Tag Archives: digital transformation

Now is the best time to be a Surface partner

Men and woman sitting around a conference table looking at a Surface Pro.

I love the energy of our partners and hearing about their successes with Surface. To every Surface partner: thank you. You are helping businesses around the globe create workplaces that harness the full power of their teams and unleash their people’s creativity. It’s meaningful work that inspires me personally and the Surface team daily.

It’s amazing to think about how far the Surface Commercial business has come in three years because of our partners – from one to over 15,000 partners worldwide. Partners have developed innovative delivery and service models, such as Surface as a Service, which in under a year has grown from one partner and one customer to over 50 partners in 15 markets worldwide. Another partner-led program, the Surface Hub Value Added Distributor Program for Opportunity Resellers (VADOR), in less than four months has grown to over 500 partners and now accounts for 15% of Surface Hub sales worldwide!

The momentum Surface has will continue to grow especially considering today’s announcement of Microsoft 365, which combines the best of Microsoft products across Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security. Surface devices represent the best expression of the Microsoft 365 offerings, allowing individuals and organizations to take the fullest advantage of their Office and Windows investments.

Today, I am highlighting two new opportunities for partners and customers to get more value out of their Surface devices: a new Services and Support opportunity as well as previewing our new Surface Reseller Alliance.

Improvements to services and support

Pre and Post-sale Services and Support are essential for modern businesses to succeed. Enterprises need devices that not only help them transform digital workflows but also ensure that their employees are always productive. I am excited to share that since the announcement at Ignite last year, we have quite a bit of progress on our next-generation Services and Support. The partner program for Services and Support was successfully piloted and is now active in 10 countries: the US., U.K., Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Japan and the expansion to other Surface markets are coming over the next few months.

That said, we know larger Enterprise customers expect services such as next business day replacement and next business day onsite support on a global scale.

With that in mind, today I’m announcing that Microsoft Surface is partnering with IBM Technology Support Services (TSS) – one of the world’s leading support providers – to enhance our Microsoft Complete extended warranty offerings and deliver technology services and support for Surface devices. 

These services, offered by our channel partners, will be available starting July 15th in the US and Canada, with other Surface markets coming online soon.

I’m also happy to share that next business day replacement and next business day onsite support services will be available for new and existing customers who have a Microsoft Complete extended service plan.

Now whether you’re a 100-person company with one location or a 5,000+ person organization spread across the globe, you can receive the best post-sale services and support, thanks to our updated offerings.

Surface Reseller Alliance

Our goal is to enable our Surface resellers the ability to provide a premium experience when they interact with our shared end customers. To ensure our Surface reseller partners have the latest information in training, set up and transactional assistance, we’ve created the Microsoft Surface Reseller Alliance. The goal of the Alliance is to provide the Surface partners easy access to product information, training, marketing support materials, end-customer assistance and help with and direct deal registration for Distributor Managed Partners (DMPs). The Alliance is currently in preview and is accessible via the current Surface Drumbeat site. We will launch it in full later this fall.

The Surface Reseller Alliance training program includes a revamped online portal with training modules, live webinars for newly launched Surface products, and will provide incentives for partner sellers to complete training curriculum. We’re also ramping up our marketing support by making significant investments in lead generation, providing assets, guidelines and assistance to help partners create fantastic marketing collateral and web experiences wherever Surface is sold.

An example of our efforts to unify our resellers experience is the Deal Registration Portal that we will launch in the coming months. The Deal Registration Portal will allow our DMPs to register their deals directly as opposed to through their distributor. This will save them time and energy so they can focus on winning new business.

We will continue to create additional Microsoft Surface Reseller Alliance programs like the Deal Registration Portal and make other subsequent updates to improve the portal over time. This is just the beginning. To learn more partners can contact their Microsoft Account Teams starting today.

The success of Surface in the commercial sector in large part is due to the hard work of our partner network, who enable us to create innovative programs to better serve the needs of our shared customers worldwide. We are grateful to partners for their innovative spirits, tenacity, input, and desire as together we enable businesses and people around the world to do more. We look forward to years of continued success!

Connecting with partners to empower the modern workplace

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year! It’s a week where Microsoft leaders connect with thousands of partners from around the world to talk about what’s new and the opportunity in front of us in the coming year. Since our last partner conference a year ago, we’ve been working together to better serve customers who have continuously evolving demands of technology.

