SAN JOSE, Calif., Oct. 25, 2007 — Very few industries operate at the velocity of high-tech manufacturing. Competition is furious, and the rules of the game can change overnight. Manufacturers face an endless supply of challenges, including a continual pressure to innovate, shrinking product lifecycles, changing customer requirements, globalization of markets, lack of end-to-end visibility and the unpredictability of market demand signals.
Tyler Bryson, General Manager, U.S. Manufacturing Group, Microsoft
Today, Microsoft is hosting its second-annual Global High-Tech Summit to bring together industry experts, companies, vendors and other thought leaders to discuss these challenges, as well as solutions for the future. Touting the theme of “New World of Work,” the conference will shed light on how today’s modern high-tech manufacturing workforce can take advantage of new technologies in communications, collaboration and product development to empower their employees to drive business success. To learn more, PressPass spoke with Tyler Bryson, general manager, U.S. Manufacturing Group at Microsoft.
PressPass: What is the Global High-Tech Summit and what is Microsoft hoping to accomplish?
Bryson: We’re in our second year of hosting the summit, and I think last year’s event was Microsoft’s coming-out party in high-tech manufacturing. This year’s, however, is an opportunity to take our thought-leadership to the next level by bringing together customers, partners and industry leaders to discuss how new technologies can solve the chronic challenges they face every day. Our keynote sessions will tackle issues such as “creating a culture of innovation,” “empowering your work force,” “compliance as a tool of transparency” and more. We have speakers from ABB, Accenture, Altera, AMR Research, Compellent Technologies, Finisar Corporation, Freescale Semiconductor, Dell, Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments, as well as popular business author Geoffrey Moore.
In the end, I think our goal is to shed some light on problems that aren’t widely acknowledged – such as non-secure collaboration along many manufacturers’ value chains – while also providing a “sneak peek” at new technologies, such as Microsoft Surface, that could be used to solve problems in the future.
PressPass: The theme of the Summit is the “New World of Work.” How has the world of work changed for high-tech manufacturers?
Bryson: In general, I think the industry has moved away from cost-cutting and retrenchment, which was a necessity due to the high-tech downturn in 2000, toward today’s approach of investing in new and advanced business philosophies, processes and technologies. In the workplace, this has meant more empowerment for employees, as tools that used to be strictly in the “ivory tower” of IT – such as high-performance computing and business intelligence – are now available on their desktops.
At the same time, we’re seeing the impact of Web 2.0 – blogs, wikis and other technologies – being profoundly felt in the industry. Employees are embracing these tools in greater numbers to collaborate both inside and outside their organizations and, more importantly, consumers are pushing high-tech manufacturers to communicate with them in different ways. It’s an exciting and challenging time for the industry as a whole.
PressPass: You mentioned the issue of non-secure collaboration. In your estimate, how big an issue is this for the high-tech manufacturing industry?
Bryson: Well, it’s staggering, really. We’ve been hearing about the problem through our customer advisory boards for some time now, but at the summit we released a first-ever survey of high-tech manufacturing business and technology decision-makers (BDMs and TDMs) and found that 78 percent of BDMs and 85 percent of TDMs reported they have collaborated with partners via non-secure public communications tools – such as web e-mail, personal FTP sites and personal instant messaging. Perhaps more shocking was that the survey found that product plans, technical data and other proprietary information were often sent using those tools.
It’s understandable why employees are using these tools; they’re under enormous pressure to perform and compete in the current marketplace. However, very few of the high-tech manufacturing firms surveyed believe that they are safe for transferring proprietary data – only 27 percent of BDMs and 37 percent of TDMs who used those tools considered them to be “definitely” secure. And most users said they were concerned about their staff using these tools to communicate confidential or sensitive information outside the company (58 percent and 72 percent of BDMs and TDMs, respectively).
PressPass: How can Microsoft help solve these problems?
Bryson: The irony is that many of these high-tech manufacturing firms already have the ability to secure these communications and collaboration channels with their current Microsoft software. Eighty-seven percent of both BDMs and TDMs surveyed said that the vast majority of information sent through these non-secure channels was in standard Microsoft Office-based formats such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. By using existing options such as user rights management or workflow restrictions in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, for example, many of these issues could be resolved.
In addition, Microsoft launched on Oct. 16 a new and updated unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) platform, which includes Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, Microsoft Exchange SP1, Microsoft Office Live Meeting and Microsoft RoundTable. Supported by more than 50 partners with new products and services built around it, Microsoft’s UC&C platform can help high-tech manufacturers communicate and collaborate securely with their value chain partners via familiar and easy-to-use software that plugs into their existing IT environments.
PressPass: Beyond productivity tools, what do you see as Microsoft’s role in addressing core manufacturing challenges, such as PLM, supply chain optimization and more?
Bryson: Our strategy has always been to be a platform company, with core products such as Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, BizTalk Server R2 with RFID, PerformancePoint Server 2007, Microsoft Dynamics AX and more. But we also have a healthy partner ecosystem that delivers specific solutions to the industry in areas such as new product development, global value chain integration, operational performance and customer centricity. Working with key independent software vendors and systems integrators such as Accenture, Autodesk, Avanade, Camstar, Capgemini, HP, i2, OSIsoft, PRTM, SAP and others, Microsoft provides a platform for industry-relevant solutions that tackle key issues in the market.
PressPass: How is Microsoft investing in the manufacturing industry overall?
Bryson: Microsoft has been focused on the manufacturing industry for more than 10 years, growing from a team of six to a global team of more than 600. Our team includes former manufacturing leaders, supply chain experts, RFID experts, engineers and other former employees with experience working for manufacturing organizations. In addition, Microsoft’s Manufacturing Group is made up of five verticals to better address the specific needs of each key industry: high-tech, automotive and industrial equipment, consumer packaged goods, chemicals and energy (oil & gas and utilities).