Chapter 03 Digital transformation in
What does digital transformation look like?
What happens when smart, creative, forward-thinking women and men take advantage of the power of the cloud to collect and analyze information at a scale and depth that has never before been possible? What problems will be solved and what unmet needs will be fulfilled as innovators and dreamers connect fresh insights with new digital capabilities?
These are questions that will take years to answer. History tells us that the full impact of an industrial revolution typically takes years to unfold and that the most important innovations were almost never foreseen by those who created the underlying advances that made each successive industrial revolution possible.
It was, for example, nearly a century after James Watt perfected the steam engine that people even began to call what he helped unleash an industrial revolution. It’s doubtful that Heinrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi, and the other scientists and inventors whose discoveries laid the groundwork for radio broadcasts could have imagined the world of mobile devices and wireless communications that most people take for granted today.
But there are already exciting and inspiring hints of what the future may hold as people begin to discover how to use cloud computing, advanced analytics, mobile devices, connected sensors, genomics, 3-D printing, geolocation and a host of other related emerging technologies to look at old problems in new ways and to envision capabilities that until now were impossible to imagine.
Today, people in every profession are using cloud computing to work more efficiently and more effectively, to serve their customers in new ways, and to find solutions to once unsolvable problems. In this section, we offer a quick snapshot of the impact that cloud computing is having on industries that drive economic and social progress in communities around the world. Some of these stories are about small changes that have big impacts. Others touch on more substantial organization wide innovations. But, regardless of the nature of the organization, the country or region in which they are happening, or the services they describe, each one of these stories points the way forward toward a time when the digital transformation will enable people to strive to fulfill the deeply human desire to make the world a better place in powerful new ways.
Although governments are continually under pressure to deliver more and better services to citizens, businesses and communities, they face new constraints on their financial and human resources.
Some governments are struggling to respond to unprecedented urban growth as people migrate to cities in search of new and better opportunities for jobs, health and education. Others struggle to respond to aging and more diverse populations. These challenges are compounded by citizens’ growing expectations for faster and more accessible engagement with governments at every level — expectations fueled by social media and the advent of more personal and efficient interactions and experiences that businesses offer to consumers through mobile devices.
So how can cloud computing help governments address the challenges they face and better meet their citizens’ needs and expectations? Although the process is still in its earliest phases, government agencies are beginning to take advantage of cloud- based technologies to transform the delivery of services — and even the fundamental nature of their relationship with the people they serve. Forward-thinking agencies are exploring ways to move beyond manual processes, disparate systems and paper-based methods as they work to unlock a digital future that opens the door to new business and government models, new services and new citizen experiences. Here are just a few examples of how governments at the national, state and local levels are transforming their effectiveness and meeting the changing needs of their citizens.
The Tax Authority of Mexico (SAT) is re-engineering its technology infrastructure to better serve the 40 million taxpayers who are required by law to interact with the authority online. Using the Microsoft cloud, the SAT has improved online services for citizens and businesses while increasing tax control and collection, lowering processing times, and reducing tax evasion.
Using the scalable storage and compute capacity of the cloud, the tax authority has significantly reduced disruptions in service that used to occur during spikes in activity as the deadline for filing taxes approached. The updated system has also strengthened the perception that the SAT is accountable to citizens and businesses, which has raised confidence in the agency, improved usage rates for the online tax service, and led to a 10 percent increase in tax revenues.
“With our new online portal, we’re successfully encouraging taxpayers to file their taxes voluntarily, which means increased revenue collection.”
In Auckland, New Zealand’s largest urban center, Auckland Transport is using advanced technology to help residents move around the city more efficiently. Working with Microsoft Services to develop a world-class transportation system, Auckland Transport now offers a wider range of transportation options by adding bus, train and ferry routes, while encouraging people to bike and walk. This effort includes a cloud-based website that is visited more than 1 million times per week, and the MyStreet app that tracks passengers’ favorite routes, notifies them of street repairs and suggests detours. Auckland Transport is also using predictive analytics to assess data collected from sensors and social media and help drivers find parking and alleviate traffic congestion.
“Our greatest obstacle as a transportation agency is planning for population growth. To accommodate the projections, we need to increase efficiency and capacity, while keeping costs down and maintaining a positive experience for residents.”
