A sense of purpose in mission and culture –– for Microsoft, this philosophy serves as a source of inspiration to get strategy and product right. CEO Satya Nadella asserts that a company’s purpose cannot just be a set of words but has to have a deeper meaning reflecting in all aspects of its business.
Speaking at the ongoing Adobe Summit in Las Vegas on March 27, Nadella recalled Microsoft’s mission in the 90s when he had just joined the company. “Our mission then was a PC in every home and desk and by the end of the 90s, we had nearly achieved it in the developed world. But what next. Culture plays in important role in answering that, especially when you want to reinvent yourself,” he said.
He informed that for Microsoft, the thrust has been on a learning culture, implying a shift from ‘know-it-all’ to ‘learn-it-all’.
Nadella also reiterated on the importance of empathy in the innovation and intellectual curiosity as the broad strokes that have assisted the company in the evolution of its own products and delivering solutions that serve a larger purpose.
While this serves as the larger backdrop against which Microsoft has modelled its growth strategy, Nadella comes from the school of thought that navigating technology challenges is much easier than adjusting to the hard realities of shifts in business.
“You need to have a first-class worldview of where the industry, which is tech in our case, is going, but the tougher part is aligning to changes in business models. Growing is not about going to the obvious but how to get there before it is conventional wisdom. When you get these two right, you can leapfrog in product and tech, perfecting your business model along the way,” he explained.
As ubiquitous computing becomes a reality, the way ahead is not so much about the diffusion, dispersion or distribution of technology but what companies can do with it, driving their purpose deeper while respecting and earning consumer trust.
Of Data & Partnership
While also speaking on the impact of intelligent edge and intelligent cloud, the role artificial intelligence in forming fundamental building blocks and the tech intensity that are all transforming different industry verticals, Nadella detailed more on the partnership between Adobe and Microsoft.
The two companies are working closely on several initiatives including around Account Based Marketing (ABM) and data. In this, Nadella highlighted the Open Data Initiative (ODI) as being a game changer for companies.
“The most important asset that everyone has today is data, but it is sometimes locked up in silos. If we unlock this data and help everyone enrich it irrespective the system, it will change customer interactions for the better,” he said.
ODI was formed in September 2017, where in Adobe, Microsoft and SAP embarked on what they defined a “new approach” to business data that will help companies transform their customer experiences through real-time insights delivered from the cloud. The three partners outlined a common approach and set of resources for customers, with the ambition of helping customers create new connections across previously siloed data, more seamlessly garner intelligence, and ultimately better serve brands with an improved view of their customer interactions.
A No Regret System
In a world where consumer behavior and expectations both in business to consumer and business to business keep changing, predicting where consumers are going with precision is the biggest challenge for every company. Nadella believes that a solution of sorts can come in a ‘no regret’ move.
“Building long term systems or create the experimentation harness on top of these systems is important. The key is to rapidly experiment or find ways to get people to quickly disprove a hypothesis and move on. As much as this is about the culture in the company, it is also about the systems. Focusing on this allows to create a no regret system,” Nadella explained.
He added here that the chief marketing officer and the chief information officer combination is unique in creating the capability of the no regret system. This along with making AI and experience itself instinctual, getting more from computing, further leveraging the power of cloud to project low latency to any part of the business and ability of deep learning techniques at the core of language models are some of the areas that Nadella says will shape the near future of the tech industry.