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Tips for a successful rollout of GitHub Copilot

Ryan Salva
Ryan Salva // VP of Product // GitHub

Ultimately, the details of how you roll out GitHub Copilot to your developers will depend on your organization and its needs, but we've observed a few common elements of successful rollouts. Whether you’re just starting out or already have teams across your organization using GitHub Copilot, being deliberate in your rollout and keeping these elements in mind can help you realize a higher return on your investment.

In this guide you will learn:

  • What to consider when planning your rollout

  • How a self-serve licensing model can streamline adoption

  • What to think about when running internal trainings

Be deliberate about the scale of your initial rollout

Enabling GitHub Copilot for everyone all at once can be exciting, but it could also have some unforeseen effects. If you're an engineering-focused organization with plenty of built-up demand for GitHub Copilot, it might make sense to take this approach. However, other organizations may be better served by a smaller, more deliberate initial rollout to discover potential blockers and demonstrate some early success.

The scale of your initial rollout depends on the size and nature of your organization. Choose something that's manageable for you. It's easier to measure adoption and get feedback when you're working with a dozen developers as opposed to an entire organization with hundreds or thousands of developers. Working with a smaller, more focused group at launch will also make it easier to find internal champions—influential developers within your organizations who can help you promote adoption.

Think about which teams are most excited about using GitHub Copilot and would benefit the most. From there, you can grant access to one team at a time until you're ready to roll out more widely. 

Embrace self-service, and send reminders

Make it easy for people who want to use GitHub Copilot to do so. Some of our most successful organizations offer a fully self-service model where developers can claim a GitHub Copilot license without any sort of approval. By the time you're ready to roll out GitHub Copilot, you'll have developers eager for access. You might worry about using too many licenses, but we find that many organizations initially have the opposite problem: They want to see more developers using licenses. Streamlining the number of approvals a developer has to complete to get a license will allow developers to gain access sooner. See our user management strategies guide for more tips on crafting a licensing plan for your organization.

When a developer is given access to GitHub Copilot for the first time, they receive an email welcoming them and providing instructions on getting started. We commonly find that developers read the email, fail to act upon it, and then forget about it completely. Sending reminder emails or messages to common channels will nudge developers toward installing and utilizing GitHub Copilot—and having self-service in place makes it that much easier. Including examples of how teams are using GitHub Copilot can be a great way to encourage use.

Identify and document potential technical blockers

As with any new tooling, there will be specific considerations for integrating GitHub Copilot with your particular technology stack. For example, your IT team might need to add GitHub Copilot to your firewall’s allow list or configure your network proxies. Identify anything unique to your environment that users will need to do to get up and running, document all of this information, and keep it up-to-date. 

It’s better to find and solve these potential issues by starting with smaller, more deliberate focus groups, rather than a company-wide rollout. By first onboarding users that are committed to providing feedback on their experience, you can proactively identify and solve for these challenges. 

Focus on executive alignment

The organizations that successfully reach scale with GitHub Copilot generally have strong executive buy-in. When encouragement to use a tool comes from the top, there's no question about whether, or how, developers are allowed to use it.

It’s important to talk to the leaders at your organization and make sure they're on board with the GitHub Copilot rollout. Address any concerns they might have, and ask them to make an organization-wide statement about your GitHub Copilot strategy. Answers to common questions and concerns they might have are available in the GitHub Copilot Trust Center and other guides in this learning pathway. If you’ve already run a trial or a proof of concept with a select group of developers, now’s a good time to bring any data you have from measuring GitHub Copilot’s impact into the conversation.

Empower influencers

Just like in other facets of life, a common driver for product adoption is the influence of others. You can use this to increase adoption by selecting influential developers and managers early on. Their enthusiasm and guidance can aid others in adopting and using GitHub Copilot. For example,  Shopify’s VP and Head of Engineering Farhan Thawar did a video interview with a staff engineer who loves GitHub Copilot and shared the video internally to help spur adoption.

Host trainings

Developers will have questions about best practices for GitHub Copilot, and when and where they can use it. Some customers have had success hosting "lunch and learn" sessions about GitHub Copilot, to share their company’s adoption strategy, best practices, and to answer questions. This not only helps those already using GitHub Copilot get more out of it, but also serves as internal marketing to encourage adoption. This is a good time to tap your internal influencers for help.

Here are a few helpful resources you can reference when answering questions or designing training sessions:

When we went to roll out GitHub Copilot to Cisco’s 6,000 developers in our business group, they were eager and excited, but had plenty of questions. We partnered with our GitHub Premium Support team to host a series of training sessions where they explained how to get started with GitHub Copilot, provided best practices for writing useful prompts, and demonstrated its unique capabilities, followed by a Q&A. Soon enough, our developers were confidently using GitHub Copilot throughout their day-to-day development. What really helped us was getting a sense of our developers’ questions and concerns beforehand, and keeping our sessions high level, to address initial concerns during our Q&A session.

Brian Keith
Brian Keith // Head of Engineering Tools, Cisco Secure // Cisco

Your rollout strategy won’t be complete until you have a plan to provision seats. Let’s dive into that next.

Up next: GitHub Copilot seat management and provisioning

Get started with GitHub Copilot