Need help at work? Just ask your new AI-powered work assistant

  • Posted on April 3, 2023
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Microsoft Copilot AI assistant

The hype around the release of ChatGPT – arguably the most famous generative AI application – just got more exciting. Microsoft recently introduced us to Microsoft 365 Copilot. Combining the power of large language models (LLMs) and your data in Microsoft Graph and Microsoft 365 apps, it essentially gives your employees their own AI-powered personal assistant. What does that mean for the workplace? How will Copilot transform the way we work? Avanade Modern Workplace Lead Veit Siegenheim answers your burning questions:

What is the significance of Microsoft’s Copilot announcement for the future of work?
It’s revolutionary. Generative AI is a technological breakthrough that is taking AI mainstream in 2023. I think Bill Gates summed it up best in his recent blog about generative AI. He described two pivotal moments in his career: one in the early 1980s when he first saw a graphical user interface – the origins of every operating system today, including Windows. The second is generative AI. What we’re seeing emerge is quite significant. Employees are getting an AI companion to help augment their work. And while we don’t yet fully understand the implications for the workplace, the innovation around the technology will accelerate and expand its application beyond anything we’re seeing today.

What’s the value of having Copilot in the workplace?
Productivity is the most obvious. It’s designed to remove a lot of commodity tasks like information gathering, synthetization or aggregation, and also simple analysis like collecting, writing and documenting – the tasks we often manage with Microsoft 365 tools. It’s estimated that productivity will be doubled, if not tripled with generative AI. And then employees will be free to focus on more interesting work.

It’s exciting to see that many of our tedious tasks will be automated, but doesn’t that raise concerns about quality assurance? How can organizations mitigate those concerns?
AI appears to be human-like with the way it speaks and creates outputs. It’s very easy to communicate with and gives us a natural language interface into complex issues. But it’s only the beginning. AI should not be trusted out of the box. For example, if it doesn’t have an answer, it starts making one up, or “hallucinating.” Quality assurance will be a big concern.

But you’ve still got to experiment courageously. As a nascent technology, we don't really know how it's worked or what are the best use cases. Also, individual companies and jobs are so different. We need to find out, allow people to experiment with it, capture learnings and feedback and then come up with real use cases that reveal the true advantage of generative AI.

There’s a lot of apprehension around generative AI eliminating jobs or requiring new skills in the workplace. How can organizations prepare themselves and their people for what’s coming?
People are, and will always be, critical. There are tasks that are going to be replaced but it's not necessarily jobs. That’s why Copilot is such a good name. Instead, it’s about augmenting work, eliminating tasks they shouldn’t be doing and allowing them to focus on things where judgment or creativity is needed. While I don't think jobs will necessarily go away, they will change in nature. Change enablement will help users work iteratively from generated concepts that need to be tweaked, refined, enriched and approved. AI is the productive assistant, not the replacement. That's why we talk about this productivity gain.

What is the advantage of being an early workplace adopter?
It’s the maturity advantage. If you think about the value that you generate, it’s a curve – or more like a hockey stick. It will take time to realize real gains, so the sooner you start, the sooner you get there. Unlocking the potential earlier and faster makes you more attractive to employees because you’re relieving them of tasks they don’t want to do. Productivity is higher. And you have the advantage of doing new things. You’ll eventually have to go through the process, so why not start now.

How should organizations prepare for the future of generative AI?
We've now got this human language interface to everything, which is really powerful in its ability to make specialist tasks accessible to the average worker. While it’s leapfrogging a lot of things, there’s a lot we don’t understand. That will change quickly. Consider the beginnings of the Internet or graphical user interfaces. Very few companies were looking into it. Now you've got the investment power of a mature industry, and there’s intense competition to advance generative AI. Everyone is investing in it, and it’s very likely that we’ll see some exponential improvements going forward.

But generative AI in the workplace becomes powerful only when it’s connected with your organizational data and can address your specific enterprise problems. It requires experimentation, testing diverse data sets and continual learning to get it right. To get started, you need to get the technical foundation in place. Then there is the human foundation. Are your people ready and equipped to use the tool? That might seem simple at the moment, but where and how you use it must also consider compliance, ethics and legal implications. As an early builder of AI technologies, Avanade has built the foundational blocks to help organizations navigate these issues and deploy the technology responsibly, making sure that the data fueling Copilot is accessible, integrated and secure.

How is Avanade helping build business value with AI in the workplace?
Over 95% of workers use Microsoft technology. Copilot is designed seamlessly integrate generative AI into your productivity environment. But it can’t be done alone. As billions of dollars get poured into generative AI advancements, there’s no way you can keep up and exploit its full potential. Avanade has been testing, adopting and building AI with a responsible AI framework for years, not weeks. And no other Microsoft partner can match our depth of Microsoft expertise.

If you’re ready to fast-track your generative AI journey, contact us to schedule a complimentary 2-hour workshop.

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