The state government of Indiana in the United States is improving access to an expanding array of business services such as licensing, tax payment and unemployment benefits through a one-stop portal called INBiz that is now used by 100,000 business owners. Built on the Microsoft cloud-based identity management system, INBiz provides personalized dashboards that alert business owners about upcoming filing deadlines, and has made submitting and processing information much faster and easier. As a result, Indiana has been able to expand and enhance its citizen services and increase compliance with the state’s business regulations — all while improving cost-efficiency.
As technology transforms our economies and creates new opportunities, the importance of high-quality education and the need to teach and train people effectively has never been clearer. Data-driven cloud technologies offer significant opportunities to improve the quality of teaching. New tools like AI and machine learning allow us to better understand how people learn and master new skills so we can identify more effective ways to teach. Virtual and mixed reality devices allow for new approaches to experiential learning. The global nature of the cloud provides new opportunities to connect with people and information from around the world, offering access to nearly unlimited learning resources.
So far, the impact of cloud computing on education has mostly been seen in cost savings and improved efficiency. Examples include e-textbooks, which are cheaper and more scalable than traditional textbooks, and subscription-based applications that reduce the cost of software, hardware and IT staff. But productivity and efficiency gains are just the start. Increasingly, cloud computing is helping schools increase student engagement and improve access to high- quality personalized learning. Here are some examples of how the cloud is transforming education and improving learning outcomes.
In the United States, YES Prep school system — which runs 16 schools in underserved communities in Houston, Texas — needed an identity access and management solution that would give teachers single-sign-on access to all the applications they rely on to help their students succeed. Today, YES Prep is using Microsoft’s cloud suite of products to manage identity, mobile devices and security for its 1,000 faculty and staff members and its 11,600 students. This has reduced costs, increased application access flexibility and scalability, and given users richer identity management features. But, more important, YES Prep estimates that the new identity management system and student profile dashboard has reduced the time teachers spend on planning each semester by as much as 100 hours — time they now use to provide more individual instruction, engage with parents and further their professional development.
“Teachers were previously spending between 50 and 80 hours each semester to create differentiated learning plans, plus another 15 to 20 hours a week to keep the plans current. This goes to zero with our new student profile dashboard.”
In Canada, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) serves more than 35,000 children and adults at 87 different locations on the eastern half of the Island of Montreal, including 4,000 elementary and secondary students who have learning difficulties, behavioral issues, or physical or intellectual disabilities. The district has 60 professionals — including psychologists, speech- language pathologists, guidance counselors, occupational therapists, behavioral management specialists and special education consultants — who provide services to students, parents, teachers and school administrators. In the past, extensive use of paper records meant professionals who needed a student’s files had to drive to the EMSB central office or call to have them sent over, delaying access to the information. Filling out forms manually introduced the possibility of errors and resulted in duplicated efforts, with the same information on different forms. In addition, because paper files contained confidential student information, there was a risk of a privacy breach. Now, using a document management system called KiDS that runs on Microsoft Azure, the chances that private information will be accessed inappropriately have been sharply reduced, and the ability to create and access information in digital form saves each EMSB’s special education professionals around five hours per week.
“With KiDS, our professionals work more effectively and efficiently, and that allows us to make better use of existing funds ... because of these efficiencies, it will make it possible for our professionals to help more students.”
We live in a period of unprecedented progress in the improvement of healthcare for citizens around the world. Thanks to a combination of remarkable medical advances and a strong focus on global health, during the past quarter century average life expectancy around the world has increased by more than six years, and maternal and childhood mortality has been cut in half. Despite that progress, healthcare systems around the world still struggle with spiraling healthcare costs, with access to care due to aging populations or lack of care providers or facilities in remote areas, and with generating better patient outcomes. Put simply, most healthcare systems are spending significantly more, but still not reaching all citizens or delivering the results we would like to see.
Today, however, we are on the cusp of a period of tremendous opportunity, with new cloud-based technologies enabling us to unlock previously unknowable insight from patient data. These technologies allow healthcare providers to better collaborate in providing care and empowering patients.
Unlocking new insights from data will transform healthcare. AI, or the use of “machine learning” techniques on large data sets to extract insight and knowledge, is rapidly being integrated into the development of new tools and systems in the healthcare sector. Examples include tools like those produced by EpiMed Solutions that monitor entire hospital systems to detect and reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired infections by over 20 percent. Predictive analytics tools that monitor usage by customers at Fullerton Health are being used to detect fraud and identify better care pathways, reducing care costs by 60 percent for healthcare plan members with chronic conditions.
