These are your Copilots speaking: Insights from Microsoft’s Envision AI Roadshow

 |   Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

From the introduction of the PC, to the internet, cloud computing and the smartphone, what makes generative AI different from any other tech revolution we’ve seen?

Microsoft Director of Product Management, Aaron Bjork, put it simply: “If we’d invited you to hear about it just 18 months ago, no one would have come. No one would have heard of ChatGPT. Now we have a full house.”

Hundreds of business executives were at Auckland’s Crowne Plaza Hotel for the Microsoft Envision AI Roadshow from 10-12 April, hearing from experts and Microsoft Copilot early adopters from New Zealand.

With generative AI growing in popularity much faster than other ‘disruptive’ technologies – even the smart phone took 20 years to achieve critical mass – attendees were there to learn how to successfully integrate it into everyday business and ‘surf the wave’ safely.

From chatbots to image analytics – even analysing how much blue cheese is left on customers’ plates – New Zealand businesses are putting Copilot to all kinds of uses. As Aaron mentioned in his presentation on transforming customer experience, the ability to summarise lots of information has been particularly game-changing, all without having to learn a new programming language or buy any new technology – because AI is coming to the technologies we already use.

Iconic Kiwi enterprises and early adopters Fonterra, Mitre 10 and Genesis Energy emphasised exactly that in their own sessions.

Genesis is already seeing each team member save 1-5 hours a week through using Copilot for Microsoft 365, across customer services, IT and programming, finance and many other areas. Josh Mackenzie, the company’s Service Provider Outcomes Manager, explained how it was also helping upskill people while solving major pain points.

A new finance intern was tasked with the job of ensuring all discounts were accruing correctly to eligible Genesis Energy customers – something that involved more than 100 different data tables. Before, that would have required someone from the data team to manage, taking a couple of weeks. With Copilot, the new worker could do it herself in less than a day simply by typing a question, even getting coaching on what the system was doing to help her learn what to look for.

In her keynote, Vanessa Sorenson highlighted the opportunity to upskill more New Zealanders, with Copilot’s coaching ability able to level the playing field for those who had previously felt digital technologies were beyond them.

She spoke with excitement about AI’s power not just to address New Zealand’s constant productivity challenges, but also social inequities. Microsoft’s partnership with Straker AI and media organisation Stuff, enabling news content to be translated into te reo Māori at scale, was heralded as a shining example.

And with the convergence of generative AI and Microsoft’s local datacenter region arriving this year, speakers agreed this is just the tip of the iceberg.

As Vanessa said: “My key message to everyone here is – don’t miss out. This isn’t going away.”

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