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Conquering enterprise challenges with the cloud

Conquering enterprise challenges with the cloud

Microsoft's Kathleen Mitford and Satish Thomas explain how Microsoft cloud and AI technologies are helping organisations to drive productivity, cybersecurity, sustainability and more 

Alice Chambers |


There are three principles that Microsoft leaders follow to drive productivity across the workforce, according to Satish Thomas, corporate vice president of Microsoft Industry Clouds.

“The first is clarity,” he says. “It is very important for leaders to specify what their goals are for their teams. The second principle is to generate energy. Building chemistry amongst co-workers and driving passion is critical with more dispersed hybrid teams. And the last is to deliver success on behalf of our customers. Personally, I’m always in learning mode and looking to apply and adjust those principles for the modern reality of hybrid work.” 

Adherence to these principles will help enterprises build the productivity required to address the complex web of challenges they face today – from cybersecurity and regulation, to sustainability and productivity. And the technology that ties all these factors together is the cloud.  

“The comprehensiveness of the Microsoft Cloud is critical for businesses looking to reduce their operating costs and drive productivity,” says Kathleen Mitford, corporate vice president of global industry marketing at Microsoft. “The various platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Teams, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform provide solutions for a broad range of productivity challenges.”  

Businesses within the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program are building upon these platforms to develop cloud-based solutions that address the challenges posed in specific industries. 

In healthcare, for example, Australia-based Microsoft partner Velrada has helped Bethesda Healthcare to build a new patient administration system based on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. The system provides on-demand patient access to care information, increases collaboration between clinical staff so that they can communicate more quickly, and gives the organisation the flexibility to adapt to the public’s changing expectations for healthcare delivery.  

“We helped Bethesda to deliver a connected patient experience that went beyond the traditional view of the patient,” says Mitford. “It has created a 360-degree view of the individual using a dynamic patient portal with Microsoft Power Pages, virtual visits facilitated by Teams, and data storage and retrieval with Microsoft Dataverse. This allows Bethesda to offer more personalised care that takes into consideration everything that’s happening in patients’ lives.” 

Increasingly, businesses are combining the power of the cloud with artificial intelligence, to help customers operate more productively. For example, US-based used vehicle retailer CarMax has implemented Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service to streamline the creation of text summaries for its car research pages, freeing up time for employees to respond to customer queries. It also uses large language model (LLM) capabilities to generate content for its website, including summaries of customer reviews, comparisons of car features and descriptions of new car models.  

“CarMax has created thousands of pages of content in just a few months,” says Mitford. “This is an excellent example of how cloud technology, in the form of Azure OpenAI, is bringing about better productivity and cost savings.” 

As well as putting more capabilities into customers’ hands, AI-powered solutions are empowering frontline workers to work more effectively.  

“Frontline productivity is the first thing that comes to mind when asked about the benefits of AI-driven products,” says Thomas. “This is especially important in the retail and healthcare spaces. For example, one of our Cloud for Retail applications, Store Operations Assist unifies all operations with AI to provide a single-pane-of-glass view of daily activities in the physical store. This allows store leadership to better manage these tasks so that staff attention can be directed towards delivering better customer experiences.” 

One partner Microsoft is working with to help retailers drive further productivity is AiFi, an autonomous shopping solution provider.  

“Retailers can understand customer behaviour and product selection using AI-powered, real-time computer vision technology from AiFi,” says Thomas. “The Smart Store Analytics in Microsoft Cloud for Retail supports AiFi’s solution so that customers like Zabka Group in Europe can create personalised customer journeys by providing more popular products, increasing overall operational efficiencies.” 

AI adoption will inevitably rise. The Microsoft 2023 Work Trend Index showed that 70 per cent of the workers surveyed would delegate as many tasks as possible to AI to lessen their workloads. It’s crucial, then, that organisations develop policies to ensure the technology is used responsibly, securely and in compliance with growing regulatory requirements. And the Microsoft Cloud can help to reach greater levels of compliance.  

