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As a Microsoft MVP, Darrell Webster offers knowledge and experience in a way that bridges IT ‘know how’ with a clear understanding of user adoption and needs. In his words, the subject matter becomes his method to connect with people and to learn together with them.
In this episode, Digital Workplace Impact host Nancy Goebel chats with the New Zealand-based modern work mentor and podcaster. They share insights and reflections on generative AI and specifically on Microsoft Copilot.
Darrell talks through the necessity of understanding this new technology, what it could reveal and the value it could uncover, but also the need to prepare well and create community around its introduction. He takes listeners through his own mini-blueprint for readiness as Copilot advances into the workplace – including the idea of piloting Copilot itself.
Generative AI has the potential to spark a whole new level of natural curiosity and stronger collaboration, but might it also surface information that perhaps we shouldn't always see? Darrell shares helpful watchouts to consider, along with encouragement to explore what’s ahead.
If you have more questions than answers about generative AI, then listen today and find out more about preparing for Copilot in the digital workplace.
[00:00:00.330] – Darrell Webster
You that cognitive load that we all face when we’re trying to start on an idea and we’re switching from one task to oh that’s right, I’ve got to get that presentation done. Where is that pause of okay, where do I start? What do I do? What am I going to begin with? And being able to get that started based on real information and a collection of what is being created within your teams and your groups, within your organization is so valuable that it’s not just that you’re picking things out of thin air or you’re having to recall certain thoughts. It’s a beginning. And it’s not necessarily that it’s writing the whole thing for you, it’s a starter. So I see that as definitely a huge benefit that whatever app that you’re in, being able to get that starter and summarize or collect or start to build something for you across different apps is a big feature.
[00:01:01.190] – Nancy Goebel
During a recent online DWG member event, we had a chance to catch up with Melanie Hohertz, a Microsoft MVP from EY, to talk about the role and value of Viva Engage. And during that session I asked Melanie who she follows among the MVPs and without hesitation she said Darrell Webster. I immediately looked Darrell up on LinkedIn following our session and made a connection request with the thought that we needed to find a space to bring Darrell onto this podcast. Within a short period of time, Darrell posted a video on LinkedIn entitled get Ready for Microsoft 365 Copilot. And it was at that moment that I knew that we had landed on the perfect topic. With so many practitioners in and around DWG circles asking a lot of questions about generative AI broadly and Microsoft Copilot specifically, it felt as though we landed on a clear vision for a Microsoft MVP’s blueprint for Copilot readiness. And so this session is all about that as well as an exploration of Darrell’s background as a Microsoft MVP. I think you’ll find this session to be a fascinating one for both of those reasons. And as a side note, in the Show Notes, we’ve included a link to the podcast episode that was featured in that LinkedIn post, one that Darrell and longtime colleague and friend Daniel Glenn co-host together.
[00:02:51.690] – Nancy Goebel
And so be on the lookout for that in the show notes as well. They run a Microsoft 365 Message Center show and for those of you that want to have a deeper understanding of what Microsoft is up to, what you should be thinking about, it’s a worthwhile listen. And so join me now in conversation with Darrell who’s been a Microsoft MVP since 2013, as well as a modern work mentor. This is your host and DWG’s Chief Executive, Nancy Goebel. As always, Digital Workplace impact is brought to you by Digital Workplace Group. Happy listening. Darrell. I am just thrilled that you’re able to step out of a busy schedule to join us in the studio. Welcome, welcome.
[00:03:45.990] – Darrell Webster
Thank you, Nancy. It’s great to be joining you.
[00:03:49.530] – Nancy Goebel
And of course, the reason that we’ve come together is that not long ago, we had a DWG member session with the team from EY, and one of your fellow Microsoft MVPs, Melanie Hohertz, was actually someone who mentioned that she follows your work, your conversations, your insights very closely. So, of course that meant that I had to reach out to you and create some community and then, by extension, bring you into the studio for a chat today.
[00:04:24.210] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, that’s how the network and the community works. We’re definitely all learning from each other, so I learn from Melanie, she learns from me. It’s definitely part of the great benefits of being part of the community.
[00:04:37.930] – Nancy Goebel
And I love that. And of course, I know that our listeners will be very intrigued by your role as a Microsoft MVP. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming one? And then, of course, it’s something that’s been renewed more than once, which is an important part of the story as well.
