What is Microsoft fabric?

Today, fueled by the growth and demand of AI, data plays a crucial role in digital transformation and gaining a competitive Edge. Microsoft say that today’s data lakes can be fragmented, messy and complicated, making it hard for organisations to create, integrate, manage, and operate data lakes.

Microsoft, having recognised this, announced at Microsoft Build 2023, Microsoft Fabric, which provides an end-to-end platform that can bring together all the necessary data and analytics tools for an organisation. Fabric integrates Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Power BI into a single, seamless product, empowering data, and business professionals to unlock the full potential of their data.

Microsoft Fabric is in public preview.

What is the use of Microsoft Fabric?

Microsoft Fabric is made up of multiple subsystems, is “lake-centric”, open and extensible and is backed by a shared platform providing world class, enterprise grade, robust data security, governance, and compliance.

Microsoft Fabric – Image (c) Microsoft

Microsoft Fabric is essentially umbrella that sits over the top of Microsoft’s three main Data Analytics products – Power BI, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Synapse. It is a third generation of data platform.

First generation data platforms, such as SQL, SQL Data Warehouse and HDInsight, were inherently isolated data platforms built on traditional data products. Second generation data platforms such as Azure Synapse Analytics, went further by providing integrated platforms at a UX level were still disjointed at the data level. This third generation of data platforms like Microsoft Fabric, builds upon the Synapse “unification” approach but are focussed on enabling data-level interoperability and insights powered by Azure AI.

What are the benefits of using Microsoft Fabric?

The benefits of using Microsoft Fabric include reduced complexity, increased agility, improved security, and reduced costs through unified capacities. Powered by Microsoft AI, and natively integrated into Microsoft 365 applications such as Excel, PowerBI, Teams, and Dynamics 365. Fabric also supports thousands of connectors and deep APIs to allow organisations to better to connect almost any application, workflow, or data source.

Fabric announcement at Build 2023

Fabric has been designed to empower every business user by deeply integrating with Microsoft 365 applications and provides a rich set of connectors and APIs. Power BI, a core component of Fabric, is seamlessly integrated with popular applications like Excel, Teams, PowerPoint, and SharePoint and as such this deep integration allows users to discover and analyse data directly within these applications, driving a data culture and enabling better decision-making without the needs to switch applications or context.

How does it compare?

Fabric is a complete analytics platform that should eliminate the complexity and expense of integrating and administering multiple subsystems from different vendors. This means users get a truly unified experience and architecture, providing all the capabilities required for extracting insights from data and presenting them to business users. Moreover, Fabric offers role-specific experiences for various teams involved in the analytics process, ensuring a seamless workflow for data engineers, data scientists, analysts, and business users.

Fabric’s lake-centric and open approach is another key differentiator. Fabric includes a multi-cloud data lake called OneLake, which simplifies data management, integration, and operation. OneLake aims to eliminate data duplication and vendor lock-in by organising data into an intuitive hub. OneLake supports open data formats such as Delta and Parquet and allows organisations to work with a single copy of the data across all their Fabric workloads. This reduces cost, vendor lock in, complexity, and management overhead.

OneLake is the core of Fabric – a single storage account for an organisations multi-cloud data, whether that is inside of Azure, AWS or in a private DC. It is a single, logical “data lake” containing all an organisations’ Fabric workloads

Fabric is powered by AI, through Azure OpenAI Service, which is integrated at every layer, it will enable users to leverage the latest generative AI capabilities to quickly find insights across all their data. The upcoming Copilot feature will provide conversational dialogue that will let users quickly create dataflows, build models, and visualise the results using natural language queries and dialogue.

Availability and Pricing

Microsoft Fabric is currently available in preview, and organisations can sign up for a free trial to experience its capability.

Whilst this is in preview, pricing is not final, however, Microsoft say that to share content and collaborate in Microsoft Fabric, your organisation needs to have an organisational license and at least one individual license. A Microsoft Fabric subscription consists of tenants, capacities, and workspaces and can be organised in different ways to fit the needs of your organisational needs.

In short, an organisation needs capacity licenses and individual user licenses. The following information from Microsoft on Fabric Licensing which you can read more here.

Capacity is a dedicated set of resources reserved for exclusive use. It offers dependable, consistent performance for your content. Each capacity offers a selection of SKUs, and each SKU provides different resource tiers for memory and computing power

Individual licenses allow users to work in Microsoft Fabric.

  • Free – which allow users to create and share Fabric content in Microsoft Fabric so long as they have access to a Fabric Capacity (trial or paid).
  • Pro – A Pro license lets users share Power BI content with other users. Every organisation needs at least one Pro license if they intend to work with Power BI. If you’re purchasing a Microsoft Fabric license for your organisation, ensure you purchase at least one Pro license for your organisation.

