The UK is regenerating and technology and innovation can help tackle the challenges ahead, but organisations need to seize the current opportunity to kickstart growth, leading business voices have said at the Microsoft Envision UK event in London.
CBI Director-General Tony Danker joined Microsoft executives including UK CEO Clare Barclay, President Brad Smith and Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff at the exclusive conference, which aimed to help business leaders combine technology, skills and security to build a strategy for success.
They told thousands of attendees at the InterContinental London – The O2 that now is the time to boost digital skills, embrace digital-first ways of working and “seize the moment” to transform their businesses and the economy.
In her opening keynote, Barclay said: “We are proud of our collective impact in the UK, our deep standing commitment, and being a generator of growth, innovation and jobs. This has been achieved while protecting people’s data, privacy and security in the face of increasing threats, at home and from abroad. Technology is enabling change at an ever-greater pace, redefining how we work together and helping us innovate through the challenges.”
Microsoft Envision UK welcomed a range of speakers throughout the day, who built on Barclay’s message of resilience and strength. These included England National Football Team Manager Gareth Southgate, author Nina Schick and economist Tim Harford.
Tony Danker, who leads the CBI – an organisation that represents 190,000 businesses in the UK and speaks on behalf of every sector in the economy – told the audience that the country “will never have a greater opportunity to transform our economy and society for the better”.
Despite “real headwinds in the economy”, he pointed to numerous benefits the UK could enjoy: Decarbonisation, greater innovation and technology, a more globalised nation, a thriving economy across UK regions, and a more inclusive and healthier country.
“Business leaders are better prepared for the hard times ahead than in the past,” he said. “The disruption that COVID caused has given us an immunity from shocks and superhuman powers of leadership.
“Government can’t change many of the headwinds we currently face, such as inflation and global energy prices. But it can boost confidence, support investment and unlock growth markets such as clean energy, the digital economy, research and development. Businesses can also act by chasing the real opportunities present in the UK today and showing the same innovation that was present during the depths of the COVID pandemic.”
Resilience was a key theme for Microsoft Envision UK, and speakers highlighted many Microsoft customers and their use of technology to innovate and grow throughout the pandemic. Staff at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust used HoloLens to keep doctors safe as they helped COVID patients; Nationwide saw record use of Microsoft Teams as staff worked from home; global fashion destination ASOS extended its Microsoft Cloud agreement and will continue to use Azure and its AI capabilities to power digital platforms.
Judson Althoff, Microsoft’s Chief Commercial Officer, used his keynote speech to show how digital businesses are more resilient and navigating future will require “digital perseverance”.
“Even as uncontrollable factors continue to challenge us, the only way forward is to persevere with our digital priorities and stay nimble and agile,” he said. “Our strategies will evolve, and cloud technology will provide us with the opportunity to be flexible while delivering outcomes.
“I know our customers and partners are looking to Microsoft to support them, and we are seeing consistent themes from them around hybrid work, resilient supply chain, sustainability, cybersecurity and co-innovation. We embrace the mentality that we can always do more to help our employees, our customers and our partners.”
Microsoft has increased its support for customers recently by launching a free one-to-one service for small organisations to help them understand their technology needs. This comes at a critical time as more business look to ramp up cybersecurity and secure their digital operations in the face of conflict in Eastern Europe.
Microsoft President Brad Smith took to the stage at Microsoft Envision UK to talk about how cybersecurity has been top of mind for him and the company since the Ukraine crisis began in February.
Other sessions focused on sustainability, creativity, the employee experience, the future of holograms, Modern Work and diversity in data science, while the Alpine F1 team spoke about how they are using Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform to make faster decisions on the factory floor and the benefits of being a hyper-connected business.