[00:04:59.550] – Darrell Webster
Well, it is an interesting story, and I have to relate it to one of my favorite movies or movie characters, Forrest Gump. I’ve always felt like I’m the Forrest Gump of the IT industry. If you think of Forrest and how he lived his life, he tended to be part of things in history without actually choosing to be. He was just there and it just sort of happened quite significant things around him. And it’s felt like that for me as I’ve gone through my career where I’ve experienced various different things and learned different skills, and that’s connected me with different people, different opportunities, and many of them have just sort of seemed to come out of the blue. I took a break from IT for some time and was delivering mail as a postie in New Zealand. So I was working with snail mail and one of my previous employers heard about Office 365 and said, hey, are you thinking of coming back to IT? You’re a people person, so we think this product would be really good if you could help us out with it. And so coming back to that, it was early days back then with Office 365 and various tech, but part of what I wanted to do, and I’ve always enjoyed doing this, was making notes and sharing what I’ve learned as part of that learning experience.
[00:06:29.790] – Darrell Webster
So I got into blogging, but I also challenged myself to start making videos along with it. I wanted to try and give people the experience of watch the movie or read the book, so to speak. And that tended to sit quite well with the community because of the subject matter too, that I was discussing. It lent itself to using the technology to actually connect with the community. Using tech like Skype for business and joining online user groups just started to connect me with various people. And I started to see that here in New Zealand where I’m based, I didn’t have to be on the edge of the world. I could actually get up early in the morning or stay a little bit late at night and join some of these communities, live and have good discussions with people. And that led me into leading user groups and helping people out and just getting more involved with forums and various different online activities, to the point where as the MVP program works, the more that you’re involved in leading and helping the community, you become recognized for that. And Microsoft may nominate you, or another MVP might nominate you as someone who’s contributing to the community.
[00:07:47.610] – Darrell Webster
So that’s how I landed in that role or received that award. And it was exciting to be part of that early on when Office 365 was, was so new. I was one of 50 MVPs around the world at that time for Microsoft 365, or rather Office 365. And since then it’s certainly grown.
[00:08:13.300] – Nancy Goebel
And so can you share with us how you’ve leveraged your MVP status to make a positive impact on the community, the industry certainly sharing what you know is foundational. Can you add another layer to that for us?
[00:08:33.030] – Darrell Webster
Well, it’s an interesting question for me because I don’t often promote my MVP status. I know that some people, they often throw the badge on their email signatures or drop it on a slide as they’re introducing themselves in a talk. I tend to really just rather be known for my deeds and my attitude than the award. But what the MVP program and the network has connected me to is it has helped me take or receive some of the opportunities that I wouldn’t have had on my own, being able to connect me with more people across the world and other similar focused experts and the like. So through that it’s put me in touch with different events or different other communities where in turn I’ve been able to help their communities and discuss, learn, share and learn along with them. It’s helped me also to connect with the Microsoft product group, the people that actually create the software. And that’s quite a privilege to be able to do that, to be part of conversations, chats and meetings and give direct feedback. What I like to do is actually use that to help my community and the industry too, where I’m hearing feedback or comments about the software and services choices that have been made for how Microsoft 365 is being shaped and created different apps and products.
[00:10:12.550] – Darrell Webster
I advocate for some of those pieces of feedback. It’s quite a privilege to be able to do that and to take that directly to the people that create the software.
[00:10:24.390] – Nancy Goebel
So it’s really about a sharing circle and a sphere of influence in a lot of ways that helps create almost a stepping stone effect from where we are now at any given moment to what’s happening next. And I think that’s really exciting. I know when we’re in conversation with our members, one of the things they say is a big challenge for them is staying up to date with either planned developments or the latest developments in and around the Microsoft ecosystem. So you’ve got some built in connections that you can exploit, but generally speaking, when either you’re thinking about your wider lens or how best other people can stay abreast of the latest developments, what advice can you offer there?
[00:11:17.290] – Darrell Webster
It’s a crucial thing to be able to try and stay up to date in our industry, definitely. And with Microsoft 365, as Microsoft software has transitioned to cloud software and constant updates and improvements. You can turn on your application for the morning and the day before it didn’t have the same features and capabilities, and the next day it does. And like with many people in the community who use these tools, it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a network or people that are focused in your organization to prepare you for what’s coming and what’s changing. So I feel that challenge with so many different sources to get information, whether it be that it’s blog posts directly from Microsoft or social media posts from them and then the ongoing rippling conversations within the community. I often find that it is a lot about a network that helps me focus in on what’s important to me and what I want to focus on. And it leads back to the authoritative source. I know that there are lots of different blog posts and reaction posts and thoughts surrounding thinking. When something is announced, I do like to go back to the source.