When is Microsoft Fabric available?

Microsoft Fabric is currently in public preview and is generally available. In November 2023.


Summary

In summary, Microsoft Fabric is comprehensive and integrated solution for data and analytics designed to maximise the AI era. Fabrics’ unified platform, lake-centric approach (OneLake), AI-powered features (including its own Copilot), seamless integration with Microsoft 365, and cost-saving benefits. Fabric aims to simplify, align, and streamline how organisations leverage the power of their data for insights and decision-making. This is public preview today and will be generally available from November.

Copilot to be a core part of Windows 11.

Yesterday at Microsoft Build, Microsoft announced that is making its’ inevitable step in the future of Windows – making AI an integral part of Windows 11 with Windows Copilot.

In the (to be expected) incredible sizzle video from Microsoft (see below), we saw how the new Windows Copilot tool will live within the Windows sidebar and will be able to offer contextual actions and suggestions based on what’s currently on screen. The user will also be able to ask natural language questions and Copilot will respond much like Bing Chat does.

Microsoft said initial previews of Windows Copilot will begin as soon as next month with Windows Insiders and Windows MVPs.

It will see Microsoft AI becoming front and centre across more than 1.4 billion Windows users in the coming months.

What will Windows Copilot be able to do?

Microsoft say the Copilot will make all Windows users Power Users. It can be used to accomplish tasks within the OS such as turning on or off wireless, changing between light and dark mode, changing projection mode etc, all without having to fumble around trying to find the specific setting. Windows Copilot will also function as a true AI assistant, summarising documents, opening apps, and even sending documents via email. In short – Windows Copilot is the Cortana that never was.

Microsoft Windows Copilot Announcement Video

Initially, Windows Copilot will launch as a text-only tool, but in the announcement, Microsoft’s envisions that it will evolving into something you can interact with in other ways, like voice – like Cortana once did #RIPCortana.

Extensibility and Third-Party Apps

As was another common theme at Build2023, Windows Copilot, just like Bing Chat, will also support the same third-party plugins that OpenAI’s ChaptGPT uses. This is huge, since it means that in time, any application developer will be able to easily connect their applications and services to Windows Copilot, which is vital for Windows Copilot to not just be limited to its stock apps and Operating System functions.

This means that users will soon be able use Copilot to perform cross-application tasks. For example, it could review and shorten a document, create a Spotify playlist or share a recent photo to your social media platforms or an email all through a single prompt.


AI is going to be the single largest driver of innovation for Windows in the years to come… It’s going to change the way you work, change your interaction models to make it easier. It’s going to understand so much about what you need.”

Panos Panay | Chief Product Officer & CVP | Microsoft.

One thing I will say is that by bringing AI front and center of the Windows 11 operating system, (as they will be doing with Office apps and services, I honestly believe this has the potential to totally change the landscape of how we use and interface with our apps and devices.

What about Security and Privacy

We don’t currently know where the AI processing for Windows Copilot take-place will. It is conceivable that this max be a blend of local processing and within Microsoft’s data centres. We also do not yet know if you must be connected/online to the internet for Windows Copilot to work.

From a privacy perspective, we also do not yet have information about whether things like chat history will be preserved, or if there will be a “private mode”. More I am sure will be made available in coming weeks and once it starts being tested with Windows Insiders next month.

I would image also, that the initial Windows Insiders preview will only be available to the US, as is usually the case when these previews first hit.

Microsoft says Windows Copilot will be available in a preview version for Windows 11 users in June. The feature will then roll out some time later this year.

Will it Cost?

We expect this to be “included” within the Windows 11 license for consumers. Less is known about commercial customers at this point.

What do you think?

I’d love to know your thoughts and feedback. What do you think about the flood gates of AI being injected into every application we use. Is it too soon? What are the potential issues?

ChatGPT vs Bing Chat | Why you need to try Bing Chat!

Image of Bing Logo and ChatGPT logo

Everyone has been talking ChatGPT, but here I want to talk about the similarities, differences, and in my view, the HUGE ADVANTAGES OF BING CHAT OVER CHATGPT. Whilst both look similar in the way they work, are both powered by the OpenAI’s Generative AI technology and are conversational based, the speed, accuracy, quality of their responses and capability differs hugely.

Both Bing Chat and ChatGPT are based on the OpenAI GPT technology.