AI is also being infused into the next generation of clinical decision support and surgical tools. 365mc in Korea is using cloud-based machine learning to create a surgical tool that will guide the stroke motion for the operating physician and provide warnings before the physician makes a critical mistake. And on the diagnostics side, Volpara Solutions employs machine learning in one of its solutions to give technicians information in real time that enables personalized, high-quality breast cancer screening based on objective measurements of breast density, compression and radiation dose. Without this insight, variations in tissue density have historically led technicians to perform scans that resulted in suboptimal resolution, which could impact the ability to detect cancer.
The cloud is also beginning to have an impact on front-line treatment by helping clinicians access evidenced-based medical standards and practices. Cochrane, a not-for-profit organization that creates, publishes and maintains systematic reviews of healthcare interventions, is now using AI and machine learning capabilities, built on the cloud, to bring together the best evidence from thousands of research papers and clinical trials to inform the development of treatment guidelines and healthcare policies.
Until now, rigorous systematic reviews could take up to two years to complete. Using AI to help select studies to be included in systematic reviews, Cochrane is saving weeks of work, freeing up healthcare reviewers to focus on high-level analysis. This system is helping clinical assessment groups look at the latest medical research in specialties ranging from cardiology and dementia to public health issues such as obesity, healthy eating and exercise. And it is now being used to speed the development of health guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the U.K., which help U.K. National Health Service (NHS) doctors determine appropriate treatment for more than 65 million people.
“What excites me most about this work is that it is about exploring where those boundaries lie between what the machine can do and what the human can do … so that we can then better direct human effort where it’s most needed.”
Recognizing that AI offers great potential to patients but also raises important ethical and access-related questions, Microsoft has undertaken work to ensure that the benefits of AI in health do not just accrue to the privileged few. Through its Democratizing AI in Health Initiative, Microsoft will work to ensure we have a vibrant discussion platform to work through issues related to the ethics and access to AI-infused technologies in healthcare.
Collaboration without boundaries
Cloud-based technologies also underlie new tools that drive greater collaboration among healthcare providers, across individual healthcare facilities and subject-matter experts, and increasingly across geographic boundaries. One of the greatest challenges with imaging technologies is the workload placed on the few radiologists who may be in proximity to more remotely located imaging devices. Soddo Christian Hospital boasts the only CT scanner in the entire southern half of Ethiopia, creating a massive and ongoing reliance for scans and interpretation. Unfortunately, its lone part-time radiologist could not manage the full-time patient load. Eventually, the hospital entered into an agreement with the University of Alabama (UAB) to help with offsite reading of images, but had some initial challenges getting the images into the hands of the university radiologists an ocean away. RadConnect, an Azure-based medical image-sharing SaaS solution developed by NucleusHealth, provides that critical link, allowing the UAB’s board certified radiologists to reduce the backlog and enabling more timely analysis of images, which ultimately saves lives. Soddo Christian Hospital recently admitted a 4-month-old female patient suffering from persistent opisthotonus (spinal spasms and arching) with a history of seizures. Initial diagnosis included tetanus and meningitis, but treatment was not working. A CT scan showed a meningeal enhancement, but not an abscess. Through RadConnect and its partners at UAB, Soddo Christian Hospital isolated the issue and developed the treatment plan, including a very tricky lumbar puncture — all to great success
Telehealth, remote monitoring and patient empowerment
The cloud is also changing the way patients access care. The Nordics, for instance, have been great leaders in using technology to expand the care continuum out of the traditional medical clinic and into the communities and homes of people who cannot make it to see a doctor or nurse. Access to healthcare facilities can be a challenge for residents of remote areas of Finland, where the nearest hospital or medical center may be hundreds of miles away. But an innovative virtual hospital program, a joint project involving all five of Finland’s university hospital districts, is making access much easier. The Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS) coordinates the Virtual Hospital program and led technical development of the platform, based on Microsoft cloud solutions, that makes it possible to improve patient access to quality care, reduce costs and enable healthcare providers to treat more patients in less time.
Childhood blindness occurs in Armenia at three times the U.S. rate. In response, Dr. Thomas Lee, director of the Vision Center and associate professor at the USC Roski Eye Institute, embarked on a partnership with the Armenian EyeCare Project. The partnership’s mission is to train Armenian surgeons to reverse the effects of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a degenerative eye disease most commonly seen in premature babies that leads to severe vision loss or complete blindness if left untreated. This aggressive disease is nearly 100 percent curable in the United States, but without the same training, resources and medical expertise available in Armenia, ROP continues to contribute to the country’s high rate of infant blindness. Fast-forward to today and Dr. Lee’s vision of the partnership has developed into something much more exciting, leveraging technologies not available eight years ago to help train Armenian surgeons remotely. This includes using, for example, Skype for Business to observe the complicated eye procedures and communicate with the Armenian doctors in real time — all from his own hospital 7,000 miles away.
