Microsoft Copilot Leader: 5 Boldest Statements On The MSP Opportunity

During an XChange March 2024 session that aimed to educate MSPs on how to become AI-ready, Microsoft’s Jason Jones and OpenText’s Lynda Mahabir spoke about the abundant opportunities.

When Microsoft’s Jason Jones asked how many solution and service providers have already sold Microsoft Copilot to customers in recent months, many hands in the packed conference session went up Monday.

But from the intense interest in the topic among MSPs, it’s clear that a lot more of those Microsoft partners want to get more involved in working with Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365, the tech giant’s new productivity-boosting GenAI technology.

[Related: Microsoft 365 Copilot Goes GA, Bringing GenAI To Enterprise Customers]

“This is a huge opportunity, so if we can get just a small piece of the pie, that would be big,” said Steve Lu, president of Print Choices, a nationwide MSP based in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “That is why you see all the excitement around, ‘I need to figure this out today.’”

Jones, director of global partner solutions at Microsoft, spoke during an OpenText Cybersecurity session at XChange March 2024 along with Lynda Mahabir, lead Microsoft partner success manager at OpenText. The XChange conference is hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company and was held this week in Orlando, Fla.

In terms of the promise of Microsoft’s GenAI-powered technology, Jones said the potential is for Microsoft Copilot to save employees 10 hours of work per month.

“It can pay for itself, essentially, in a month,” he said. “But we have to have great MSP partners along [for] the journey.”

What follows are the five boldest statements from Jones and Mahabir on the MSP opportunity with Microsoft Copilot.

‘You Are Still The Pilot’

“A lot of people think AI is going to take over. From a Microsoft point of view, you are still the pilot. You are still in charge. Everything that Copilot does is designed to make your life easier,” Microsoft’s Jones said.

“Who here loves getting the task of creating PowerPoints? Who here has a boss that says, ‘Hey, I need you to do a quarterly business review on Friday.’ So on Monday when you open up PowerPoint, and what’s the first slide? It’s blank. I am triggered by that experience as a salesperson. So what do we do? We steal slides. We try to make it fast,” he said. “Copilot takes that triggering mechanism out of it. It makes me a really good PowerPoint creator when I am not.”

Avoiding The AI ‘Wild West’

“Certainly one of the challenges [is] it’s not just this utopian [technology],” Jones said.

“We need partners to make sure that you’re preparing your end customers for this journey. Otherwise, it could be the AI bot Wild West,” he said. “Help your customers understand the benefits, the ROI — but also the, ‘Are you prepared?’ We absolutely need you to help us have those conversations.”

Copilot Selling ‘Maybe A Little Too Fast’

“Copilot for Microsoft 365 is now available. And it is selling like hotcakes,” Jones said.

“From a Microsoft perspective, we are seeing rapid adoption. And in some cases, frankly, we’re seeing it maybe a little too fast. It’s typically, I would say, end users going rogue,” he said. “And then they call you because it did something that they weren’t aware of. So again, back to our [suggestion] to the partner channel—within our indirect providers and our MSP channel—is have these proactive conversations.”

Security Assessments, Licensing Are Key

“We want to make sure that we’re talking to our customers about how will they want to use it,” OpenText’s Mahabir said. “How can we prepare them by assessing their security posture?”

Meanwhile, “purchasing decisions, licensing, making sure they have the prerequisite licenses for Copilot [are crucial]. You can'’ have more Copilot licenses in your buyer environment than you have base, prerequisite licenses,” she said.

“We want to make sure that they have the right plans. Because Business Standard in Office 365 [meets] our minimum requirements. But are they the best?” Mahabir said. “Business Premium, Microsoft 365 E3 [are] better plans for Copilot.”

Focus On Protecting Sensitive Data

“Business Premium has features like conditional access policies, Terms of Use policies,” Mahabir said. “You can protect sensitive data. There's eDiscovery and litigation hold and retention policies. So this is a really complete plan that has enterprise-grade protection policies that you can set for your customers.”

In terms of Enterprise plans, “Office 365 E3 is a prerequisite but isn’t complete,” she said. “So we want to make sure that we are upgrading our customers to the right plan for the most secure and compliant experience.”

Steven Burke contributed to this story.