Microsoft 365 Copilot Brings Generative AI To Teams, Word And More
Wade Tyler Millward
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Copilot tools represent “a new era of computing.”
Microsoft revealed that Copilot AI tools similar to what users of GitHub and content-generating programs such as ChatGPT have experienced are available to select users of applications including Teams, Outlook, Word, Excel and Power Platform.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a presentation Thursday streamed live over Microsoft social media network LinkedIn that the Copilot tools represent “a new era of computing” when content-generating artificial intelligence (AI) becomes as integral as keyboards and multi-touch.
“We believe this next generation of AI will unlock a new wave of productivity growth, with powerful copilots designed to remove the drudgery from our daily tasks and jobs, freeing us to rediscover the joy of creation,” Nadella said.
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Microsoft Brings Generative AI To Teams, Word, Other Apps
Microsoft and other enterprise application vendors such as Google Cloud and Salesforce have been racing to deliver AI tools to customers that can cut out repetitive tasks and generate new content based on existing customer content.
For now, Microsoft is testing Microsoft 365 Copilot with 20 commercial customers, eight in the Fortune 500, according to the company. “In the coming months,” Microsoft will release pricing and licensing information, bring Copilot to all productivity apps, expand previews to more customers and provide controls information to IT administrators for planning.
Microsoft will share more information at its March 27 Enterprise Connect event and April 20 Microsoft Viva Summit, according to the company.
Microsoft also unveiled Business Chat, a natural language prompt that works across applications, documents, emails, contacts, Teams chats and other sources to generate status updates. Select users can access Business Chat in Microsoft365.com, Bing or in Teams.
Microsoft Power Platform has a number of Copilot features in preview, according to Microsoft.
One of the few Copilot features now generally available is automated email replies with Copilot in Viva Sales. Automated email replies can be generated by sellers with proposed meeting times based on calendar availability in Outlook, according to Microsoft.
Copilot Promises For Microsoft 365
Users can have Copilot generate first drafts of event invitations, for example, pulling in information from emails and adding photos from Microsoft OneDrive. It can also create early drafts of speeches.
Users can also instruct Copilot to shorten the writing, add more details, change the tone and change word spacing to make content easier to read. Humans will always have the final say on Copilot produced content, according to Microsoft.
Copilot can create customer proposals using OneNote files and other internal documents. The tool will structure the proposal in your typical style, insert product images and even add a summary or frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.
“You’re not going to send this off to a customer without a thorough review,” Sumit Chauhan, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Office product group, said during the presentation. “But Copilot still saved you tons of time in the process.”
In Teams, Copilot can allow users to follow a meeting they aren’t attending and watch a recap once the meeting ends. Users can view content shared during the meeting, notes and action items.
If the user sees that a particular customer was mentioned during the meeting, the user can ask Copilot for more details. Copilot will provide citations and a snippet of the transcript.
In a live meeting, Copilot can summarize what’s happened so far and who said what piece of information. Copilot can also tell meeting attendees what questions have gone unresolved.
Copilot can summarize Teams chats and customer conversations with citations.
In PowerPoint, for example, users can instruct Copilot to find an image and add in slide transitions. Copilot can generate speaker notes. It can also turn Word documents into PowerPoint presentations and PowerPoint presentations into Word documents.
In Excel, for example, Copilot can analyze quarterly sales results and give users key trends, according to Microsoft. It can create a new Excel sheet for experimenting and getting a better understanding of user requests without altering the original data. Copilot can create visualizations as well.
In another example, in Outlook, Copilot can highlight the most important emails, summarize long email threads and draft replies pulling in data from Excel files. Users can also change the writing style.
GA Copilot Features In Viva Sales
Some Copilot in Viva Sales features are now generally available, according to Microsoft.
Users can refine the generated response with additional prompts and hover over any highlighted areas of text to see the data source behind the generated reply. And users can rate the generated content with a thumbs up or down to help refine future replies.
With Copilot and Viva Sales, users can scan any customer relationship management (CRM) data to get account overviews, recent customer engagements and other information.