In Trinidad and Tobago, diabetes occurs in significant numbers of the population and can cause serious and costly complications during pregnancy. The Diabetes Education Research and Prevention Institute (DERPi) of Trinidad and Tobago decided to tackle the problem by bringing new and easy-to-use technology to the patient. It created a Hyperglycemia in Pregnancy Trinidad and Tobago (HiPTT) app running on Azure that facilitates a system of data logging, analysis, visualization, archiving and communications necessary to provide efficient support to pregnant women and identify diabetes risk early in pregnancy.
Challenges to access don’t just stem from barriers like distance or reduced mobility; social stigma and cultural differences can also create complications that can now be addressed via technology. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 23 million people suffering from mental health conditions in Egypt alone. Yet local cultural values often cause people to downplay or ignore entirely these conditions, preventing patients from getting any treatment. Egypt-based Shezlong is filling this service gap by offering online cloud-based treatment from therapists, helping to overcome cultural barriers and social stigma typically associated with seeking and receiving treatment for mental illness.
Life sciences: Data-sharing scenarios
Beyond traditional healthcare, we also see emerging uses of cloud computing platforms to enable processing of large data sets across various private- and public-sector organizations in the pharma and life sciences sectors. Clinical research and pharmaceutical markets demand a one-stop-shop platform to aggregate research studies, provide an easy-to-use search interface, and offer tools for select data analysis. Vivli, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, has collaborated with BlueMetal to build a first-of-its-kind data- sharing platform for clinical trial research, powered by Microsoft Azure. Using this platform, public and private institutions worldwide will be able to optimize time, effort and financial resources spent on research, as well as unearth new insights that will lead to critical discoveries.
Cloud computing is also proving pivotal in the growth of the utility of biobanks for research. A biobank is a repository that stores biological samples (usually human) for use in research. Over the past 20 years biobanks have become an important resource in medical research, giving researchers access to data representing a large number of people. BC Platforms, a world leader in genomic data management and analysis solutions, operates BC|RQUEST, a unique resource that enables integrated analytics of genomic and clinical data, facilitating browsing and analytics of genomic and clinical data that has been aggregated across numerous distinct biobanks.
Shaping the policy landscape
Although the promise of new technology is immense, we also recognize that many of these new technologies stretch often outdated regulatory policy beyond its limits. By working with healthcare providers, policymakers and patient groups, we have helped encourage a dialogue that balances the benefits of new technologies with the need to ensure transparency and protection of patient health information. The European Cloud in Health Advisory Council meets twice per year to create calls to action and other guidance for regulators and policymakers, enabling them to update regulations to reap benefits of new technology without undermining patient privacy protections.
Capabilities like these are an important reason that the expanded use of digital technologies, including the cloud, is an essential component of healthcare policy in the European Union, a key part of the Affordable Care Act in the United States, and a pillar of the World Health Organization’s long-term approach to improving health around the world. Working together, we can empower better citizen health with technology.
Manufacturing and industry
As the digital transformation moves forward, manufacturers are developing new capabilities to drive competitiveness and growth. The cloud allows manufacturers to reimagine how they engage with customers, empower employees, optimize operations and reinvent business models. International Data Corporation (IDC)’s latest research shows that manufacturers are leading the worldwide charge to invest in big data and business analytics solutions and are likely to double the percentage of their products that are connected in the next three years — all paving the way toward new revenue streams that will extend the lifetime value of a customer. Already, organizations that are taking advantage of data, analytics and the cloud generate an average of $100 million more operating income each year than those that don’t. Here are a few stories of companies that are using cloud-enabled technologies to transform how they develop, manufacture and market products.
At part of its ongoing quest to use technology to make people’s lives easier, the Volvo Car Group is adopting the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft HoloLens to revolutionize the way employees market and sell vehicles. With HoloLens, Volvo sales associates can offer customers a detailed, immersive view of the cars they’re interested in — everything from viewing and choosing features, colors and options, to stripping away the outer layers of the vehicle to learn more about the engine, transmission and other technical details, to seeing safety features at work.