Natural language chatbot ChatGPT, quickly become the focal point in the tech industry since it was annouced and released to the masses at the backend of 2022. Whilst most initially saw it as a “fun way” to write poems, essays, answer exam questions and even generate computer code, 6 months later we are starting to see the true potential of AI as digitial assistants

We now have a plethora of AI tools, with new ones (it feels) coming every day. Outside of this fun stuff, the AI technology behind these tools is capable of so much more, and we are just at the beginning of what will change the way we interface with our devices and apps such as Microsoft Copilot – more on that here:

ChatGPT debuted in Nov 2022, and in Feb 2023, Microsoft their new AI powered version of Bing with Bing Chat being its’ standout feature, powered by the same technology (be it a Peter, better version) behind ChatGPT – a generative artificial intelligence algorithm created by Open AI. Recently Google had also released their AI chat tool Bard, which is not based on OpenAI GPT technology.

ChatGPT debuted in Nov 2022.

In Feb 2023, Microsoft their new AI powered Bing Chat, powered by the technology behind ChatGPT, a generative artificial intelligence algorithm created by Open AI.

Bing Chat vs ChatGPT – What’s the difference?

Bing Chat and ChatGPT both fall under the category of generative AI, which means they can generate brand-new text that has never been written before.

This kind of AI is useful since rather than leveraging keywords to look for text and return results based on a ranking, it works by providing the answer to the question you ask. Of course, it is only able to do this if it can provide accurate information. To do this is needs access to an entire world of data – like the Internet! So how does it work?

Both Bing Chat and Chat GPT are both built on a large language model (LLM), developed by OpenAI, of which Microsoft now own a majority share.

  • ChatGPT’s model, known as GPT-3.5, has been trained on billions of articles from across the internet but only as recent as end of 2021.
  • Bing Chat uses a newer, advanced, GPT-4 language model which can work with more different media types and not just text. Free to use.
  • ChatGPT offers a paid/premium version of its LLM (also using GPT-4), but it is only available today as a $20 per month subscription service.

The first major advantage of Bing Chat is that it, (since it’s also integrated into their native Bing Search, their Edge browser, and Windows 11), is that it can also search the internet for information and references in real-time. This is a huge advantage, because it’s up to date, but can lead also make it less accurate, since any misinformation it finds upon this search can introduce bias or error into its response. In most cases though, Bing Chat does reference its sources at the bottom of each response, which allows you to quickly verify the Bing’s accuracy and appropriateness by clicking on one of the citations.

Who “knows” more? Bing Chat vs Chat GPT

If you’re looking for information on a technical subject or recent event, Bing Chat will always deliver a higher-quality response as it can search the internet in real time so is “up to date”. ChatGPT does not do as well in recent events as it only has knowledge of events prior up to 2021.

This is the second big win for Bing, since it can be used as a copilot for the Internet, for anything from breaking news headline, shopping, days out, and travel since it does not have date limitations and can use the Internet to keep its LLM up to date.

The third key differentiator between the two is that Bing Chat lets you choose from three modes of conversation – Creative, Balanced, and Precise. Creative mode is closest to ChatGPT’s default behaviour.

  • More Creative: Longer, more descriptive, and “imaginative” answers.
  • More Precise: Shorter, straightforward search-focused answers.
  • More Balanced: Default mode – informative, yet friendly – middle of the other styles.

Visually Speaking | Bing Chat vs ChatGPT

The fourth standout feature for me is that you can use Bing Image Creator to generate images based on text prompts as pictured above. OpenAI does offer DALL-E for the same purpose. However, it’s not integrated within ChatGPT currently. What makes Bing Chat great is that you can use it in the flow of the conversation – or can use Bing Chat to create you an image on the fly. Bing uses also uses OpenAI’s DALL-E AI image generator (it is powered by Bing Image Creator) and has fewer limitations that the official OpenAI DALL-E website.

As shown below, by using the “More Creative” conversation style, you can start with a simple question and then elevate to an image all in the same context and without switching to a different tool.

Image showing text and image in Bing Chat

Where can you use it? Bing Chat vs ChatGPT

ChatGPT launched in late 2022 as a web-based tool and whilst there are a few third-party browser extensions the browser remains the main mode of use.

Bing Chat is free and available to all and accessible via the new Bing home page at https://www.bing.com.

The fifth standout feature for me, is all the other places you can access Bing Chat from. For example, there is a dedicated Bing app, you can access it via the Skype app, directly from the Edge Brower, from the Windows 11 search and via the SwiftKey keyboard app.

Current limitations | Bing Chat vs ChatGPT

Bing Chat is free and available to all and accessible via the new Bing home page at https://www.bing.com. as well as via Skype, Edge, Windows 11 and more. Bing Chat uses he newer, more powerful GPT-4 model and supports image search and image creation.