We’re on a mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more in the Modern Workplace. A big part of that mission is delivering a new way for customers to transform their business with modern Microsoft products and services that help make employees more productive, creative and secure.

Just last week we announced new security and management features in Windows 10 that will arrive in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

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Today, we’re excited to announce Microsoft 365, a new set of offerings that include Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, to create a complete, intelligent, secure solution that empowers everyone to be creative and work together, securely.

We introduced two Microsoft 365 solutions:

  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise includes Office 365 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Enterprise Mobility + Security and is offered in two plans – Microsoft 365 E3 and Microsoft 365 E5.  Both plans provide customers with a complete set of productivity and security capabilities, while Microsoft 365 E5 provides the latest and most advanced innovations in security, compliance, analytics, and collaboration.
  • Microsoft 365 Business is designed for small-to-medium sized businesses (SMB) and includes Office 365 Business Premium, security and management features for Office apps and Windows 10 devices, upgrade rights to Windows 10, and a centralized IT console. It will be available in public preview starting August 2.

For our partners, Microsoft 365 offers exciting new opportunities – from the ability to modernize a customer’s environment through managed services, to the ability to differentiate their offerings with advanced enterprise services. We believe Microsoft 365 will be a further catalyst to drive customer creativity, security and simplicity in their desktop management.

In addition to having end-to-end solutions with Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, we know customers need the ability to decide how to operate. Today we are announcing that Windows 10 E3 and E5 customers will now have the option to add virtualization use rights to Windows subscriptions in the CSP program starting in September.

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Now is the best time to be a Surface partner

Since last year when we first introduced Surface as a Service at Inspire, the program has grown from one partner in the channel to more than 50 partners in 15 markets worldwide. The Surface channel is well equipped to handle the demand that will come from Microsoft 365 customers worldwide and we cannot wait for customers to get the best of the complete Microsoft stack in their hands.

On top of the momentum Microsoft Surface partners have worldwide, Surface is highlighting two new opportunities for partners to get more value out of being a Surface partner: a new Services and Support opportunity as well as a new Surface Reseller Alliance. The partner program for Services and Support was successfully piloted and is now active in 10 countries: the US., U.K., Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Japan and the expansion to other Surface markets are coming over the next few months. Surface also announced a partnership with IBM Technology Support Services (TSS) – one of the world’s leading support providers – to enhance our Microsoft Complete extended warranty offerings and deliver technology services and support for Surface devices.

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The Surface Reseller Alliance training program includes a revamped online portal with training modules, live webinars for newly launched Surface products, and will provide incentives for partner sellers to complete training curriculum.  You can read more about it on the Devices Blog.

Expanding the Mixed Reality Partner Program

We’ve also been working to expand our partnership program for Windows Mixed Reality around the world. Today, we are excited to announce the creation of the Mixed Reality Partner Program, welcoming both system integrators (SIs) and digital agencies around the world.

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The Mixed Reality Partner Program is an expansion of the HoloLens Agency Readiness Partner Program which was announced just over a year ago at //build 2016. At that time, we welcomed 10 digital and creative agencies to develop mixed reality solutions. As we have expanded Microsoft HoloLens to more developers and commercial customers around the globe, we added new Europe-focused partners to the program. Now with more than 16 HoloLens Agency Readiness Partners, we’re creating the future of mixed reality experiences with partners and customers.

As the technology landscape continues to advance at unprecedented rates, Microsoft and the Windows and Devices Group will be at the forefront with new ideas to enhance the way our partners work with customers.

Hearing from our partners is extremely important and we look forward to talking with you during a great week at Inspire!

We’re expanding the Mixed Reality Partner Program

Just over a year ago at Build 2016, we welcomed 10 digital and creative agencies to develop mixed reality solutions as part of the HoloLens Agency Readiness Partner Program. As part of the program, we provided these partners with technical readiness training to extend their design competencies and help them deliver compelling mixed reality solutions across industries, including education, healthcare, architecture, engineering, construction, and design.

With the expansion of Microsoft HoloLens to more developers and commercial customers around the globe this last March — including those in Australia, Ireland, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, China, and Japan — we welcomed new partners to the program to create the future of mixed reality experiences for customers in those regions. Now more than 30 HoloLens Agency Readiness Partners are producing tangible results such as proof-of-concepts (POC), pilots and deployments of world class mixed reality solutions, leading the digital transformation for customers like Boeing, Cirque du Soleil, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cylance, Lowe’s, Jabil, Paccar, PGA Tour, Real Madrid, and Stryker.

