IT partners were urged to think beyond Microsoft Copilot licence revenue at Crayon Connect 2024 in Sydney last week.

MD of Sydney-headquartered IT consultancy Intelliworx, Shane Maher, encouraged partners to “offer services that aren’t necessarily core services, in terms of securing people’s environments, making sure data is good.”

Is the customer “using Microsoft products properly? Are they using them at all? That’s probably the first question to go in with, and then it’s about how secure is their environment?” he said.

“That’s where we’re generating most of our consulting revenue from…I think people should really consider how you monetise this; and I don’t mean just as a consulting piece, but as reoccurring revenue.”

Getting documents ready for AI

Patrick Northcott, CEO of Ecleva, explained how the Sydney IT consultancy is helping customers with document and content lifecycle management.

“If you imagine you’re going [to use Copilot] and then someone might ask the question, ‘what’s my latest travel policy? If the policy is saved as ‘Policy final’ [or] ‘Policy final final,’ the Copilot is going to index that and serve up the wrong content,” he said.

“You’ve got to ensure that in the document control, management and governance, people are using SharePoint and Teams correctly so that you’re [applying] version control and things like that.”

The service also involves “removing and archiving…older documents,” with Northcott claiming “a single engagement typically ranges between $5,000 and $25,000.”

Answering website queries

Ecleva also involves Copilot Studio in its work with customers, enabling them to customise Copilot for Microsoft 365 or build their own copilots for such use cases as customer service.

“…we’ll put a Copilot Studio bot on [the customer’s] website so that the bot will be queried, and it’s containing that information [from] the website,” he said.

“It’s already all public information, it’s already all there; they don’t have to do any work, but they can have a popup bot already there that would answer all of the questions on their website.”

Ecleva also helps customers “link Copilot into the CRM or Business Central tool where it can give analytics and information about the content that’s actually in the business application.”

Targeting the real estate sector

Stephen Swavley, director of Sydney managed IT and consulting firm NavigatumIT, explained how it had worked in the real estate sector, where “one of the big issues…is filing emails against properties.”

“We’re currently doing research with our AI to identify properties successfully, identify how to automate, tag and file emails into a SharePoint site for use later on.”

He noted that while many AI tools can write code, “you still got to go back and review the code.”

“It’s good if you know how to code. If you don’t know how to code, you’ll look at it you’ll say ‘yep, that’s great’ and implement it, but then it will do things you don’t expect,” Swavley said.

“If you know SQL, the simple example there is the difference between where and having clause; they give completely different results and a novice will look at it and not actually comprehend the difference.”

“So AI is great when you know you’re talking about but if you actually don’t know it can be incredibly disastrous.”

Adam Fudeh, director at Sydney IT consultancy Storata, described AI as “an evolution not a revolution.”

“There was a lot of excitement about the new shiny toy…but what it did was it shone a light on a client saying…‘I need to really clean up my backyard because there’s a lot of data that’s being surfaced.’ The AI is that good that it starts to pay a lot of attention to detail,” he said.

AI “will definitely deliver immense amount of productivity for us all, however, you’ve got to respect what it can do.”

Easy money?

In a debate about whether AI is “easy money”, usecure’s APAC account manager Jasper Hopkins argued that it’s not.

“If it’s easy money, anyone can be able to pick up these tools and make a quick buck,” he said.

“The truth is, it won’t be easy money. There’ll be big money, and it will be the pioneers of this AI revolution that make the big money.”

“The pioneers will strive to educate themselves and others to avoid over reliance on AI. The pioneers will be those that challenge corner cutting and unsustainable AI implementation.”

“Ask yourself; if you consider yourself a pioneer, is being a pioneer ever easy?”

Crayon’s cybersecurity consultant Michael Brooke disagreed, arguing that licence revenue is “sitting there ready to be taken.”

“That’s easy money. M365 Copilot, Copilot for Sales…there’s 28 of them…for most of them [the opportunity is] the licence revenue,” he said.

“If you include AI in your business applications – your ERP, CRM – it’s there ready to go. It’s easy money.”