By Rebecca Hick, Director, Experience Center Asia.
A chief information officer of a regional carmaker group was feeling frustrated. He realized that he was sitting on troves of valuable data, but much of it was locked away in siloes or shackled to outdated processes. He couldn’t effectively mine the data to give company leaders the insights they needed to understand their fast-changing market and customers.
For help, he turned to Microsoft’s Experience Center Asia (ECA), a regional flagship facility in Singapore designed to be a state-of-the-art destination for digital transformation. But the Experience Center Asia team was facing its own challenge: just months after cutting the ribbon on the center, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of the physical space.
This one-stop shop where enterprise customers from across industries can go hands-on with the latest products and services from Microsoft and our partners, as well as hear about insights and best practices gathered from across the world, had to completely reinvent itself for a world that had gone remote and digital with breathtaking speed.
The ECA – Microsoft Technology Centers (MTC) team sprang into action, bringing in Microsoft experts and external partners from around the world to identify pain points, design a new architecture and produce a set of recommendations to move the company from a disjointed system to a unified data platform aligned with business goals. All of this happened in the span of less than four months, despite the lockdowns and restrictions.
The pandemic upended the world and challenged everyone’s notions of how we work and connect with each other. But solving unique business challenges is precisely the mission of ECA.
Working from home amid a sea of uncertainty, the team quickly reimagined how to digitally transform to deliver meaningful outcomes for customers through virtual briefings, insightful consultations, and compelling experiences.
The result: a near tripling in customer engagements and, more importantly, faster time-to-value and time-to-innovation for our participating customers. It turned out that removing physical limits means that customers can have conversations that are more efficient, focused, and impactful.
For example, CK Hutchison, a Hong Kong-based conglomerate with interests ranging from retail to shipping to telecoms, sought help with ensuring business continuity during the pandemic, but their teams were scattered across many countries and industries. Under the old model, it would have been near impossible to hold in-person briefings for everyone at a single location. But our new digital-first approach allowed us to design and stage a virtual roadshow that reached 700 executives around the world.
The power of partnerships
This approach has rippled throughout our global Customer Engagement Teams, which are hosting hundreds of virtual engagements every single day. They conduct demos, showcase immersive Microsoft experiences such as HoloLens 2, and, importantly, shine the spotlight on one of our greatest strengths: our partners and their innovative solutions.
Customers love hearing from partners in our ecosystem and to see examples of success or learn about product offerings that address their needs. The new virtual approach enables us to bring more partners into these conversations earlier
A timely example would be the ECA’s virtual experience that showcases The Diary, maker of a digital platform that delivers personalized health services to patients, such as chronic care management and disability care. As hospitals everywhere struggled to cope with the pandemic, The Diary developed a COVID-19 solution to help triage patients and have them receive care without having to visit a hospital. This was soon adopted by an Australian hospital network to cope with increasing healthcare demand.
The ECA team, realizing the importance of embracing a partner on the ground in New Zealand, worked hand-in-hand with Aware Group, specialists in AI and automation. Together with experts from MTC, the ECA team and Aware Group ran a unique hybrid workshop to better understand the airport’s needs and priorities, seamlessly collaborating to produce a technology roadmap and platform prototype to power the airport of the future.
Get ready to ride the Third Wave
So, what’s next? It may seem pointless to try to predict tomorrow when uncertainty grips today. But some trends are already clear. The world is entering a Third Wave of computing, an era defined by mixed reality and an “intelligent edge” of smart, connected devices. COVID-19 has brought that vision into sharp focus. Businesses need insights, fast. They want to understand their customers’ rapidly changing needs. We want to showcase first-hand what that means for our customers and bring to life Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.
Just as importantly, people increasingly expect companies and brands to lead in the area of social good. Digital transformation is not just about productivity and profitability, but about building a more just and equitable society. We have an ethical obligation to enable that change. Initiatives like AI for Good, and our commitment to reskill 25 million workers around the world – including 1.5 million here in Asia so far this year — to prepare for the tech-enabled jobs of the future are steps in that direction.
ECA is more passionate than ever to showcase what is possible with solutions from Microsoft and our partners. As we cautiously reopen our physical space, we have an exciting opportunity to blend the virtual and physical worlds through mixed reality. We can help companies, educators, and organizations visualize and contextualize the data they need to better serve their customers and communities. And we will strive to bring digital transformation to audiences that have been traditionally underserved.
See for yourself what Experience Center Asia and our many partners can do for you. Reach out to your Microsoft account manager or partner representative to start the conversation around your digital-transformation strategy and how you can prepare for the Third Wave.