With unique circumstances this year creating an environment that is ripe for innovation and change, the CEO of Microsoft Greater China details how his company has embraced partnerships to drive forward business growth for all.
The year 2020 has been an extraordinary one. As Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella noted at an event last spring as the coronavirus pandemic was first making an impact, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” The pandemic accelerated digital transformation much more than anyone could have expected. Each industry, and each of our customers and partners, has been affected, experiencing different constraints and even opportunities.
At Microsoft, we see a world going through a three-phase journey relative to COVID-19 – “Respond, Recover, Reimagine” – with each nation currently experiencing a different phase, and China well into the latter. But, whatever the phase, it has become clear that we will continue to live in a fast-changing and unpredictable environment. That means companies and organizations have to be vigilant, agile, and resilient for today and for whatever may come. According research by IDC and Microsoft, in the span of six months since the outbreak, 63% of organizations in China intend to speed up digitalization in their products, services, payments, and more, including ecommerce and automation.
Data is the Source of Business Resilience
As a company providing technology platforms and solutions, we are seeing the emerging trends of digital transformation take off: the hybrid modern workplace for remote and collaborative work, one-stop management of multi-and hybrid- cloud infrastructure and services, and the digitalization of connected products and services. More and more, we are seeing AI innovation and data-driven insights integrated into automation scenarios, predictive maintenance, supply chain management, and other daily business scenarios. The one consistent thing we have seen across the board is that the pandemic really pushed people across industries to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of data in a business context.
Whether a customer tag in an online-to-offline store, an RFID code in a supply chain with an IoT sensor, or a quarterly sales margin chart that comes to the regional sales manager’s smart phone, data – and the action and insight that can be done with it – is becoming a competitive edge and the fuel for innovation and business growth.
The data journey starts by breaking data silos and letting data flow freely through the digital feedback loop. With data and intelligence at the core, the digital feedback loop lets organizations digitally connect every facet of their business – from their customers to their employees, their operations to their products – to transform their business, become more resilient, and unlock new value for their customers. Take AB InBev, for example. The leading global beverage company has adopted the complete Microsoft intelligent cloud offering for its IT infrastructure, productivity, and business process management, empowering digital transformation, and creating robust digital feedback loops across 35 factories and more than 19,000 employees in China.
Data security and trust is the foundation of digital transformation. At Microsoft, we have been servicing enterprise for more than 30 years. We spend over a billion dollars every year on research and development to secure customer organizations and enable them to digitally transform – without compromising productivity. No one comes close to our experience and understanding of customer needs across cybersecurity, digital transformation, and compliance. Microsoft has been in China for nearly 25 years and is a certified Trustworthy Cloud Provider, completely compliant with all local laws and regulations, and we assist with your compliance – a key criteria for any MNC to consider in choosing a technology partner in China.
Consistency for MNCs Both Coming to China and Going Global
Consistency in architecture, development platform, and performance is a top priority for MNCs when they are planning to deploy IT as part of extending their business to new international markets. This has honestly been one of the most important factors for Microsoft in serving our customers coming to China to find new growth.
Our intelligent cloud portfolio, including the Microsoft Azure public cloud platform, the Microsoft 365 productivity platform, Dynamics 365 business application and intelligence platform, and our low-code/no-code development service, Power Platform, is Microsoft’s comprehensive global offering for digital transformation. It has a consistent architecture across 60+ global regions and over 95% of Fortune 500 enterprises are using these cloud services. In China, Microsoft has partnered with 21Vianet to operate our cloud services since 2014, and all four essential services are available in China today. In fact, Microsoft was the first compliant, international public cloud service available in China and, for nearly seven years, thousands of MNC customers have adopted Microsoft intelligent clouds services for their China business, including Coca-Cola, Walmart, Starbucks, and ThyssenKrupp.