The ability to visualize and interact with products in deeper ways is also transforming Volvo’s development processes, helping designers and engineers continue the company’s mission of building the safest cars in the world. And the company expects that HoloLens will deliver value in other ways, including helping employees improve operations on the vehicle production line.
“With HoloLens we have the freedom to create a bespoke experience which customers can steer themselves. Imagine using mixed reality to choose the type of car you want.”
For medical and pharmaceutical organizations, refrigerators are an essential tool for storing medicine and sensitive materials. To better serve its customers, Liebherr, a leading manufacturer of industrial and consumer equipment, has teamed up with Microsoft to create a new smart refrigerator that has precise electronic controls for accurate temperatures and efficient cooling for optimum storage and energy use.
There are often legal requirements to ensure that medicines are stored at proper temperatures. Liebherr has also developed a new pharmaceutical refrigerator that is equipped with intelligent connectivity that monitors and analyzes critical performance data remotely, including the accuracy and stability of the fridge’s temperature and the state of the compressor and door. It features a communication module based on Windows 10 IoT Core that collects data and sends it to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, where Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics generates real-time insights on temperature and other data. With the predictive analytic capabilities of Azure Machine Learning, changes in performance that indicate future problems can be detected so that repairs can be made before there is a failure.
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), which makes some of the most recognizable commercial vehicles on the road today, is committed to helping its customers minimize the cost of ownership of its trucks and buses. To do that, DTNA needs both an ongoing relationship with fleet owners and managers and a way to stay connected to the vehicles themselves. To understand how vehicles are performing, DTNA built Detroit Connect, a pioneering data capture and analysis program. Built on the Microsoft Azure platform, Detroit Connect collects performance information from vehicles and stores it in Azure. This way, fleet managers and owner-operators can know within minutes if an engine or an after-treatment system in their fleet has experienced a fault event, understand the severity, and know when, where and how to fix the underlying issue. Today, more than 200,000 trucks use Data Connect to maximize uptime and extend vehicle life.
“We know we can drastically improve the reliability and fuel economy of a vehicle through data gathering and analysis. For a fleet with 10,000 trucks, saving even 1 percent of fuel can translate into a tremendous cost savings.”
As has happened whenever disruptive innovations emerge, the development of the cloud and other digital technologies has been accompanied by the emergence of new risks. We have seen nation- states use digital tools to attack civilians and civilian infrastructure. Social media networks and other internet-based platforms have also been abused, sometimes in an attempt to influence elections and compromise democratic institutions. This corrodes confidence, undermines safety and threatens economic stability for people everywhere.
But there’s another side to this story — the potential for a new generation of cloud-enabled innovations to drive significant improvements in public safety. Around the world, law enforcement, public safety and disaster response agencies are beginning to take advantage of cloud computing and advanced analytic capabilities to reduce costs and serve the public more effectively.
Innovations range from relatively simple steps to improve efficiency and reduce costs all the way to a complete reshaping of the way these agencies keep communities safe. The following are just a few examples of how law enforcement and disaster relief agencies are using the cloud to transform their work.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch National Police Corps is using social media to collect timely information about incidents so it can deploy resources more quickly and effectively. Using the social media monitoring tool PublicSonar, which is hosted in the Microsoft Azure Cloud, the agency can identify when a potentially dangerous situation is emerging and provide on-scene officers with information pulled from social media platforms to help them take preventive steps as quickly as possible. Thanks to PublicSonar, the Dutch National Police Corps now has, in effect, citizens of all ages and from all across the country working with the police force.
These new technologies are transforming how evidence is collected and used by law enforcement. Genetec, a company based in Canada, is helping agencies around the world gather and share video and other types of digital evidence. Managing digital evidence from diverse sources is complicated. Files must be captured, copied and converted to a standard format. In addition, there can be significant security and jurisdictional issues involved in sharing data between organizations. Genetec is addressing these challenges through solutions such as Genetec Security Center, which offers video surveillance, access control and license plate recognition tools in a single cloud-based platform that also integrates external business and security systems. Genetec Clearance gives organizations ranging from small private security teams to large government agencies access to automated case management tools.
The cloud is also playing an important role in disaster preparedness. In earthquake-prone Mexico, the government’s earthquake early-warning system operates only in Mexico City. To expand the solution’s geographic coverage, SkyAlert built a solution on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform that uses the government’s sensor network to alert people outside Mexico City about an impending earthquake on mobile apps and desktop computers. Already, 3 million people and more than 40 organizations use SkyAlert, which can warn people about an impending earthquake up to two minutes before it strikes — 40 seconds faster than the government’s system.
