By Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia.
While 2022 presented some unique challenges here in Asia, it delivered many reasons for optimism too. We saw a regeneration of people’s lives and livelihoods post-lockdown. Businesses continued their rapid tech transformations. Technology became more democratized and accessible. Hybrid work took root, and so did the excitement of returning to physical interaction.
In 2023, we’ll continue to see that the best leaders are ambidextrous – adept at leveraging the upside and managing the downside. With destabilizing forces at play globally, an even bigger opportunity is being created in Asia than ever before. And I believe innovation here in Asia will be central to global revival.
There has also never been a more important time for organizations to lean into their mission and purpose – not just because ESG is a corporate imperative, but because talent wants to do meaningful work and make a genuine difference.
At Microsoft, our goal in 2023 is to continue our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Core to this is how we help build efficiency and resilience, preparing individuals and businesses to navigate tough conditions. In that spirit, here are four trends to help leaders stay prepared for the 12 months ahead.
Technology will enable everyone to do more with less
Doing more with less will be more important than ever this year as organizations continue navigating uncertainty and operating within constraints. This is where technology and the cloud step in to help companies and communities across Asia do more of the things that help them thrive – creating more innovation, agility, and resilience, with less complexity, time, and cost.
We’re already seeing examples of this in markets facing labor shortages, like in Japan where FamilyMart is using AI-driven robots to restock shelves in convenience stores. In Taiwan, traditional manufacturers like King Steel are modernizing using HoloLens 2 mixed-reality in maintenance and Microsoft Azure IoT Digital Twins. And it’s not just about physical labor, but making creative pursuits easier, like the Korean startup CLO Virtual Fashion using 3D costume simulation algorithms in virtual settings to create innovative designs faster and more sustainably by using less fabric.
Innovation will be in everyone’s hands
In 2023 and beyond, innovation won’t be confined to tech experts and engineers. If you have a bright idea, technology will make it easier than ever to put into action. That’s why we’ve created low-code and no-code solutions to truly democratize app development. Some of my favorite examples of how people are using our Microsoft Power Apps platform are how factory workers from Korea’s Doosan and Japan’s Kao were able to create productivity and process-enhancing apps for their companies, despite having no coding experience at all.
With the right tech stack, growing startups from idea to unicorn will also become infinitely more achievable. Starting a business always comes with challenges, but founders have never had so much access to help. For example, entrepreneurs in Asia can join the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, giving them free access to the tools, experts and cloud power they need to innovate and scale globally.
People will expect more of businesses
ESG will remain in sharp focus, and businesses will increasingly recognize the role that technology and AI can play in improving sustainability, accessibility and inclusion. For example, Givvable, founded in Australia, is using AI to track the sustainability of end-to-end supply chains, and New Zealand’s Maui63 uses AI-equipped drones to protect the world’s rarest dolphins. In Thailand, Vulcan Coalition is developing new AI services in Thai language for the vision impaired and creating job opportunities for people with disabilities.
The issue of sustainability will only increase in prominence. At Microsoft, we’re committed to not only becoming a carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste company by 2030, but to help all of our customers on their journeys. Key to this are solutions like the Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability and our Emissions Impact Dashboard, because you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Investing in upskilling will pay dividends
The skills shortage for specialized tech jobs will persist. In fact, 50% of CEOs in APAC say it’s difficult to hire digital talent with the right skills (PwC). That’s why we’ve expanded our Skills for Jobs program with LinkedIn to train 10 million people globally with skills for in-demand tech jobs by 2025, along with other initiatives like CyberShikshaa in India to bridge the gender gap in cybersecurity by upskilling more women.
Skilled employees have options and might not stay in a job where their expectations aren’t met. Our Work Trend Index shows they expect greater flexibility, as well as the dynamism that comes with in-person connection. To deliver this, leaders must end productivity paranoia and build trust, embrace the fact that people come in for each other and not for corporate mandates, and ‘re-recruit’ their employees through ongoing opportunities for development and internal mobility.
Staying on top of these trends will take agility, flexibility and openness. Like every year, 2023 will come with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. But leaders can prepare their organizations by leveraging technology to do more with less. Leaders who recognize this opportunity will help ensure a more secure future for their organization and their employees, while better serving their customers too.
And with that, from all of us at Microsoft Asia to you and yours, all the best for the holiday season and a fantastic New Year ahead.