ChatGPT is also free but available only via the web and is limited to Text and uses GPT-3.5, though you can pay for the premium version ($20 a month) where you get higher-quality responses, thanks to the GPT-4 model and should also get priority access to the service, faster response times, and early access to new features. as they become available.

Bing Chat limits conversation length (currently) to twenty conversations per topic before you need to start again, meaning long back-and-forth conversations may not always be possible. Microsoft says that most people find what they’re looking for within five replies or fewer.

ChatGPT doesn’t have such restrictions and imposes very few restrictions on usage (even the free version), allowing for almost unlimited length conversations.

Bing Chat can understand most major languages including French, German, and Japanese.

ChatGPT will also respond in other languages, but the underlying GPT-3.5 model was primarily trained on English samples and text so responses in other languages are not as accurate.

Bing Chat does not impose limits on use and there is no premium tier. Responses are funded by advertising, meaning you may see ads that show up embedded inside the chat responses. For example, if you ask for holiday recommendations, you may see suggestions from local travel agents.

ChatGPT uses a token system, and you are limited to a set number of tokens per day for the free version. The premium (paid) version removes these limitations. Additionally, ChatGPT does not currently use an advertising model so is cleaner not biased.

So which one? Bing Chat or ChatGPT?

So, ok, I may be biased, but that doesn’t mean I am wrong, but in my experience, Bing Chat offers a far more premium offering over ChatGPT. It is free and is (if you like that), integrated across more of the applications, services, and platforms that you most likely use. My reasons to use Bing Chat are:

  1. Bing Chat can be accessed from Windows 11, Skype, Edge, Bing app and SwiftKey
  2. Bing Chat can search the web – it is natively integrated into Bing Search (the new Bing).
  3. Bing Chat lets you tailor your chat experience – providing a richer experience than ChatGPT.
  4. Bing Chat is not just about text chat, it can use images and even create AI powered images
  5. Bing Chat is uses GPT-4 and is still 100% free. ChatGPT 3.5 is also free but not as good and you have to pay $20 a month to use the better GPT-4 version. So just use Bing!

Questions and Answers

Is Bing Chat the “same” as Chat GPT?

No. While both leverage Open AI’s Chat GPT, Bing AI uses a more advanced model codenamed Prometheus that has more capabilities than ChatGPT. Prometheus is a proprietary technology from Microsoft that uses Bing and GPT to generate responses based on real-time data. Microsoft’s new Bing also leverages real-time information and OpenAI’s next-generation GPT-4 model to generate responses and can also search the internet. You cannot do this with ChatGPT, though there are browser extensions which provide some search functionality.

What does GPT stand for?

GPT stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. “A GPT is a language model that has been trained on a vast dataset of text to generate human-like text. For example, the “Chat” part of “ChatGPT” refers to it being a chatbot”. [source: HowToGeek]

Who Owns ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, a San Francisco-based start-up. The same Large Language Model (LLM) also powers Microsoft’s Bing Chat. Microsoft owns a majority share in OpenAI and is also using the technology along with its propriety Prometheus model to power upcoming features in Microsoft 365 co-pilot.

What’s the difference between Bing Chat and ChatGPT?

Chat GPT uses GPT-3.5. Bing Chat uses, GPT-4 – OpenAI’s latest language model that’s smarter, safer, and more accurate. GPT-4 supports image inputs for the first time, allowing you to submit visual prompts like a drawing, graph, or infographic. GPT-4 is also smarter and more “creative”.

Chat GPT does have a version based on GPT-4 but is a paid-for premium service. Bing Chat uses GPT-4 already. Bing Chat is also integrated into Bing, Edge, Skype, and Windows 11.

What is Generative AI?

Put simply, Generative AI is a term used to describe computer algorithms that can generate text, images, videos, and audio all on their own based on natural language queries.

Before Generative AI, most AI systems weren’t highly creative and would deliver far worse results than a human. However, that’s no longer the case with generative AI. With Generative AI, you can ask an AI tool like Bing Image Creator to create a photorealistic image of a “cute blue AI creature with orange eyes” and it will deliver the results you see above. In this case, the AI has not been explicitly taught or trained to produce this image, it creates a unique image based on what it knows and what it has therefore “learnt” based.

As such generative AI is designed to mimic the way humans perform tasks. The first step is to extract patterns from existing data (the LLM), so if you want an AI that can generate a face for example, you will need a large dataset containing different images of faces. With enough training, the learning algorithm will learn what a face looks like as well as understanding the common features that a face has, such a nose, eyes ears, and lips. From here, it can start working on smaller details like expressions, facial hair, and skin tones to create unique images.

Image of people, created by Bing Images.

