Genesis puts its people in the pilot’s seat with Copilot for Microsoft 365

 |   Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

Image of Genesis Head Office

Gen AI doesn’t just sound like the word ‘genie’. For organisations around the world, it can also feel like one – and it’s out of the bottle and giving the average worker powers they could never have dreamt of. Major New Zealand energy company Genesis Energy is at the forefront of this change, joining the Copilot for Microsoft 365 Early Access Program to explore just what it can do.   

In the pre-gen AI era, the IT team was in the driver’s seat of any changes to how technology was used in their organisation. This time it’s workers rather than the tech department driving the change.  

That’s creating its own issues for many businesses, who are unsure how to create a strong, organisation-wide gen AI strategy with the right guardrails in place. Every organisation wants to ensure they’re getting the best ROI, while still protecting vital data and privacy.   

Genesis Energy found itself in exactly this position. 

“A year ago, we looked at Chat GPT, and saw people were wanting to use it, but the question was how to manage it. We couldn’t just ban it – we’d miss the opportunity to leverage the technology. When Microsoft offered us the opportunity to join the Copilot Early Access Program, we saw our chance to explore what generative AI could do, while safely managing the risk,” explains Steph Creasy, Future Energy General Manager at Genesis. 

So Genesis became one of the first five organisations in New Zealand (and one of only a handful in the world) to trial the new Copilot for Microsoft 365. The challenge was, as a large enterprise with hundreds in the support office and as many potential use cases, where do you deploy first – and how do you ensure people are getting the most out of it? 

Getting the foundations in place 

Genesis made the deliberate decision to go as wide as possible across their business, to ensure a diverse range of role types, levels of seniority and attitudes towards AI were accounted for. However, the team also wanted to target specific areas of the business that they felt could see the greatest benefits. 

“We started with 30-odd champions, and Microsoft really took the time to understand the business, advising which of the various Copilots could change the game in particular business areas,” says Heather Ballantyne, who led the change management process at Genesis.  

For example, they realised that Github Copilot was more relevant for Genesis’s engineering team than Copilot for Microsoft 365, deploying it accordingly.  

“But the major piece of work was getting our data and privacy structure set up correctly for everyone to use the AI tools. If that’s not right, it’s going to take a lot of work to deal with afterwards. You also have to have a really strong ethical framework and change managers in place to drive adoption and create buy-in,” says Josh Mackenzie, Service Provider Outcomes Manager at Genesis.  

Heather agrees. 

“That’s what’s different about this change compared with others – it’s a personal choice to use it,” she adds. 

Microsoft worked closely with the various business groups at Genesis to ensure they were delivering the experiences people wanted. With the technology evolving all the time, Microsoft’s product development team was regularly making builds and adjustments. Training sessions were recorded and put online to help train others in the business. 

Once the path was set, Copilot was rolled out across all 270 of Genesis’s office workers. But would it live up to the hype? 

Making pilots of every person 

Finance Analyst Andrea Crasta is a huge convert. 

In the past year, all energy companies in New Zealand have shifted away from the previous early payment discount system, to comply with government directives. Genesis has now changed its system to reduce costs for those with multiple bills or who are paying via direct debit. Andrea was tasked with ensuring all these discounts were accruing correctly to customers – something that involved more than 100 different data tables. 

“Before, that would have required me to set up a meeting with someone from the data team and launch an investigation that would have taken a couple of weeks. With Copilot, even though I’d never used SQL before, I just had to put into a simple query about what the system was doing and whether it was working as well as it could,” says Andrea. 

“It broke everything down line by line, and I was able to manage everything myself in less than a day. It’s incredible – now I can write my own queries, and I can go back to the data team with a solution, not just a problem.” 

Having Microsoft Teams take transcripts of meetings and summarise actions means she’s also able to be far more engaged in the conversation, without having to worry about note-taking. 

Corporate Accounts Specialist Shaina Moss says she too loves how Copilot summarises and tracks information. 

“My role is assisting the relationship managers to deal with enquiries from major customers. I spent a lot of time having to go through long email chains, which I wasn’t originally CCed on. Copilot in Outlook automatically summarises the information and what my actions are – it saves me heaps of time,” she says. 

She and Andrea are both fans of Copilot’s ability to coach them on emails. When it’s been a long busy day, it can sometimes be difficult to recognise how your tone is coming across – but Shaina says Copilot can flag whenever she’s sounding a little frustrated. Andrea received advice that her tone was a little formal for a coffee meeting and Copilot suggested changes to make it more appropriate. Likewise, it can help interpret when emails aren’t quite clear, pinpointing exactly what it is the sender is asking for. 

“It’s really growing my skillset in the role – I’m becoming so much more effective at my job,” Andrea says. 

“AI is now part of our DNA” 

“Genesis is a first for the energy sector, unique in how quickly they’re adapting and the wraparound support their senior leaders have provided,” says Vanessa Sorenson, Partner Director for Microsoft ANZ. “They really are an example of how to get this right.” 

As part of the Early Access Program, Genesis has been sharing its experiences with other major New Zealand organisations, and helping them along their own generative AI journeys. Having led the deployment of Copilot across Genesis, Isabelle Rousseau is possibly its greatest cheerleader.   

“Lots of team members who have English as a second language say the time savings for them are off the scale. It can summarise a lot of complex language easily. Also, it can often take longer to produce content in English than in your first language, but Copilot helps them articulate and communicate across the business so much more clearly. To have the system do that is a game-changer,” she says. 

“I’d never go back to not having Copilot in my life. In fact, if I were ever to look for a new job, my first question to my prospective employer would be: ‘Are you using Copilot’?” 

Isabelle often uses Copilot to create agendas for meetings based on lengthy documents, or condense technical information.  

“It sounds like such a simple thing, but when it’s the end of the day and you’re tired, it just makes it so much easier. The content is of such high quality, it’s saved me hours and hours, as well as the stress of knowing how much more I’ve got to do in a day. I now don’t need to work extended hours to fit everything into the day – I can often just do things between meetings,” she says. 

The Genesis team is now working with Microsoft to drive insights across the business using Viva Insights, from productivity metrics to worker engagement, and encouraging further experimentation.  

“We’ve seen people we didn’t really expect to be power users who are absolutely flying with it!” Heather says. “Now we’re pushing creativity and fun. We have really ambitious goals and AI is now part of the DNA of our business.”