Kathy Gibson reports from Reimagine 2015 in Johannesburg – Personal computing needs to come together in the business context, leveraging the intelligent cloud to change the way we think about business.

This is the world from Wayne Morris, corporate vice-president: Dynamics marketing at Microsoft, speaking at the Microsoft Dynamics Reimagine 2015 conference today.

In the past, IT system aimed to ensure compliance, control and efficiency. The Web and mobile started to open up the information and we started think about new systems of engagement, Morris says.

This means companies need to start thinking about a lifetime of engagement with partners and customers. Now with the availability of large cloud systems, we are seeing the emergence of systems of intelligence.

“These are different from before in that they are proactive, predictive, learning – they apply intelligence and insights. They bring things together and can be applied to systems of engagement and to systems of record,” Morris says.
“This is driving the transformation.”

Today, there are more devices in the world than there are people, and there is more data than we can possibly consume.

“We have all felt the disruption and the opportunity of this new world in our professional and personal lives.” Morris says. “The combined effect of all the trends coming together at once is so significant that we have to rethink what we mean by productivity.”

People are productive when they make things and make things happen, he adds. “More and more this is driven by teams of people, facilitated by networks.”

In fact, Morris says, the world can now be thought of as a giant network. But these networks themselves have also changed.

With traditional hierarchical networks, information moves slowly in a command and control environment; with the new responsive networks, driven by social media, information travels fast and can learn and adapt.

“This new form of information dissemination is putting stress on hierarchical networks,” Morris explains. “The new networks empower people to work and make decisions.”

This is also driving a change in the way organisations are formed, and the way workforces are put together.

“In the US, it is estimated that 40% of workers will be independent workers soon,” Morris says. This will allow companies to bring people together for a project then disband the tram when the project is over.

“We need to equip people to be more productive and effective,” he says.

And this starts with people and their ability to collaborate in a modern environment. This is achieved via a cloud environment, which also empowers the devices used to make productivity a reality.

People use multiple devices and they want context to stay with them throughout the working day, Morris explains.

“We need to be able to bring people together around particular topics, in a contextual way based on who we are, what we are going and what we are trying to achieve.

“As we re-invent modern collaboration, we also need to think about modern meetings, providing tools that unlock the power of the group as a whole.”

Microsoft offers a number of collaboration and communication tools that enable the idea of interactive meetings, regardless of where the participants are.

Modern content creation is also undergoing a rethink, Morris adds, with group collaboration important in this function.

Again, Microsoft makes a number of tools available that allow corporates to unlock the ideas of the team and the crowdsourcing of ideas.

“And we need to be able to access that information regardless of where you are,” Morris adds. Modern mobility tools make this possible.

“As we bring this personal productivity together, it comes from the fact that we think about productivity more broadly than any other company on the planet,” Morris says. “Now productivity is shifting from individuals to teams.”

Morris points out that the number of connected devices is growing explosively – and this is accelerating the amount of information that people have to deal with.

A large part of the new connected devices is the Internet of Things.

With the amount of data doubling every two years, 44 zettabytes will be out there by 2020.

“At the same time the half-life of information is dropping – with most of it obsolete within a year,” he says.

“So what do we do with all this and take advantage in a positive way?” It comes down to personalised insight – the ability to extract insights from big data.

“To do that we need systems of intelligence that are predictive and analytic – and understand what we are doing and why, so it can put it in context.”

For organisations, the customer needs to be at the centre of all operations: whether business customers, consumer or citizen.

“The customer today is so much more aware, they have access to so much information, and they know about you and your competitors. So we need to understand their needs and wrap wound them with systems that let us engage more fully, understand the needs and proactively respond and deliver against those needs.”

This starts with the concept of intelligent customer engagement, Morris says. There are so many opportunities to interact with customers and we need to make each of those touch points relevant.

“It can’t be a one size fits all; it has to be very personal based on the history that customer has with us. As we do that, we need to make it proactive, figure out the next bug tings I can do for the customer, how can I add value?

“Systems have to be predictive, to identify patterns and trends to allow us to be more proactive. It comes down to parting in a smarter way, caring for that customer better.”

Great marketing starts with a great plan, Morris says: identifying outcomes, planning budgets, and putting together asserts. Campaigns are then executed across multiple channels, with lead management scoring along the way, identifying how to add value to the customer. And when it comes to sending prospect it to sales, Morris says marketing needs to be more transparent about how the company interacts with customers. Analytics is important as well, not only analysing conversion rates but checking return on marketing investment.

“It’s about going to mass market to micros market to personalisation. The only way we can do that is to be predictive, to use analytics to do tighter segmentation,” Morris says.

In terms of sales, this starts with account and territory planning, but having access to customer information, access to information and trends, is important. The ability to collaborate contextually around the customers and bring the right experience to bear is more important today.

Mobility is also vital, with the ability to engage on the go adding to productivity.

When we think about personalising, things like social insights become important, Morris adds. Being proactive lets you understand what the next things you can offer, where you can add value – and predictive analytics comes to bear here.

Services is important to build customer loyalty over time. This starts with being able to offer service through any channel, Morris points out. Enabling agents with the information they need right are hand is vital. And being proactive means letting people self-serve if they choose.

Underneath that we need the right knowledge base to allow agents of customers to be empowered. Being able to proactively address issues will go a long way to improving the service experience, Morris says.

As well as engaging with the customers on the front-end, Morris points out that there needs to be more intelligent operations on the back end.

“We need intelligent systems to understand signals and be proactive in responding to them

“So we need to be able to integrate data, bring it together to get the insights to allow us to be predictive and ahead of the curve.”

This could be in intelligent supply chains, in human resources or in finance, the same principles apply

“We need to operate dynamically, and change as the business changes,” Morris says

This starts with regulatory compliance. Then companies need insights that will let them optimise their portfolio mix. And we need to offer this portfolio across a number of channels.

And the adaptability and agility to flexibly change as customer demands change can only be possible with realtime visibility into the supply chain, and proactively managing logistics with optimised inventory.

“This system needs to be able to continuously adapt and change – but be easy to use at the same time,” Morris says.