“People want to be informed about everything related to quakes. They know that having an alert that also provides some information about the event will help them make better decisions when one occurs.”
Small and midsize businesses
Recent research makes clear that small and midsize businesses play a fundamental role in job creation, economic growth and the health of local communities. According to the United Nations International Labour Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, unregistered small and midsize companies make up 95 percent of the world’s enterprises. And worldwide, businesses with fewer than 100 people generate more than 50 percent of net job creation.
Cloud-enabled capabilities can improve the competitiveness of small businesses, which can significantly expand access to job opportunities and strengthen local economies. Already, many small organizations are using cloud computing to lower costs, improve productivity and efficiency, and enhance agility. According to a recent study conducted by Pb7 Research and the software company Exact, small businesses that have adopted cloud solutions have doubled profits and increased revenue by 25 percent.
Now, small businesses are taking advantage of cloud computing to build thriving businesses by reaching and serving customers in ways that would never otherwise be possible. Here are two stories of businesses that are taking advantage of the digital transformation to reimagine how they operate.
Over the past two years, CityBee — the only car- and bike- sharing service Eastern Europe — has seen its fleet grow by a factor of 10. Because renting a car or bike requires several clicks in a mobile app or online, the company needs a seamless and reliable technical infrastructure. With demand growing and high- quality services essential, CityBee implemented a cloud solution based on Microsoft Azure that offers flexibility, reliability and interoperability with other platforms and systems. Improved flexibility means the company can now forecast an increase in demand and modify its infrastructure almost instantly.
In Argentina, Garantizar is enabling 14,000 small and medium- sized enterprises to meet their capital needs by helping them manage loans from financial institutions. A dynamic organization that believes the human factor is essential to day-to-day operations, Garantizar depends on a great deal of interaction between different sectors of the company to ensure accurate and quick responses to customer requests. To help maintain this interpersonal approach, Garantizar has embraced the cloud for productivity, in-house communications and internal interaction. Microsoft Office 365 and Yammer have been the catalyst for a new era at the company where more social interaction between people in the organization has inspired greater employee loyalty and increased agility in how it shares news and information about important events.
Farming and agriculture
There may be no area where the impact of cloud computing will be more important — or, for many people, more surprising — than farming and agriculture. As the world’s population grows from 7.5 billion today to 10 billion people in 2050, the combination of an expanding global population, rising incomes and changing diets will require the world’s farmers and fishermen to produce about 60 percent more food by 2050, on less land and using less water.
But although it’s easy to imagine how the cloud might transform information-based sectors such as healthcare, financial services and manufacturing, it can be a little more difficult to understand how the ability to collect, store and process large amounts of information in datacenters around the world will help the people who grow food, raise livestock and catch fish be more productive.
In truth, digital technology has already had a significant impact on farming and fishing around the world. Today’s farmers are no strangers to technology. From helping them know how densely to plant crops on an angled slope to identifying and applying modern best practices, technology is playing a key role in increasing agricultural productivity. In developed nations, many farmers rely on a wide range of innovative new technologies for their day-to-day operations — everything from self-driving tractors that use GPS and satellite imagery to plant more efficiently to drones and sensors coupled with advanced software that enable them to make smarter decisions about when to irrigate and how much fertilizer to apply. The following is a small sample of the impact of digital transformation on one of the world’s oldest industries
Land O’Lakes is a $13 billion agricultural cooperative in the United States with more than 4,000 member-owners, including agriculture and dairy producers and retailers who operate thousands of locations across the United States, selling the agricultural output of some 300,000 farmers. Land O’Lakes employees, who are often in the field working alongside farmers, need instant access to information and their colleagues, anywhere and on any device.
“Technology adoption has enabled one of the greatest productivity stories of our generation and resulted in lifting millions out of hunger by reducing the cost of the food we eat.”
To create a more flexible, collaborative environment, the organization is using the Microsoft Office 365 suite of cloud- based services to make it easier for employees to work together by crowdsourcing ideas, and more efficient to access information through a self-service solution that connects them to knowledge from around the company. Now, when they are working with growers, they can pull up crop yield data and satellite imagery to show a farmer which valley is running low on nitrogen and where they will get greater output. This is just the beginning of Land O’Lakes’ efforts to unleash the power of the digital transformation to grow more food, foster new ideas and talent, and preserve communities and the planet for future generations.
