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10 top business transformation insights from Microsoft Envision

Your business model is about to be disrupted. Right now, companies in every sector are discovering digital solutions to traditional problems. Thanks to new technologies, these fresh-faced competitors will be able to adapt in real time, altering their products and services to meet market demands, even as trends change. In short, the competition is going to find ways to do more, faster, and with less.

To survive in this real-time business landscape, you’re going to have to find your own ways of transforming the way you do business. Empowering this process of discovery was one of the chief goals of Microsoft Envision, a three-day event which put thousands of digital transformation experts under the same roof. Here are ten of our favorite insights from the folks leading the charge.

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1. Embrace transformation

Unfortunately, “tried and true” no longer comes with its implied security. Whether or not you’re already facing disruption, now is the time to innovate.

“Digital transformation is all about empowerment[…] it’s putting the power of technology in the hands of businesses so they can go through this transformation and ultimately come out a stronger company with a better product or better service.” – Peggy Johnson, Microsoft EVP of Business Development

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2. Rethink everything

Your customers have a need, and you provide their answer. But is your product really the best way to fulfil that need? Technologies now exist that might make services, not products, the best solution for your customers.

“Why does a person buy a thermostat[…] because they need a device on the wall? Or is their thinking really to buy a thermostat because they just want to be comfortable in their house? […] buying a connected thermostat, and allowing the cloud to manage that thermostat, can actually make you feel more comfortable. And maybe you don’t want to buy the thermostat. Maybe the insurance company might underwrite the cost of the thermostat because it reduces risk.” – Scott Harkins, Honeywell VP of IoT Partner Programs

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3. Focus on people

Before you develop your new digital products, be sure that your design meets the needs of the end user. Find ways to invite your customers into the process of collaboration and innovation.

“We need to know when we introduce a new tool, when we change the way we deliver a service, when we use a new platform, that it’s actually improving real people’s lives[…] we need a culture of experimentation.” – Beth Noveck, Director of The Government Lab

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4. Functionality is key

The easier your products and services are to use, the more customer loyalty you will inspire. Integrate your business and customers’ lives in ways that feel effortless and intuitive.

“…I don’t want to have to go everywhere to do things. I don’t want to have to punch in a person’s name if I want to make a payment. I want to be able to send a payment with one click. I want to be able to get to where I want to be in my financial service relationship in a way that’s almost invisible.” – Jim Marous, Owner, Digital Banking Report

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5. Enhance experiences

Customers want all the benefits of both in-store and online shopping. It’s your job to find ways to deliver on that expectation.

“To me the question is ‘what’s next, in the next 10 years.’ And what I see is [the] Internet of Things, which makes the experience a lot richer and very physical. So you can now bring all the digital, best of [the] digital world, into the physical world.” – Nadia Shouraboura, CEO , Hointer

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6. Digitize everything

The data that connected products provide your business gives you more perspective than was previously possible. Knowing what functionality isn’t being used and what needs improving can lead to rapid iterations and better products.

“The ability to digitize your products… whether it’s putting devices that you have connected up to the cloud so that you can do incredible machine learnings on that huge data that those devices generate, or it’s literally innovating in your product set to move from a product to a cloud service, we just see this playing out in industry after industry after industry.” – Chris Capossela, Microsoft EVP and CMO

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7. Get down to fighting weight

A hard truth of modern disruption is that it can come from out of the blue. If you’re not willing to set aside every aspect of your business made superfluous by digital transformation, someone else will.

“There are business models[…] and maybe those business models are much thinner margin than [your] traditional business. That’s probably true. That’s not a reason to stay outside of that arena. If you do, you’re just going to relinquish that opportunity—and it’s a fast growth opportunity—to another company. Probably a new company with much lower overhead, much less fixed cost, much less bloated infrastructure… that’s a company that is bred for this mean, new, low-margin environment.” – Robert Tercek, Founder, General Creativity

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8. Unearth your knowledge

While redesigning your products to drive richer sources of data into your hands is important, it’s even more important to derive useful insights from that data.

“We just need to be able to give people what they’re looking for when they’re looking for it in real time[…] you don’t really need your own private business analyst sitting there. If we architect it right and if you implement [analytics tools like] Power BI right, then people can go in and just drill down on it[…] it’s more about making the information more available and more consumable, as opposed to needing some machine learning person to sit beside you trying to figure out today.” – Dave O’Hara, Microsoft CFO

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9. Work holistically

A big advantage of digital transformation is how once-siloed data can boost interdepartmental productivity. Even if you don’t yet see some of the potential benefits, the simple act of creating a single source of company data available can start you on the path toward synergy.

“I think there’s a great partnership to be had with sales and marketing. And our ability as marketers to be able to help educate sales more on how far along in the process is a lead based on the type of content they’ve consumed of ours, so that we know [if sales should be] having a 501 conversation—or are we doing remedial math here and doing a 101 session.” – Mike Weir, LinkedIn

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10. Never stop innovating

By digitizing your products and adopting a more adaptive business model, you are, in part, transforming into a software company. Because of that, you’re also going to need to embrace the systems of iteration and growth that are vital to the survival of traditionally tech-centric businesses.

“You’re either trying to disrupt yourselves to be competitive, or your competitors are disrupting you. So you’re always in this constant state of change. So you’re trying to communicate to your audience all the time, in terms of how your product is different, and how it’s evolving, and how it’s going to be different and change[…] you need to communicate the facts to them, but you need to inspire them at the same time.” – Mike Dudgeon, LinkedIn