Diary of an Augmented Exec – Week 1

Nathan Marke, COO of Giacom, is writing a weekly diary of his first month using his own personal Microsoft 365 Copilot AI

Microsoft Copilot

Week 1

I got augmented on Tuesday. 0714 to be precise. Sat down in my seat on the 0713 Bath to London, coat off, iPhone out, first email on the list and there it was – a little prompt offering a ‘Summary by Copilot’. And just like that, if AI turns out to do what it says on the tin, everything has changed. 1994 was the last time I recall that happening– back from a year backpacking around India, ensconced in my new flat in London and ordered my first dial-up broadband, email address and mobile phone – goodbye Poste Restante, hello smaller world.

I confess to feeling a little confused by AI. I’ve done my bit, read the research, and listened to the podcasts from the experts, telling of the incredible opportunities and risks from unchecked AI. So rather than let it just happen, I thought I’d twin track immersion with extraction. Join the revolution but concomitantly take a step back and observe the change as it hit. What happened, what did it feel like, how did it help, how did it hinder, what can and can’t it do, where will it go.

Let me start by introducing you to my AI. I’ve been given a Copilot from Microsoft. Microsoft has lots of Copilots, embedded in their various clouds. There is one for developers to help write code, one to help digital marketeers create more effective campaigns in Dynamics, even a toolkit in Azure where you can create your very own Copilot for your own use – however, mine lives in my 365 account and is there to make me more productive when I use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, Email, Bing – basically where I spend most of my typing time.

My IT team has spent the last few months prepping for Copilot’s arrival, mapping my personal and the whole company’s data so it knows where to look whilst also implementing security guidelines to ensure it can’t misbehave. This is a key point for when we think about business adoption – lots of preparation is needed, from getting apps and data into the cloud and on the right licenses through to ensuring that data is available and security is up to scratch. A phase one is needed before a phase two can happen.

Having been told I was getting a Copilot, I spent a few weeks wondering what being augmented would be like. Worrying I guess, about the intrusion. Having now been introduced, first signs are to be honest a bit of a relief. I’m naturally suspicious and really didn’t fancy a digital PA – something I had to build a relationship with. But my Copilot seems very benign. It’s just a new set of features in my Microsoft apps, albeit quite clever ones. For this reason, I haven’t given He/She/It a name (yet), however, He/She/It appears very intuitive. If Copilot can do something for you, it offers, but very politely, no annoying paperclips (aka Vista Clippy).

It’s now Friday, four days in. I’ve been on the road all week so today is the first chance I have really had to open the laptop and start to experiment.

Email summaries in Outlook are a genuinely brilliant timesaver. Click the button and in seconds a professionally written and accurate summary of an email chain is presented. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time reading back up complex email chains to bring myself up to speed with the conversation and context, so this feature changes the game.

AI web search you may already be familiar with – in my case, Bing has become Bing Chat through augmentation with ChatGPT (clever of Microsoft, given I’m a Google searcher by habit). Instead of a standard search, you ask a natural language question and get a natural language response after the AI nips off and does the arduous work of searching in multiple dimensions, interpreting, and replying to you, again in natural language – it’s incredibly good.

Something I’m desperate for is for it to help me improve document search – I spend so much time searching for the right version of a document I have produced in the past, to use as a starting point for something new. Copilot has now indexed mine and all Giacom’s files, and alongside Bing Chat is a new tab – Copilot M365 Chat. This allows me to use the same natural language queries, but to search inside Giacom for files. It’s brilliant – for example, with an easy search it found all versions of a presentation I have been using for some time, enabling me to pick the version I needed to work from – another game changer if, like me, you are not that great at filing things away in the right place.

Like dogs and their owners, you can tell a lot about a person by their default Microsoft app – mine are a Labradoodle and PowerPoint, thanks for asking. I’ve only had a little play with PowerPoint’s Copilot and being of the marketing ilk, I wasn’t blown away by its creative input, however, I liked the ability to create a (moderately acceptable) presentation by uploading a Teams meeting recording or a Word document, et voila! This will make building quality presentations in PowerPoint accessible to non-marketeers, which is very much the point.

Teams is where I’m expecting Copilot will really fly. Basic chat summaries, like email summaries, work well. Giacom switches on Copilot transcription imminently which will allow my Copilot to do all sorts of clever things from next week, like analysing sentiment in real-time, summarising meetings and so on.

I wrote this blog in Word. Oddly, I was expecting Copilot to help, but no prompts appeared in what must be the most obvious place where one might need help – writing something down. I need to ask the techies for help here. However, hopefully this answers any doubts you might have about whether this blog is my authentic voice or, in fact the voice of my Copilot. I promise I didn’t cheat and ask it to do the job for me. I can’t knowingly do that whilst also telling my kids not to use ChatGPT to write their essays.

So far so good. I see my Copilot as an augmenter, not a replacement. Ask Copilot to summarise, give context, suggest, make a start, set a framework, and then go in with my human brain and do the things that make the output authentically and uniquely me.

Right, back to work, or should I say back to mucking around with Copilot.