[00:12:51.100] – Darrell Webster
So I am often looking at blog posts, articles that my might release, videos that have come out of, let’s say, the Microsoft mechanics. But there is one other source which has been quite a focus for myself over six or seven years, and it’s directly within the product. And it’s the Microsoft 365 Message Center. And this is a place that Microsoft created a while back where they announce what’s coming. There is a roadmap, and this is the follow on from that roadmap where within four to six weeks they will announce something there, tell you what’s coming, give you a bit more specific information about that and what the impacts are. And a friend of mine and I is from Nashville, Tennessee, Daniel Glenn. We started up the 365 Message Center Show and the whole purpose for that was really for us initially as a discipline to go to that message center ourselves and check it out. And then we just share some of the thoughts and what we learn from what was being announced and what is arriving. And just through that regular discipline of getting together and talking about it and turning it into some content for people to also learn from.
[00:14:14.100] – Darrell Webster
It became quite an anchor for both of us to keep up to date with what’s changing.
[00:14:20.930] – Nancy Goebel
And within the Message Center show would you say your audience is primarily IT professionals or day-to-day individuals who are leveraging the Microsoft suite and just want to stay connected or a mixture?
[00:14:40.170] – Darrell Webster
It tends to be a mixture. The Message Center can come across as being sometimes written for IT pros, sometimes it feels like it’s written. Each message might be written as a marketing post, but it is something that has been adapted and constructed over the years to become, I think, a crucial tool for change managers within an organization that if you don’t have access to this and you can with a limited account. You should get it because it’s like a lighthouse for change managers to look at and see what is coming. What do I need to do to prepare my people for this change as it arrives? And you’ll often find that IT pros in an organization. They’ll be looking at this message center, but not as frequently as they should, and something will arrive. And they’ve had warning, but they haven’t been able to pass that on. And they haven’t been able to leverage the skill set that a change manager or a communicator might have to cushion that and make it possible for regular people to understand. So the Message Center Show tends to have a mixture of followers, change managers, some you could say power users, people who are interested in it, in Microsoft 365 and we’ve tended to have some really good feedback over the years in terms of how it’s landing.
[00:16:11.170] – Darrell Webster
And Daniel, he gets to travel a bit more because he’s over in the US. Just in New Zealand but he’ll go along to different conferences and hear back from people about how the show has been helpful to keep people up to date.
[00:16:24.890] – Nancy Goebel
Well, certainly that’ll be a great takeaway for our listeners and we’ll be sure to feature that in the show notes. Just one more question about your background before we dive into a topic. We said we’d spend the balance of our time talking through together and that is do you regard yourself as a Microsoft generalist or do you have specific areas of expertise?
[00:16:50.210] – Darrell Webster
In my role as a change manager and I could say a hybrid technical expert as well because I do get into some of the technical side of a project. I do see myself as a generalist but I have a focus on the collaborative and communication sides of Microsoft 365. As a generalist I am trying to understand what is the big picture, what is available and running across the platform because I need to understand that so I can communicate the value to the people about the platform and that goes with whatever project or change management activity I need to get involved in. But my keenest interest is in the collaboration and communication space. So it’s your Teams, Outlook, Viva Engage, SharePoint and technologies that bring people together to collaborate and work. And so more recently, Microsoft Loop as a product that they’ve been working on for a collaborative canvas style of work. I find that that piques my interest because it also feeds my need to connect with people as well. That again, the subject matter becomes the method for me to connect with people and to learn together with them.
[00:18:17.550] – Nancy Goebel
And of course we’d be remiss not to put a spotlight moment on Copilot, especially knowing that it’s going to permeate all of these areas in some fashion in the not so distant future. Of course, Microsoft has had several intervals of reviews of the integration of Copilot into Microsoft 365. It’s not quite in the mainstream yet, but it’s certainly on the path. And so I’d love to focus the balance of our time talking about your insights, your thoughts, your reflections for the generative AI space and more specifically Copilot within what I call the land of Microsoft. From your point of view, how would you say Copilot aligns with Microsoft’s overall strategy and goals as you see them?