Today, we are excited to announce that due to growing demand from partners and customers, we have created the Mixed Reality Partner Program, which expands the agency readiness program to welcome systems integrators (SIs) and digital agencies around the world. All existing HoloLens Agency Readiness Partners will be grandfathered into the Mixed Reality Partner Program.

We’ve learned that successful mixed reality solutions are built on great experiences — and those experiences require both a creative design component and a strong competency in application and infrastructure integration and deployment. SIs around the world already know how to build, support, integrate, and extend Microsoft technologies to meet their customers’ business and IT goals. As members of the Mixed Reality Partner Program, these SIs, and digital/creative agencies will play a critical role in building 3D and mixed reality experiences for enterprise commercial customers.

So how can you get involved? Eligible partners will begin a multi-week readiness program that consists of both in-depth technical training on mixed reality solutions and sales and marketing readiness. Upon completion of the program and a successful customer POC, partners can qualify to receive a wide range of benefits, such as direct access to Microsoft engineering support and mentorship, as well as marketing and sales assistance. Qualified partners that are accepted into the program will participate in joint business planning with the Mixed Reality extended team, which includes engineers, product managers, field sales and marketing leads

Partners who already have deep expertise in designing and deploying mixed reality solutions will have the option to take a fast track and immediately work with the Microsoft team on plans to engage customer accounts.

We’re excited for new partners around the globe to join us on this mixed reality journey, and we’re excited to see the mixed reality solutions that our partners create!

Partners can learn about and apply to join the Mixed Reality Partner Program, and if you’re attending Microsoft Inspire this week, I encourage you to join me for a breakout session on July 12 to learn more about the program.

-Jeff

Microsoft and Steelcase unlock creativity at work

Today, I’m excited to announce that Steelcase and Microsoft are joining forces to reimagine the modern workplace by integrating the best of Microsoft Surface devices into the architecture of Steelcase. We are unveiling five new “Creative Spaces” to help companies revolutionize their workplaces, both physically and digitally. Creative Spaces are designed to help people better harness their own creative potential, transfer their creativity into their work and improve how they collaborate with their teams. Creative Spaces unlock people’s imaginations and optimize their interactions with both their teammates and Surface devices, unleashing the full capabilities of Windows 10 and Office 365.

Steelcase and Microsoft believe that a thoughtfully designed workplace – that brings together the right mix of Technology and Space design- can unlock the creative potential of individuals and teams, stimulate ideas and accelerate business transformation.

Creativity as a transformative asset

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers 2016 CEO Survey cited creativity as one of the key skills needed for employees today. Furthermore, CEOs have said creativity is the most challenging skill to recruit and retain in employees. Visionary business leaders know that in order to succeed in tomorrow’s economy, where productivity will be a given, they need to solve this problem by unlocking the creativity of their employees and then infusing that ingenuity into their company’s products, solutions, and business strategy.

Surface devices with Windows 10 exist to inspire and enable people to create more at home, school, work or anywhere else in their world. Steelcase is a global leader in workplace design and architecture and has designed innovative workplaces for more than 100 years.

Steelcase and Microsoft believe that a thoughtfully designed workplace – that brings together the right mix of Technology and Space design- can unlock the creative potential of individuals and teams, stimulate ideas and accelerate business transformation.

Together, Steelcase and Microsoft believe that a thoughtfully designed workplace – that brings together the right mix of Technology and Space design- can unlock the creative potential of individuals and teams, stimulate ideas and accelerate business transformation.

This is not simply about creating new desks, chairs or conference rooms. This is about two committed partners coming together to reimagine what the workplace of the future will look like, paying close attention to the constantly evolving rhythm of people’s days, and creating physical spaces to help individuals and teams optimize their creative potential.

Introducing Creative Spaces

The first phase of the collaboration is the launch of new workspace environments designed with both space and technology in mind: Creative Spaces. Steelcase will showcase Creative Spaces in 10 of their WorkLife Centers worldwide including, New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Munich and London, with additional international markets to come. Creative Spaces are available exclusively through Steelcase.

Steelcase and Microsoft believe that a thoughtfully designed workplace – that brings together the right mix of Technology and Space design- can unlock the creative potential of individuals and teams, stimulate ideas and accelerate business transformation.

