I’ve spent my entire adult life around technology, and over the years witnessed profound changes in the way that businesses operate and people interact.
I’ve come to realise that the greatest success comes from putting people first and technology second. Shoehorn technology into a workplace, a school or a home without ensuring that people have the skills and desire to use it, and you set yourself up for failure.
Empowering people on the journey with you though – explain how the technology will support them, build a stronger business, improve learning outcomes, and make life simpler and more rewarding – and it’s a different story. Help them develop the skills they need to reap maximum benefit from the technology – and encourage them to think up even better ways to do things – and you’re set for success.
That’s the Microsoft way, and the way that our 10,000 Australian business partners work. We work together with clients, to understand their challenges, identify their opportunities, and then we work together to weave a solution that uses technology, engages people – and also creates a foundation for ongoing innovation and transformation.
We recently invited business leaders to our Future Now event in Sydney. It was a great opportunity to highlight the transformations that are possible when you meld intelligent technology and determined people.
Caltex Australia for example is in the midst of one of Australia’s most significant enterprise transformations. This is a business that sells over 20 billion litres of fuel through its retail and commercial B2B channels each year. It reaches 3 million Australian customers each week and has more than 6,600 employees.
Led by Chief Information Officer Viv da Ros and with Microsoft Azure as the underlying computing platform as well as Microsoft 365 deployed group-wide, it’s already transformed the way people communicate, collaborate and access the information and insight they need to do their job today, and innovate for the future.
This is a very successful company already – but it’s not resting on its laurels. It’s looking to optimise operations, engage employees and delight customers. And that’s essential for sustained success.
Australia has an extraordinary track record – 27 years of economic growth that is the envy of the world. Now, I’m not naïve – I know that global volatility means that could change – but I also know that our best chance of continuing to grow is to leverage technology and develop enterprise cultures that do things smarter, faster, better.
The same approach also ensures that organisations are more resilient, and better able to withstand any downturn in the future. A combination of intelligent technology and empowered people is an enterprise’s best bet for success.
For RMIT University that means transitioning 11,500 staff and faculty along with 90,000 students to Microsoft 365 – it’s the largest deployment of its type in Australia to date that’s being led by Chief Information Officer Paul Oppenheimer.
RMIT is a former Google user which has moved to Microsoft to simplify and streamline the student experience, promote collaboration between faculty and students, and enhance security.
I don’t take lightly the fact that so many Australian enterprises have chosen to partner with Microsoft, to trust us. They trust us to keep their data secure, customer information private, and to steer an ethical approach to AI.
Microsoft President Brad Smith – one of the industry’s leading thinkers when it comes to trust in a digital world – joined us in Sydney for Future Now to discuss how Microsoft works hard to preserve privacy, to build security and to support the deployment of ethical AI – all essential components of trust in a technology-charged world.
I believe that trust is why organisations around the world use Azure as the preferred cloud platform to run their operations and to innovate their business models. Our local investments mean that Australian Government data and national critical computing can also be securely managed by Azure.
IDC research released this week reveals that 80 per cent of business leaders in this region believe AI will play a very important role in their future success. They expect that AI will almost double the rate at which they can rack up innovation and productivity gains.
Across Australia 54 per cent of organisations have started their AI journey – it’s a lower rate largely reflecting organisations’ struggle to find the right skills.
One of the speakers at Future Now was Professor Genevieve Bell director of the 3Ai Institute at the Australian National University. We have partnered with the Institute, which is doing critical work exploring the intersection of culture and technology as we head into the AI era.
I was particularly struck by Genevieve’s reflection on the fact that although most companies could get through the 20th century without being technology companies, no one was going to get through the 21st century without being a data company.
It’s not just the private sector that stands to benefit. The Department of Finance in Western Australia has moved workloads from around 850 on premise servers to 330 virtual servers in Microsoft Azure.
Thanks to the leadership of Andy Wood, Executive Director of the Department, it’s created a responsive, nimble platform – and also sparked a cultural transformation that is turning finance into a digital department that offers fast, reliable and convenient services. It can only do that because it’s got the technology in place, the people on board, and trust in the services and solutions it is using.
What all of these organisations recognise is that trusted technology is an enabler – but the power comes from the people. That’s why people are lodged at the heart of Microsoft’s mission – to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.
It’s that combination of people, technology and trust that has the potential to transform business and improve our lives.