[00:19:10.450] – Darrell Webster
I really relate to the phrase that they’ve been using for a number of years and it’s quite succinct in how it summarizes Microsoft strategy. It’s helping everyone everywhere on the planet to achieve more. And as it’s progressed over time, you’ve also heard Microsoft talk about tech intensity and addressing that, that as the world ramps up and technology ramps up over years, it’s become quite hard to keep up to date with various things. All the information that we deal with, trying to filter through and find that value or the thing that we’re looking for to help us with a certain task. And they began talking about tech intensity and artificial intelligence and automation a few years back that it was going to be the way to deal with or to help you cope with tech intensity. And as we went through recently with the COVID-19 epidemic and as a result some of the flow and effects of an economic crisis looming, Microsoft started to talk about achieving more with less. And I thought that was an interesting pivot. It felt like, okay, well, we now need to knuckle down and try and start using more of what we already have.
[00:20:39.870] – Darrell Webster
And then Copilot arrived and it became more for me, I see it as a focus on achieving more with what we currently have. So that initial phrase of helping everyone on the planet to achieve more, copilot fits in with helping us achieve more with what we currently have. And using AI, it helps us discover what we already know as an organization or as a community and who we already know, connecting us with the people that also have that expertise. So really interesting twists and turns and alignments that pivots to help us at an interesting time where we need to make the most of what we already have to do that.
[00:21:33.230] – Nancy Goebel
And certainly that’s a theme that we’re seeing within our membership and our wider circles. There was almost a level of a war room mentality at the height of COVID where organizations were making lots of changes to mobilize people to work from home as knowledge workers on scale. And so the philosophy was very much get it done. Now that we’re seeing a mixture of working scenarios, whether it’s individuals called back to the office in whole or in part or long term digital first business models or hybrid. Clearly there’s a level of discernment around investments that are being made in the organization because of the continued economic headwinds. And so we’re doing a lot in the way of talking about impact stories across the digital workplace because we know there’s been a resurgence in the need to put forth business cases to target investments and also in many cases, budgets can be thinner relative to work that needs to get done in and around the digital headquarters. And so just thinking about Microsoft’s Copilot capabilities as you know them, if you had to single out some of the most important features and benefits within what you’ve described, how would you encapsulate those for us?
[00:23:10.380] – Darrell Webster
I’d connect it to that achieving more with what we currently have and making it easier to do. So it’s interesting to see how pervasive yeah. How many places Copilot is going to be available in Microsoft 365. And rather than well, I will list a few of them, but I think I’d sum it up as saying that it’s about being able to use it in the app that you’re already in. And this is something of key interest to me, especially at the moment, is what can I do to help people reduce stress and be able to do their best work and focus and get deep into work without too much interruption. And so Copilot being available in the apps that we’re working in to help us with work means that we don’t have to switch to a different app or a different context and get distracted. So imagine being in a conversation in Teams and you need to catch up with what’s been said in a meeting and asking Copilot to summarize what you have missed. So you quickly read that and you catch up with the conversation. And now you can be more productive in that meeting, or you’re within PowerPoint and you’re trying to look for a starter for creating a slide deck on a presentation.
[00:24:43.140] – Darrell Webster
And you know that there’s a couple of documents that people have been working on as outlines or proposals as part of what you need to do. So rather than going and finding those documents and reading through them and trying to summarize it, you can feed it the document from within PowerPoint and get it to start to build that deck. It’s that cognitive load that we all face when we’re trying to start on an idea and we’re switching from one task to oh, that’s right, I’ve got to get that presentation done, where there’s that pause of, okay, where do I start? What do I do? What am I going to begin with? And being able to get that starter based on real information and a collection of what is being created within your teams and your groups, within your organization is so valuable that it’s not just that you’re picking things out of thin air or you’re having to recall certain thoughts. It’s a beginning. And it’s not necessarily that writing the whole thing for you, it’s a starter. So I see that as definitely a huge benefit that whatever app that you’re in, being able to get that starter and summarize or collect or start to build something for you across different apps is a big feature.
[00:26:09.670] – Nancy Goebel
And so put another way, it’s about enhancing one’s productivity. But it also can make you a better collaboration partner because you’re spending less time having people catch you up on things and allowing for more focus time with each. Other on the challenge to solve at hand, or the innovation challenge that you’re working through in that moment, or the client that you’re looking to service.
[00:26:38.670] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, agreed. And one of the things about it and it’s an interesting change too, for us we’ve been so conditioned that when we search for information that we almost speak to search engines in pigeon English, we give it brief phrases and brief words like find me this, do that. And we’ve forgotten how to search or look for information using natural language. So with Copilot that’s the big focus is just talk to it like you’re talking to a person and ask it for help in the app that you’re in, it will understand what you’re asking for, but it also has and understands the context of what you’re asking. So you might be asking about the gray elephant, but you get all the context around, well, what else might be connected to that elephant that is of value that I could use as a starter or start to pull together some content. And so that natural language and learning and understanding what I say is quite an amazing feature too, to see how that works.
