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How digital transformation empowers firstline workers and boosts enterprise value

Every time I’m handed a package by a retail assistant or have my blood pressure tak  en by a nurse I’m reminded that people are still critical to our daily lives.

Yes, we increasingly automate tasks and use technology to perhaps order that package or make the clinic appointment – but these people remain the public face of their organisation. They form the backbone of many of the world’s largest industries and without them the ambitions of many organisations could not be brought to life.

Often what these firstline   workers still lack however is the information and technology needed to empower them and make that  human-to-human interaction friction free and fulfilling; the retail assistant might not know if there’s a different colour available in that shirt, the nurse might not have access to my blood pressure records there and then.

But what if they did? Maybe the retail assistant could sell me two shirts, maybe the nurse would notice that my usually low blood pressure had suddenly spiked and suggest I see a doctor. Their impact would be magnified.

Microsoft’s goal is to empower people to do more, to foster connected cultures that spur successful digital transformation. And we do mean empower every person – not just some, not just the knowledge workers, not just the executives – every person because we genuinely believe that’s the way to sustained success.

Earlier this year we commissioned a piece of research to find out what firstline workers in Australia thought themselves – and we got some great insights. Critically the research revealed that 74 per cent of respondents recognise that firstline workers are the backbone of the organisation’s culture. However is showed that while firstline workers in retail, health, manufacturing and financial services are keenly aware of the value and importance of digital transformation only 21 per cent are involved in their organisation’s digital transformation initiatives. A further 33 per cent aren’t involved but want to be.

Digital transformation is opening new opportunities for Australian enterprise; cloud solutions and rich digital solutions mean business is no longer geo-bound

There is an urgent need for action; according to the 2017 World Competitiveness Yearbook Australia has dropped from the list of the 20 most competitive nations, slipping to 21st on the ladder. It does better on digital competitiveness, ranking 15th – suggesting there is appetite for transformation. Our survey discovered that almost seven out of ten workers agree that working with automation and AI enabled systems is a key to developing a successful modern workforce, and that automation can make processes more flexible.

This works both ways of course – Australian enterprise can compete on a global stage, but local companies face new digitally charged competitors daily. Prepare your people and you stand a far better chance of success on both the global and local stage.

Australian organisations currently employ around 11.9 million people – many of them firstline personnel. What Microsoft wants to ensure is that each and every one of them has the tools to allow them to do their job better, to support their customers or patients, and be able to easily share information and collaborate with one another wherever they are based.

We’re seeing the rise of the contingent worker, the casual and part time worker, and an expectation, particularly from the rising population of millennial workers, that they will have smart technology to empower them.

Often mobile, these firstline workers need an open flow of information and the opportunity to work in teams and support one another. Organisations seeking rapid transformation need these firstline workers to have instant connection to management and head office so they have real time insights to empower them, rather than an after-the-fact update posted to a noticeboard.

The enterprise of course wants to ensure there is no compromise of security or privacy when digital systems are democratised across the organisation.

Microsoft’s vision for empowering Firstline Workers hinges around Microsoft 365 F1,  which we launched this week, bringing  together Office 365 F1, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security to deliver a complete, intelligent solution to empower all workers.

The breadth and integration across solutions including Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Microsoft IoT, Microsoft AI, and mixed reality with HoloLens is also primed for enterprises seeking to transform the firstline experience.

By empowering firstline workers with transformational technology organisations have the opportunity to expand their horizons, boost efficiencies, and compete effectively.

Everybody wins, and I get to buy a second shirt.