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14 Min Read

Step up your Microsoft 365 Copilot game with data classification

outubro 26, 2023 / Rich Owen | Stacy Harder

Short on time? Read the key takeaways:

  • Effective data classification is a necessity for modern businesses. It serves as the backbone for secure, efficient data management, aids in regulatory compliance and improves operational efficiency. 
  • Microsoft Copilot employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate data classification. Its self-learning algorithms adapt to your organizational needs over time, reducing manual labor and minimizing human error. 
  • Preparation is key. Before deploying Copilot, businesses should take a deep dive into the data landscape. This process includes data inventory, cleansing, stakeholder involvement and educating the workforce, setting the stage for successful data management and classification. 
  • With proper classification and integration, Copilot ensures that data is both accessible and secure. Its permission models and sensitivity awareness mean that you control who sees what, safeguarding against unauthorized access and data leaks. 
Part two in our Microsoft Copilot series. See part one
As businesses continue to generate and accumulate vast amounts of data, effective data classification becomes paramount. Data classification helps by categorizing data based on its content and importance, enabling organizations to efficiently manage and protect information assets. By understanding its significance and implementing data classification strategies, you can more effectively use tools like Microsoft Copilot to fully unlock the potential of your data and enhance your decision-making processes.  

What is enterprise data classification and why is it important?   

Data classification plays a critical role in helping businesses organize and safeguard their data. Sorting information by its level of sensitivity — like personally identifiable information or confidential records — lets organizations put in place tailored security measures against unauthorized intrusion and data leaks. Additionally, data classification enables businesses to comply with industry regulations and legal requirements by helping ensure that sensitive information is handled appropriately. 
Furthermore, data classification enhances data governance practices, making it easier for businesses to locate and retrieve specific information when needed. This, in turn, improves operational efficiency and enables faster decision-making. As data volume grows, effective data classification provides a structured approach to managing and extracting value from it. 

Understanding Copilot and its benefits 

Copilot uses AI and ML technologies to make the categorization of data automated and more efficient. By integrating with existing data management systems, such as SharePoint or OneDrive, Copilot analyses the content of documents and automatically assigns appropriate classification labels. This automation eliminates the need for manual classification, saving time and reducing the risk of human error. 
One of the key benefits of Copilot is its ability to learn from user interactions. As users review and validate the classification suggestions Copilot provides, the system becomes more accurate over time, resulting in improved classification outcomes. This iterative learning process ensures that the system aligns with each organization's specific needs and requirements, making it an asset for data management. 

What is Microsoft 365 Copilot? 

Copilot is designed to work across all Microsoft applications and experiences. Although Microsoft has released other Copilot applications, such as Sales Copilot, Github Copilot and more, this context focuses on its use within the Microsoft 365 productivity suite. 
Microsoft 365 Copilot is an advanced processing and orchestration engine that seamlessly integrates Microsoft 365 apps, Microsoft Graph and large language models (LLMs) to deliver a powerful productivity tool that enhances end-user efficiencies. Although Copilot can already access the applications and data within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, many enterprises still depend on various external tools and services for work management and collaboration. They can address this gap by extending Copilot to enable users to work with their third-party tools and services, unlocking its full potential. 

How data classification enhances Copilot functionalities 

Data classification forms the foundation needed for Copilot to function efficiently. By accurately categorizing data, Copilot can provide more precise recommendations, making the classification process faster and more reliable.  
But while the evolution of the technology and its algorithms will continue to improve responses, users must always use their best judgment when reviewing AI tools’ outputs before circulating the information internally or externally. The responses that generative AI tools — including Copilot — produce are not guaranteed to be 100% factual. Imagine the size of the GPT “brain” as that of a small rodent or squirrel, and we recognize that the technology, though useful, cannot be relied upon entirely.   
Copilot draws primarily on the data source to which it is assigned; therefore, the saying, “rubbish in, rubbish out,” aptly applies. If your organization does not maintain data sources with the latest up-to-date information, what you get out of Copilot will also be outdated. However, correct and accurate data classification can greatly reduce the margin for error.  
With the integration of data classification, Copilot becomes an intelligent assistant that understands the context and sensitivity of the information it analyzes. Provided it has the most updated information, Copilot can surface it to the user, saving time, promoting efficiency and ensuring all users can leverage the correct data source. 
Data classification also enhances the search capabilities of Copilot. By organizing data into relevant categories, Copilot enables users to retrieve information quickly and accurately. This capability improves productivity by reducing the time spent searching for specific documents or files, or providing useful drafts and summaries for review and inspiration. Think of it as removing writer's block. 