[00:27:48.070] – Nancy Goebel
And I also firmly believe that there is the potential for generative AI, broadly speaking, Copilot in this context to actually spark a whole new level of natural curiosity. Because you approach this through asking an initial question and then a follow on question and then a deeper investigation, we are poised to become much more question oriented in how we approach tasks, challenges, next stage thinking. So I also think by extension, that could spark a whole new wave of creativity and innovation because it almost creates the headspace for that to happen.
[00:28:41.110] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, it is really impressive that you can build on that question like you and I while we were preparing for the show or when we’re in a conversation, it’s not that you ask me something and that’s it. It builds off that. In fact, even some of the things we’re talking about, we’ve built off what we have discussed and explore the topic a bit more. And I think you’re right that as we begin to get comfortable with a tool like this and question it and dig deeper into a topic and start to discover, based on its responses some of the things that we didn’t know, that we knew across the organization, we will ask follow on questions to explore a topic more or find more information. And that’s really clever. It’s really clever how it will use contents, conversations and connections and knowledge across my organization as sources for answers to my question and responses that follow. It’s quite amazing.
[00:29:48.510] – Nancy Goebel
And can you share some of the most interesting and or successful real world cases that use cases, I should say, that you’ve seen play out so far or that perhaps you can even envision for the early days as Copilot becomes more pervasive.
[00:30:10.930] – Darrell Webster
There’s the creative aspect of it where you’re trying to get a starter and you want to build something. So I gave that PowerPoint example where you’re trying to pull together a presentation coming back earlier than that. Sometimes we are within a group of people and we’re brainstorming, we’re coming up with ideas, we’re throwing things up on a whiteboard. And even there it can be really valuable to get that starter and to try and come up with information. So what we have seen in some of the early demonstrations and examples is a couple of apps that will allow you to have a conversation with Copilot as a group. So imagine that being able to put something on a page, whether it be OneNote or Microsoft Loop and two or three people who are c- authoring in a meeting with Copilot on the page will have a conversation, a group conversation with Copilot. And so Copilot’s going to come back with responses to help you build on your idea and start to create the content. But it’s not just you and Copilot, it is you co-authoring with the other two or three people in the group who are now drilling Copilot for more.
[00:31:32.980] – Darrell Webster
So you get that usual energy that you have in group ideation sessions, which is exciting in itself. But now you’ve got this partner called Copilot that knows a whole lot more and can help you find that information, give you that starter and just be, I guess, like just a very active partner in that co-authoring and creation experience.
[00:32:02.550] – Nancy Goebel
And inherently teams have a level of operating in a silo and sometimes organizations discover that there are parallel teams working on the same activities or a slice of a program or a project or a service. And so presumably in time, Copilot will help connect some of those dots as well, looking at the organizational knowledge base, content connections, et cetera.
[00:32:37.090] – Darrell Webster
Exactly. Without getting too deep into the technology. But underneath Microsoft 365 is a technology called the Graph, and it’s not just about the information and where it’s stored, but who’s accessing it, who’s using it, who do I work with, what kind of conversations are we having, who seems to be the expert on this topic? Because they’re having conversations on this all the time. And being able to access that in a far more natural way through Copilot is going to help you discover those pockets of people that are working on the same idea and in some way will actually connect you with that knowledge and those people as well. So very valuable.
[00:33:23.090] – Nancy Goebel
And so we’ve explored a little bit about the possibilities, the opportunities and what some of the real world use cases will look like. And often there are two sides to every coin. And so maybe we can explore a little bit about the struggles and the learnings. And I’m sure you’ve got some wisdom around what organizations should watch out for, especially those that are large, complex, global organizations within our audience set. So share with us some of your thoughts there.
[00:34:00.670] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, I think the largest topic of conversation on this is that given that Copilot is going to understand and have access to information, it is going to come back with results, it’s going to answer your questions, it’s going to give you a starter on various things. And one of the areas that an organization will need to prepare for and is potentially quite concerned about is oversharing. We saw this with when Delve arrived and again the Microsoft Graph where we see this and still see this with suggested content that oh, should I really see that? Is that document really something I should be seeing? And it gives executives, managers, people a bit of concern when they see those kinds of things appearing in their suggested results. And so they’ll contact IT. And even sometimes we’ve heard organizations asking, well, how do we turn this off? What do we do to fix this? And that challenge of it being now easier to surface information really highlights, I think, an area that organizations struggle with and have trouble with and that is controlling that oversharing that in the moment when we are trying to share something with someone, to work on it with them, we take the easiest route.