It is great to see China recovering so quickly from the global pandemic, but it is clear that some of the impacts of the pandemic will be long-lasting across almost every industry. For example, the traditional retail industry was heavily impacted by store closures and then supply chain disruptions as the business shifted to online. Then “live commerce” took over, creating big new challenges in terms of existing purchase, sales and inventory systems, and employees. Although offline businesses are now reopening, the industry has begun to integrate these new systems and digital business models into their brick-and-mortar operations. This has created new revenue streams as well as new efficiencies and operational optimizations, all the while building business resilience. Leading global food retailer General Mills partnered with Microsoft to develop and deploy a shop and membership management system for their Häagen-Dazs brand, which runs over 400 shops with more than five million customers in China.
With Microsoft’s consistent global infrastructure, architecture, and development platform, many international companies are experimenting in China, innovating products and services that can be quickly scaled to other global markets. At the China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in Shanghai this past fall, Microsoft and Novo Nordisk announced the first Chinese-speaking chatbot dedicated to diabetes. This AI-driven online interface provides early screening, education, and treatment information to help the more than 129 million diabetic patients in China receive timely and effective care while easing the burden on healthcare providers. Thanks to the Azure-based conversational AI framework, the chatbot can be adopted into other languages and deployed in other markets, delivering the benefits of local innovation in China to the world.
Accelerating Innovation with China’s Developer Ecosystem
China is home to the world’s second largest developer community, providing a great source of ideas and talent for technology innovation to accelerate digital transformation. This developer and partner ecosystem is an important part of Microsoft’s global partner network. They are not only tech gurus, but are also experts with unique experience and depth of understanding across industry segments, regional markets, and business scenarios. They help Microsoft close the last-mile gaps for tailor-made solutions that work best in China, while also serving as an endless source of ideas and innovative solutions for global challenges.
In the retail industry, our partner TechSun has developed Dynamics 365 solutions for Häagen-Dazs, SWATCH, Adidas, McDonald’s, and Abbott. For IoT scenarios, our partner Geek Plus provides comprehensive smart supply chain and logistics management solutions using robotics and automation with AI. They helped Decathlon with a warehouse automation solution that uses robots to assist the warehouse team – tripling the average productivity and increasing inventory capacity by 40%. Microsoft partner AirDoc, a leading medical AI research company, developed a medical image screening solution that uses Azure AI and machine learning services to diagnose disease from images. And another Microsoft partner, BeyondSoft, has developed a medical bot service that delivers customized expertise and knowledge for customers, with zero coding, by leveraging Microsoft’s chatbot framework and services. In cooperation with Microsoft, the global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has adopted AirDoc’s solution to help doctors improve early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes using eye scans, and created a chatbot system with BeyondSoft to provide a sophisticated interactive knowledge base for their field representatives.
The unparalleled build-with and code-with capability of a significant number of Microsoft partners in China helps maximize the full potential of Microsoft’s technology for our customers in their digital transformation journeys. Keeping our partners current and qualified on our technologies, and growing our ecosystem even stronger, is a priority. At our 2020 China Partner Conference, I announced significant additional investments to help many of the 17,000 partners in our China network to grow their capabilities, transform their business, and thrive.
Unprecedented Uncertainty Bringing Greater Clarity
2020 has been a challenging year, but, through it all, we have witnessed incredible ingenuity, resilience, and compassion from people in China and around the world. And, while COVID-19 created unprecedented uncertainty, it also created greater clarity around the things we value as people and as businesses. It has certainly clarified how we can use technology to achieve what we value and has created the opportunity to make Microsoft’s mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more really come alive.
Microsoft China and the entire US business community in China responded to help in the fight against COVID-19, are continuing to contribute to the recovery, and are helping to reimagine the future. By convening companies and partners to create surplus in local economies, and doing it in a way that builds trust, inspires innovation, and enables businesses across the entire ecosystem, I am proud of what we at Microsoft and the broader US business community in China have been able to contribute in China. We’ve made a difference. And I’m excited and thrilled to welcome a brighter 2021.