Using m365 Copilot for accounting: 5 expert tips
Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced Copilot, an AI assistant designed to be a comprehensive digital companion. Now, with m365 Copilot available for enterprise users, finance leaders have a unique opportunity to use this groundbreaking technology. (And if you’re using accounting software built on the Microsoft Power Platform, you have even more options.)
We’ll answer a few common questions about Copilot, then share some ways your organization can start using it.
Is Copilot available now?
m365 Copilot became available to enterprise customers earlier this month along with Microsoft 365 Chat. Formerly known as Business Chat, it acts as a personal assistant to extract data from your emails, meetings, chat conversations and documents, as well as information that’s generally available online. Microsoft estimates its most frequent users receive over 250 emails each day and conduct close to 20 searches to find what they need. (Consider how many times you search for emails related to expense receipts for your company.) Copilot and Chat dramatically reduces the time you’ll spend searching for information.
An early form of m365 Copilot is also available in Windows 11, Microsoft 365, and in your web browser if you use Microsoft Edge and Bing. One example of how you can use it within your browser is asking for more personalized online shopping recommendations.
Is Microsoft Copilot free?
Microsoft 365 Copilot will cost $30 per user per month for Business Standard and Business Premium customers, according to CNET. At this time, it’s only available for companies with 300 or more licenses. However, Microsoft 365 users will get Bing Chat Enterprise at no additional cost.
How can you use m365 Copilot for accounting?
Microsoft Copilot has many applications, from making it easier to find critical information within your workspace and online to drafting emails, reports, and other documents.
Here are five transformative ways to integrate Copilot into your finance workflows.
Streamline mundane tasks and boost team morale
Every job has its share of mundane tasks that need to be accomplished before the "real" work can happen.
"We’re beset by drudgery – the work about work that always feels like it’s getting in the way of the deep work that creates real value," Microsoft WorkLab said in a recent blog post analyzing the implications of AI in the workplace. "We don’t just need a better way of doing the same things. We need a whole new way of working."
Whether it's generating compelling introductions for reports or extracting key information from emails, Copilot streamlines these processes. This gives employees time for more fulfilling, engaging work.
In a recent Microsoft survey, 89% of AI-tool users reported greater job satisfaction because they could spend more time on tasks that really matter.
What are some specific ways finance leaders can use m365 Copilot to free themselves from "the work about work"?
- Stuck on an introduction that sufficiently sums up your enterprise's annual report? Copilot can help brainstorm ideas, making your final draft that much more engaging and polished.
- Struggling to remember the relevant information from a series of emails between the finance department and the CEO about which data points should be included in the quarterly reports? AI can pull the significant takeaways from those emails, saving your team from having to cull through dozens of messages.
- Have a question about an invoice or purchase order stored in OneDrive? Find the answer without ever opening a file.
Enhance client and colleague interactions with AI assistance
Every profession requires a level of interpersonal interaction, but for finance professionals, crafting emails and responding to chats is yet another task that can distract from their primary responsibilities. Yet failing to respond to inquiries, or providing terse replies, is a good way to alienate clients, colleagues and company leadership.
Is a sales team member dragging their feet on turning in their mileage? Prod them along by asking m365 Copilot to quickly craft an email reminder.
AI can also help you adapt your communication style to fit any scenario.
One employee of OpenAI (a Microsoft-partnered company) revealed in a WorkLab post that she uses ChatGPT to ensure her emails match the professionalism of her manager's communication style.
Manage information overload with advanced AI capabilities
For finance leaders, clarity in communication is crucial. A large-language model AI tool like ChatGPT or m365 Copilot can distill complex financial data into formats stakeholders cn easily understand.
Finance leaders interact with a variety of stakeholders. Copilot can help you provide more relevant financial reporting to people who need it, whether it’s your executive team, investors, or family members within a family office who have little knowledge of investment portfolios, depreciation and appreciation of physical assets. Similarly, the CFO of a startup can use Copilot to turn stodgy financial information into an attention-grabbing presentation for prospective investors.
As a finance leader, you can use AI tools such as Copilot for your own benefit as well, such as distilling meeting notes or summarize documents. In the WorkLab post, one high-level Microsoft employee shared she uses AI to condense documents into poems as she prepares for meetings. Not only does this make meeting preparation more enjoyable, but it helps her process the information better.
Use advanced analytics and forecasting in Excel with Copilot
Microsoft Copilot is unique among AI tools in that it's designed to work specifically with Microsoft products such as Windows, Teams, Outlook and – perhaps most significant for finance professionals – Excel.
One of the most beneficial features of Copilot in Excel is that users can analyze, summarize and search for data using plain language rather than having to input complicated parameters or formulas. For instance, you can say something like, “make all cells red where the value is under 1000,” to highlight a certain data set. Copilot offers the ability to use Python in Excel for more advanced analytics, including the ability to translate results into easy-to-understand visualizations.
Copilot in Excel can also help with more financial planning and analysis. A manufacturer might ask about the possible impact of a 10% increase in input costs, while a distributor might wonder how an increase in tariffs might affect their bottom line. Using Microsoft Copilot for analysis and forecasting can free up finance professionals to strategize the best course of action in these scenarios.
Simplify workflow automation with Copilot
Microsoft Power Automate already makes it easy to create workflows that boost productivity. But reaping these benefits requires an upfront investment of time and effort to map out and design each step of the desired workflow.
With Copilot, the task of automating workflows in Power Automate becomes much simpler. As you begin to describe your automation scenario, you'll see a list of AI-generated suggested flow descriptions. You can accept these recommendations or add, subtract or modify the steps to create the workflow that best supports your organization.
Navigating AI technology with caution
One of the most common questions surrounding the increasing prevalence of AI in the workplace is whether it will make employees obsolete. While AI can provide an excellent starting point for a project, users must still fact-check and review content before sending it out into the world or using it to drive decision-making.
Microsoft itself warns users that the purpose of Copilot is to work alongside human users, not in place of them.
"Copilot is not autopilot," the company states on its website.
Another consideration when using AI tools is security. To create an email that sounds like you or to condense a cache of notes you've taken into a one-page summary, AI technology must access your email, your notes and your documents. That’s way it’s imperative to work with AI providers you can trust. There are many AI tools available today, but not all of them are committed to protecting users' data.
Fortunately, if you're using Microsoft Copilot or any other Microsoft technology, your data is protected by Microsoft's robust security practices and commitment to rolling out AI technology in a responsible way.
Gravity Software and m365 Copilot
As Microsoft Copilot becomes more generally available for small- to medium-sized businesses as well as enterprises, Gravity Software is exploring ways it can enhance the functionality of our already full-featured multi-entity accounting solution. In the meantime, Gravity makes full use of the Microsoft Power Platform on which it's natively built, giving users access to:
- Robust business intelligence with Microsoft Power BI, with colorful dashboards and real-time updates that can be customized for individual users.
- Power Automate, Power Apps and Power Virtual Agents, allowing users to streamline workflows and reduce task repetition.
- A variety of business-enhancing integrations so you can tailor your accounting solution to suit your particular enterprise.
- Microsoft's comprehensive security measures, including role-based user access and automatic security updates.
- The latest Microsoft advancements as they become available, integrated in a thoughtful way that will truly benefit Gravity users
As part of our commitment to consistent innovation, Gravity recently introduced AI-powered AP automation. This technology uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to read invoices and convert them into vouchers, significantly reducing manual data entry.
Learn more about this and other new features.
Better. Smarter. Accounting.