[00:35:47.290] – Darrell Webster
We don’t necessarily look at the permissions that we share, we just, oh well, I don’t know who’s going to need to see this and they might need to on share it. So I’ll choose the option to share with anyone in my organization, or maybe even everyone and everyone. And those simple choices that we don’t pause and make for ourselves, or maybe we’re putting the information in the wrong location, for example, is going to potentially surface some of the content that. Maybe we shouldn’t see and it has been overshared. And that’s certainly one of the big topics of discussion that I’m hearing around Copilot. It’s going to have its advantages and surfacing information and knowledge, but it’s also going to surface things maybe we shouldn’t see.
[00:36:36.510] – Nancy Goebel
And it speaks to the importance of governance, broadly speaking, but then honing in on both data and content in particular to think those things through, much like prior generations of new technologies where we had to figure out how to apply governance in new and different ways. But there was still a level of needing to think about policy and roles and a whole host of other things, other thoughts around what people should be watching out for, anticipating, thinking about on that scale?
[00:37:11.390] – Darrell Webster
Just in what you need to do to prepare for that. If you haven’t already considered some of the things you need to do to protect your information and put the governance in place, but then also the mechanisms to control it. These are things that regardless of Copilot, whether it exists or is coming or not, we need to put it in place anyway. And so it’s understanding the choices that you need to make and recognizing what is sensitive data, what is content that I don’t want to be going out of my organization at all. What do I need to label and make easy for people to see so that they can make quick decisions visually to understand what needs to be protected? Because Copilot will be using your environment and all of those choices and security decisions and governance decisions that you’ve put in place. And if you haven’t done that, then it is going to work within the boundaries that you have set. That speaks of oversharing, but it also speaks of how much we should know anyway and share across different groups within our organization.
[00:38:37.350] – Nancy Goebel
And so this is one area of consideration. I know that not long ago you shared via a video on LinkedIn some things for people to do to get ready for the wider rollout of Copilot. I thought it acted as a mini blueprint for things to think about. Can you take us through your thoughts there?
[00:39:02.510] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, definitely. And we’ll also share the link to the video from Microsoft Mechanics that steps through some of the things to prepare for. Good thing is that it’s something that Microsoft have put a lot of work into. So there will be something of a wizard within the Admin Center that helps you guide through some of these processes. So even though I talk about a few things now, there are lots of resources and even a resource within the configuration tools to guide you through. So some of the things that you can use to prepare for this, especially around the discovery of information and whether it’s been overshared, is you can use reports within the SharePoint Admin Center to come up with a list of files and things that have been shared with those larger permission sets. Is this shared with everyone in my organization? How many people are viewing that content? Should everyone be viewing that content? So seeing that from that perspective, looking into the Purview information protection and it gets into some of the tools that maybe you need to leverage some of the extra licensing capabilities within Microsoft 365, but the ability to label and classify information, if you had to do that job manually, that would be quite a struggle.
[00:40:40.810] – Darrell Webster
We’ve all learned from our years of using technologies like SharePoint that nobody likes to label and add metadata and tags and various things. They just like to upload that document. Away you go. But technologies like Purview and being able to provide trainable classifiers for information, these are technologies that we need to take a look at so that it makes our job easier to keep our information safe. You can train it so that it understands the files and information so that it then automatically gets applied a label or a classifier and then Copilot knows how to use it and protect it with that. There are simple higher level things like reviewing the different Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Slice that you have. Sometimes we create these things to quickly create a collaborative space and the choices that we make as we do that we might leave some of these things public instead of setting them as private. That at that moment when we’re starting to collaborate, we make these choices, but sometimes we don’t go back and review them. In terms of what has changed, has the nature of this collaboration space changed and does it need to be public, should it be private and what do I need to do to adjust those?
[00:42:08.780] – Darrell Webster
So it’s good to go back and check those sorts of things out as well and run various reports or even just be prompted as maybe in your role you might have a number of different collaboration spaces that you lead for projects and teams to just spend a bit of time going through and evaluating that.
[00:42:31.730] – Nancy Goebel
You also talk about improving search. Tell us a little bit about that.
