By Alain Crozier, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Chairman and CEO of Greater China Region
2020 has been an extraordinary year for the world, including China. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation beyond our expectations, and our customers and partners across industries have been impacted in their own ways.
At Microsoft, we see the world going through a journey in three phases – responding, recovering, and reimagining life and business in the wake of the pandemic. China is currently well into the phase of recovery, and many organizations have started reimagining their futures in the new normal.
It has become clear that regardless of the phase a country or an organization is in, we will continue to exist in a fast-changing and unpredictable environment. There is a universal and immediate need for organizations to be innovative and agile, so as to build resilience that is key to surviving and thriving in the present and future.
Digital transformation trends that have emerged and are here to stay
The pandemic has put into effect several digital transformation trends that are here to stay.
The hybrid modern workplace is perhaps the most obvious, as organizations of all sizes have had to adapt to remote working as many countries went into lockdown. The silver lining, was that the pandemic forced organizations and employees to adopt and optimize collaborative tools for business continuity, ultimately integrating them with in-person collaborative environments to achieve increased productivity, flexibility, and agility that is now synonymous with resilience from both operational and performance perspectives. A case in point, is how Microsoft Teams reached 115 million daily active users (DAU) in October 2020, as collaborative technologies experienced a surge and sustain in demand.
Digitalization and integration of products and services is another significant trend. We see companies like renowned engine maker, Cummins, and General Mills, parent company of the Häagen-Dazs brand, adopting this as a response to the new digital-first reality.
More and more, we are also seeing data-driven insights and AI innovation integrated into automation processes. This is evident in scenarios such as Decathlon’s deployment of robots, ThyssenKrupp’s leadership in predictive maintenance and field service solutions, as well as DHL-SF Express’ smart logistics and supply chains, among many other industry examples.
Finally, the most effective organizations are embracing a culture of innovation — a commitment to constant learning, upskilling, and democratized innovation — to stay relevant, competitive, and resilient.
Data, the bedrock of transformation and innovation
The one consistent thing we have observed, is how the pandemic has pushed organizations across industries to leverage data and take data-driven approaches to unlock value. From the application of a customer tag in an online-to-offline store, an RFID code in a supply chain read by an IoT sensor, to a quarterly sales margin chart that comes through a regional sales manager’ smart phone, data — and the actionable insights that can be achieved with it — is being optimized to create a competitive edge, fueling innovation, agility, and business growth.
A key technology offering to this cause, is Microsoft’s Power Platform, which empowers employees to analyze data, build solutions, automate processes, and create virtual agents using low-code/no-code development environments. As of June 2020, 97 percent of the Fortune 500 companies use the Microsoft Power Platform, which has since been made commercially available to China.
The data journey starts by breaking data silos and letting data flow freely through the Digital Feedback Loop. The Digital Feedback Loop is formed when the key pillars of the business are connected to each other with data and intelligence at the core — from their customers to their employees, their operations to their products and services — to transform their business, make them more resilient, and help unlock value for their customers.
Take leading global beverage company, AB InBev for example. After adopting the complete Microsoft intelligent cloud offering for its IT infrastructure, AB InBev saw that productivity and business process management improved significantly through its robust Digital Feedback Loop across 35 factories and more than 19,000 employees in China.
Security and compliance now strategic priorities for every organization
Security and compliance are now strategic priorities for every organization – especially those exploring new markets – and the shift to remote-everything has only increased the need for an integrated zero trust architecture that reduces both cost and complexity.
Microsoft offers integrated end-to-end capabilities across identity, security, management as well as compliance. We analyze more than 8 trillion security signals each day to gain insights for security innovation across our platforms to protect customers – both enterprises and small businesses that are often most vulnerable to attacks.
We have more than 90 security and compliance certifications including local Trusted Cloud designation in China, and help customers with their own compliance, which has proven to be of high importance to MNCs in China.
As our customers and partners become digital businesses, we are using our IP expertise and patent portfolio to help them protect their innovations in the cloud and manage IP risk, so that they can focus on developing their business to succeed in their transformation. In 2017, we extended our Azure IP Advantage to China, to help companies address legal challenges that come with participating in the digital economy.
Ultimately, we understand that security and compliance is integral to our customers’ business health and long-term success.
Empowering MNCs in China to innovate and scale solutions to global markets
Microsoft is helping organizations in China develop new products and services and create value for their customers, together with the support of an extensive partner network cultivated over 28 years. We have a network of more than 8,000 partners skilled in designing, developing, customizing and deploying solutions to unique business challenges, bringing fresh ideas to new lines of business and business models.
We run one of the nation’s most celebrated startup accelerators — Microsoft ScaleUp — that works with a select group of high-potential Chinese startups looking for fast growth and global expansion, as well as a nationwide network of incubators and the company’s most comprehensive AI + IoT Lab in Shanghai. By connecting local startups with multinational customers, conducting hackathons, joint-coding events and demo days, and even offering lab residencies for customers, we help multinational companies unlock innovation and create opportunity.
Just in the past 24 months, a total of 732 local partners built more than 1,300 applications for 1,000 MNCs. Some prominent examples include global pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly’s adoption of Microsoft accelerator alumni partner AirDoc’s AI imaging solution to help doctors improve early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes using eye scans. Eli Lily also created a chatbot system with our partner, BeyondSoft, to provide a sophisticated interactive knowledge base for their field representatives. Both these innovations, first developed and tested in China, are now being used in global markets.
In addition to partners, Microsoft’s largest R&D facility outside the US is in China, where engineers and scientists at Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) are making cutting-edge breakthroughs and helping our customers and partners solve complex technology challenges. For instance, Microsoft engineers is working with multinational pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, to create an intelligent chatbot that helps educate diabetes patients and assist with diagnosis and treatment.
Microsoft simplifies the complexity of business in China
With a presence in the China of nearly three decades, Microsoft understands the market’s opportunities as well as the challenges faced by customers wanting to enter it for growth.
With dedicated teams to facilitate complicated contracting, compliance, and IP protection matters across geographies and legal entities, as well as members to orchestrate resources between sales representatives, customers, and partners, we have successfully helped customers develop in-house solutions that are now driving impact across industries.
In the last 7 years, we have helped thousands of MNC customers, the likes of Coca-Cola, Walmart, Starbucks, and ThyssenKrupp, through our programs, by enabling them to launch business systems, applications and innovations on our cloud services in China.
Empowering organizations and people to reimagine a better future and achieve more
While COVID-19 caused unprecedented change and uncertainty this year, it has also shed light on how technology can help pave the way for business and economic recovery and growth.
Microsoft China brings and works together with organizations and partners in a way that builds trust, inspires innovation, and empowers business across the entire ecosystem. We are committed to the growth of organizations in China, and are helping organizations and people reimagine and create a better future beyond the pandemic.
I am proud of how our team at Microsoft in China has been able to contribute. I am also excited to welcome a brighter 2021, where we will empower organizations and people to achieve more.