We are at the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is coming in the form of a digital transformation that will bring about changes not less powerful than the ones brought about by the introduction of the steam engine, electricity and the micro-processor. Thanks to Bocconi Students for Innovation, a small cohort of passionate students had the opportunity to visit Microsoft House, a temple for open innovation located in the heart of Milan and learn more about how one of the most innovative companies in the world is driving the digital revolution.
The opening speech by Andrea Benedetti briefed students about what the digital transformation really consists of. It is essentially characterized by the integration of complementary technologies, that is blurring the line between our digital, physical and biological world. Three digital pillars are catalysing this transformation: big data, cloud and artificial intelligence. Clearly, each one taken singularly is impactful in its own way, but once the three are combined (that is what is happening right now), the transformative power is enormous. “It is not what technology can do, but what you can do with it.”Advanced technologies will affect all industries, altering the way we conduct business and our role in the company. They will give rise to a new breed of services, that will connect people together and empower them to achieve much more. At the same time, they will boost the efficiency and the productivity of firms. For instance, thanks to data and predictive analytics, manufacturers can prevent hazards and better manage production issues, whilst doctors can provide enhanced healthcare through advanced diagnostics. Microsoft is also aiming at democratizing access to technologies, by leveraging on the features of Cloud computing. Thanks to their accessibility and scalability, small and medium-size enterprises now possess the potential capabilities to compete, on an equal basis, with powerful giants. Plus, the computing and storage capacity is unlimited. Another pivotal force moving the digital revolution is represented by artificial intelligence and machine learning, that is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. According to data disclosed during the presentation, in 2017, Microsoft blocked 1 billion malware messages using AI. Furthermore, Microsoft created a framework of cognitive services to use AI, such as Microsoft Bot Framework. The potential for digital development is truly boundless, and how this revolution untangles really depends on how we can connect the dots together with the kind of data that we can collect.
Following the presentation about the digital revolution, Marusca Giacomini introduced her role of Human Resource manager at Microsoft and presented the company’s culture and mission. At the roots of Microsoft is the passion for learning and innovating – this is what brought together the founders when the company was first created. Throughout the years, Microsoft went from being a small start-up to a $110 billion company of nearly 220,000 employees in 120 countries. The tech-giant truly “Hit Refresh” in 2014 when Satya Nadella was appointed as new CEO. He embarked in an ambitious plan for change, starting with the company’s new mission to“empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”He focused on embracing a diverse and much more inclusive culture, characterized by a growth mind-set, a “customer-obsessed” approach, the urge to make a difference and the need to develop “One Microsoft,” that is the effort to join forces and work as a team to positively influence growth.
Most importantly, tools must be developed to work remotely by 2020. This is why from March 2017, Microsoft adopted Microsoft Teams for all internal communications. Microsoft teams is a “new chat-based workplace,” a platform built on the Office 365 secure cloud, which allows workers to combine office chat, meetings, notes and attachments. “With Microsoft Teams, we aspire to create a more open, digital environment that makes work visible, integrated and accessible—across the team—so everyone can stay in the know.” In fact, what is strikingly unique about Microsoft is the concept of “smart worker.” Employees are absolutely free to organize their work as they prefer in order to be 100% efficient. What is important is that individual targets are met. Culturally, this means abandoning the concept of passing a badge in order to determine the exact time an employee has been working and introducing a system of evaluation based on management by objectives (MBO), that is valuing the worker’s ability to achieve concrete goals. This is how Microsoft supports a healthy work-life balance as well as enhancing diversity and efficiency.
Another important point was addressed by Giulia Gasparini, who spoke about the importance of supporting customers, through customer success managers like her. As Amy Hood explains, “In a consumption-based business, customer success is all that matters,because it builds on itself over time.”A Customer success manager is essentially a “Digital Fitness Coach” who engages with BDMs to accelerate adoption and drive usage of Dynamics and M365 to help customers realize effective business outcomes. This encourages customers to successfully implement the digital revolution that is happening around them.
Finally, Stefano Longo, Head of Technical Sales, presented the concept of modern workplace. He stressed the fact that a changing modern workplace must be three things: first mobile and social, second diverse and global, and third team-based and collaborative. In the closing tour of Microsoft House, students could fully appreciate the dynamic work environment that was physically embedded around them. Structured on six floors, half of which open to the public, Microsoft House hosts a showroom (created in collaboration with Intel) and will share the ground floor with the Digital class, a multimedia environment designed to offer teachers and students the opportunity to try out the most modern teaching techniques. The Technology centre is located on the first floor. This is where professionals can meet, share and plan together. On the fifth floor there is an area called “The Loft,” dedicated to events and executive meetings. In brief, there is no shortage of informal places where creativity and innovation can be stimulated.
Bocconi Students for Innovation, once again, succeeded in bringing students a step closer to their dreams. Whether they want to become the next CEOs of high-tech companies or the software engineers leading the digital revolution we are living, for sure the in-company visit at Microsoft House opened their eyes on how one of the most innovative companies operates and what is the potential of advanced technologies such as AI, cloud and quantum computing.