Over 4,ooo business leaders from around the world gathered in Orlando, FL from Sept 25 – 27 for Microsoft’s Envision Conference, a new flagship event for business leaders. Attendees and speakers discussed the digital transformation of business and strategies for competing in the future.
It’s a theme that’s fast becoming a profitable reality: according to a recent study, companies that demonstrate digital leadership and mastery generate an average of $100 million more in additional operating income annually.
Business leaders in fields ranging from healthcare to financial services took to the Microsoft Envision stage to discuss the four key areas of digital transformation—engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and transforming products—and why change in these areas has proved essential to helping their own companies flourish.
Businesses today deal with customers empowered by connectivity and choice. Five out of six millennials engage with companies via social media networks, which has upended traditional modes of reaching a customer base. As numerous Envision speakers attested, in order to engage customers, put them at the center of business by leveraging data and UX insights. “Our whole product strategy is based on this consumer: what she likes, what she needs, what she wants, and we’re putting that consumer first,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder and co-CEO of theSkimm (the popular millennial newsletter.)
TheSkimm’s cofounders found success in knowing their audience and delivering exactly what it wanted: on-the-go news delivered in a shrewd, clever voice. “We’re really an audience company” said Weisberg.
Employees are the change agents in digital transformation. Companies must foster workplaces that prepare them for the future that their field demands, making them partners in the transformation process.
This isn’t just about reshuffling the org chart: industry experts believe a digital-ready workforce will determine which businesses thrive or fall behind.
Beth Comstock, vice chair at GE, explained in an Envision fireside chat how she’s embraced the GE mandate to “grow this company from within.” Comstock advises employees to set aside time for uncovering new ideas: “No matter what you’re doing in your company, you have to find a little bit of time for that discovery…you have to go out and find what’s new, understand where the trends are coming from.”
Because of regular advances in IoT and cloud computing, operations can be a business’s most vulnerable sector. Companies that adopt current technology solutions in areas like CRM and enterprise resource management saw a 58 percent increase in operational efficiency, highlighting the importance of investing in this field.
At Towergate, the largest insurance intermediary in Europe, CIO Gordon Walters faced the challenge of a sprawling “fragile infrastructure”. His answer? “Why don’t we try to push as far as possible and…go completely to the cloud. It gave us real momentum.” At a session on migrating to the cloud, Walters explained how he now has no data centers, has reduced the number of IT applications Towergate was running from 2,600 to 222, and can offer seamless service at lower costs.
The pace of innovation means that many businesses are only now envisioning themselves as software or digital companies, and shifting towards producing services in addition to producing things. The benefits to digital products promise to be huge, with 95 percent of the top 100 biggest enterprise software companies expected to have integrated cognitive technologies in their products by 2020.
“One of the questions that has to be asked and answered in digital transformation is: how can I take the data about my product and create a service that enables the data to be more valuable than the product itself?” said Microsoft Executive Vice President Judson Althoff in a keynote address.
“This isn’t just Microsoft’s opportunity, it’s our opportunity, with a capital O,” said Althoff. “The opportunity to harness digital transformation and economic opportunity and lift behind it is actually for all of us.”
Learn more about Microsoft’s Envision Conference or watch sessions from the conference.
This article was produced on behalf of Microsoft by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.