Throughout a typical work day, people alternate between individual work, shoulder-to-shoulder work, and group work. Here’s a look at how Creative Spaces help to make the transitions between “me” time and “we” time seamless:

Select Steelcase dealers become Surface Hub resellers

We are also happy to announce that starting today select Steelcase dealers in the United States and Canada will start reselling Surface Hubs to their customers, with the United Kingdom and Germany coming online this Summer. Together we plan to announce additional markets in 2017.

More to come

Last, but not least, in the coming months, Steelcase will announce new technology-enabled workplace solutions built on Microsoft Azure IoT technology. These solutions will provide companies with analytics that improve workplaces and solutions to help employees find the best places to do diverse types of work within the office.

Steelcase and Microsoft believe that a thoughtfully designed workplace – that brings together the right mix of Technology and Space design- can unlock the creative potential of individuals and teams, stimulate ideas and accelerate business transformation.

At Microsoft, we are proud to work with great partners, like Steelcase, who share our vision and understand the need for business leaders to look at their company’s digital transformation journey’s holistically. Digital transformation does not happen simply by procuring new devices or installing a new meeting room. Business Decision Makers and CXOs must work together to analyze and anticipate the needs of their employees and create scenarios – both digitally and physically – that help their most valuable assets, their teams, create and thrive.

For additional information you can visit this link on Creative Spaces and the partnership between Microsoft and Steelcase, you can also visit steelcase.com/creativity.

Surface Hub announces customer subscription, deployment options and application innovation

Today, ISE 2017, the largest AV and integrated systems conference in the world, kicks off in Amsterdam. The Surface Hub team is pleased to share exciting news from our partners and customers on the eve of ISE.

In December, we shared details on the momentum and adoption Surface Hub is seeing in the workplace. By the end of 2016, nine months since our launch, we shipped Surface Hubs to over 2,000 customers in 24 markets. We’ve seen single orders as small as one unit and as large as 1,500 units. The demand for Surface Hub has been incredible, leading us to introduce new ways for our partners and customers and application developers to take advantage of everything that Surface Hub has to offer. From new service offerings, to new procurement methods and an ever-growing application ecosystem, here’s how Surface Hub is gearing up to have another incredible year in 2017:

Announcing New Subscription, Deployment Options

Following the success of Surface as a Service, we’re introducing a similar way to help customers procure Surface Hub. I’m happy to announce we will now offer Surface Hub via a subscription-based model, including initial investment and configuration costs. Recent research from IDC shows that businesses have a clear appetite for this type of subscription model. With 73 percent of respondents expecting to move to subscription-based IT procurement over the next three years.

Additionally, we’re happy to formally launch the Surface Hub Value Added Distributors Program for Opportunity Resellers (VAD-OR). The Surface Hub VAD-OR Program allows select Surface Hub distributors to deliver the same quality services to Opportunity Resellers without the typical requirements for building a long-term transactional business.

We are very pleased to see that our channel partners are innovating with us to bring these propositions to market. The first partner to offer Surface Hub as a Service and the VAD-OR programs to its customers in the U.K. and other markets soon is our great partner, Maverick.

This service is a real channel game changer for the collaboration market. Many companies offer various forms of leasing; our process will be far more sophisticated and accessible. We will be kicking off this service in partnership with Microsoft this year on a country by country basis to offer Surface Hub as a Service. This will enable resellers to access a subscription model then only have the Hub in place for as long as they need. The successful implementation of this type of program will create a far quicker sales cycle with more sophisticated solutions.

— Jon Sidwick, VP of Maverick Europe

ALSO, who was one of our first partners to offer Surface as a Service, will also be offering the Surface Hub VAD-OR program.

Microsoft Surface Hub is a perfect solution for ALSO’s strategy to foster its position as a value added solution provider. Partners are offered numerous complementary services from ALSO like logistics, trainings, installations, network integration or financial services to fulfill their customer needs. This solution presents the perfect opportunity for our resellers to win big projects without jeopardizing their liquidity and be a full solution provider for their customers.

— Philipp Grüter, European Partner Manager, ALSO

Surface Hub Try & Buy Program

In addition to Surface Hub as a Service and the VAD-OR programs, I am proud to also announce the Surface Hub Try & Buy Program. Beginning February 15th, resellers across the U.S., U.K., Europe and Asia will provide their customers with Hubs for 30 days before requiring a commitment to purchase a larger set of devices. We know once customers try Surface Hub they will love it.

