How to transform work with plugins for Microsoft 365 Copilot and AI apps
Published Sep 21 2023 08:00 AM 36.4K Views
Microsoft

With Microsoft 365 Copilot, people now have access to a next-gen AI assistant that can alleviate digital debt while boosting productivity, unleashing creativity, and freeing up time for more high-value work. At Build 2023, we announced the ability for developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to extend Microsoft 365 Copilot by using plugins. Today, at our AI event, we showed examples of how users can leverage plugins to ask Copilot to orchestrate complex tasks using only natural language. Microsoft 365 Chat, which can be accessed within Microsoft Teams and Microsoft365.com, enables that natural-language capability.


Now, hundreds of enterprise customers are participating in the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program (EAP), which offers the opportunity to use experiences from top ISVs that are creating plugins to extend the skills of Copilot. Many of these customers, such as Ernst & Young and Wells Fargo, are also actively building plugins to integrate their own line-of-business apps directly into Copilot.


The integrations available to both ISVs and customers include OpenAI plugins that connect ChatGPT to APIs; Microsoft Teams message extensions, which allow users to interact with a web service through buttons and forms in Teams, Outlook, and Microsoft 365 app clients; and Microsoft Power Platform connectors, which offer a set of prebuilt actions and triggers for developers to build their apps and workflows. We’ll enable more plugins in the coming weeks and months as we onboard existing Teams message extensions and Power Platform connectors for ISV apps. In the meantime, review our connector overview page to see the current list of supported Power Platform connectors.


Furthermore, we have an increasing number of Microsoft Graph connectors available. Those connectors provide access to organizational data and intelligence in Microsoft 365 to expand the business context available to Copilot, so that employees can spend less time on the drudgery of hunting for information in countless chats, emails, and notifications and instead focus on the core work that really matters.


Boosting user productivity by connecting ISV apps to Microsoft 365 Copilot

At today’s AI event, we showed a new user experience from travel tech innovator Amadeus that illustrates the power of Copilot extensibility. Amadeus’ Cytric Easy plugin for Microsoft 365 Copilot could help organizations and their employees plan, book, and share travel using natural language. The Cytric Easy plugin could create travel itineraries just from contextual discussion—for example, an email sent from a colleague—and help the traveler validate and book a matching trip without leaving the Microsoft environment. This would result in less time spent switching apps, a boost in productivity, and a simpler and more collaborative business travel experience. Watch this clip to see how.

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Amadeus is working to make the plugin available. Many more are ready now, as industry leaders like Atlassian and Mural have been hard at work leveraging Copilot through Teams message extensions. Their apps will improve how teams conduct project management and collaboration, as shown in the clips below.


Jira, the software development project management app from Atlassian, will make it easier for users to see and take action on issues.

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With Mural, employees will be able to retrieve Mural boards via chat so visual collaboration is streamlined.

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ISVs like Go1 are harnessing Copilot capabilities via Microsoft Graph connectors, and Power Platform connectors enable Copilot experiences with data from partner apps, like Adobe Marketo Engage, which provides campaign and lead data from the marketing automation platform to answer user queries. Developers and ISVs aren’t limited to just one type of integration—DocuSign is extending Copilot skills using Teams message extensions, Microsoft Graph connectors, and Power Platform connectors.


The number of apps that are extending Copilot skills will also continue to grow, as emerging ISVs like Typeface and Ramp build new plugins.


Transforming work with line-of-business plugins

In addition, our Early Access Program customers are taking advantage of Copilot extensibility. For example, Ernst & Young, LLP (EY US) is developing a line-of-business (LOB) plugin that allows EY leaders to quickly gather information comparing current revenue to past periods across their member firms, a process that previously required multiple steps and deep knowledge of data schemas. With their in-house LOB plugin for Copilot, these EY professionals can query the plugin using natural language and receive accurate summaries of data in an easy-to-understand format. The plugin enables Copilot to recognize internal business acronyms and compose LOB data with AI capabilities to help the user quickly decide which invoices to prioritize for next actions.

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Wells Fargo provides another great example. As one of the largest banks in the U.S., Wells Fargo runs hundreds of systems to ensure high levels of customer service and access to financial services around the clock. This commitment requires the bank to constantly monitor any systems issues, which traditionally involves a tremendous amount of human labor to continuously review system logs and dashboards. Using the plugin for Copilot, business and technology stakeholders at Wells Fargo can use natural language to ask about system health and diagnostics, targeted to specific services, including relevant experts and troubleshooting tools. These stakeholders will be able to proactively monitor, manage, and resolve issues in real time, ensuring customers have continuous service availability.

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Developer and ISV resources to get ready for Microsoft 365 Copilot

As we look forward to extending Copilot more broadly, we have resources for developers and ISVs preparing to create and launch new experiences. You can take the first steps to get ready for Copilot by building Teams message extensions, Power Platform connectors, or Microsoft Graph connectors.

  • Teams message extensions: Building Teams message extensions not only enables ISVs to reach more than 300 million users on Teams in the flow of work, but now they can tap into the power of AI for customers, as these extensions function as plugins for Microsoft 365 Copilot. As a first step, update the Teams manifests to version 1.13 or higher and follow these best practices. Also, review our instructions on how to publish apps to the Teams store.
  • Power Platform connectors: Building a Power Platform connector enables ISVs to reach millions of users and makers building apps on the low-code platform. Now, the same connector will also operate as a plugin for Microsoft 365 Copilot and Copilot in Power Platform to unlock the potential of AI. First, start building the connector for your APIs by reading this overview and the documentation on building a custom connector.
  • Microsoft Graph connectors: Developers can also bring data from external sources into Microsoft Graph with Graph connectors, so Copilot is grounded in all your organizational data. Microsoft will add your data to the Semantic Index, with plans to add support for a set of Microsoft-built and custom connectors by the end of the year. We have compiled updated documentation to help, including best practices for building custom connectors and publishing guidance.

Finally, developers can prepare for Copilot by joining the Microsoft 365 Developer Technology Adoption Program (TAP). Members of TAP will be able to learn more about upcoming feature roadmaps, share feedback on in-development work, and engage Microsoft 365 product groups, which will help lay the foundation for building apps that can extend this groundbreaking technology to users’ fingertips. They can also join ISV Success to start building, publishing, and taking their apps to market faster.


We’re thrilled to share these announcements and our momentum with Copilot as we usher in a new era of work. We’ll continue to post updates as we make progress, and we look forward to sharing more at our Ignite event November 14-17.

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