“AI is not just a technology, it’s a catalyst for change, a force multiplier that’s enabling us to do more than we have ever thought possible.”

These were the words of guest speaker and Microsoft Manager, Georgia Hinchliffe at our latest AI webinar, where we lifted the lid on how small and medium-sized businesses could stay ahead of the game with Azure Open AI.

In the light of the landmark AI summit at Bletchley Park in November 2023, which brought 100 world leaders and Elon Musk to the table to discuss the potential of AI on a global scale, Georgia’s statement above could not be more relevant.

In this blog we explore what Open AI and Azure Open AI mean for small and medium-sized businesses drawing on the latest insights from Microsoft and the team at Compete366 as a specialist Microsoft Solutions Partner for Data & AI in Azure.

You’ll find out more about Microsoft’s approach including the guiding principles which make it the trusted AI provider of choice in the workplace. We highlight the power of generative AI and content creation for the workplace.

Finally, a use case will show how Azure Open AI can enhance a service to your staff or customers, featuring our very own internal sales advisor chat bot built by the team at Compete366 using Azure Open AI – all this to help spark ideas of how your business can harness the potential of Azure Open AI to stay ahead of the game.

If you’d like to discuss how your business can harness the potential of Azure Open AI, contact us for a free discussion with one of our certified Azure Open AI technical consultants.

What does AI mean for business?

The transformative power of AI is rapidly reshaping the world of work in three ways – for individuals, for specific functions in a business and for the industries that those organisations operate in. 

For individuals, it allows you to collaborate more effectively. AI tackles core team challenges by automating routine tasks and providing real-time insights allowing business leaders and their teams to focus on strategic problem solving and decision making. 

It helps you find information faster. Further, AI doesn’t just crunch numbers in the background, it learns from your behaviour and preferences, and it uses that intelligence to give you accurate analysis to help you make decisions in real time. 

It also allows you to be more creative and focussed. AI takes care of the routine and mundane tasks that can eat up your day, giving you the freedom to focus on what really matters such as innovation, creativity and your business strategy. So in essence, AI clears the space for human creativity to flourish. 

In terms of specific functions within an organisation, AI clears the decks for creativity. For a salesperson, for example, it’s all about building relationships, not just transactions. AI can take care of routine tasks like data entry and lead scoring and free up sales people to do what they do best, which is connecting with people and spending time with their customers. This is also backed up by evidence. A 2023 Microsoft study, When and How Artificial Intelligence Augments Employee Creativity, showed that sales agents using AI closed 61% more deals. 

Similarly in marketing, AI can provide crucial, data-driven insights to help marketeers understand each customer’s unique journey, craft more personalised strategies and build long-lasting loyalty. 

In the realm of cybersecurity, AI is the game changer that many companies have been waiting for. It’s not just about being able to defend a business against cyber-attacks, but also, it’s about understanding threats before they evolve to adapt faster.

For industries such as manufacturing, AI is more than automation. By analysing production data, it can identify bottlenecks and optimise workflows. This reduces downtime and increases efficiency, to make manufacturing processes smarter and more effective than ever before. 

AI – Microsoft’s six core principles 

The burning question from many leaders is how can businesses leverage the capabilities of AI? How do you stay ahead of the game while also safeguarding your company, data and employees? This is where Microsoft Cloud comes into play, which has driven digital transformation for organisations as the industry’s most trusted and comprehensive cloud with security, privacy and compliance at its core.

There are six principles that guide Microsoft’s work around AI.

  1. Fairness: How AI allocates opportunities and resources or information in ways that are fair to the humans who use it.
  2. Reliability and safety: How might the system function well for people across different use conditions and contexts, including ones it was not originally intended for?
  3. Privacy and security: How might the system be designed to support privacy and security? Your data is your data, it’s not Microsoft’s data. This means it is yours to own and control your data, to choose how you want to leverage and monetise. It isn’t used to train or enrich the foundational AI models used by others without your permission. And your data and AI models are protected at every step, by the most comprehensive security controls in the industry. 
  4. Inclusiveness: Looking at how the system should be designed to be inclusive of all people and of all abilities of all different backgrounds. 
  5. Transparency: Sharing learnings about developing and deploying AI responsibly. 
  6. Accountability: How people could misunderstand, misuse or incorrectly estimate the capabilities of the system while creating the necessary oversight so that humans can be accountable and in control of these systems. 

So why does this matter? Because these key principles are crucial to building trust, and trust is crucial to any company’s long-term growth and success. To cite the McKinsey report, Why Digital Trust Truly Matters, research indicates that 72% of respondents say that knowing a company’s AI policies is important before making a purchase. Further, companies established as digital trust leaders are 1.6 times more likely than the global average of seeing revenue and EBIT growth rates of at least 10%. Establishing digital trust can therefore help companies reap the benefits through business growth in both the short and long term. 