We are excited to announce that the following partners have already confirmed their commitment to participate in the Try & Buy program:

Europe & Asia

U.K.

U.S. & Canada

Partners like AVI-SPL, a global supplier and certified partner for Surface Hub, make programs like these possible.

AVI-SPL views Microsoft as a critical component to the evolving advanced collaboration needs of the enterprise community and digital workplace and workforce of the future. Since AVI-SPL’s partnership with Microsoft began to accelerate with the introduction of Surface Hub technology design, install, and support services – our practice continues to rapidly evolve and grow as we provide clients with essential professional and advanced services around their Microsoft needs, including Office 365, Skype for Business, licensing, deployments, and migrations.

— Joe Laezza, Senior VP of Unified Communications and Collaboration, AVI-SPL

Expanding App Ecosystem

Surface Hub can run any Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app, and provides an unparalleled opportunity for large-screen pen and touch interactions that can transform business processes and foster new ways of collaboration across teams. Today, over 20 industry-leading application developers have designed specific experiences for Surface Hub. These apps include robust collaboration applications as well as industry-specific apps for healthcare, education, manufacturing, design and construction. One of those great app partners is Bullclip:

Our design and construction customers rely on being able to communicate and collaborate on complex drawings and documents, no matter where they are in the world. The Surface Hub unlocks incredible opportunities in this way. On-site Bullclip users can collaborate with-real time ink on drawings between the Hub and other devices, and the Hub’s high-fidelity and pressure sensitive screen makes the experience just like using pen and paper. The Surface Hub is a perfect companion to Bullclip and Drawboard. The days of printing A0 sheets are gone.

— Nathan Field, Head of Marketing, Drawboard

Another amazing innovation designed specifically for Surface Hub is from Stormboard, who has just released a new 2-way collaborative whiteboard feature. Stormboard users could always collaborate in real-time, but the sketching component was limited to one user at one time. Today’s release lets unlimited users in unlimited locations on any device draw together to help turn their ideas into action.

The Microsoft Surface Hub is a fantastic device for boardroom collaboration. Our customers tell us their favorite way to use Stormboard is on the Surface Hub. The new multi-user white-boarding lets visual thinkers easily capture their ideas in a real-time shared space instantly in the same room or around the world.

— Reg Cheramy, CEO of Stormboard

We are committed to working with our customers to make sure as many customers as possible can utilize the best Surface Hub has to offer. By bringing options like the Surface Hub as a Service, Try & Buy and Opportunity Resellers Program to market, our customers now have multiple options to experience and implement the Surface Hub technology within their organization and bring them one step closer to achieving total Digital Transformation.

As you can see, we’re very excited about the momentum that new programs like these drive with Surface Hub. If you’re a partner or customer that is interested in finding out more about what Surface Hub has to offer, check out more information here.

The collaboration coefficient: three keys to empower workplace collaboration

We live in an era where existing business models are being disrupted faster than ever before, fueled in large part by rapid changes in digital innovation. More distributed and digitally savvy employees expect companies to deliver the same choice and access to technical advancements in the workplace that they experience in their daily lives. Companies that want to remain relevant and successful must transform themselves to meet these expectations and fully unlock their employees’ creativity. Technology is one key, but digital transformation requires business leaders to rethink how they connect their teams effectively.

Here we’ll share the latest research from Forrester Consulting and workplace experts on three key areas of investment companies are making to achieve greater outcomes through collaboration.

For any business to remain agile, innovative and relevant over the next 10 years, it must attract, retain and unlock the potential of its human capital. As more and more organizations, large and small, are globally dispersed, an engaged workforce is at the heart of driving business forward.

Over the last 12 months, the Microsoft Surface Group connected with industry-leading experts and researchers in collaboration and modern workplace development including analysts, ergonomists, workspace consultants, architects and designers to understand the role of collaboration in an organization and how companies can invest to foster better collaboration. One of the top problems businesses face? Teams are not as effective or engaged as they could be, therefore businesses may not innovate as quickly as they need to.

Man and woman collaborating and working together on a Surface Book

According to Forrester Research, “Many enterprises struggle with gaps in their workplace collaboration technology, environments that are not built for collaboration, and cultures that do not fully support teams to achieve better outcomes. The result is teams that are not as effective as they could be.”

