“We have a new product — a park bench. These are its parameters. Please generate product data for it.”
At the moment, people may be heard talking like this to their colleagues — who then proceed and create a new product in the company’s product information management (PIM) system. The necessary prerequisites of such task are:
But times are a-changin’.
- deep understanding of the system,
- knowing the process perfectly well,
- manually typing (or copy-pasting) the data into the system.
AI is taking over all IT products and companies’ ERP systems (PIM systems included) are no exception. In a pretty close future, we might say sentences like those above not to our human colleagues, but directly to the PIM system
. Respectively, we’d type the sentences first — dictating will surely come, too, but a bit later on.
Human Still in the Driver’s Seat: Introducing the Copilot
We’ve just described the essence of the newly announced Copilot by Microsoft. An AI-based tool that will help users of Microsoft products navigate through the system and assign repetitive tasks to an AI assistant of sorts.
PIMICS is closely tied to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP system, so the launch of the Copilot is naturally a topic we’re deeply interested in. At the Directions for Partners EMEA conference which took place in Lyon in November 2023, we had a chance to get a grasp of how the AI-driven future will look like. Here’s our take on it.
The Copilot project is using AI exactly in the most sensible way, given the current state of the technology. Hence the name Copilot — humans are still in the driver’s (pilot’s) seat, with AI being nothing more than a helpful tool. Due to the complexity of the Microsoft Dynamics ERP or CRM systems, letting AI take over completely would do more harm than good. Currently, AI is more than apt to serve as a clever assistant. A true copilot.
Copilot as Described by Microsoft
As Microsoft puts it, the 365 Copilot is a well-operating feature, becoming available to all MS Dynamics 365 Business Central users very soon (the next version of the system should already come with it).
Microsoft describes the Copilot as a combination of large language models (the same type of AI as the now infamous ChatGPT) and your organisation’s data. There’s an entire section on Microsoft’s website dedicated to Copilot — click the link if you’re interested in details.
PIM & AI: The Future
At PIMICS, we naturally saw AI being integrated into PIM systems (who wouldn’t?) as an absolutely inevitable step. In our book, the PIM world will soon be divided into thirds:
- PIM systems not working with AI whatsoever. We’re sorry but we’re very sure these will go extinct. Soon.
- PIM systems with embedded AI. AI will be used as a clever assistant, not running the system, but helping users navigate through it.
- PIM systems with native AI. In these, AI will run in the background, without the user noticing it. Making the system more streamlined, free of errors, easy to use.
With the introduction of MS Copilot, we’re moving to the second phase. That’s good news for all PIMICS and MS Business Central users as who'd want their system to go extinct, right?
The first impressions of MS Copilot as summed up by PIMICS’s Product Owner, Martin Opršal, on his LinkedIn Page:
What’s in It for PIMICS Users
We’ve already hinted at the possible use of the Copilot. Of course, you can’t expect to delegate the creation of new product data entirely to Copilot. Far from that — human input will still be necessary.
The main advantage of humans vs AI (as of now) is the ability to:
- put things in perspective,
- see correlations,
- understand the context.
We can’t rely on AI to do that yet.
To us at PIMICS, Copilot seems to be useful when you clearly and concisely tell it what you want. We expect it to lay out the data structure, based on the data that are already in the system. It will eliminate the tedious work in setting up a new product, filling out all the fields, categorizing the product, and other repetitive tasks.
In the future, we see the Copilot helping with more complex tasks, such as finding similar items, putting together data from various sources (product sheets, marketing texts, etc.), and even combining & arranging them in the same structure as all your other product data.
The Power of Prompt
Which brings us to the importance of the human input — the prompt. All currently available AI tools confirm it and we don't think MS Copilot will be any exception: Artificial intelligence is creating a new field of sorts — the art of prompting.
We already mentioned giving the same instructions to Copilot as you would to your human colleagues. That‘s certainly true — but bear in mind that delegating tasks to colleagues always requires good structuring, a thought-through approach, and direct assignment.
While some of your colleagues might be resourceful enough to pick up the pieces if a task assigned to them is not well structured or otherwise incomplete, AI is not capable of that — which brings us back to putting things in perspective, seeing correlations, and understanding the context. Things humans are still indispensable for.
CP is the new PC
Given all we’ve just said, we’re glad that Microsoft has jumped on the AI bandwagon. Even more so when we see they’re doing it warily, introducing the Copilot as a resourceful and never tired assistant, not getting totally crazy over the new technology.
As Microsoft representatives wittily put it at the Direction EMEA conference: CP (as in CoPilot) is the new PC (Personal Computer). We really appreciate the pun and all the AI-directed effort. We’re excited about what the future will bring!
And we promise to keep you updated. Stay tuned!