A virus known as Pacific oyster mortality syndrome (POMS) virus has been devastating to oyster farmers in Australia’s Barilla Bay in the southern state of Tasmania. Barilla Bay Oysters is one producer that has suffered — in February 2017, 70 percent of its harvest was wiped out by POMS. Oysters are especially susceptible when flooding following heavy rain affects water quality in the estuaries where they grow. To protect people from eating oysters that could make them sick, oyster farmers are required to shut down oyster beds whenever there is a potential risk. The decisions are largely based on readings from rainfall gauges and 30 percent of closures turn out to be unwarranted. The economic impact can be huge — a single day of lost production during peak season can mean AU$120,000 in lost revenue.
To protect consumer health and preserve the economic viability of the local oyster industry, agriculture technology innovator The Yield has developed a new system that uses sensors, cloud computing and machine learning to measure everything from water salinity, temperature and depth to barometric pressure and sea tide height. That data is used to understand and predict the conditions that make a POMS outbreak likely. The solution also offers a portal for food safety regulators that can help them manage openings and closings and share information quickly with oyster farmers so they can respond accordingly.
“We actually have a really clear purpose, which is how we’re going to help feed the world without wrecking the planet.”
From maintaining stable currencies to providing insurance products, managing systemic risk, allocating capital, enabling home ownership and administering retirement portfolios, financial services institutions provide the infrastructure that helps businesses and consumers reach their goals. But the confluence of technology advances, cultural shifts and regulatory change has brought the industry to a pivotal moment. Innovative companies are disrupting old ways of doing business by delivering cloud-based products and services that offer greater convenience and lower costs. In the face of these challenges, financial service institutions have a unique opportunity to redefine their role as trusted brokers in the new economy. Their business imperative is to innovate, demonstrate relevance and deliver value on a foundation of trust. Here are a few examples of institutions that are doing just that.
AXA Global P&C uses sophisticated actuarial studies and natural catastrophe modeling to manage reinsurance programs for the AXA Group, a global insurance provider based in Paris, France. To improve its catastrophe models, simulate multiple flood scenarios on-demand, and expand its models to other types of natural disasters such as windstorms, the actuarial team created a high-performance computing (HPC) solution based on the Microsoft Azure platform and Azure HPC Pack. The Azure solution not only met the requirement to scale on-demand, but it enabled actuaries to use an open source software environment and the programming language favored by researchers engaged in statistical and predictive analytics. This has enabled AXA Global P&C to realize some of its more far-reaching goals — to expand beyond flood simulation to include other events such as windstorms and earthquakes to help people understand natural disaster risks to better protect lives and property.
“We could never go back from the cloud. Choosing Azure was an essential step in our evolution. We wouldn’t have been able to develop natural disaster models without it.”
With a growing presence in China, Southeast Asia and South Asia, Singapore-based DBS Bank strives to be the bank of choice for the ever-expanding Asia economic region. To achieve this mission, DBS is digitizing its core banking activities, guiding customers to embrace digital practices, and transforming the relationship between employees and technology to create a more productive workplace. The first bank in Singapore to adopt the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based productivity solution in the workplace, DBS is improving personal and organizational productivity, and empowering employees to connect and engage with customers in new ways as they gain new insights that will ultimately help the bank transform its products and services. Over the past few years, DBS has made headway in creating a workforce that uses the cloud to make the customer experience simpler and more seamless, enhance collaboration, increase efficiency, and focus on delivering greater customer value.
One of South Africa’s major financial institutions, Nedbank has operations in seven African countries. To achieve its ambitious expansion plans, Nedbank is working to simultaneously improve client services and lower costs. One way it is doing this is to focus on replicating the convenience of call center interactions in more cost-effective channels, particularly those that its clients prefer, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack and other texting apps. To encourage clients to engage with the bank on these channels, Nedbank used the cloud-based Microsoft Bot Framework to create the Electronic Virtual Assistant (EVA), a virtual call center solution that can understand the context of clients’ questions at 10 percent of the cost of live agents. EVA works so well that many clients believe they are interacting with live agents; it handles 80 percent of the inquiries it receives, freeing live agents to handle the most complicated customers. For Nedbank, the bot technology is just the first step in a digital transformation that is driving the bank’s vision to be the most admired financial services provider in Africa.
“The shift to serving individual investors is a priority for us in the next 12 months. Bot technology plays a big role in that.”
