Microsoft celebrated the grand opening of a new Microsoft Technology Center in Houston this week, highlighting the company’s commitment to empowering customers worldwide with innovative technologies, solutions and expertise.
With nearly 40 locations around the world, Microsoft Technology Centers (MTCs) offer collaborative environments and hands-on experiences where customers can try out the latest cloud-powered solutions driving business transformation, including innovative technologies like Windows 10 and Surface Hub.
The centers feature interactive demos, immersive experiences, theater-like settings for envisioning scenarios and tailored sessions for building solutions that meet customer goals. They also offer strategy briefings, proof-of-concept workshops and architectural design sessions, with access to partner technologies and time to try out the latest tools in cloud productivity, mobility, secure computing and other business needs.
“The MTCs in general are very customer-centric and solution-oriented,” said Nick Kritikos, national director of Microsoft Technology Centers in North America.
“Customers come to the MTC not to buy something or get sold something, but to understand how they can transform their business using Microsoft’s innovative technology and do it as a partner.”
The centers enable local customers to work firsthand on creating technology solutions that will optimize and grow their business and, in turn, fuel innovation and the local economy. All Microsoft-managed commercial and public sector customers can use MTCs to envision how Microsoft solutions can allow them to get their work done across different locations and devices.
“It literally is a technology toy box, where customers can come in and touch it and see how it works. It’s not just a PowerPoint presentation or a bunch of talking,” said Kritikos. “Customers can roll up their sleeves and do it themselves, so they can develop their own understanding.”
Houston’s new 12,600-square-foot facility is Microsoft’s first cloud-based MTC, with a small data center and prominent showcase of Microsoft Azure cloud platform and services. The center also operates as an Oil & Gas Center of Excellence, specializing in technologies designed for energy companies, many of which are based in Houston and the Gulf Coast region.
“I am really excited to bring industry-relevant solutions to our customers, right in the place where they conduct their business,” said Muge Wood, director of the Microsoft Technology Center in Houston. “That is something we have not really been able to do in the past (in Houston). Being able to bring that relevancy to help our customers envision what’s possible with our platform, specific to their industry verticals, is most exciting.”
Solutions for oil and gas customers include Azure Machine Learning for predictive analytics and forecasting equipment failure, making maintenance and repairs in the field more efficient. Skype and Office 365 can help a company’s command center connect with field engineers to collaboratively and remotely troubleshoot problems. And Microsoft Dynamics can help track service requests and send feedback to predictive analytics models.
The Houston MTC also features partner solutions designed for the energy industry, including a camera from Bartec that mounts on a hardhat for hands-free video streaming. A well monitoring solution from oilfield services company Baker Hughes provides real-time indicators and dashboards for greater, faster insight. And a solution from Rockwell Automation leverages Azure to collect signals from the field and provide intelligent views.
“Ultimately, success to me is when our customers walk away and say, ‘We did not know this was possible with what we owned or considered investing in, and we are excited about what this can do for our business in the way we work, collaborate and get insights from our data. It showed us a new way to get things done,’” said Wood.
“That is really the highlight of our day.”
She said many solutions transcend industries and regions, including field technologies that can help processing and manufacturing customers. Similarly, solutions featured in other MTCs also have wide appeal, including healthcare solutions from the Boston MTC, retail technologies from Minneapolis, and financial and media services from New York.
Microsoft Technology Centers also support an entire customer’s life cycle, with technical support post-sale. And they provide ongoing education in technology, through increasingly popular webinars from their studios and community events for youths.
“All customers are welcome,” Kritikos said. “Whether they want to engage us through the MTC Studio from their own desk, want to come in themselves, or want to bring their Girl Scout troop to get inspired by Microsoft technology, they’re welcome. It’s Microsoft’s commitment to help local businesses and the community prosper.”
Lead photo: The Microsoft Technology Center Houston team.