How to make the most of technology

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Generative AI and Microsoft Copilot

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In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, all businesses can gain competitive advantage by keeping abreast of tools that can help them streamline their operations and boost productivity.

Small and medium-sized enterprises may find that technology can have an outsized impact on their organisation and their ability to grow their market share, and perhaps even more so in the face of continuing economic headwinds.

We finished 2023 bringing Microsoft Copilot to the attention of Bay of Plenty businesses – this is already elevating the day-to-day experience of Microsoft 365 users and we believe it will be a launchpad for business growth in 2024.

Microsoft Copilot is a large language model-based chatbot developed by Microsoft – it’s less than a year old and is built on top of the AI technology Microsoft has invested in through OpenAI.

Since 2019, Microsoft has committed over US$10 billion to OpenAI, crucially purchasing an exclusive license to their underlying technology in 2020 and growing from there. So what does a ‘large language model-based chatbot’ actually mean? And why is it so relevant for business owners and team members?

A large language model is something which can achieve language understanding and in the case of (new buzzwords like) ‘Generative AI’, the model can generate its own responses and provide useful information. The ‘chatbot’ is the ‘question and answer’ environment where users can benefit from the technology, with the most prominent example being
ChatGPT (developed by OpenAI). You simply ask the chatbot a question, the model uses its learned information and lightning-fast ability to scour it, and seconds later the chatbot responds with an answer.

In the case of Microsoft Copilot, this experience has moved to a new level, combining its underlying technology with your Microsoft stored data to help you do things you might never have thought possible.

In PowerPoint, you can ask it to create you a slide deck for a key pitch for a new prospect, and Copilot will provide you a range of pre-populated options.

Be more specific – the pain points you’re trying to solve, a budget, a timeline – and Copilot will get to work specifying and adding detail into your template. You can tweak, add, and remove as you go, and Copilot will use its smarts to avoid repeating previously discarded ideas and build on the things you like.

In Excel, Copilot will help you identify patterns, find new insights, and recommend improvements to what you already have; Ask it to review the effectiveness of your recent marketing campaign data, and it will summarise all the information it has into a status update, filled with insights, learnings and fresh objectives.

As with all new technologies, your approach must be considered. Giving thought to the new risks you’ll be bringing into your business is vital, and as with any new data, it needs to be secure by design.

On top of that, it’s important to remember that Copilot will only be as useful as the data it’s working with. If your reports are full of inaccuracies and omissions, you can expect Copilot to be hamstrung by the data you’re missing.

However, all businesses need their data to be secure and well organised, whether they’re benefiting from Copilot or not, so hopefully these pre-requisites won’t be onerous.

Microsoft Copilot is already available and in use with Microsoft 365 subscribers, so it might be worth investing some time in getting to grips with it and seeing what benefits it can bring your business in 2024.

RELATED: AI and the shifting landscape of NZ recruitment

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Jacob Doherty
Jacob Doherty
Jacob Doherty is an account manager at Stratus Blue. He can be contacted at jacob@stratusblue.co.nz

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