Microsoft’s Digital Transformation Missive Is A Slow-Burn Evolutionary Strategy

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OPINION: Microsoft’s keeps providing the tools for genuinely useful digital transformation rather than touting tired disruption rhetoric.

Over the past few year the term ‘digital transformation’ has been increasingly banded around, championed by technology giants as the process by which organisations can move from legacy and on-premise IT into environments flush with cloud infrastructure and services.

And Microsoft is no different; at the Redmond company’s Future Decoded event I heard various Microsoft executives use the term with abandon, championing the company’s efforts in cloud, artificial intelligence, Windows 10 and its Surface range as the means to bring about a digital wave of change for all manner of companies.

Normally I take many digital transformation missives with a good sized pinch of salt, noting that while the technology is all present and correct the cost, complexity and effort needed to move away from perfectly good if less-than-modern IT systems to fancy cloud-based services is too high for enterprises to wholesale transform.

Rather, I tend to notice than companies, especially large enterprises tend to ‘digitally transform’ in a more piecemeal fashion, slowly evolving rather than succumbing to tech disruption promised by the IT big brands.

At Future Decoded Microsoft did not reveal any great strategy shift from what it has been doing and championing over the past couple of years, but it showcased work, products and goals that show it its efforts to facilitate digital transformation are evolutionary in much the same as way IT shifts in end-user organisations.

In 2015, Microsoft’s chief executives Satya Nadella enthused about empowering all with data, mobility and the cloud.

And Microsoft has continued these efforts with tangible products and services that really do look like they can offer businesses the means to evolve their IT in a meaningful way.

At Future Decoded, Microsoft announced it is making its HoloLens mixed reality headset available to businesses across a 29 European companies, spreading the scope to how the headset can be put to use in business operations; for example, I have already seen how it can be used to provide an augmented reality show room for cars without the need for a vehicle to be physically in the room.

Surface ProFacilitating rather than disrupting 

Microsoft 365, the name given to the cloud-based package of Windows 10, Office365, and Redmond’s mobile device management tools, is now available to small and medium businesses, allowing them to either start life out as cloud-native firms or make the cloud shift while they are still small enough to do so with ease.

As Microsoft shrinks and merges its product and services portfolio, the message being pushed out at Future Decoded is the company aims to make it easy to embrace digital transformation in a fashion that suits individual businesses and evolves the workplace rather than totally disrupt it in a detrimental fashion.

While Microsoft’s cohort of executives noted that businesses need to embrace disruption, they also noted its as much as facilitating a culture rather than technology change.

While this may at first seem like the bluster of so-call futurologists who get all misty-eyed at the idea of app like Uber and Spotify being integrated, Microsoft has a very practical approach to this rhetoric.

Take the Surface Pro LTE Advance for example, the latest iteration of the company’s acclaimed Surface range has the simple addition of LTE connectivity. But it offers the means for businesses to roll out capable 2-in-on laptop come tablet Windows 10 devices to their workforce which allows for remote and field working to be carried out regardless of whether a Wi-Fi hotspot is present or not.

Rather than championing mass automation or complex mobility strategies, Microsoft is simply looking to provide the tools to enable enterprise workforce to work more flexibly and effectively with little more than an investment in solid hardware.

Whole I could bemoan the lack of anything truly new and attention grabbing from Future Decoded, it was pleasing to see Microsoft sticking to its strategy spearheaded by Nadella, and working towards facilitating a steady shift to digital transformation rather than harp on about disruption with products years away from release.

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