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March 17, 2023

Microsoft 365 Copilot brings generative AI to teams, Word and more

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 such as Teams, Outlook, Word, Excel and Power Platform.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during a presentation streamed live Thursday via 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 AI will unlock a new wave of productivity growth, with powerful co-pilots designed to remove the drudgery from our daily tasks and jobs, allowing us to rediscover the joy of creation,” Nadella said.

Microsoft brings generative AI to teams, Word, other apps

Microsoft and other enterprise application vendors such as Google Cloud and Salesforce are in the race to provide AI tools to customers that can eliminate repetitive tasks and generate new content based on existing customer content.

For now, Microsoft 365 Copilot is testing Microsoft 365 with 20 commercial customers, eight in the Fortune 500, the company said. “In the coming months, Microsoft will release pricing and licensing information, bring Copilot to all productivity apps, expand previews to more customers and provide control information to IT administrators for planning purposes.

Microsoft will share more information at the Enterprise Connect event on March 27 and the Microsoft Viva Summit on April 20, the company said.

Microsoft also unveiled Business Chat, a natural language prompt that works in applications, documents, emails, contacts, Teams chats and other sources to generate status updates. Certain users can access Business Chat in, 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 e-mail replies can be generated by vendors with suggested meeting times based on calendar availability in Outlook, according to Microsoft.

Source: Microsoft

Copilot promises for Microsoft 365

Users can have Copilot generate initial drafts of event invitations, for example, by retrieving information from emails and adding photos from Microsoft OneDrive. It can also make early drafts of speeches.

Users can also instruct Copilot to shorten writing, add more detail, change tone and word spacing to make content easier to read. People will always have the final say on Copilot-produced content, Microsoft said.

Copilot can create client proposals using OneNote files and other internal documents. The tool structures the proposal in your typical style, inserts product images and even adds a summary or frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

“You’re not going to send this 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 a lot of time in the process.”

In Teams, Copilot can allow users to follow a meeting they are not attending and view a summary once the meeting is over. Users can view content shared during the meeting, notes and action items.

If the user sees that a particular customer has been mentioned during the meeting, the user can ask Copilot for more information. Copilot will provide citations and an excerpt from the transcript.

In a live meeting, Copilot can summarize what has happened so far and who said what piece of information. Copilot can also tell meeting participants what questions remain unresolved.

Copilot can summarize Teams chats and client conversations with quotes.

In PowerPoint, for example, users can instruct Copilot to find an image and add slide transitions. Copilot can generate speaker notes. It can also convert Word documents into PowerPoint presentations and PowerPoint presentations into Word documents.

In Excel, for example, Copilot can analyze quarterly results and give users important trends, Microsoft said. It can create a new Excel sheet to experiment and better understand user requests without changing the original data. Copilot can also create visualizations.

In another example, in Outlook, Copilot can highlight key emails, summarize long email threads and draft replies that retrieve 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 answer with additional prompts and hover over highlighted text areas to see the data source behind the generated answer. And users can rate the generated content with a thumbs up or down to refine future responses.

With Copilot and Viva Sales, users can scan any customer relationship management (CRM) data to get account summaries, recent customer contacts and other information.

Copilot can look at company sales materials to tell salespeople how to answer customers who want a comparison with competitors.

At the end of meetings, Copilot summarizes the conversation, outlines next steps and places details in the CRM. Unlike intelligent meeting summaries in Microsoft Teams, Copilot in Viva Sales is connected to CRM data to add more context and tone to customer conversations.

All customers with a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and Premium license have Viva Sales available at no additional cost, Microsoft said.

Microsoft Power Platform Copilot Previews

Copilot in Power Platform is designed to allow users to describe in natural language an application, workflow or bot they want to build, and Copilot can build it in seconds.

In Power Platform, Copilot can notify users of urgent account support issues and write a summary of the problem, post the issue to Teams and tag the necessary colleagues.

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 called “describe it to design it” has been in preview since October, according to Microsoft. Users can build new flows with natural language input. More Copilot features are expected “in the coming months.”

Previews for Copilot in Power Virtual Agents include natural language commands to build bots to collect user e-mail addresses and phone numbers for event scheduling, among other tasks. For now, the previews are available in the US and in English.

Users can add trigger phrases, queries, entities, messages, variables and logic to the bots. They can summarize collected information from users into a graphical adaptive map with JSON for the map generated automatically. And they can add message variations based on what bot users request.

“We all have unique and sometimes tedious tasks that 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 great workflow and automation tools, but they are not always accessible to everyone. Copilot unlocks all of that.”

How Copilot Works

Microsoft 365 Copilot builds on Dynamics 365 Copilot from the Redmond, Washington-based vendor 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 that drives recommended websites to visit and videos to watch has become second nature to users.

Microsoft 365 Copilot uses large language models (LLMs) and the Microsoft Graph, which contains 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, the company said. The system is more than just a connection to ChatGPT.

Copilot LLMs are not trained on tenant data or prompts to prevent data leaks, Microsoft said.

Copilot uses grounding to improve the quality of prompts to give users relevant and useful information. Copilot uses post-processing to add more grounding calls, responsible AI checks, security compliance and privacy assessments before delivering a query response.

Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of modern work and business applications, said the Copilot system runs through tens of thousands of jobs 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 this power with just your own words,” he said. “It will transform work as we know it.”

Spataro said Copilot will not be perfect, that Copilot will sometimes get information “usefully wrong.” But it will be “enterprise ready” and “supported by “Microsoft’s comprehensive approach to security, compliance, privacy and responsible AI.”

Source: crn

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