Whether it’s fighting inequality, addressing poverty or protecting the planet, the work of nonprofits is vital. But there’s a problem: Funding is flat and demand for services is growing. One way that nonprofits are meeting this challenge is to implement their own digital transformation. Modern nonprofits are achieving efficiency gains and rapidly scaling their operations by adopting the same technology platforms that have enabled the private sector to innovate and grow. By using cloud-enabled technologies to move from building and managing technology solutions themselves to taking advantage of subscription-based offerings, nonprofits are reducing capital expenditures on hardware and accessing a broad technical support and development ecosystem that offers higher levels of innovation. And they are freeing staff to focus on their organization’s core mission. Here are a few examples of nonprofits that are using to technology to improve their ability to realize their mission to serve others.
Every minute counts when responding to war, natural disaster or an outbreak of a deadly disease. Because saving time means saving lives, SOS Children’s Villages International, which works in 135 countries to care for children, was looking for new ways to respond to the overwhelming need of refugees from the civil war in Syria. Taking advantage of Microsoft’s Tech4Good program — an initiative that provides donated or discounted cloud services to eligible nonprofits — SOS is now using the cloud to connect employees, other aid organizations and the victims of the civil war.
For example, Skype for Business enables SOS workers in the field to stay in close touch with psychologists and other specialists to help children work through trauma and grief. Child protection staff can store and access case documents using a team SharePoint folder so they can work together to solve problems and share what they’ve learned. And with nearly 5 million people having fled the violence in Syria, SOS has set up information and communications technology corners along refugee routes in Europe so people can research upcoming stretches on their journey, seek medical advice, prepare to enter a host country, and — perhaps most important — stay connected to loved ones.
Compassion International provides health, educational, social and spiritual services for 1.8 million children in 25 countries through sponsorships. Looking for ways to increase its impact, Compassion International examined its approach to IT and discovered significant opportunities to centralize its digital infrastructure. Today, Compassion International is using digital technology not only to serve more children — about 7 percent more each year — but also to improve the impact it is having on the children it already supports.
The impact of this digital transformation is impressive. The time it takes to connect children and sponsors has been reduced from months to a single day. Moving from using paper forms in the field to digital information delivered via mobile devices and Microsoft Azure has streamlined processes and is saving more than 300,000 hours of staff time per year. The time it takes for a child to communicate with a sponsor — accounting for local technologies, the speed of international mail and translations — has dropped from six months to a few weeks. The results don’t just save time, they are transforming Compassion International’s ability to achieve its mission to improve lives.
-  The Commonwealth Fund “The Triple Aim Journey: Improving Population Health and Patients’ Experience of Care, While Reducing Costs”
-  The World Bank “World Health Organization Global Health Expenditure database: Health expenditure, total (% of GDP)”
-  Microsoft Enterprise “Saving lives with data”
-  Microsoft Enterprise “Saving lives and money with machine learning”
-  Yahoo! Finance “365mc Unveils World’s First AI-assisted Liposuction System ‘M.A.I.L System’ Developed in Collaboration with Microsoft”
-  Microsoft Customer Stories “Volpara: Applying New Zealand Technology to Solving Global Clinical Problems”
-  Democratizing AI in Health “The vision for AI in Health”
-  Microsoft Customer Stories “Soddo Christian Missionary Hospital Case Study”
-  Microsoft Customer Stories “Virtual Hospital improves patients’ healthcare access, dramatically cuts costs”
-  Microsoft Enterprise “How Children’s Hospital LA saves eyesight with telemedicine”
-  Microsoft TechNet “DERPi leverages Azure’s hosting capabilities and flexible scaling to fuel their new diabetes intervention and prevention application, HiPTT”
-  Microsoft Enterprise “Ground-breaking service for millions with emotional and psychological problems is launched from the cloud”
-  Business Wire “Vivli Collaborates with Microsoft and BlueMetal on a New Global Clinical Trial Data Platform to Accelerate Scientific Discoveries for Human Health”
-  The Street “BC Platforms Launches Unique Global Genomics And Clinical Data Analytics Resource”
-  HiMSS Europe “EU Cloud in Health Advisory Council Offers Recommendations on Health Data”
-  World Health Organization “Cancer fact sheet”
-  Accenture “Why Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Growth”
-  Business Wire “New IDC Forecast Sees Worldwide Big Data Technology and Services Market Growing to $48.6 Billion in 2019, Driven by Wide Adoption Across Industries”
-  International Labour Conference, 104th Session “Report IV: Small and medium-sized enterprises and decent and productive employment creation”
-  HiMSS Europe “EU Cloud in Health Advisory Council Offers Recommendations on Health Data”