from the generative capabilities of Copilot within Outlook & Word, Execs will love the automated summarisation of meeting notes from Copilot in Teams, and power Excel users in finance teams would benefit from the conversational interface to generate formulae & gain insights.
It appears that there is an unbelievable amount of value to be achieved by embracing Copilot. Microsoft have bet BIG on generative AI & Copilot is the centrepiece, and Satya Nadella and team rarely get it wrong. However, there is still a lot to uncover, and the value must be proven, but I expect organizations who do embrace Copilot and emphasise it within their business, will have a big strategic advantage going forward.
For those looking to enable Copilot as soon as possible, there will be preparation and adoption phases to get M365 data ready. This will include a review of access permission models, data governance, & other data compliance activities to ensure the data being accessed is not confidential, & Copilot can only access what it is supposed to.
User awareness & basic training will also be key, particularly around “prompt engineering”. This is the process of enabling Users to get the most out of the AI tools by being able to ask the right questions, or input the right prompts. There is a real skill to inputting the right information to get the right response, and this will become a big part of maximizing the value of Copilots across the M365 stack and beyond.
Overall, it’s an exciting time for AI with these announcements, and also a massive opportunity for enterprises to take a thought leadership approach. Organisations will always look at the price tag, however if it can save an employee an hour or two a month then in most cases it’s already paid for itself. Copilot promises to do that and more, so it should always be thought about in terms of the value it can bring vs the cost.
Bing Chat is a great starting point for organisations and will help introduce the power of AI to the business, and will help get users ready for products like Copilot in the future. Those that embrace it & encourage use will put themselves in the best position to leverage AI to improve their business, those that don’t could well find themselves behind the curve as AI becomes a commodity in the future.
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