The Buzz around Microsoft 365 AI

AI is everywhere now. The sound is deafening. Talk of Large Language Models, ChatGPT, OpenAI, Copilot, and other AI technologies is relentless and overwhelming. Is there any reason organizations are struggling with what they need to do to prepare and how they can start joining in on this revolution?

There’s so much noise around AI right now because we really are at a truly transformative time in history where AI is poised to radically change the way we work. Taking advantage of these Generative AI capabilities will empower your employees to be more productive, reduce errors, and reduce frustration.

One thing is for certain, every organization needs to have a strategy for how and when to use AI in their organization or they risk getting left behind. But how do you get started? How do you need to prepare? How can AI help transform your organization? Let’s take a deeper, practical look at how you should get started with AI in the Microsoft world.

Preparing for AI

When looking at the future of your organization and the potential technological landscape there are a few things you can begin doing today to ensure the best results possible. A few of the most critical steps are:

Prepare Your Data

Remember back in the day when you first used the application Delve and people freaked out because Delve was surfacing documents that people weren’t supposed to have access to? To be clear, the reason this occurred is that the documents weren’t secured properly in the first place, so Delve was just showing employees the documents they had access to. Well, multiply that same freak-out by 100 when bringing tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot into the mix.  Microsoft 365 Copilot boasts the ability to help you create Office Documents, Emails, PowerPoint presentations, and helps you be more productive in your day with Teams business chat. Do you know what’s at the heart of all of that information? The Microsoft Graph, and your data stored in SharePoint, Teams, OneDrive, Exchange Online, and more…

No longer are people searching for documents and accidentally finding something that wasn’t secured properly, they are now getting suggested documents by Copilot based on what they are working on and what they have access to. Generative AI tools like Copilot are amazing because employees don’t have to ask very specific questions or use exact keywords. Copilot is smart enough to understand what the employee is asking and find relevant information, regardless of what exactly a file name might be called. That’s awesome… and scary.

Can you imagine if employees start asking Copilot about the salaries of their coworkers and someone created a public Team where that type of information was stored? What if your trade secrets were in a SharePoint site that you may have never added a user to, but they all had access to it?

You need to get your house in order! Organizations that relied on “security through obscurity,” are about to have a very rude awakening.

Luckily, you have several options when it comes to assessing the state of your content and understanding the potential risks of files being over-shared. Just a few of those options are:

  • SharePoint Advanced Management (SAM) is a new tool that is part of Microsoft Syntex which is designed to help you solve the problem of oversharing in SharePoint Online. With advanced security and content migration capabilities, SAM not only helps you quickly identify possible oversharing scenarios, but it also equips you to quickly address those issues and secure your data.
  • Other third-party tools from companies like Quest,  SysKit, and Rencore can also help you identify and address oversharing and security concerns.
  • Don’t have the budget to pay for a tool? You can also use PnP PowerShell to write your own scripts to audit your content and look for potential sharing issues.

Regardless of how you identify your potential oversharing issues (and yes, you have them), this is the first thing you should do to get ready for unleashing the power of AI in your organization, ESPECIALLY for tools like Copilot that inherently use the Microsoft Graph.

TEC Talk: Making Generative AI Work for Microsoft 365 Active Directory

AI-based Microsoft 365 Copilot is coming. But before you commit, join this TEC Talk to understand the technology behind Copilot and how it generates information from M365 applications.

Identify Who Needs These Tools

Let’s face it, Generative AI tools like Copilot can be expensive. With prices for  Copilot starting at $30 per user per month, most organizations will not purchase Copilot for all their users. Identify who in your organization will benefit most from their usage. Logically, any user responsible for generating large amounts of presentations and documents would benefit tremendously, but also those employees like executives, managers, and salespeople, who need quick access to important relevant information to do their jobs effectively. Indeed, everyone in your organization can find some benefit from these tools but try to start with those that need it the most.

Prepare Your Employees

It’s not good enough to just have your data ready for AI, you need to make sure your employees are ready as well. Are they equipped with the essential skills necessary to get the best responses possible for AI? Another phrase that’s been dominating the internet lately is “Prompt Engineering.” Prompt Engineering is the phrase used to describe how to create proper dialog (prompts) for communicating with Large Language Models. The way requests are phrased can greatly impact the tone, personality, and quality of response. Proper prompts help ensure employees get the results they are looking for faster without a lot of tweaking and iterations.