Why is this the case? Customers, employees and citizens are savvier than ever before, placing extremely high expectations on businesses and organizations. The workforce (the people) and the workplace (the spaces in which people work) are evolving. Businesses are under tremendous pressure to innovate faster and faster. The need for companies to tap into the unique value of their people is becoming more critical.

“The greatest value of people now is around idea creation, creativity and new innovation.”

— Greg Parsons, vice president of Global Work at Herman Miller

Throughout our research, we saw that the principles of collaboration are most effective when grounded in a holistic, people-centered approach that considers employees’ needs across their different activities throughout the workday. Greg Parsons, vice president of Global Work at Herman Miller, the furniture design firm, says, “The greatest value of people now is around idea creation, creativity and new innovation.” This mirrors the realities of the most profitable sectors today, idea-centric industries like finance, media and IT, which account for 22 percent of revenues but over 40 percent of profits.

As more and more companies look to build a more engaged workforce, collaboration is key. The sweet spot of effective collaboration lies in the space where three critical investments converge:

  1. Building a collaborative culture grounded in a growth mindset that celebrates individuals and rewards group outcomes
  2. Deploying a simple, knowable technology toolkit, leveraging the convergence of recent digital advancements
  3. Designing intelligent, connected environments that encourage engagement and reduce collaborative friction while offering employees choices

We commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey 741 business and facilities decision-makers and 1,032 information workers revealing the office is still the productivity hub for many companies, and “when leaders get it right, optimized meeting spaces, technology and culture lead to business benefits.” Forrester also found that investments in all three key areas led to heightened creativity, better products and business agility.

We also sat down with Convene, SHoP Architects, Gensler and Herman Miller, among others, to capture their vision and advice on how to empower and engage employees to achieve better outcomes.

Let’s address the three key areas one at a time.

Creating a collaborative culture

Changing corporate culture doesn’t come quickly or easily, and can be the most difficult of the three building blocks for collaboration because you can’t buy culture.

It starts with a growth mindset and being “insatiably curious,” according to Anna White, general manager of HR at Microsoft. White says, “We need to stop acting as knowers, who seem to have all the answer and ignore input from others, but become constant learners and proactively seek input and feedback from others.”

To serve the diverse needs of its customers, a company must embrace internal diversity and inclusion in a meaningful way. Dan Winey, COO of Gensler, notes the value of “many inputs and viewpoints and diverse ideas coming to the table.” When employees collaborate, it’s crucial to make sure all voices are heard and tap into the collective power of all employees, at all levels.

The collaboration coefficient: Three keys to empower workplace collaboration

Leaders are also expected to be role models for successful collaboration. Performance, and the rewards associated with team wins, can be measured as impact resulting from a combination of each employee’s individual accomplishments that contribute to the team, their contribution toward the success of others, and how their results build on the work, ideas and efforts of others.

Changing habits takes time and effort, and success usually happens by addressing a single group habit and then adding others over time. Focusing on a keystone habit can help shape many others downstream. For example, prioritizing being on time for meetings creates mutual respect. Building a collaborative culture is part of the long game. By focusing on group habits, celebrating the unique attributes of individuals and rewarding group outcomes, organizations build a culture of collaboration and maximize their people power.

Innovative technology shifts behaviors

In the future, all companies will be digital companies. Whether or not their products are digital, the services that engage customers and employees will be connected via hardware, software, services and applications that act as a catalyst to shift behavior. Christopher J. Kelly, co-founder of Convene, says that companies today need to rethink technology not as a workplace feature but as its very foundation. He stresses the importance that “anybody’s first experience with technology is completely seamless,” to encourage adoption and regular use. Ease of use is essential for collaboration technology as people get nervous operating even simple collaboration tools, often because of a deep fear of failure in front of peers.

Forrester found that 41 percent of employees report they now spend more time away from their desk than they did two years ago.

To achieve increased adoption, collaboration technologies must support a seamless transition from place to place, device to device, and from personal to group computing. Forrester found that 41 percent of employees report they now spend more time away from their desk than they did two years ago — many significantly so. This calls for investments in more versatile and more personal computing tools that engage the senses and adapt with both the individual and the group.

