This article was originally published in the Autumn 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.
According to analyst firm IDC, 85% of enterprise decision makers say they need to make significant inroads into digital transformation in the next two years in order to avoid falling behind their competitors and suffering financially.
“Today’s business leaders are facing seismic shifts thanks to the rise of the digital economy,” says Jessica Goepfert, research vice president at IDC. “Navigating this shift successfully will require equally expansive changes to how they approach technology.”
At a time when communication across all levels is key, old ways of thinking and doing business will no longer suffice. “Businesses need to rethink their business models,” says Craig Simpson, IDC research manager. “The challenge is taking the risk to invent new business models within industries.”
While many think of digital transformation as a technology issue, Toby Richards, Microsoft’s general manager of partner go-to-market believes that it’s more of a people issue. “Whether a project will impact a worker on the factory floor or someone in the accounting department, you need to first understand what those people are experiencing day-to-day to create and maintain the best solution to help them,” he explains. “The businesses we see being most successful with digital transformation are the ones that understand the imperative to support and listen to their people to create the value their organisation seeks.”
This means leadership needs to have a line into workers, and also workers need a line into leadership. “Fostering that feedback loop is a major part of any digital transformation project,” says Richards. “As this relates to partners, we’ve adopted a similar mindset – ensuring an open line of communication to best tailor our services and interactions to the needs of our community.”
Microsoft’s effective collaboration with its hundreds of thousands of partners is bolstered by its commitment to offer best-in-class tools that are already leveraged by some of the world’s most pioneering businesses.
“With tools such as Microsoft Teams, we’re helping break down communication silos and improve collaboration among teams across industries and geographies, from the C-suite to the front lines of an organisation,” says Richards. “It’s a unique four-in-one solution that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and Office 365 to merge chat, video meetings, calling and file collaboration into a single, integrated and secure experience.”
And then there’s the underlying products that form the foundation of many digital transformation efforts – the Microsoft Azure cloud, Dynamics and the Power Platform, among others. “Partners can build their solutions using these technologies, which are helping to bridge the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge, and drive the future of computing forward,” Richards says.
The success of a product can only be measured by the success of its users, and the stats here speak for themselves. Teams has over 13 million daily active users and 91 of the Fortune 100 are using the product in addition to global companies like FedEx, Lexmark and Emirates. Meanwhile, 95% of the Fortune 500 run on Azure.
Unilever is a case in point. The global manufacturer of products like Dove, Vaseline, and Ben & Jerry’s is using Azure to make data accessible across the company and digitally transform its global supply chain network, making production more efficient and flexible. “Using the internet of things (IoT) and intelligent edge services in the Azure IoT platform, Unilever has deployed digital twin technology (a next-generation model of a physical environment) to generate visibility across all levels of the plant and empower employees to use the collected data to mine for insights and patterns and predict outcomes,” Richards explains. “The digital twin solution was custom-built by Unilever’s engineering group in partnership with The Marsden Group, a Microsoft partner, and is hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform. Unilever is now operating eight digital twins across North America, South America, Europe and Asia. The company is streaming data from 15 of its 300 global plants, with plans to connect 70 factories by the end of the year and another 100 or so in 2020.”
Engineering and construction firm EMCOR has also embraced Azure and, as a result, is realising new levels of connectivity both within and outside of its organisation. “We will be able to collaborate more effectively across multiple divisions and business units using Microsoft 365 cloud-based workplace services,” said Peter Baker, senior director of information technology at EMCOR Group, in an interview for microsoft.com. “It’s easier for our employees to share information with each other, customers, and suppliers.”
American supermarket chain Kroger, meanwhile, is using the Microsoft Azure cloud and the Azure IoT Hub, along with Microsoft AI solutions, to better connect store associates and customers alike. “Kroger is building a seamless ecosystem driven by data and technology to provide our customers with personalised food inspiration,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, in a Microsoft case study. “We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to redefine grocery retail.”
Examples like these cement how Microsoft technology is empowering people around the world to achieve more. But the firm isn’t resting on its laurels. “[There are] two billion first-line workers, and 77% of these feel they don’t have the tools to empower them,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the recent Inspire conference. “We’ve always focused our tools with the knowledge worker. But the real opportunity for us is to bring knowledge workers and first-line workers together to empower companies and people.”
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