Copilot has changed how I work to the extent that if I were to change jobs, one of the questions I would have for my prospective employer is, will I have an AI assistant to help me do my job?  

That sentiment is certainly borne out by the research Microsoft conducted eight months into its Copilot journey when it surveyed early users. One telling statistic was that 77% of survey respondents would rather have access to Copilot than a free lunch at work each week. 

There are a couple of observations I’d make about Copilot as an increasing number of companies consider deploying it to their Microsoft 365 users. If you are given Copilot access, you could just use it superficially, and still do the bulk of your work the old way.  

Hilary Walton on stage
For organisations looking to become AI-powered, making the effort to learn how to get the most out of Copilot is a worthwhile investment, says Hilary.

But if you want to become an AI-powered organisation, it's worth putting in the effort to get the best out of Copilot. Typically, you need to devote around 20 hours of study to learn how to use Copilot effectively. It is worth the investment of time.   

It’s harder to become an AI-powered organisation when only a handful of people are using Copilot. You don’t get the typical change management processes kicking in, or champions to encourage uptake. We think the value proposition is there to roll it out to everyone, but that’s a decision for each organisation. 

It’s also become very clear to me that Microsoft Graph is Copilot’s secret sauce. Copilot is underpinned by OpenAI’s incredibly powerful GPT-4 large language model. But the Microsoft Graph layers in that rich data from across the Microsoft 365 suite. The data used by Microsoft Graph is anonymised by default for reporting purposes to protect privacy. But it knows where I sit in the organisation, and who I’m collaborating with the most. It knows the sort of week I’ve had, whether I’ve been busy with meetings. It means I get hyper-personalised, relevant results from Copilot.  

Here are ten things I’ve discovered about Copilot for Microsoft 365 that are helping me work more productively. 

1. The Copilot app is really good

The thing to remember about Copilot is that it is embedded across the entire Microsoft 365 suite of products, and can also be accessed via the web using the Edge browser, and with the Copilot app that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, or Google Play store. You can use it anywhere, so get into the habit of drawing on it wherever you are in the Microsoft ecosystem. 

I’m increasingly using the Copilot app which has a great user interface. You can use it with your own email, but for business users, it will tell you in the app when you are “protected”, as your business email address connects via Active Directory. 

It means that whatever company data you cut and paste into Copilot stays within your organisation's tenancy, so stays completely private.  

Screenshots of Copilot interfaces on web browser and IOS and Android apps with gradient pink blue and purple background
Users can find Copilot on desktop web browsers as well as in app form for IOS and Android devices, making it easy to access anytime and anywhere.

2. Make Teams meetings more productive 

The meeting aspect is what really appeals to people when it comes to Copilot in Teams. You don’t have to take many notes any more. It means you are more engaged in the meeting, you actually listen to what others are saying, rather than trying to scribble down key points.  

It also really helps with comprehension and keeping track of what’s going on in the meeting. Often, you will just miss what a person has said. While the meeting is going, you can ask Copilot “what conference did Ben just attend?” and it will tell you. Copilot is searching the transcript for you in real-time, to find the answer, while the meeting is underway. 

I know that people who speak English as a second language find it immensely helpful too.   

Sometimes when you are using a meeting as an information-gathering exercise, you are unsure what question to ask next. You can ask Copilot for input on what the follow-up question should be. It leads to a really productive conversation. 

A tip for Teams users: It’s really helpful to pin the Copilot app to the top of your chat for easy access.  

Table depicting availability of Copilot in Microsoft suite and on different platforms
Copilot is available across most apps and platforms.

3. Smash out emails 

I now use Copilot to draft my emails, unless it's just a very quick response to someone. I use Coaching by Copilot quite a lot. This optimises the Copilot experience. It will examine what you’ve written and give you feedback. It might suggest that you use some different language to come across with a friendlier tone. It makes my emails much better quality, so I use it, particularly for important emails, or where the tone needs to be sensitive.  

The other great thing in Outlook is Copilot’s ability to summarise a long email chain. Often you will get added to an email conversation partway through, or are just CCed in for your information. Rather than having to read back through all of the emails in the chain, you can get a summary of what was discussed and what decisions were made. It’s a huge time saver and a great way to keep on top of email. 

