Diary of an Augmented Exec – Week 2

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 2

(see week 1 here)

They say a magician never reveals his secrets. Spotting the hidden compartment doesn’t spoil the show, but it alters the feeling of wonder to a more ordinary appreciation for the skill and speed of the performer. And so it has been with week two living with my Copilot.

Let me be clear from the off. I’m not bored. But now I understand my Copilot’s sleight of hand, I’m less surprised by the new things I discover that it can do for me. And that’s in a week where I have experienced some extraordinary functionality in Teams and Word.

Giacom IT launched Teams transcription last weekend and Copilot duly offered to transcribe my first scheduled meeting on Monday morning. Clicking yes, it prompted me to tell everyone else what I was up to, whilst also sending a message to all participants warning me that I was transcribing (Microsoft being careful about privacy).

That bit out of the way, the meeting began, and Copilot started giving me ‘prompts’ – a list of things that it can do for me in that moment. I particularly liked ‘Recap meeting so far’ (designed for late joiners, but also useful if you have to ‘brb,’ or your concentration wanders at any point – who, Moi?). Asking Copilot to ‘List action items’ and ‘Generate meeting notes’ at the end of the call was powerful. Even in meetings where the team drifted off topic or had lots of banter, Copilot pulled out the main points and assigned actions to people very effectively. And I really liked the clear, logical, impartial stance Copilot brought to the summary.

I’ve clearly only scratched the surface here, but I’m already thinking it should come with a ‘use with caution’ sticker. Switching on transcribe and knowing that you are ‘on the record’ changes the feel of a meeting. Meetings are about so much more than convening to fix and agree stuff. They are a very human, social act that builds relationships, community, respect, trust, and it is this platform on which great teams create incredible output. I’d like Copilot to enhance, not disrupt this process which it has the potential to do if used in the right way.

Aside from Teams, I’ve found myself in document creation mode this week. Copilot has so much to offer in Word, from writing whole documents for you from scratch, to editing and summarising (it’s particularly good with legal contracts). However, I have a complaint. I enjoy writing. My own peculiar process involves locking myself away somewhere quiet, throwing random ideas, concepts and phrases on the page and gradually piecing them together, tightening and editing until I have created something that works and is authentically me.

In my new augmented capacity, Copilot’s tempting little icon offers ‘Draft with Copilot’ and ‘Inspire me’ as I type. It is so tempting to see how Copilot might write, but I found that the interruption of the act of clicking on the button took me out of my purple patch, and its responses, while grammatically good, sensible and in context, didn’t sound like me.

I get it. Copilot will speed up and democratise the process of authoring. I just can’t help but worry that the spawning of vast quantities of average content will further cheapen the art of writing, something that has already driven nails into the world of journalism.

A puncture repair kit is a good example of a tool with a clear purpose. You can’t cycle with a punctured tyre, and you know your fix is that little tube of vulcanised rubber. Copilot is interesting because it is a tool that I didn’t know I needed. I never knew I needed a machine to transcribe my meetings or to write me a document because until now I had happily done all this for myself. And that is what is so intriguing about my experience so far. Copilot is trickling its way into the way I work in my various apps and clearly has so many broad potential applications that are hard to describe or value and will be very personal to the needs and wants of the individual.

It’s got me thinking about how one would start to write a business case to invest in Copilot more broadly across Giacom. For roles that are heavily focussed on using Microsoft Office, where people live in these applications, I can see the payback. However, I’m less sure in roles orchestrated by Line of Business applications – for this you’d want the AI to be infused into the workflow of the application itself to create a case.

So where next? I’m impressed with Copilot thus far – it’s doing all the things I expect, but I’m seeing its limitations and wanting more. For example, how cool would it be if Copilot took the meeting actions from Teams transcriptions assigned to me and nudged me to complete them, bringing together information that would help me to complete that action and scheduling time in the calendar for this purpose. The AI industry refers to this ability as ‘moving along the reasoning curve.’ What humans fundamentally do well is take lots of different concepts and combine these things together specific to the thing we want to do, or something we’re being asked to do and create an outcome that is specific to that request in a creative way. We do it in everything we do, at work and play and it underpins our reality.

In another crazy week for the AI industry, with Meta launching its new Imagine image generator (which produces images from prompts) and then Google launching its ChatGPT4-beating Gemini, I’m left in little doubt that the already game changing things my Copilot can do for me today is just the beginning.