Summary

Hope you found this blog useful and informative and above it, that it’s made you want to try to Bing Chat. As a reminder, here’s how Bing Chat differs from ChatGPT.

  1. ChatGPT and Bing Chat both use GPT as their large language model (LLM), but Microsoft has adopted a more advanced model for Bing Chat which is more accurate and faster (currently) than Chat GPT.
  2. Since Bing Chat is built into Bing Search, the new Chat feature is more up to date that ChatGPT since it can also leverage web results to feeds it LLM. ChatGPT (currently) does not have knowledge of most recent events like up-to-date news.
  3. Bing Chat is available on more platforms than ChatGPT which seamless integration into Edge, Bing Search, Skype and even SwiftKey keyboard for iOS and Android.
  4. Whilst ChatGPT is great with text-based stuff, Bing Chat also has in-built AI image generators powered by Bing Image Creator (try it – it’s awesome).
  5. Bing Chat uses GPT-4 and is free whereas to get equivalent premium access to ChatGPT, you need to pay circa $20 a month which gives you priority usage and other benefits which include GPT-4 LLMs.
  6. Bing provides three different Chat modes (Creative, Balanced and Precise), while ChatGPT does not have any settings or fine-tuning its output and response mode.
  7. Bing Chat always provides links to its’ data sources whereas ChatGPT does not.
  8. Bing Chat supports many non-English languages and is trained on more than English. Whilst ChatGPT can understand non-English languages, its training was primarily on US English words and samples.

What is Semantic Index for Copilot?

Semantic Index for Copilot promises to help organisations get ready for AI within their workplace. What is it? How does it work? and Why will we need it?

Last week as part of Microsoft’ annoucement about the next stage of the early previews of Copilot, they also annouced Semantic Index for Copilot, which will allow organisations to better prepare their data and users for Copilot by creating a “sophisticated map” of user and corporate data.

Image (c) Microsoft

This map is formed by encoding and indexing the keyword searches by uses into a vector that combines the phrsses, meanings, relationships and context of the data. This map is used to help Microsoft 365 Copilot to essentially learn more about your organisation (privacy and data protection being preserved of course), allowing it to better respond to user queries or “prompts.”

Available soon (for no additional cost) for Microsoft 365 Enterprise [E3 and E5] customers as well as Microsoft 365 Business Standard and Premium, it will work with the Copilot subsystem and the Microsoft Graph to create a sophisticated map of all the users, data and content in your organisation. It’s purpose will be to identify relationships between people and data, helping it to create important connections between them. Organisations will be able to use this to test the responses, answers and deductions formed by Copilot to help clean up, secure and better govern data eliminating the “garbage in, garbage out”, ensuring it will be able to deliver relevant, actionable responses to prompts based on data held within the company. This little video from Microsoft helps bring the process to life:

Microsoft video on Semantic Index for Copilot

Copilot’s new Semantic Index feature should help the chatbot locate and fetch the correct data requested by a user rather than spitting out every result based on a keyword search.

As the technology community eagerly anticipates the wider release of Copilot, Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to enhance its functionality and expand its accessibility represent a significant step forward in harnessing the power of AI to empower users and streamline work processes. Last week the early preview was extended to 600 (invite only) organisations across the US.

Microsoft also shared new upcoming improvements to their existing products which will become AI infused. These annoucements include the integration of Copilot into Whiteboard, Outlook, OneNote, Loop, and Viva Learning. They also said that new image generation features powered by DALL-E are coming to PowerPoint.

Finally, a reminder from Microsoft that they are committed to ensure tbeir AI solutions adhere to their strict Responsible AI Standard while providing meaningful benefits to their customers.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index reenfoced our ‘need’ for AI

In order to further remind us, why we lift like Copilot is needed in today’s work environments, Microsoft also revealed the results of their 2023 Annual Work Trend Index.

This report is based on surveys of 31,000 individuals spread across 31 countries. Microsoft’s findings this year indicated that there has been a drastic increae in the volume of assigned work and the pace required from employees. The report claims that leaders, managers and workers are more looking towards AI solutions to reduce their respective workloads, rather than being scared about jobs it may replace.

The work trend index also highlights the following key points..

  • 62% of employees spend unnecessary time searching for information, as well as communicating and coordinating across teams, leaving little focus time
  • Nearly two-thirds of the respondents noted that they did not find enough time to do their actual job
  • 70% of respondents would prefer delegating some of their workload to AI copilots
  • With the rise in AI-powered solutions, 49% are concerned about job security
  • Managers are 2x more likely to empower their employees with AI rather than replace them with it
  • 82% of enterprise leaders believe that their employees will require new skills in this age of AI, including prompt engineering and enhancing their workflows by integrating AI
  • There has been a 79% year-over-year increase in LinkedIn job postings which have used words like “GPT” and “GAI” (generative artificial intelligence)

More reading..