Copilot can look at company sales material to tell salespeople how to answer customers who want a comparison with competitors.
At the end of meetings, Copilot recaps the call, outlines next steps and puts the details in the CRM. Unlike intelligent meeting recaps in Microsoft Teams, Copilot in Viva Sales is connected to CRM data to add more context and tone to customer conversations.
All Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and Premium licensed customers have Viva Sales available with no additional cost, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft Power Platform Copilot Previews
Copilot in Power Platform aims to allow users to describe in natural language an application, workflow or bot they want built, and Copilot can build that in seconds.
In Power Platform, Copilot can notify users to urgent account support issues and write a summary of the problem, post the problem to Teams and tag the coworkers needed.
Copilot in Power Apps can generate a data table for an app based on the described purpose and add back-end logic.
A version of Copilot in Power Automate dubbed “describe it to design it” has been in preview since October, according to Microsoft. Users can build new flows with natural language inputs. More Copilot features are due “in the coming months.”
Previews for Copilot in Power Virtual Agents include natural language commands to build bots to collect user email address and phone numbers for event planning, among other tasks. The previews are available in the U.S. and in English for now.
Users can add trigger phrases, questions, entity, messages, variables and logic to the bots. They can summarize information collected from users into a graphical adaptive card with JSON for the card automatically generated. And they can add message variations based on what bot users ask.
“We all have unique and sometimes tedious tasks we wish could be automated,” Charles Lamanna, Microsoft corporate vice president for business applications and platform, said during Thursday’s presentation. “At Microsoft, we have incredible workflow and automation tools, but they’re not always accessible to everyone. Copilot unlocks all of that.”
How Copilot Works
Microsoft 365 Copilot builds on the Redmond, Wash.-based vendor’s Dynamics 365 Copilot announced earlier this month. Microsoft subsidiary GitHub has had its own copilot that has helped developers code faster.
Nadella said Tuesday that a version of AI powering recommended websites to visit and videos to watch has become second nature to users, but this copilot type of AI Microsoft is introducing aims to make workers more productive and remove repetitive tasks from business processes.
Microsoft 365 Copilot uses large language models (LLMs) and the Microsoft Graph – which includes the content and context of emails, files, meetings, chats, calendars and other resources.
This Copilot system also uses Microsoft 365 applications – including Teams, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel, according to the company. The system is more than just a connection to ChatGPT.
Copilot LLMs are not trained on tenant data or prompts to avoid data leakage, according to Microsoft.
Copilot uses grounding to improve the quality of prompts to get users relevant and actionable information. Copilot uses post-processing to add more grounding calls, responsible AI checks, security compliance and privacy reviews before delivering a query response.
Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of modern work and business applications, said that the Copilot system goes through tens of thousands of commands in Microsoft 365 apps, trillions of signals in the Microsoft Graph and billions of parameters in the LLM.
“For the first time in human history, you can command all of this power using just your own words,” he said. “It will transform work as we know it.”
Spataro said that Copilot won’t be perfect, that Copilot will sometimes get information “usefully wrong.” But it will be “enterprise ready” and “backed by “Microsoft’s comprehensive approach to security, compliance, privacy and responsible AI.”
John Snyder, CEO of Durham, N.C.-based Microsoft partner Net Friends, told CRN in an interview that he’s excited by the vendor’s AI rollout and believes that MSPs can use those capabilities to help customers with their business. Snyder is especially excited for any AI capabilities that roll into the Intune cloud-based endpoint management system, he said. “In a perfect world, I’m following best practice, I’m getting inventory of all the different hardware software and data assets,” he said. “And if I can, as an MSP, using all of Microsoft’s heft and power – especially with all this ChatGPT buzz they’ve got – if they can help me start to prioritize after some machine learning cycles are spent and say, ‘Hey, here’s where we think – the rougher edges or the most risky parts of the business – here’s some ways to improve the security score.’ “I can’t wait to see stuff like that come together.”