Anton Andrews, director of the Microsoft Envisioning Center, says to start with “technologies that are built from the ground up for collaboration, for multiple people to input and ideate together at the same time.” Gervais Tompkin, design strategy studio director at Gensler, stresses that technologies that enable “video, gesture, layering … really allow you to bring your whole sensory self to collaborating.” Tompkin adds that by allowing the “whole human to participate,” teams build the necessary trust and connections that set the stage for more innovative outcomes.

At Microsoft, we are obsessed with bringing the full human experience to the collaborative environment. We designed Surface Hub to simplify the deployment and management of collaboration technologies across an enterprise while creating the best workspace for teams to create, brainstorm, and form engaging and productive connections. Surface Hub is purpose-built to fill the gap between analog and digital thinking for improved group flow by combining virtual teleconferencing, whiteboard ideation and projection while fitting beautifully into the modern office. John Cerone of SHoP Architects, an early user of Surface Hub, describes the type of outcomes expected from group computing technologies today: “that fluid process, that kind of stream of consciousness [that] actually leads to more coherent design.”

Technology on its own can certainly shift behavior and engage employees in new ways, but without the proper environments, technology may be overlooked, unused or avoided.

Promoting intelligent, connected environments

Gone are the days of small offices overlooking factory floors where workers toil at one task all day, and communication is a one-way flow of orders from management. In its Design Forecast 2016, Gensler suggests engagement is the new differentiator, and rising expectations for engagement among employees, customers and teams will spur the growth of “open” collaboration spaces that welcome outsiders, including autonomous teams.

Historically workspaces were built as long rectangular rooms with long rectangular tables, because they were great for showing and telling, the primary group function of the past. Many of today’s workplaces are out of sync with people and their work, employees avoid them. Research from Herman Miller suggests that up to two-thirds of current meeting rooms are underused or avoided in workplaces today. What results are dramatic social, physical and cognitive inhibitors that keep people in their seat, and reduce the desire to pick up a digital pen or other tool, move around the room, or engage in a generative process. This also means companies aren’t optimizing their space investment, even as per-worker square footage shrinks from 225 square ft. in 2010 to less than 100 in 2017 in the U.S. according to a survey by CoreNet Global.

According to Tompkin at Gensler, the new face of productivity is influenced by “the shape of the table or even the lack of a table, action, posture, furniture — anything that encourages engagement.”

According to Tompkin at Gensler, the new face of productivity is influenced by “the shape of the table or even the lack of a table, action, posture, furniture — anything that encourages engagement.” Such changes can reduce some of the friction employees feel in an outdated workspace. But friction still exists and often begins in the development cycle for new spaces where the budget and project management for furnishings, surroundings and tools are misaligned.

Although decision-makers believe they excel in group collaboration investments, Forrester’s survey says their employees disagree. It finds only 34 percent of large meeting rooms are equipped with collaboration tools such as whiteboard and conferencing technology, and only 26 percent of smaller rooms that are used most frequently are properly equipped. While decision-makers are investing in collaboration and productivity tools, their top priority is often applications and mobile devices that allow employees to work offsite. Yet 79 percent of workers say it is important that their productivity tools allow them to work collaboratively with others in person, highlighting a dramatic misalignment.

The collaboration coefficient: Three keys to empower workplace collaboration

Supporting teamwork requires fresh workspaces: Because many of today’s best workplaces start with an understanding of the way people work together and offer flexible choices based on what they do as individuals and as a group. Consider these core principles to aid the development of intelligent, connected environments:

  1. Provide ample circulation space for comfortable collaboration, and consider square rooms to avoid trapping people in corners or at the ends of long tables.
  2. Encourage collaborators to use all the room’s features and technology. Furniture whose shape opens up sightlines, and the inclusion of higher tables and chairs that allow perching, can encourage movement.
  3. Support the use of personal devices with features such as extra charging ports.
  4. Consider the experience of remote users with regard to acoustics and lighting.
  5. Integrate complementary AV technology to maximize the number of activities groups can do in one space.

Why invest in these three areas?

Forrester found that companies with forward-thinking, innovative workspaces promote higher office attendance, better teamwork and faster projects, in addition to attracting new talent. A full 51 percent of decision-makers who have recently updated their office environment believe that physical spaces optimized for collaboration lead to higher employee satisfaction. Additionally, 49 percent believe that it makes for a better team culture and, as a result, 36 percent experience higher employee retention rates.