Preparing for Microsoft Copilot

Everyone got very excited when Microsoft introduced the world to Microsoft Copilot back in March this year and just yesterday they reached a new milestone, after annoucing a private preview with just 600 global customers.

But… One of the questions I get asked a lot (between colleagues, partners and customers) is “…are there things we need to do to be ready for Copilot when it becomes available”.

The simple answer is yes – if you want it to work as expected

The longer answer is “it depends” on if you plan to use it, how well your current data is structured, organised and governed, and what processes you have in place around user education, training and change management.

Based on the work I have been doing with Microsoft, this list is aimed to provide the key things, suggestions and considerations for IT, managers and leadership on things you’ll want to get ship-shape while we wait for Copilot to be more generally available, which my sources tell me will be late 2023 to Q1 2024.

1. Get your data in shape.

The reason Microsoft 365 is the productivity suite of choice for so many (arguably most) organisations is because it brings together applications, data, groups, users and services into a common and integrated suite, as well as providing thousands of connectors to allow organisations to connect third-party apps and data into mix.

Powered by the Microsoft Graph, Microsoft 365 already has the power to connect people, teams, and organisations across all their apps and services in an intelligent and context aware, with AI powered services scattered across the Microsoft 365 apps and services you use every day….

With Microsoft Copilot….this will move to a whole new level.

Copilot will put conversational AI at the front and centre of every app and service you know and use. Leveraging personal context, re-generative learning and of course the Microsoft Graph, Copilot will make its’ own deductions on what you ask, what you mean, and how you work. Whilst it will learn and evolve, it will of course, still be dependent on your organisational data, and how its structured, governed and secured.

This means if you have say 50 different documents spread out in 15 different locations that talk about your company strategy or business objectives, and only one of them is the up-to-date version. How will Copilot know which version is correct when it needs to surface information based on a request? In the same way, if the management and reporting structure, job titles and other information is incorrect in Azure AD, Copilots’ decisions and advice around people will also likely be incorrect.

To help, organisations get AI-ready, Microsoft have announced that they will soon start to roll out a service known as Semantic Index for Copilot. This is a new service coming to Microsoft 365 which will create a sophisticated map of your data to help you test how Copilot will ingest and act on your data. Image for example a sales manager asking for “FY23 Sales Report,”. Copilot will be data and context aware, meaning that it will not simply look for documents that contain keywords in the filename or text body. Instead, Copilot will try to “understand” and “learn” about who within the organisation produces such reports, when they are shared, and where they are shared to.

Microsoft say that Semantic Index for Copilot will be a vital tool to help organisations ensure that employees will get predicable, relevant, accurate, and actionable responses to their asks of Copilot and will help your organisation to “tweak” their data lifecycle and governance to ensure that the data Copilot acts on is correct and accessible (or not) by the right people.

What should you do?
1. Check and refine your SharePoint and Teams lifecycle, governance and compliance policies
2. Speak to your Microsoft partner about a funded data governance workshop
3. Review and update Active Directory (or connect to HR to ensure these are up-to-date)
4. Look out for the release of Semantic Index for Copilot to "test your data"

2. Get your security in order

In a similar fashion to making sure our data is correct from a version and validty perspective, if we dont get our security and access control polcies in shape, we risk Copilot duiscovering data that a employee or team may not “meant to have access to”.

In the much the same way that the Office 365 apps “discover” the data around you – presenting files that your collegaues and teams are working on together, Copilot will do the same but on a whole new level, as what is searches for, indexes and uses, will be instructed by the user rather than simply surfaced.

Just like the rest of Microsoft 365, Copilot will adhere to the security, privacy, data governance and data sensitivity policies that has been set-up within your organisation, and will not provide information that the user doesn’t have access to. It may suggest for, example, “you dont have access to that, you may need to request this from Pam in accounts”.

The potential problem of course is that many (ok most) organisations have a sprawl of Teams sites, poor or inconsistent data governance, and inadequate user training, meaning that put simply, you may not realise the sheer amount of information and documents that is being shared within your organisation, and more importantly who actually has access to what data and how many copies may exist and where!

We all worry about Security – do we have MFA? Do we have conditional access configured? Are account protected? Is sensitive information protected? etc. We know the slogan “hackers dont hack in, they login” – just imagine if you have Copilot, and a users’ identity gets compromised. They log in, and with Copilot at their fingertips, they don’t need to worry about where stuff is stored as Copilot will do all the discovery for them!