[00:42:36.770] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, Copilot is using search. It’s not like it is having to come with a whole lot of brand new out of the box capabilities. It’s leveraging what’s already there in Microsoft 365 and it’s something again that an organization may or may not have put some time into improving their search. We all expect the performance of Google when we go to a search box, wherever it is, and plug in some words and hope that it’s going to come back with accurate information or very relevant search results. But we do forget that behind each Google search result is someone in an organization who’s put a lot of time into search engine optimization and tags and keywords and various things that will help raise the result higher. And we often use that as a way to try and help people understand why you should spend a bit of time adding metadata where it is possible to add it to your documents and your files, then Copilot using search is going to leverage all that. So if you have an ability to improve those search results, provide guidance around adding metadata, that’s helpful. But one technology that’s coming out that will help with that is the semantic index for Copilot.
[00:44:06.020] – Darrell Webster
And some of that need is going to be fulfilled by that product. The interesting thing with this is it’s like an enhancement for our standard search in Microsoft 365. And rather than just build this keyword index so that you can use that for search, it starts to add the other context around a word. And like so I talked about the gray elephant earlier, that we might be searching for a gray elephant, but it will also understand various things about that elephant. Maybe I’ll pull out the elephant and talk more about a document that I’m looking for, a report, financial report. And so I might remember that it was Sally who wrote that report and it’s a monthly report that’s always delivered in the second week of the month. And so when I search for that, to search for that term, it’s going to understand all of that context based on who works on that report, when, how it was shared, where it was shared. That semantic index just brings all of that extra context. So Copilot is going to work with the information and the search that you already have, but it will leverage things like this semantic index to improve those search results.
[00:45:27.770] – Nancy Goebel
And I thought this was a worthy call out from your readiness blueprint because I’ve heard far too many times that people assume that the advent of generative AI is going to obviate the need for search. And so what you’ve suggested here is an important thing not to lose sight of because it is part of the building block paradigm here.
[00:45:56.610] – Darrell Webster
Yeah, certainly you do still need to put in some work to improve your search. Organizations that have built out a useful taxonomy to try and talk about their own data within their organization, they’re going to have the edge because they already have that structure there. And whether people have been getting themselves into the habit of adding that tag to a document to help people understand it and find it easier, at least if some people have begun to use that, copilot is going to leverage all of that. If you’re coming from ground zero where you’re an organization who’s done nothing to help improve search or provide any kind of structure or any kind of best bets or possible answers, copilot will work with the very little that you’ve got. So yeah, you do have to put that time into improve search.
[00:46:51.090] – Nancy Goebel
Yeah. And another call out within this blueprint is the idea of planning to pilot Copilot. I’m sorry, your thoughts there, that was a tongue twister.
[00:47:02.240] – Darrell Webster
No. And it’s something I played a little with after we heard the Copilot licensing price and people looked at it and thought, oh my goodness, wow. But at the same time, there are similar kinds of AI technologies where people are investing the dollars per month to access it. And really it is something that you’re not going to, on day one buy for everyone in your organization, especially the large, complex organizations. You will want to understand what value is experienced within your organization using a pilot of Copilot. You and I know will understand this. We see too many pilots where it’s the IT department that get given the licenses to try this out and then they evaluate and said, great job done, let’s roll it out. A pilot of Copilot means that you get, let’s say, 20 to 30 licenses in a large organization and you take it out to business users. You learn from how they use it. What are they asking the tool to do? Is it coming back and delivering good starters or summaries of information for them? Is it generating things that are going to help them save time? You need to learn those lessons from a wide range of people across your organization to understand the value.
[00:48:31.300] – Darrell Webster
And that will help you make that choice of where best is Copilot going to fit, who are the roles and people that will benefit from this. But the interesting thing, Nancy, I’ve definitely been asked this too, on social channels is isn’t this going to provide or create a have and a have not scenario where if this thing is going to help us, if copilot is going to help us to be more productive. What if one of my colleagues in my team gets it and so they become super productive and they can achieve more and I don’t? Is that fair? Why didn’t I get it? So you’ll discover those sorts of challenges as well and things you’ll have to face as you run a pilot of Copilot and learn from that.
[00:49:22.450] – Nancy Goebel
And this idea of the digital divide can be very real inside of organizations. At the same time, there’s a level of experimentation that we need to support before we roll it out across the board. Because there are so many key things that we need to understand about this tool set. Not only in terms of the productivity possibilities, the innovation opportunities, but some of those very real governance challenges that you’ve talked about. And so with that, one of the other points that you share in this blueprint is the importance of putting together a change management program. Let’s explore that for a moment together.
