Dalith Steiger and Andy Fitze spoke with Patrik Sjostedt, Microsoft – Manufacturing & Resources Industry – EMEA Regional Business Leader, about the ongoing transformations at Microsoft and the opportunities of data capture and AI.
My first question refers to the partnerships: How did you enter into these partnerships, especially with Sandvik and what are your experiences with these partnerships?
Sandvik – like many other customers – works with our Office products, hence it is a long-standing history. Some years ago, we started working on other topics, particularly with Sandvik. Data capture was one of the topics where they needed specific technical assistance. And from this point on, things (and the partnership) further developed. We are now discussing additional IT solutions, and more branches are involved, for example, the mining division. Concerning the data collection, we are still in an early stage; it’s an ongoing process. We are now looking forward to working even closer together. On a more general perspective, what Microsoft has to change is the interaction. Usually, we didn’t disclose our engineering to customers. We issued products, and that was it.
“We are now looking forward to working even closer together.”
But now, with all these new partnerships, we are trying to work function-to-function and to «open up» the company in some sort. The engineering in particular is more closely involved in customer projects, which leads to a deeper relationship. We also work with executives, it now may well be that our finance department is talking about our transformation, about financial support and transfer to the customer; our supply-chain-people are talking with the customers supply-chain-people about our transformation. In short, partnerships have become broader.
And, you know, we are learning by doing, we corroborate our findings over a couple of projects. The next step will be that we enter into a more strategic partnership and get deeper and deeper on both sides.
Let’s talk about another hot topic: digital transformation. I guess this is a core issue for Microsoft. How do you bring in the employees? It seems evident that Microsoft is a leading part of this transformation. On the other hand, I can imagine that there are people in MS-Teams, even in Europe, who might be afraid of what’s going to happen. How do you address these folks? How do you train and educate them to get them on board so that they involve the customers?
Obviously this is a big transformation process. As it is the case in every transformation, we are confronted with many changes, people leave, and new talents join us and bring in new skill sets. Over the last couple of years has followed a natural evolution. We would like to get each and every one on track. Our core or, if you like, old business is still big, and it evolves as well. Not everyone has to jump on the train of data and AI. Still, a lot of people are working on the Office portfolio, which is headed toward the «Cloud» and becomes more and more sophisticated. There are plenty of things to do. Not everybody has to join a brand new part of the business. But having said that, I also would like to make clear that we put a lot of emphasis (we always have) on mandatory training.
“We would like to get each and every one on the track.”
As for me, I have joined the team a year ago, and since then, I went through a tremendous amount of training – and as I said, it’s mandatory. We are doing a lot of technical training which actually focuses pretty much on data and AI – and that is mandatory for everybody. It’s role based, and depending on the role you have, it may be significantly different. So there is, besides the ordinary and continuous re-skilling, up-skilling inside the company.
As a former CIO from a large corporation, I would like to know how you involve and address those responsible for the IT in the companies, now that you are in closer contact with the business and provide them with the tools for growth. How can CIO’s move on with you guys and work their way into a good position?
You know, you have a wide variety of CIOs. You have the very conservative CIO which is resistant to new developments or «hugging the servers». They don’t want to change anything; they just want to control the suppliers, including us, on a transactional basis. It’s a lock in for us in some cases. On the other hand, you have, I would say, the more modern CIO, who is keen to experiments and who kind of wants to benefit from the opportunity and make himself more relevant to the business. They have the possibility and the chance to be part of that business, because they dispose of the required knowledge. I would encourage them and tell them, embrace the change, this is your opportunity to shine, to really enhance the function and to become a trusted business advisor.
“Embrace the change; this is your opportunity to shine.”
By the way, I missed answering to your question on how to get the customer on board. Let me just add some words to this. It’s truly important, we have a customer success function, obviously this requires a lot of engineering support while doing a deal or during the implementation phase. There are many, many programs around. How do we up-skill the IT department on the customer side? They often are not familiar with the Cloud, they need training and help during the implementation.
Once the implementation is successfully completed, the customer success management jumps in, typically our Cloud Architects. Honestly speaking, this drives consumption for us. But then, as a consequence, it also drives value for the customer. It is their job to unblock issues.
“It also drives value for the customer.”
In many cases, people need more training and more education, and we are willing to help here. I can quote an example: Tata Steel was one of the lighthouse projects. We are involved with Tata Steel and this is a really cool project where we are teaching and creating knowledge on AI. In our latest academy, we educated the operators in using AI techniques to help control their production. It’s win-win.