 4. Let Business Chat plan your workday 

Prior to getting to Outlook in the morning, I’ll fire up Business Chat. This is really useful for when you are getting ready for the day and need to prioritise your workload.  

Business Chat can summarise your emails, Teams messages, Channels messages from the last work day, or even the last week. Maybe you are in a global company and messages have come in overnight. It will list action items and suggested follow-ups. I will ask Copilot to create a useful table for me, with columns for the type of communication, topic summary, action items, and recommended follow-ups. 

It’s a game changer in terms of helping you to focus your attention. Sometimes I’ll do that in the app in the morning when I’m lying in bed.   

5. Use Microsoft’s prompt suggestions

I'm actually not writing a lot of my own prompts anymore. Copilot has a large selection of sample prompts. It means I don’t have to type something in, I can just click on the prompt I need. There are lots of them covering the type of regular work tasks you’ll do in the course of a typical day.  

Sometimes I'm not sure exactly what the right prompt might be. You can save prompts in Copilot as well so more complex prompts can be saved and reused. 

6. Make presentations, instantly 

I do a lot of writing and public speaking. If I've written an article on something I'm going to speak about, I’ll use Copilot to create some slides based on the article. I open Copilot and write, “create a presentation based on this document”. Then I put in a forward slash and the document I’m referring to. It’s a great starter for ten for my presentation. It will recommend some speaker notes for each slide too.  

It also gives you some great little hacks. I hate transitions in slides, which sometimes my colleagues put in. I can just tell Copilot to “remove all transitions”. 

Powerpoint uses DALL-E for AI-generated images, which does a good job too so you aren’t hunting around for images to bring your presentation to life. 

7. Strike the right tone in Word

If I’ve got a meeting coming up that needs a bit more thorough preparation, instead of asking questions in Business Chat which is geared toward shorter responses, I’ll move to Word and put the prompt in there.  

Copilot for Word can generate much longer articles. If there’s a sentence that isn’t quite right, I can just highlight it and ask Copilot to rewrite it. It will give me three options to replace it with. 

If the article is in the wrong tone, you can select all of the text and prompt Copilot to rewrite it to be more professional, or aimed at an undergraduate audience, for instance.  

Another great tool is referencing. You can simply ask Copilot to find the reference to what you are referring to and it will put it into the document, which saves a lot of time tidying up heavily referenced documents. 

8. Take the grind out of spreadsheet work 

Excel is still in ‘preview mode’, so there’s more work to do and more features to be added. But already, it has huge scope to make life easier for Excel users. For instance, finance teams working in Excel are doing routine tasks on a monthly basis.  

Instead of running a query on a spreadsheet, you can give Copilot a prompt and save that prompt to use the next month. I’m not a very confident Excel user, so Copilot will do things that I’d normally have to ask for help or research how to do. 

Copilot is also very good at producing and tweaking visualisations. If you want to turn your Excel data into visual presentations, Copilot greatly speeds up the process.  

9. Remove the hassle of taking meeting notes

OneNote is coming along. I use it for meeting notes. There’s a button you can press called Meeting Details. Previously that would have inserted the meeting participants, date and time, and other standard information. Now if you have used Copilot during the meeting, it will automatically insert the meeting notes and the actions.  

It has changed how I use OneNote. I’ll now start a meeting, take some of my own notes, but use the AI notes to a large degree.  

10. Get your Copilot etiquette right 

Each organisation needs to make a decision about how extensively Copilot is going to be used. Is every meeting going to feature Copilot? Do you all agree at the start of the meeting whether the Copilot will be running? Because when you press the Copilot button, it essentially creates a transcript of the conversation that you can mine for insights, actions, and meeting notes. 

What I’ll normally do is have chit-chat at the start of the meeting, talk about how the kids are doing, what we did on the weekend, and then we start Copilot. That makes sense because you don’t necessarily want that irrelevant fluff recorded. 

 If confidential information is being discussed, or something that is subject to a non-disclosure agreement, that may be the time to turn off Copilot. 

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