This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows
In Susan Hauser’s own words, companies today have incredible opportunities to use technology to propel their businesses forward.
“Today’s marketplace is more dynamic than ever before. It requires companies to make informed decisions more quickly while competing with everyone from traditional competitors to small start-ups. In order to succeed in this environment, companies need to transform into digital businesses,” explains the corporate vice president of the Enterprise and Partner Group at Microsoft. “Becoming a digital business isn’t just about automation. It’s what happens when companies rethink entire business models and processes. It’s also about making important cultural shifts. Whether a company’s employees are at the point of sale, on a plant floor or in the executive office, the ability to seamlessly communicate and collaborate with each other flattens organisational hierarchies and surfaces actionable information more quickly. The technology that enables a data culture helps companies make more informed decisions, become more responsive, and offer products and services that enhance the customer experience. This is where we really begin to see the power of digital transformation and why it’s so vital to our customers’ long term success.”
When speaking with customers, Hauser says that the vast majority of them realise the importance of becoming a digital business and want to partner with Microsoft to get there. “As a company, we’re committed to empowering individuals and organisations to achieve more. We’re doing that by creating more personal computing, reinventing productivity and business process, and building the intelligent cloud. Digital transformation takes time and, like many changes, isn’t always easy,” she admits.
Not one for preaching what it doesn’t practice, Microsoft has taken a deep look at its own set up and it hasn’t been afraid to make some big changes – both in terms of how it works with its customers and the types of products it is bringing to market – to help businesses move with the times.
“Our engagement with customers now extends beyond IT and includes working with line of business leaders,” says Hauser. “By engaging with both IT and the business, we’re able to deliver solutions and insights that help our customers maximise investments, innovate, achieve their business goals and deliver greater impact.
Under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, the company has been bringing a raft of products to market that support this new vision.
“From the beginning, Satya has been clear that the company will innovate with a challenger mindset and has worked to put important pieces in place to deliver – forming new partnerships and delivering entirely new experiences that empower every person and every organisation to do more and achieve more,” Hauser explains. “Whether it’s Windows 10 and its support for the broadest set of devices, new capabilities in Azure and Office 365, the creation of new categories with products such as Hololens or expanding the footprint of our data centres, we have been very deliberate about the investments we’ve made to accelerate our strategy. I’ve been at Microsoft for more than twenty-five years. There’s never been a more exciting or rewarding time to be at this company as we embrace our transformation.”
This summer marks a particularly exciting time for the company as it launches the latest version of its flagship operating system. Feedback so far has been promising.
“We have more than four million users to date in our Windows Insider programme, who are testing Windows 10 features on a daily basis,” says Hauser. “Business customers, partners and industry influencers tell us Windows 10 will be of great value. For instance, Dorothy Stephenson, director of ITS from Kimberly Clark, shared this feedback with us: ‘One of the best promises of Windows 10 is getting new features on our devices every few months, and monthly security updates. The newest technology will be simply delivered to us – something we have never been able to do on our own in the past.”
But beyond Windows 10, Hauser believes a far greater change is happening within the IT industry as a whole, and it’s happening at the intersection of cloud computing and connected devices. “That’s where we’re seeing an entirely new set of experiences and customer expectations emerge,” she says. “Successful enterprise companies need to address these forces in order to compete and stay relevant. We’re seeing disruption occur across every industry and in every geography. It really underscores the idea that every business is a software company.”
Hauser highlights what’s going on in the hospitality industry as a great example. “Today, Airbnb is in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries,” she says. “By allowing people to monetise their extra space, they have turned the hospitality industry upside down. Uber is another interesting case. They now account for 46% of all paid-for and claimed-for car rides in the US. They are growing in popularity and with a market valuation of US $41 billion, they have more than twice the market cap of Hertz and Avis combined…and Uber doesn’t own a fleet of cars. Right now, every industry is undergoing some degree of disruption and that will only increase. For every Airbnb or Uber we have heard of, there are more organisations incubating and preparing to go to market to deliver something new for their customers.”
However, for every company willing to take a risk and make the move to the cloud, another is eyeing what’s happening today with an air of caution, particularly when it comes to data security and privacy.
“In the wake of recent high profile security breaches, we have seen increased interest in cybersecurity and data protection strategies,” says Hauser. “This issue has gone beyond being just an IT concern. It is now a key area of interest for CEOs and corporate board members.
“Successfully balancing the need to accelerate business transformation with the complexities of securing a data-driven workplace, can be challenging. This is an area we’ve always been deeply committed to and it’s one we’ve made substantial investments in to enable even the most highly regulated industries to modernise their business with cloud connected solutions. Our end-to-end approach to security and privacy includes protecting customers by implementing rigorous US and international standards such as HIPAA, ISO 27001 and EU Model Clauses; having best-in-class cryptography as well as encrypting data across our network and services. We’re even providing cybersecurity assessments, threat detection and response services to give our customers the tools they need to protect their data against modern security threats.”
With these security measures in place, businesses can then look to other trends like machine learning, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and even holographic computing to create measurable business value.
“What sometimes gets lost in discussions about trends is how technology-driven innovations can help companies achieve very tangible businesses goals and deliver greater return on investment,” Hauser explains. “As I think about the trends that are enabling businesses to become more responsive, creating a truly data-driven culture is becoming much more important. Making more informed decisions more quickly will increasingly be the factor that sets successful companies apart.”
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