So what can you do?
1. Review and refine your document management, security and privacy policies - perhaps introduce or enforce DLP and Data Classifcation - aka Microsoft Purview
2. Review your security posture, MFA enforcement, risk based conditional access etc
3. Create straightforward instructions and train people where to store documents and how to protect and secure them
4. Run a pilot and look at adoption data loss prevention and information classification to protect sensitive data.
5. Speak to your Microsoft partner about a funded workshop for 1, 2 and 3.

3. Explore, Plan, Experiment – but treat it as organisational change!

The release of Microsoft Copilot is still a little way away (it is a closed Private Preview today with around 600 global organisations) and there are currently no dates on the roadmap for a public preview mainstream release. There is also no pricing yet about pricing.

What we do know is – it is coming and it will fundamentally impact and change how your people and teams will work. Yes, there is still an element of hype, lots of desire to test it out, loads and loads of questions and lots of unknowns.

Communication and training is going to be a key part of sucess. How do you interface with AI? Yes its’ intelligent, but it’s not a human, therefore people need to be taught how to best work with Copilot. Bear in mind most people use around ten percent of the functionality of say Teams (with most just using basic functions like chat and calling), but to get the most from it, users need to know what to expect, how to use it and how the organisation wants (or not) employees to use it…

Create a pilot group and mini success team. Use this team to keep up-to-date with the news and blogs and above all make sure leadership, management and IT are “in the know”.

Start communicating your plans for Copilot and AI in general. Employees will and should have questions. Are there roles that might change or not be needed? Will you stop hiring? Will you wait and see? It will be important to talk to, and listen to employees, and ideally form a “success with AI” unit, bringing people together from different parts of the business, to discover the challenges they face in their everyday work and how they think and hope AI will help them.

Above all – think of this like a project (one of continual change). Depending on your business, AI will have an impact, and the whole organisation will need to understand and embrace this change (once we have it all working of course). Consider an AI abmassador and follow your usual approach to change management with a roadmap, PoCs, pilots and feedback groups so you hit it head on, with ideas, and a solid vision but with room for hiccups, course changes and surprises on the way.

That sounds like a lot - what can we do?
1. Build a success unit (could be a Team site of Viva Community)
2. Get onto early adoptor programmes when availble, go to the AI conferences and start to leverage demos etc when available.
3. Talk to your peers, partners, and Microsoft Team and look out for funded workshops which will likely be available from summer.
4. Read Microsoft's Worklab report on working with next generation AI (it's a good read).

4. Keep Calm – it is coming but there is time to prepare

Microsoft has just announced the launch of their Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program. It’s an invitation-only, paid preview program that’s set to roll out to only 600 clients across the globe at first in the coming weeks.

They say that they have received overwhelming feedback from their initial early preview clients, they have been “testing the concepts” with. They say those clients have indicated huge benefits to business and the ways in which it can transform and reshape work. In recent months, Microsoft have also released further information around how Copilot will will impact other applications such as Viva, Dynamics 365, Teams and more with new capabilities being announced almost weekly.

This new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity…There’s an enormous opportunity for AI-powered tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI aptitude, and empower employees

Satya Nadella |Chairman and CEO |Microsoft

We will know more as we move forward – there are lots of moving parts – previews, public previews, (potentially) governments getting in the way, data soverignty issues (today data is only processed in the US and not local in local geo), licensing prices and of course availabilty….

In fact – this is probably already out of date as its a rapid moving landscape, and this is just the tip of the iceberg and just Microsoft.

What should you do?
1. Keep checking with your Microsoft team,. your partner and the Microsoft 365 Roadmap
2. Start thinking roles that will be positively affected by AI in the workplace. Speak to users, buid your success team.
3. Think about new skills your teams will need to work along side AI.
4. Read Microsoft's Worklab report on working with next generational AI (it's a good read).

What is next in CoPilot?

A good question….

When Microsoft annouced Copilot in March, where they showed the value concepts in apps like teams, Powerpoint and Excel, they said that this was “just the beginning”. Over the last couple of months, Microsoft have continued to tease new Copilot capabilities to bring AI to every part of Microsoft apps and services. The key annoucements (since the actual annoucement include):

  • Copilot in Whiteboard – which will make Microsoft Teams meetings and brainstorms more creative and effective. Using natural language, you will be able to ask Copilot to generate ideas, organize ideas into themes, create designs that bring ideas to life and summarise whiteboard content.
  • Copilot in Outlook will offer coaching tips and suggestions on clarity, sentiment and tone to help users write more effective emails and communicate more confidently.
  • Copilot in OneNote will use prompts to draft plans, generate ideas, create lists and organize information to help customers find what they need easily.
  • Copilot in Loop will helps your team stay in sync by quickly summarising all the content on your Loop page to keep everyone aligned and able to collaborate effectively.
  • Copilot in Viva Learning will use a natural language chat interface to help users create a personalized learning journey including designing upskilling paths, discovering relevant learning resources and scheduling time for assigned trainings.

