Diary of an Augmented Exec – Week 3

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 3

(see week 1 here and week 2 here)

It’s been another week of positive experiences with my Copilot, and I’ve properly got to grips with its capabilities and limitations. So rather than a further functionality expose, this week I thought I’d share how using Copilot has got me thinking about Giacom’s broader approach to adoption, both internally and to building our value proposition to our partners.

The topic of Generative AI use came up at a whole company update this week. After sharing my Copilot journey, various team members ‘came clean’ about their stealthy use of AI tools at work. A member of our operations team, who has dyslexia, revealed how ChatGPT4 had transformed his ability, for the first time, to confidently engage with customers using the written word, whilst another divulged how she was drafting documents, developing templates, training plans and briefings, saving ‘weeks of work’. She confessed her nervousness about what she fed into the tool given the working context.

I came away energised, and inspired to incubate, foster, and encourage our teams to help us seize the opportunity. There is an innate innovation desire in so many of us and it must be frustrating to have these incredible tools at our disposal in our private lives only to be stymied by an inability to integrate them into our world of work. I quickly convened a meeting with our Compliance and Security teams to ask how we can give clear guidance which actively encourages exploration and experimentation, whilst setting boundaries to keep company data safe.

Moving Gen AI from a consumer setting and into the world of work is not something to be taken lightly. Our Copilot implementation has shown me that the potential of AI tools is limited by the availability of the data on which they feed. We have needed to be careful to ensure that company data is indexed and presented to Copilot in a safe way.

Without diving into the technicalities, protecting sensitive company data includes having sensitivity labels on all documents and DLP (Data Loss Prevention) and retention policies configured in MS365, which in turn requires the right licensing and set-up. Without this in place, there would be security risks attached to Copilot adoption. We have had to check our governance around membership of MS365 groups, Teams sites and SharePoint to ensure that members are entitled to have access to the data held within those groups, without which Copilot could surface information that individuals should not have access to and would not normally find.

Setting up the Giacom environment for the deployment of Copilot took time, thought and effort. Every organisation will be different. Implementing the pre-requisites is a whole company affair, involving Compliance, Legal, HR as well as IT considerations, and may involve amendments to rules, policies, and guidance. Smaller businesses will undoubtedly need help and support from a capable technology partner, creating a significant, strategic services opportunity for MSPs and technology resellers who take the time to build ‘AI preparation’ services into their value proposition.

Taking advantage of the opportunity in AI must be top of mind for many resource-strapped small businesses. I’m not sure how many Large Language Models I have counted being discussed in the press this week – OpenAI ChatGPT-4, Google Gemini, Musk’s Grok and Meta Llama2 are the biggies – but all seem to offer open access to Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), enabling them to build their own AI applications – which, in a parallel to the dot com boom, seems to be spawning an explosion of AI companies and solutions in every niche you could conceivably imagine.  All of this must make for a very confusing landscape. Where the Channel has always thrived is in making sense of confusing markets, providing clarity for small businesses. There is a huge emerging market here for services to help UK Plc to take advantage of the opportunity, and I can see Giacom’s role evolve into an upstream curator of the best AI solutions for the Channel, making sense of this for our partners so that they in turn can offer the best AI to small businesses.

To get this right, we need to build our expertise. Our budget for next year includes investment in an AI practice to help enable our partners. We are also planning internal deployments of several types of Copilot – across M365, CRM, Dev teams and back office. Our task now is to consider the business case for each and the cohorts of people that would most benefit from the augmentation.

Our first big internal project leveraging Gen AI goes live at the end of March ‘24. We are reinventing the way we present our products to our partners in our Cloud Market platform and have implemented a shiny new Product Information Management system. Our platform team is leveraging Gen AI to work through a mountain of content to author, rewrite and create collateral and videos so that we can provide our partners with the best product information, training and enablement that helps them to skill up and sell effectively to their customers.

It’s been a fascinating month since my first introduction to Copilot. I’ve found myself on a journey of discovery, from those first few days of delight and wonder to the bedding in stage where I understood how it works and its limitations, to where I am now, as an evangelist not just for Copilot but for the application of AI in the broadest sense. Copilot is like a gateway drug – once swallowed, you open a world of possibility. The functionality is great, but it has its limitations. You quickly learn that Copilot is a very clever tool, but only a tool, not scary or sentient. Most importantly, it shines a very bright light on the vast possibilities that Gen AI has for transforming the way that businesses might function in the future.

2024 will be a big year for AI in Giacom. We approach the New Year with a resolution to evangelise the potential of AI to the Channel. If we can help enable our partners to make the possibilities of AI a reality for the UK’s small business community, then we open the opportunity to do incredible things to affect our economy and people’s lives for the better.