Microsoft is maximising value for its customers

At the beginning of July, Jennifer Byrne became chief technology officer for Microsoft US. Here she outlines her new role and responsibilities and tells us how the company will evolve in the year ahead

Andy Clayton-Smith
By Andy Clayton-Smith on 20 February 2019
Microsoft is maximising value for its customers

This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.

Tell us more about the role you’ve recently taken up and walk us through the plans you have for this new position.
At the beginning of our fiscal year, I transitioned into my role as the chief technology officer (CTO) of Microsoft US. This has given me an extraordinary opportunity to help both Microsoft and our enterprise customers digitally transform and realise Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.

Digital transformation is not simply about technology – it requires us to re-envision existing business models and embrace a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes to create value for our internal and external customers.  The charter of my organisation this year is to work across all of Microsoft US to clarify and then execute the strategic initiatives to accelerate our own transformation journey such that we can also better assist our customers along their journeys. It’s a super exciting time.

With the ongoing acquisition and merger of technologies such as XOXCO and Bonsai into Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) mix, where do you see the big wins for business leaders coming from in the coming year?
I think we are getting closer to an inflection point with AI where essentially two maturity curves will begin to intersect. On one hand, the infusion of advanced AI capabilities such as deep learning networks, into more and more discrete systems and processes across the digital landscape. The XOXCO and Bonsai acquisitions, as well as many other AI toolkits and capabilities we are delivering to market, are indicators of that.  AI is becoming broader than predictive analytics and language translation and is now showing up in advanced conversational capabilities, broad simulation capabilities and, in the case of Bonsai, in the internet of things (IoT).

The other maturity curve is the accessibility to AI for those who do not necessarily have advanced data science expertise. This has been a huge barrier for entry and clearly limits adoption of some of the most game-changing capabilities entering the market today.  But now we are seeing AI tools that allow even non-developers to create their own AI-powered applications. Bonsai is a perfect example of that.

So, the big news for business leaders is that AI is quickly becoming a real capability, a broad capability across all sorts of digital scenarios, and an accessible capability that any IT organisation, regardless of maturity can begin adoption today.

Azure is clearly the foundation for all this innovation – what can we expect from Azure as we move into 2019 and beyond?
Broadly speaking, we can expect Azure to continue delivering across three spectrums: accessibility, empowerment and innovation.  We will continue to see growth in our Azure footprint around the world, to include continue buildout at a global scale, increased services within regions, and innovations like underwater data centres, all for the purpose of increasing accessibility to advanced cloud services for everyone in every country in the world.

The acquisition of GitHub, AI toolkits, and capabilities to support data modernisation aim to make our most advanced services available to everyone, regardless of skillset. This is fundamental to our mission of empowerment and a core value within the Azure team.

Quantum Computing is an example of the many ground-breaking innovations we are investing in and while it may set a high bar for the future of computing, you can expect to see many other innovations on Azure being delivered to market in a continuous fashion in the coming year.

Digital transformation continues to preoccupy industry and civic leaders, with the majority worldwide considering their next steps. What are the latest examples that you’re coming across in your new role that can offer inspiration to those that are still pondering the way ahead?
We see so much transformation all around us and, while I’m so inspired by all of the visible examples we share, there are some equally worthy stories of transformation within the walls of the companies we’ve been fortunate to partner with this year. Transformation is as much about culture, mindset and re-framing an approach to risk, as it is about re-inventing experiences for consumers, subscribers, patients, students and citizens.  Some of the best transformation stories don’t show up well in the news but are nonetheless heroic in their own way, given the massive, orchestrated effort that is required to re-invent internal business and IT processes in order to make way for radically new digital capabilities.

We are seeing this shift across many different industries – it is not just technology companies, but companies of all types who are digitally transforming and establishing their cloud and edge strategies. For example, XTO Energy – a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, is using Azure IoT and other Azure solutions to get data into the hands of internal staff where it can drive better business decisions. And IRIS, a diagnostic services provider, is using Azure Machine Learning with NVIDIA GPUs to help end preventable blindness. Consumer goods company XOGO, meanwhile, is putting intelligent digital signage within easy reach of businesses worldwide by transforming Windows 10 devices into digital signs.  

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