[00:50:09.410] – Darrell Webster
It’s interesting the different technologies Microsoft are releasing lately that have less to do with the tech and more to do with how to introduce this change to people so that they get that value. This is one where it is about teaching people to have a conversation again with technology to relearn what is that natural language. At the same time, it’s also like we need to learn what is possible with this tool. So a change management program for this that travels alongside a Copilot is helping people to understand where can I use this tool, what kind of value can I get from it, what are some of the things that I can ask it? We saw that with technologies like Alexa and over time it starts to learn or is taught more skills. We’re going to see the same thing with Copilot. How do we address that so that people are getting that value from day one? If we just send it out with a PDF and a quick communication and say, here you go, this is Copilot, this is how you use it. Here’s a few steps, that’s not going to be enough. It’s going to be of benefit to surround this with a proper change program to help people understand how to get the benefits of it, where to find information, create that space to a community, if you will, for people sharing different tips of how they’ve got value, what’s worked for them, that will help people imagine and understand the possibilities.
[00:52:00.930] – Darrell Webster
I’ve always found the building of a community in a change management program around the technology that you’re rolling out has been hugely valuable, not just for launching it, but also that ongoing community of practice, if you will, to continue to get benefits from it and discuss the updates and the life of that tool.
[00:52:26.910] – Nancy Goebel
With that life point in mind, do you have any thoughts about where you think the future will be for Microsoft 365 Copilot? Any insights, a crystal ball moment or two perhaps that you can share with us?
[00:52:46.360] – Darrell Webster
I’m waiting to see like with a number of things released, is this going to be as good as the promotions and the demo videos say? If it is, then the impact to our life and work is going to be huge. But one reflection I have on this too. And we saw this as we all rushed to using Microsoft 365 and Teams and various things, was that during that period of time with the Pandemic, we all became conditioned to packing more into our day, working from meeting to meeting, leaving less gaps. That if I go back to that point about tech intensity. Intensity was ramped up. And so with Copilot, it has the potential to help us be more productive, to give us more time to free up some of our opportunities for creative thoughts and collaboration and connection across our organization. But we should be careful not to let other things fill that gap and pack in more meetings and have less time to perform those tasks. With a lot of these helpful technologies, they can be helpful or they can actually be enablers to poor work habits that affect our wellbeing and eventually take away from life.
[00:54:16.690] – Nancy Goebel
So the idea that something like this can create performance capacity is an empowering thing. But there is an art to balancing the work that we do such that we think we plan we do, as opposed to operating in fire drill mode 100% of the time, especially going from meeting to meeting to meeting. So the opportunity is there and it’s up to us collectively to put that time to optimal use. And so we’re quickly coming to the end of our time together. Darryl, any final reflections?
[00:54:59.450] – Darrell Webster
I’ve definitely enjoyed the conversation about Copilot and just want to encourage listeners and organizations who are considering it that we go back to that concept of the pilot of Copilot. That’s how you approach it. And if I can emphasize that as a takeaway, do what you need to do to prepare and understand what this technology is and what it’s going to reveal, the value that it’s going to uncover, but also create that community around that. Just with these last points and discussions that we’ve had, it’s important to be able to talk about what we’re learning and how we can best make use of it. We certainly don’t want it to just land and land flat, but that everyone does benefit from it and hopefully if it is making everyone more productive, that organizations can see the reason to invest in providing it to more of their people.
[00:56:04.530] – Nancy Goebel
Well, Darrell, this is a perfect note to bring our time together to a close. I want to thank you for stepping out of your busy schedule to have a chat and I really value the insights that you’ve shared, as I know our listeners will. And I certainly look forward to continuing to follow your work and your ongoing success and to stay connected from this point forward.
[00:56:30.540] – Darrell Webster
Thank you so much Nancy.
[00:56:31.370] – Nancy Goebel
Digital Workplace Impact is brought to you by the Digital Workplace Group. DWG is a strategic partner covering all aspects of the evolving digital workplace industry, not only through membership, but also benchmarking and boutique consulting services. For more information, visit digitalworkplacegroup.com.
Copilot has the potential to help us be more productive; to give us more time to free up some of our opportunities for creative thoughts, collaboration and connection across our organization. But we should be careful not to let other things fill that gap and pack in more meetings and have less time to perform those tasks. With a lot of these helpful technologies, they can be helpful or they can actually be enablers to poor work habits that affect our wellbeing.
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