A few best practices when creating prompts include:

  • Be precise and to the point. The more you ramble, the higher the risk of unwanted artifacts in your response.
  • Choose the right persona for the response (ie: Respond as a marketing writer).
  • Choose the right outcome for the response (ie: to generate excitement around campaign x).
  • Validate responses, don’t assume the response is accurate.

The quality of the responses your employees receive will be directly related to the quality of their prompts. Don’t just drop these tools in their laps without any training.

Getting Started with AI in Microsoft

Now that your organization is ready to dive in, what options exist for your organization to leverage these capabilities? Fortunately, there are many opportunities to choose from.

Microsoft 365 Copilot

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of and seen the awesome demos of Microsoft 365 Copilot. It boasts capabilities of making documents easier to create, data easier to read, emails easier to write, meeting summaries to make your friends jealous, and bringing the world of Microsoft data to your fingertips. What’s more, Microsoft has several varieties of Copilot including:

Yes, these tools may come with a premium price tag, but a huge advantage of these Copilots is there is very little configuration or complicated deployment to get started. If you really want to harness the power of Generative AI in your workplace, and you have the budget, I would start by taking a look at a Copilot that meets your needs.

Azure OpenAI

Another hiccup with using awesome, groundbreaking tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot is that it’s not actually available yet. Currently, there is an invite-only preview occurring, and you really shouldn’t expect Microsoft 365 Copilot to be readily available until the beginning of next year.

So, what is an organization supposed to do if they don’t want to wait until next year or if they don’t have the budget for these Copilots? Excellent question! I’m glad you asked.

By taking advantage of Azure OpenAI, organizations can harness the power of Generative AI today, right now, and potentially see some cost savings over other options. So, what can you do with Azure OpenAI???

Get ChatGPT functionality without Sending Confidential Data to OpenAI’s Servers.

With the explosion of the popularity of ChatGPT occurring previously this year, many organizations quickly shut down access to the ChatGPT website to prevent confidential company data and secrets from being accidentally leaked like what happened to Samsung.

Luckily, thanks to Azure OpenAI you can give your employees the exact same benefits of using OpenAI’s ChatGPT without fear of confidential information being leaked, stored, or used for training.

Combine Azure OpenAI with tools like Power Virtual Agents and you can have a secure ChatGPT experience for your employees set up within days.  Take a look at the Azure AI Bot Service for all your bot options.

Use Azure OpenAI with your Organizational Data

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a ChatGPT experience, except that the data used in the responses was your company information? Thanks to Azure OpenAI you can easily point your models to your company data like HR benefit information or your extensive Knowledge Base documentation to truly transform how your employees find answers to their unique questions.

Connect Azure OpenAI to your Power Automate workloads

Using tools like Power Automate and SharePoint Document libraries you can start getting some amazing functionality boosts from Generative AI in hours… maybe minutes! Have Power Automate connect to Azure OpenAI in your SharePoint document libraries to quickly and easily:

  • Extract metadata from images and documents
  • Translate documents
  • Summarize documents
  • Identify key points about a document
  • Analyze the sentiment of a document
  • Generate a Q&A about a document
  • Quickly alert employees about inappropriate content

And so much more!

This is Just the Beginning

Hopefully, you have some ideas on how to get ready for AI in your organization and you’ve gotten just an inkling of what’s possible by embracing Generative AI; quickly, easily, and without writing any code.

Want to know more? Want to see some examples of how you can use these tools right now? You are in luck! Come watch my TEC session on a “Practical Introduction to AI in Microsoft 365” and truly understand, step-by-step, how to get started!!

About the Author

Mark Rackley

Mark is Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at PAIT Group and an Office 365 MVP with more than 25 years of experience designing and developing software solutions. Mark’s daily responsibilities include forging the direction of solution architecture and development projects for clients while providing the best solutions for clients' unique problems. As a globally recognized SharePoint geek, Mark is an active blogger, presenter, author (and bacon aficionado) who is eager to lend his real-world knowledge of SharePoint to all who need it. In addition to speaking at various SharePoint conferences, Mark is the organizer of The North American Collaboration Summit in Branson, Missouri and can be found speaking at as many events as his professional and family life will allow. Mark engages his audiences with humor, real-world stories from the trenches, and practical solutions.


  1. Mario

    The link to “Practical Introduction to AI in Microsoft 365” isn’t working, is there another link I can use?

  2. Kutu

    Interesting article. Can you share more about Implementation of AI , integrating SharePoint , Teams and other Microsoft products

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