Companies don’t have to navigate change alone

To become a digital company means building systems of intelligence to leverage every system, device, process and asset across the organization. Companies that succeed through digital transformation will build new capabilities to accelerate collaboration. The ability to listen, predict and respond to customers instantly will be a competitive advantage. Innovative devices, applied in new ways, can help shift behavior, connect disparate teams and improve engagement through software and services.

That’s a tall order, but the good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. A space systems integrator or design company can research the impact of the physical environment on your desired outcome. An IT solutions provider can empower your people with the right tools. Consultants can help guide how teams work together. Countless resources, including Microsoft and its ecosystem of partners, can help companies realize their own definitions of highly functional collaboration.

We encourage you to ground yourself in the Forrester Digital Transformation study to arm yourself to battle for the required investment. Find inspiration from the modern workplace experts in our video, which highlights the three keys to improved outcomes from collaboration. Learn more about technology built for collaboration from the ground up like Microsoft Surface Hub. Then engage with the specialists you need around your guitar-pick-shaped table to design your own collaborative culture, technology and environment as you begin this journey.

When organizations start unlocking the power of the group, amazing things can happen.

Satya Nadella: Digital transformation is changing the face of manufacturing

A digital transformation is remaking companies and their factories, bringing the intersection of manufacturing and technology even closer, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Sunday in his keynote address at Hannover Messe 2016, the world’s largest industrial technology fair, in Germany.

Enabling that transformation are systems of intelligence that help companies gain insight and take action from big data, optimize their operations and change the very nature of the business models around their industrial products, Nadella said.

Read more on what he had to say by visiting Microsoft News Center.

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Microsoft Envision: A conversation on digital transformation

Yesterday marked the first day of what we hope will be a long tradition. Our new flagship event for business leaders — the Microsoft Envision conference — kicked off in New Orleans with a keynote from Satya Nadella and a guest appearance from astronaut Captain Scott Kelly. The topic of digital transformation was the red thread that connected the keynote, the drill-down sessions and conversations on-and-off the expo floor.

With Microsoft Envision, we’re creating a truly global summit for issues critical to CxOs and other business leaders. More than 6,000 leaders from 70 countries representing every walk of industry are here in New Orleans. We’ve moved some of our deeply technical content to Microsoft Ignite and Microsoft Build so attendees here can focus on challenges, trends and disruptors that are making and breaking companies today. This conference is designed to give everyone a chance to step back and learn about smart strategies to tackle emerging issues, power new efficiencies and build new business models and revenue streams.

We’ve convened one of the more impressive slates of speakers I can remember. There are sessions with top leaders like Paypal CEO Dan Schulman, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle and Special Olympics Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D.—all of whom are sharing their perspective and career lessons on transforming for success. I even got the chance to sit down with Captain Kelly, who shared his experiences with Microsoft HoloLens in Redmond, Washington, and on the International Space Station. He talked about the future opportunity for HoloLens to create better connection with astronauts in space and on the ground resources.

Digital Transformation

Yesterday Satya discussed the benefits of digital transformation in business. He shared stories about amazing companies doing incredible things with technology. He discussed how Virgin Atlantic is deepening its relationship with customers by using analytics to get a 360-degree view of a customer and turn those insights into predictive power to deliver personalization at scale.  He also talked about how Ecolabs, a $14 billion global provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services, is using a combination of sensors and data to predict the flow of business and automate decisions.

Illustrating the scale of disruption we’re seeing today, Satya announced that Microsoft and R3 (a consortium of 40+ banks around the world) have formed a partnership to help accelerate the implementation of distributed ledger, blockchain technology—a big step in modernizing the way financial institutions conduct transactions. He also shared that Toyota is partnering with Microsoft to bring cloud intelligence into the driving experience.

In planning this new conference, we wanted it to be a place that would foster the free exchange of ideas, build a strong community and bring together leaders in business to learn from each other. So far I have been impressed by the conversations and stories I’ve heard of customers, speakers and analysts at different stages of their digital transformation.

The expo floor has also been impressive, with hundreds of booths from Microsoft and its partners, more than 100 Microsoft Theater Trend sessions, and 300-plus customer and partner meetings.

I’m looking forward to an exciting day two. As Satya said in his keynote, we want attendees to envision what a difference they can make for their customers, and how technology can be used to change the world. We feel like we have a responsibility to bring together different industries and leaders, because technology is transforming every industry.

Follow more stories on today’s digital transformation on our new business blog.

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