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.
There’s no question that customer and citizen expectations have evolved tremendously in recent times – especially when it comes to technology. “Customers expect us and our partners to be able to provide the latest technology and resources around the exciting, profitable and evolutionary tech that surrounds us today, like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, machine learning, mixed reality and more,” explains Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the One Commercial Partner organisation at Microsoft. “The world is changing so rapidly. What once seemed like science fiction is becoming reality. So, in some ways, the expectations of our customers have been elevated. They’ve come to expect a steady stream of ground-breaking products and life-changing capabilities that make their lives better. Not just in their homes and at work, but wherever they go – in their cars, at the grocery store, or at their favourite sporting event. The elevated expectations are extremely exciting for us and for our partners.”
While the opportunities are huge, the challenges of meeting these expectations are very real. “Our challenge as a technology leader is that partners and customers look to us to continuously provide innovative capabilities,” Schuster says. “As our CEO Satya Nadella has said, every business today is a digital business. Our partners are tapped into every industry from retail, healthcare, manufacturing, humanitarian aid and beyond. Customers are savvier than ever before about how they can streamline their businesses using data, the cloud, AI, bots, and other developing technologies. Microsoft simply can’t deliver everything that customers are craving.”
And this is why Microsoft’s network of partners is so critical. “Together, through partnerships, we create the end-to-end experiences customers need,” Schuster says. “With today’s technology, we can develop ideas and create solutions to problems the customers didn’t even know they had.”
Working hand in hand with partners, Microsoft is able to see its technology placed at the very heart of some of the world’s most impressive implementations. “One recent example that comes to mind is from our global partner Bentley Systems, which is working with Malaysia’s Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRTC) to leverage cloud-based collaboration on a connected data environment. With Bentley Systems, MRTC is projecting a 35% productivity increase in design, construction, and operation of this transit infrastructure using seamless communication through Microsoft Azure,” Schuster explains.
Microsoft partner, Taqtile, is another interesting example. It is harnessing the power of mixed-reality for industry with its Taqtile HoloMaps product, built on Azure. “It is transforming operations in city planning, security, construction, and humanitarian aid by allowing users to overlay digital step-by-step instructions over real-world equipment,” Schuster says. “Ultimately, I don’t think there are any limits to how our partners can innovate and apply Microsoft technology to everyday problems and create marketable, competitive solutions.”
At the heart of these successful digital transformations is something that is absolutely crucial to success in today’s business world: data. “Customers are starting to understand just how valuable their data estate is, and what is possible when they tap into the information that’s been locked-up in servers and hard drives,” Schuster says. Using AI and machine learning to comb through data can reveal market trends, improve efficiencies and allows customers to optimise their entire businesses.
“It’s like using a microscope. When you stop and look at something in great detail, you learn things you didn’t know before – you have a better understanding of what’s going on and how the whole picture comes together. So many times, I’ve seen Microsoft partners help customers reimagine their entire business model by showing them what’s possible with the AI analytics tools built into Azure. The Microsoft partners that are creating solutions and services to secure, manage, share, and interpret customer data are finding themselves in a very competitive, exciting, and profitable position.”
Schuster believes that every industry is ripe for this kind of evolutionary opportunity. “Data is everywhere. And it’s being generated at light speed 24-hours a day. So, manufacturing, healthcare, retail – you name it – our partners are applying these technologies that are transforming every industry. It’s an extremely exciting time to be a part of this digital evolution.”
Looking ahead, Schuster is confident that technology will become even more integral to our everyday lives. “As I mentioned earlier, customers are becoming more tech savvy than ever, and this is only going to increase as more and more digital native generations join the workforce and consumer market.
“Things like automated customer relationship management and business applications are essential tools, no longer just nice-to-haves. Mixed reality is already being used for everyday business solutions. As customer demand for increasingly sophisticated tech escalates, it’s up to us to work with our partners to be ahead of that demand.”
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