The power of generative AI

AI is not new, in business or everyday life. For example, with Spotify and Netflix, it can predict your preferences based on the music or film that you’ve chosen before. Similarly, the Azure Cognitive Services Suite has had AI functionality for years such as speech to text; text to speech and translation from one language to another as well as face recognition and object detection in videos for example.

The element that’s new with generative AI is content creation. This came to the fore with ChatGPT earlier this year – the fastest growing service to get to 100 million users in just two months. 

Generative AI like ChatGPT is powered by large language models such as GPT 3.5 Turbo or GPT 4, and Microsoft services are helping business to harness their immense potential – safely. The beauty of these large language models is that not only do they understand plain English and interpret it into searchable keywords, but they can manipulate and summarise that text. Crucially they can also understand context so that you can have an informed conversation and answer subsequent questions more accurately. 

Bing Chat Enterprise, which may be included with your M365 licensing is an AI-powered web chat with commercial data protection. For businesses concerned about the confidentiality of their company information, Bing Chat Enterprise offers a secure alternative to ChatGPT as any company data submitted doesn’t leave your tenant. By ensuring that data never leaves your tenant, Bing Chat Enterprise provides peace of mind. 

Another example of generative AI in the pipeline is Microsoft’s highly anticipated Microsoft 365 Copilot. Due to launch for small and medium-sized businesses early next year, Copilot will be harnessed across the M365 suite, whether that’s Outlook, PowerPoint, Word or Excel. For example, in PowerPoint, you’ll be able to ask Microsoft Copilot to create a presentation based on a proposal document, set of notes and a file of images. Then you’ll be able to ask it to make your new presentation three slides shorter and Copilot will be able to do just that.

Azure opens the AI door for business

Open AI is not part of Microsoft, it’s a separate not-for-profit organisation and was responsible for the launch of ChatGPT. However, when you buy Open AI through Azure, you receive the added benefits of data privacy, residency, security, SLAs and integration with other Azure services. This means that you can deploy your own instances of large language models and securely build whatever systems your business needs using your own internal organisational data. 

Azure Open AI and payment

Services like Microsoft 365 Copilot apply user-based licencing and are billed per user per month. However, with Azure Open AI, you pay for what you use on a token basis. With chatbots, when you ask a question, bothe the question and the reply you receive are represented in a number of words which are quantified as a number of tokens. A token is four characters on average, and your pricing is dependent on how many tokens go back and forth between the user and Azure Open AI. 

Prompts enabling tailored experiences

In Azure Open AI you also refer to user and system prompts. A user prompt is the question you ask to the Azure Open AI service. A system prompt is how you configure the chat bot prior to deployment. These are important because they allow you to give your users customised experiences. For example, you can say that whenever a user initiates a response from the chat bot, it should greet them with a specific message. You can also programme it to limit your responses to a specific word count to keep your number of tokens and therefore your costs down. You can also use a technique called prompt engineering to educate users on how to ask questions which return more relevant answers. 

Azure Open AI in action

The Compete366 internal sales advisor chat bot

At Compete366, we deployed an instance of  GPT 3.5 Turbo, one of the large language models (LLM) available in Azure Open AI. We created a SharePoint library and populated it with about 20 of our own internal fact sheets about Microsoft 365 licensing in Word and PDF – for example, what licences contain, what services they include, what they cost and what the terms and conditions are. We created an instance of Azure Cognitive Search and used it to index the documents so that the large language model (LLM) can be fed the relevant portions of documents to reason over and create a response. We created a chatbot deployed as a web app (you can also deploy it into Teams as a power Virtual Agent). The architecture is shown below:

We configured the system not to use any of the LLM’s pre-trained knowledge or access the internet, this meant that the internal sales advisor chatbot provides answers based solely on our own tried and tested internal documentation.

We’ve also helped a number of our customers who are Software As a Service Providers enrich their applications with Azure OpenAI. For example we helped a provider of travel software to use Azure Open AI to automatically update online holiday catalogues whenever a travel agent added a new location, and we’ve helped another customer in the legal sector to use Azure Open AI as part of their solution which automates the labour-intensive generation, negotiation and analysis of contracts.


In a nutshell, Azure Open AI is a game-changer for businesses. Not only does it offer significant conversational capabilities to enhance services for staff and customers alike, but it also prioritises security so that businesses can confidently use Open AI without compromising the integrity of their company data. This powerful combination makes Azure Open AI a trusted solution for small and medium-sized businesses seeking both innovation and peace of mind that their data is always protected.

The team at Compete366 would like to thank Georgia Hinchliffe, Microsoft Manager and the team at Microsoft for key insights that have informed this article.

What Next?

If you have a potential use case that you’d like to discuss, please contact us for a free discussion with one of our certified Azure technical consultants. We’re a trusted Microsoft Solutions Partner for Data & AI and we’ll be happy to help. 

Published On: November 14th, 2023 / Categories: Azure / Tags: , , /

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