Q&A – This will evolve

QuestionWhat we knowSource
Where will the data be processed by Copilot?Microsoft have said that currently all processing will take place is the US. It will eventually be regionalised based on customer tennant. No time scales yetMay 2023: Microsoft 365 Conference
Will Copilot respect data seciuroty and soverienty?Yes -Microsoft have made it clear that Copilots’ sphere of access will be limited to the user context in which it runs, goverened by your organisation’s policies. May 2023: Microsoft 365 Conference.
When will Copilot enter public preview?No dates annouced yet. Be sure to keep an eye on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.
Will there be charge for Copilot.No offical news but the expectation is yes.
Q&A Table.

What do you think?

Like you, I am still working out what this means for our business, my teams and my people. I welcome your feedback, thoughts and ideas.

Microsoft takes on Canva with Designer (in Edge)

Microsoft Designer Logo

Microsoft Designer was first announced back in August of 2022 and has been available in a limited preview to since January this year to gain early feedback from users.

This week however, Microsoft announced that (whilst still in preview), the AI driven social media content creation platform would be available for anyone to try. Microsoft also announced plans to include the tools into their Edge browser in much the same way they have provided the ability to use the new Bing AI search.

Screen showing sign-up for Designer social media creation tool

Introducing Microsoft Designer

Microsoft Designer is a “Canva-like” designer tool aims to provide a simple, sleek and AI infused tool to help business and consumers quickly produce high quality online content such as social media posts, greeting cards, banners, branding, alerts, promotions etc.

Powered by DALL·E and built as a progressive web app, Microsoft Designer is the latest AI powered tool now in ‘preview-mode, which joins Bing Chat and Bing Image Creator along with many other tools which can be accessed on their own or from within the sidebar of their Chromium powered Edge browser.

Available from https://designer.microsoft.com or from the Edge side bar, users can use Designer to manage and create animations, impressive visuals, text, and design templates specifically for sharing on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, TickTok and Instagram, or of course on enterprise social tools within an organisation like Viva Engage [aka Yammer].

Example of a Microsoft Designer Page for my upcoming fireside chat!
Example Designer design (c) Rob Quickenden

Here’s some of the great things you can do today in Designer.

  • Easily create designs with >20 different social media layout sizes across Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • Automatic (manual override) of elements such as text, video and images to best accommodate your chosen layout, reducing time needed to manually format you posts.
  • Wide range of animation features including auto text transitions and animated backgrounds.
  • Save or share directly with social media your finished creations.

Being in preview there is still more to come and the app will continue to evolved based on user feedback and their development lifecycle. Here’s more AI powered tools that Mcirosoft are working on which will be coming “soon”.

  • New Fill tool that allows users to select an area of a design and quickly place an object in that location
  • Simple erase function which will allow the user to brush over a person/object in the design and have Designer remove the object, generate and replace it with another image
  • Expand Background tool, which will be able to quickly fill any gaps within the foreground of your design, and
  • Replace Background which will be able to switch the background to a new one preserving the rest of your design.

Why integrate into Edge?

Microsoft say that by integrating Designer into Edge, they are bringing these capabilities straight into where people work. Since it will be accessible directly via the edge sidebar, users can access it by simply clicking on the Designer icon. Microsoft say this makes the tools accessible and “in the flow of creativity“, meaning users can quickly create unique designs instantly by simply describing the graphic you want without needing to leave the page they are, switch windows, load apps, or download custom extensions to the browser.

Coming soon - designer integrated into Microsoft Edge.
Coming soon: Designer integration directly into Edge sidebar. Image (c) Microsoft.

The aim is to improve the workflow and “keep you in the moment” – since whilst creating a social media post, Designer in Edge will provide AI-powered design suggestions to include in the post, which can then be customised and published without needing to leave the browser of switch apps.

As with any preview, Microsoft encourage users to feedback on their experience of using designer – both as a dedicated service and as a Edge browser integrated experience.

Competing with the Design giants

Designer is still in preview and there is lots Microsoft need to do to get it to the level of comparison with other apps like Canva and Adobe, both of whom have recently released their own AI-powered features. Microsoft have done a great job so far and by opening the preview up to the masses and with their recent investment in OpenAI, I expect a plethora of enhancements and new features to keep coming.