“In a world where cyber risks and compliance are evolving very fast and fluidly, security is very much top of mind for our customers,” says Thomas. “As one of the largest security vendor in the world, Microsoft has a broad security portfolio that is part of the Microsoft Cloud platform. Microsoft Purview enables customers to meet their compliance needs across regulated industries while Microsoft Security Copilot is the first security product to enable defenders to move at the speed and scale of AI by combining LLMs with the security-specific models from Microsoft threat intelligence, which are informed by over 65 trillion daily signals.” 

Security and compliance are fundamentals to becoming a responsible business. As is sustainability. 

“We’re seeing a lot of investment in sectors, such as energy, agriculture and transport, that are striving to gain grounds on decarbonisation,” says Mitford, who notes that McKinsey has predicted that $5 trillion will be spent annually on sustainability by 2025. “That’s why we’re investing heavily in the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability. We saw that organisations really needed to unify their environmental, financial and operational data to record and report their progress and inform more effective data-driven decisions. Microsoft provides an extensible solution that gives them this comprehensive and increasingly automated view into the environmental impact of their operations and value chains.” 

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability was unveiled in 2021 and made generally available in June 2022 for enterprises and public sector organisations to leverage a growing number of environmental, social and governance (ESG) capabilities from Microsoft and its global ecosystem of partners to accelerate sustainability progress. Since then, Microsoft has delivered new features for the programme each month.  

“We have released water sustainability management features for customers to calculate, visualise and analyse their water data as well as ESG reporting capabilities ahead of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) that is coming into place in Europe,” says Thomas. “The Project ESG Lake, announced in June 2023, will allow customers and partners to analyse data and build custom applications for organisations to keep track of progress towards their ESG goals.” 

Microsoft Cloud provides a foundation upon which partners can deliver further innovation. 

“We focus on industries like financial services, retail, manufacturing and healthcare to really look at what is happening in that specific sector and identify how Microsoft and its partner ecosystem can help customers accelerate their time to value and productivity,” says Mitford. “And we do that in a variety of different ways. We look at our standard solutions that we bring to market like Azure and how we can make that meaningful for organisations in specific industries. 

“For example, we've worked with Epic to integrate Azure OpenAI Service with its electronic health records platform. We’ve also enabled healthcare providers such as New York's Mount Sinai Health System, which supports more than 3.7 million patients annually, to improve patient outcomes with better engagement and access to medical files through Azure Large Instances for Epic. Satish and I spend a lot of time with software partners and system integrators to help build solutions that add to the Microsoft portfolio and deliver real value to customers’ lives.” 

Thomas adds: “Ultimately, the work we’re doing across the Microsoft Industry clouds and our cross-industry clouds is helping to reimagine business processes. There’s a lot of excitement in the ecosystem and from our customers, so you can expect to hear a constant drumbeat of industry partners we engage deeply with, new capabilities and customer success stories in the coming months and beyond.” 

Partner perspectives 

We asked Microsoft partners about how they are using Microsoft cloud-based and AI technologies to help their customers increase productivity, agility and innovation. 

“Accounts payable (AP) automation tools are revolutionising the way companies manage their finances. MetaViewer is an AI-enabled AP automation solution that integrates with Dynamics 365 enterprise resource planning systems to provide valuable insight for finance teams,” said Andy Birkey, marketing communications specialist at Metafile Information Systems. 

“New Wave Workspace is a flexible platform that adapts to your hybrid work strategy. Employers and employees can find harmony with New Wave Workspace. We leverage Microsoft Cloud and AI to increase productivity, agility and innovation, and to securely authenticate users,” said Nica Faustino, chief commercial officer at New Wave Workspace. 

“We are one of very few partners within Microsoft’s inner circle that is fully committed to AI-enabled customer experience (CX) transformation. This means our capabilities focus solely on the CX space, bringing a deep understanding of CX-led design and how AI is revolutionising contact centres,”said Biplab Mandal, group vice president and global Microsoft practice lead at TTEC Digital. 

Read more from these partners as well as AVEVA, Jabra, Synergy Technical and Tollring in the Autumn 2023 issue of Technology Record

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