Microsoft is bringing an AI-powered Copilot to its suite of business apps

Microsoft is bringing an AI-powered Copilot to its suite of business apps

Microsoft is bringing an AI-powered Copilot to its suite of business apps

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Microsoft today introduced what it calls the “next generation” of AI product updates to its business application portfolio. They relate to both Power Platform, Microsoft’s set of low-code tools for building applications and workflows, and Dynamics 365, the suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. and the company’s customer relationship management (CRM).


In an interview with TechCrunch, Charles Lamanna, CVP of Business Applications and Platforms at Microsoft, described updates as the logical next step in Microsoft’s automation journey. Powered by technology from AI startup OpenAI and built using Azure OpenAI Service, Microsoft’s service that provides personalized access to OpenAI’s API, the new features follow the deployment of OpenAI text generation AI in Power Platform four years ago and the most recent launch of generative AI capabilities in Viva Sales, Microsoft’s seller experience app.

“Over the past four years, we’ve been on a journey to bring generative AI and core models to the workplace,” Lamanna said via email, noting that Microsoft has a long-standing partnership with OpenAI. to commercialize the vendor’s technology in Microsoft’s own products and through the Azure OpenAI service. “And we’ve now reached the point where the technology and the product can enable transformative outcomes for customers.”

In Dynamics 365, Microsoft is launching what it calls Copilot (borrowing the branding of the Copilot service from GitHub), which, broadly speaking, aims to automate some of the more repetitive sales and customer service tasks.

For example, in Dynamics 365 Sales and Viva Sales, Copilot can help draft email responses to customers and create an email summary of a Teams meeting in Outlook. The meeting summary pulls details from the seller’s CRM, such as product and pricing information, Lamanna explains, and combines it with information from the recorded Teams call.

“We securely and intelligently access information from customers’ CRM, ERP, and other enterprise data sources at runtime,” Lamanna added. “We use large language models to combine business data with underlying knowledge to produce tailored answers for each client. Importantly, we do not use customer data to train the models.

In Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Copilot can draft “contextual responses” to customer queries via chat or email and provide an “interactive chat experience” to customer service agents that leverages knowledge bases as well as on the case history. These complement the new “conversation boosters” feature in Power Virtual Agents, Microsoft’s chatbot builder, which allows businesses to connect a bot to resources like a website or knowledge base to use that data to respond. to questions on which the bot was not trained.

In turn, conversation boosters complement a new “GPT” model in Microsoft’s AI Builder tool that allows organizations to integrate text-generating capabilities into their Power Automate and Power Apps solutions. Lamanna says that, for example, a researcher could use it to summarize text from published weekly reports and email it, while a marketer could leverage the GPT model to create targeted and generated content ideas. by entering specific keywords or topics.

Given Microsoft’s recent foray into generative text – i.e. Bing Chat – one might be reluctant to build an app using the company’s technology lest it go off the rails. But Lamanna says the conversation boosters and GPT model — plus Copilot, for that matter — are “grounded in reality” by each customer’s CRM, ERP, and other data sources.

“AI-generated content is always clearly labeled and users are encouraged to check for accuracy before using it. Where appropriate, we also cite the sources from which the answer was retrieved to better enable ‘user to verify the accuracy of the response,” Lamanna said. “We have monitoring and controls in place to allow us to respond quickly with manual intervention in case issues slip through the lines of defense here. -above.”

Nothing prevents users from not take the time to verify the accuracy of the content, of course. Time will tell if this becomes a problem; Studies on automation bias, or people’s tendency to put too much faith in AI, suggest that might be the case.

Fortunately, Copilot’s other abilities are less potentially problematic.

With Copilot in Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and Dynamics 365 Marketing, marketers can receive suggestions on customer segments they might not have considered before and create target segments by describing the segment with their own words. They can also get ideas for email campaigns, by entering requests to see topics from Copilot, which generates them by drawing from an organization’s existing marketing emails as well as “a range” of sources. Internet, explains Lamanna.

Microsoft is catching up in some ways. The CRM elephant in the room, Salesforce, has been injecting (or at least trying to inject) its family of CRM products with AI-powered capabilities for years. Startups like Glint have also embraced AI, primarily to automate customer service workflows. But as a growing number of marketers say they plan to sprinkle AI into their content strategies, it doesn’t matter who hits first, necessarily, but who deploys it first. At scale.

“CRM and ERP have long been sources of critical data for customers and businesses; however, they often require tedious tasks such as manual data entry, content generation, and note taking,” Lamanna said. “Dynamics 365 Copilot automates these tedious tasks and unleashes all the creativity of the workforce.”

Beyond the realm of sales, Copilot in Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft’s enterprise management system, attempts to streamline the creation of e-commerce product listings. Lamanna says Copilot can generate product attributes like color, material, and size with descriptions that can be personalized by adjusting things like tone of voice, format, and length.

It’s a bit like Shopify’s recently introduced AI-generated product descriptions tool, a fact that Lamanna indirectly acknowledged. He pointed out that Business Central customers using Shopify can publish products with AI-generated descriptions to their Shopify store in “a few clicks” (after reviewing them for accuracy, hopefully).

Elsewhere, riding the wave of automation in the supply chain industry, Microsoft Supply Chain Center’s Copilot can proactively flag issues such as weather, financials, and geography that could impact supply chain process. Supply chain planners can then choose to have Copilot automatically compose an email to alert relevant partners.

Lamanna argues that even simple AI-infused processes like this — email automation — can lead to a measurable increase in productivity.

“According to our recent business trends survey, 9 in 10 workers hope to use AI to reduce repetitive tasks in their jobs. AI-powered assistants are now table stakes for professional applications,” said Lamanna. “We believe Dynamics 365 Copilot will help employees work faster so organizations can spend more time on the creative and innovative aspects of their jobs, like building long-term customer relationships.”

As always, the truth is obscured by marketing gimmicks. But what is clear is that Microsoft is not slowing down its investments in AI and automation. It wasn’t until January that Microsoft invested billions more in OpenAI, and the company is eager to see a return on that investment.

Copilot will be included with existing Dynamics 365 licenses such as Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and Dynamics 365 Customer Service Enterprise at no additional cost, Microsoft says. It will launch in preview from March 6, with general availability to follow later.


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