Data security and access control with Copilot  

Many enterprises have hesitated to adopt AI tools due to concerns about external and internal data leakage. Fortunately, Microsoft 365 Copilot applies the permissions model within your Microsoft 365 tenant to help ensure that data won't unintentionally leak between users, groups and tenants. Copilot presents only data everyone can access using the same underlying controls for data access used in other Microsoft 365 services. Semantic Index for Copilot honors the user identity-based access boundary so that the grounding process only accesses content the current user is authorized to access. 
Furthermore, with proper data classification, organizations can apply access controls and permissions based on the sensitivity of the data, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access classified information. 

Preparing your data for Copilot 

Before deploying Copilot, it is essential to prepare your data to maximize its effectiveness. Consider the following guidelines for effective preparation: 
  • Data inventory and analysis: Conduct a comprehensive inventory of your data and analyze its content to identify patterns and commonalities. This step will help in defining appropriate classification categories and labels. 
  • Data cleansing and normalization: Cleanse and normalize your data by removing duplicates, standardizing formats, removing old or legacy versions and ensuring consistency. This process will improve classification accuracy and optimize Copilot's performance by enabling it to surface accurate data. 
  • Engage stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders, such as legal, compliance and IT teams, in the data preparation process. Their input will ensure the classification process aligns with regulatory requirements and organizational policies.  
  • Training and awareness: Provide training and awareness sessions to users and administrators about the importance of data classification and how to effectively use Copilot. This approach will facilitate a smooth transition and increase user adoption. In addition, utilize organizational change management strategies to champion the process and educate the workforce on how data classification and sanitization can expedite Copilot’s ingestion of the data. 

Next steps in deploying Copilot 

Once you’ve prepared your data, deploying Copilot requires a systematic approach. Follow these steps for a successful deployment: 
  1. Infrastructure readiness assessment: Evaluate your existing infrastructure to ensure compatibility with Copilot. Is the data being leveraged drawing from a single source of truth? Multiple data sources require individual updates should data change, and failure to do so could result in Copilot inadvertently surfacing legacy information to its users. 
  2. Copilot installation and configuration: Install and configure Copilot according to your organization's needs. This process involves integrating Copilot with your data management systems and defining classification rules and policies. 
  3. Pilot testing: Conduct a pilot testing phase to validate the accuracy and effectiveness of Copilot. Select a small subset of data, review the classification suggestions made by the system, and adjust the rules and policies as necessary to optimize outcomes. In addition, this step will include completing a persona exercise to identify employee groups who will most benefit from a Copilot license.  
  4. Rollout and user training: Once pilot testing is successful, roll out Copilot to the entire organization. Provide comprehensive training to users and administrators to ensure a smooth transition and maximize the benefits of Copilot.  
  5. Security and privacy considerations: Implement appropriate security measures to protect classified data, such as encryption and access controls. Ensure compliance with relevant data protection regulations, such as the GDPR or industry-specific standards. 

Records retention best practices for Copilot 

As data classification plays a crucial role in records retention, consider the following best practices when using Copilot: 
  • Define retention policies: Establish clear retention policies based on legal requirements, industry regulations and business needs. These policies should determine how long specific categories of data should be retained and when they can be safely disposed of. 
  • Automate retention procedures: Leverage Copilot’s automation capabilities to enforce retention policies. Automating helps ensure that data is retained for the required duration and disposed of appropriately, reducing the risk of non-compliance. 
  • Audit and monitor regularly: Conduct regular audits to verify the effectiveness of the retention policies and confirm compliance. Monitor the retention status of data and address any discrepancies or issues promptly. 

Sustaining peak data classification performance 

Data classification is an ongoing journey. To optimize yours with Copilot, consider implementing these practices: 
  • Continuous improvement: Continuously review and refine your data classification categories and labels based on evolving business needs and user feedback. This iterative process helps ensure that classification remains accurate and relevant. 
  • Training and awareness: Provide ongoing training and awareness sessions to users and administrators to promote a culture of data classification. This practice will increase user adoption and compliance with classification policies. 
  • Regular data maintenance: Regularly review and update your data inventory to reflect changes in the organization's data landscape. Remove obsolete or redundant categories to maintain a streamlined and efficient classification process. 

Optimizing results with expert assistance 

Implementing data classification and leveraging Copilot can be a complex task. To ensure optimal results, consider engaging IT consultancy services specializing in data management and Microsoft technologies. You’ll benefit from: 
  • Expertise in data classification and data sanitization best practices 
  • Assistance with data preparation 
  • Deployment facilitation  
  • Ongoing support and maintenance 
  • Organizational change management strategies to educate and inform your user community on the proper treatment of data 
Data classification is a crucial component of effective data management and protection. By unlocking the potential of data classification and leveraging Copilot, businesses can streamline their data management processes, enhance decision-making capabilities and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

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