Empowering employees with new technologies

Empowering employees with new technologies

Successful businesses are leveraging Microsoft solutions to empower employee collaboration 

Richard Humphreys |

This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record.

The world of work is changing; and fast. The fourth industrial revolution is challenging business models thanks to a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds – impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.

These technologies – including mobile, cloud, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence – are providing more data than ever, and this is having a profound impact on business. “The nature of how we work – and the workplace itself – has undergone a dramatic evolution,” says Toni Townes-Whitley, corporate vice president of Industry at Microsoft. “Today technology is increasingly inside everything we touch; data volumes continue to rise as connectivity has become more and more pervasive, accelerated by cloud services that fuel intelligent action. The opportunity to think and operate like a digital company is providing the catalyst for new ways of working, which is centred around data. We now have unprecedented access to data about our products and services, with insights to how they are being used and are performing.”

But just having the data does not lead to positive outcomes. Instead, organisations need to not only reinvent their approach to data, but transform how they use it if they want to stay ahead. Townes-Whitley says there are three key trends at play here. “The first is the huge rise in the availability of data and the improvements in automated data capture. The second is cloud processing power, making it easy and affordable to process vast amounts of data. And the third is machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies that can support our handling of such data.”

Putting the power of these insights into the hands of workers can deliver phenomenal results for enterprise businesses, who can continuously drive improvement in products, services and customer experiences to out-innovate the competition. “A great example of this is the work we are doing with French public relations firm Publicis Groupe to develop Marcel, a new system that uses cognitive services and artificial intelligence to improve the way the group’s teams and clients connect and work together,” Townes-Whitley explains. The Marcel platform is the first of its kind in the industry, connecting Publicis Groupe’s 80,000 employees. Powered by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence capabilities, it is able to identify relevant connections and enables employees to take full advantage of the combined experiences and insights that exist around its group. The result is that every employee has the power to participate and create more, beyond their immediate boundaries.

And this is just the start of how Microsoft is enabling organisations to empower workers. “Microsoft solutions and technologies empower people to achieve more by designing a workplace where every working style can thrive – one that harnesses digital intelligence to improve experiences and enables the flexibility of mobility, while keeping organisations, people and information secure,” Townes-Whitley explains.

One of Silicon Valley’s flagship companies, PayPal, is a case in point. The organisation is using Microsoft 365 to give its employees the flexibility and insight they need to succeed. “PayPal has always put a high premium on recruiting top talent by providing a seamless, productive environment for productivity and collaboration,” explains Bradley Strock, CIO at PayPal, in a Microsoft blog post. “Today, we’re using Microsoft 365 to support the creative teamwork required to innovate in the digital payments space, helping us bring new products to market more quickly and effectively. Microsoft 365 is a key platform in our digital transformation journey.”

DBS, meanwhile, was the first Singapore bank to adopt Office 365 – a move which has enabled its employees to change the way they work and make a leap forward in terms of mobility, efficiency and productivity. Today, all 24,000 DBS employees, operating across 18 markets, are equipped with Office 365.

“In the last few years, we have made good headway in creating a ‘fintech-like’ workforce that is focused on making the customer experience simpler and more seamless,” says Edna Koh, an executive director at DBS. “Inculcating a digital mindset in our people aside, it is also important to give them work tools that break down silos, enhance collaboration, foster greater efficiency and facilitate working on the go. By leading the industry in adopting cloud technologies, our people can in turn deliver more customer value.”

And Henkel, the company behind brands including Schwarzkopf, Persil and Loctite, is making huge strides in business cohesion and agility with Office 365, taking an important step in connecting its 50,000 employees through a common set of tools that contribute to increased productivity and agility.

“Three years ago, Henkel deployed Microsoft Office 365 to kickstart a digital workplace transformation to strengthen our competitive position in a rapidly changing market,” explains Carole Scott, head of Corporate Communications for Henkel UK. “Digital transformation is unthinkable without the constant development of our IT landscape.” Markus Petrak, head of the Digital Workplace team at Henkel’s Integrated Business Solutions division, adds: “We are making huge strides in business cohesion and agility with Office 365, taking an important step in connecting our company through a common set of tools that contribute to increased productivity and agility. Our IT teams are enabling a modern work environment where everyone uses cloud services to share expertise and collaborate without geographical or hierarchical boundaries. Upgrading to Office 365 E5 means taking Henkel to the next level with enhanced security, collaboration, mobility, and business intelligence.”

Partner organisations of all sizes, and across all industries, are also working with Microsoft to drive digital transformation. Leveraging Microsoft’s rich digital maturity model and tailored solutions, partners have the capabilities and expertise to drive the new world of work in today’s digital age.

“Together, we help companies around the world to develop a strategy and roadmap for digital transformation, as they navigate their biggest business challenges,” Townes-Whitley explains. “An exciting example of this is the work that technology consultancy BroadReach is doing to combat HIV in South Africa by connecting NGOs, donors, governments, and healthcare providers with the right technology and people to drive positive health and social outcomes.”

Looking ahead, Townes-Whitley believes that the modern workplace will evolve even further. “Some jobs will be replaced, and some workers will need completely different skillsets as new jobs emerge that map to the demands of advanced technologies and specialised expertise,” she says.

Microsoft is positioned to help reskill today’s workers for the digital economy. “Our partnership with The Markle Foundation’s Skillful Initiative in the US aims to use the very forces driving change – technology and data – to build an ecosystem of workers, employers, state and federal government, educators, community organisations and workforce centres to help Americans adapt to the changing workplace,” Townes-Whitley says.

These efforts will also support employers who are digitally transforming their own operations and are unable to find enough skilled workers to effectively run their businesses. And this is just the beginning. Microsoft is also committed to broadening the pipeline of diverse talent for tomorrow’s jobs by promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for women and minorities. These efforts will help grow the new talent pool early on in the education lifecycle. Programs including Microsoft YouthSpark, DigiGirlz, Code.org, and Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) are just a few examples of how the company is helping to light up new opportunities.

“By investing in multiple points across today’s workforce and along tomorrow’s talent pipeline, Microsoft is enabling everyone to benefit from the innovation that is created by a more diverse workforce across the technology industry and beyond,” Townes-Whitley concludes.

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