Tag Archives: transformation

Airtel CIO targets cutting-edge tech

A major part of every digital transformation is exploring how cutting-edge tech can facilitate the journey. Some companies, like Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel Ltd., are more capable than others of experimenting with new technologies, affording them a wealth of opportunities for innovation.

In this video from the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Harmeen Mehta, global CIO and head of digital at Airtel, discusses some of the cutting-edge tech she’s employing at her company — everything from advanced mapping techniques and network digitization to voice computing technology and AI-driven customer offerings.

Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What kind of cutting-edge tech are you using to speed up your company’s digital transformation process?

Harmeen Mehta: Lots of pieces. I think one of the biggest challenges that we have is mapping the intricacies and the inner lanes in India and doing far more than what even Google does. For Google, the streets are of prime importance [when it comes to mapping]. For us, the address of every single house and whether it’s a high-rise building or it’s a flat is very important as we bring different services into these homes. So, we’ve been working on finding very innovative ways to take Google’s [mapping] as a base and make it better for us to be able to map India to that level of accuracy of addresses, houses and floor plans.

Another problem that I can think of where a lot of cutting-edge tech is being used is in creating a very customized contextual experience for the consumer so that every consumer has a unique experience on any of our digital properties. The kind of offers that the company brings to them are really tailored and suited to them rather than it being a general, mass offering. There’s a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence that’s going into that.

Another one is we’re digitizing a large part of our network. In fact, we’re collaborating with SK Telecom, who we think is one of the most innovative telcos out there, in order to do that. We’re using, again, a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence there as well, as we bring about an entire digitization of our network and are able to optimize the networks and our investments much better.

Then, of course, I’m loving the new stream that we are creating, which is all around exploring voice as a technology. The voice assistants are getting more intelligent. It gives us a very unique opportunity to actually reach out and bring the digital transformation to a lot of Indians who aren’t as literate — to those whom the reading and the writing part doesn’t come to them as naturally as speaking does. It’s opening up a whole lot of new doors and we’re really finding that a very interesting space to work in and we’re exploring a lot in that arena at the moment.

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CIO or chief digital officer role? Why not both?

What is the CIO role in digital transformation? For Gail Evans, who, until June 20, was the global CIO at consulting firm Mercer, the role was two-pronged: optimize the consulting firm’s core legacy systems and lead digital transformation efforts. In this video appearance at the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in May, it’s clear Evans wouldn’t have had it any other way. Earlier this month, however, the firm saw otherwise, promoting her to the global chief digital officer role.

While she had not yet assumed the chief digital officer role when this video was recorded, Mercer sounded very much like the firm’s digital leader: Here, she talks about building the “Mercer OS,” a new agile operating system where business people are brought in as product managers, working side by side with technologists to deliver results at digital speed. She also stressed that when pursuing a new digital frontier, organizations must find ways to bring the core IT team along for the journey.

Editor’s note: This transcript was edited for clarity and length.

Were you hired at Mercer to lead the digital transformation effort?

Gail Evans: Well, I was brought in as a CIO and then my CEO double-hatted me, and so I am now leading both. I am also optimizing the core. You can imagine over the years, we have many applications, but they are still very valuable. And so, we are thinking about what is digital-ready for our core, what does that mean and how do we go after the most important applications? We’re landing in API management and really trying to figure out how do we connect value differently for our clients, because our clients are customers. At the end of the day, those are the people we need to ensure are getting value, a better experience, a better partnership to go on this [digital transformation] journey because they are going on the journey as well, and who better to take them on it than Mercer?

So, you are CIO and also taking on the chief digital officer role. Is there a clear delineation of duties between the two jobs?

Evans: I think it’s a blurred line. Sometimes, when it comes to transforming a technology, it’s a little blurred. But when you have the additional responsibility for revenue, for digital native businesses, that’s where the separation occurs, right? And so we’re looking at opportunities to figure out how we make that happen, because that puts me at a different place. Managing a P&L (profit and loss) or digital revenue business, digital native business is quite a bit different than a technology transformation.

But bringing them together, I think, in the beginning was the right move for the colleagues, because the colleagues see a journey that’s not separated.

At first you have to build, like the Mercer OS, you have to build a capability that is Agile, that is continuous delivery that now you move from, ‘Hey, I’ll deliver that for you in a year,’ to you can do it in six months. We have a few very large programs that we’ve transformed in that way, where the business becomes product managers and product owners and a scrum team and combine. All of that is very new. It is that operating model that we are replicating across the enterprise.

How do you replicate that new operating model across the enterprise?

Evans: Once you roll out a technology… — a new set of technologies and a new skill — everyone wants to be a part of it. But if you leave the core team behind, you create a separation. So, what they were challenged with is finding ways to apply Agile to their domain. You need to find a way to apply it. Hey, instead of writing a library, write a service and put that service on an API gateway and [embrace] reusability so the entire enterprise can take advantage of it. Everyone gets an opportunity to contribute. And that worked.

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How to muster the troops

A digital transformation journey, make no mistake, is no walk in the park. It involves major course corrections to technology, to business processes, to how people do their jobs and how they think about their roles. So, how does a company make something so radical as digital transformation part of its DNA?

Gail Evans, who was promoted in June from global CIO at Mercer to the consulting firm’s global chief digital officer, believes an important first step is getting people to see what’s in it for them, “because once you see the value, you’re all in.”

In this video recorded in May at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, then-CIO Evans provided some insight into how she musters the troops at Mercer, explaining that a digital transformation journey is, by nature, long and iterative, requiring people to see value all along the way.

Editor’s note: The following was edited for clarity and brevity.

What can companies do to get started on a digital transformation journey?

Gail Evans: Actually, I think there are a couple of things. I think digital transformation, at its core, is the people. At the very core of any transformation, it is about how do you inspire a team to align to this new era — this new era of different tools, different technologies that can be applied in many different, creative ways to create new business models or to drive efficiencies in your organization.

So, I think the leaders in the enterprise are ones who understand the dynamics of taking your core and moving it up the food chain. Where does it start? I think it starts with creating a beachhead, creating a platform of digital, and then allowing that to grow and swell with training and opportunities, webinars, blogs so that it becomes a part of a company’s DNA. Because I believe digital isn’t a thing — it’s a new way of doing things to create value through the application of technology and data.

Which departments at Mercer are in the vanguard of digital transformation? Who are laggards?

Evans: One would argue that marketing is already digital, right? I mean, they are already using digital technologies to drive personalized experiences on the web and have been doing that for many years. I would say that it starts in, probably, technology. Technology will embrace it, and also it needs to be infused into the business leaders.

I think the laggards are typically … I guess I wouldn’t necessarily call them ‘laggards.’ I think I would refer to them as not yet seeing the value of digital, because once you see the value, you’re all in.

Pockets of resistance

[Digital transformation is] humans plus technology and new business models. That is what digital transformation is all about and it’s fun!
Gail Evansglobal chief digital officer, Mercer

Evans: There are teams or pockets of folks who have done things the same way for a long time and there is a resistance there. It’s kind of the, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Those are pockets, but you’d find those pockets in every transformation, whether it’s digital or [moving into the] information age, whatever — you’ll find pockets of people who are not ready to go.

And so, I think there are pockets of people in our core legacy who are holding onto their technology of choice and may not have up-skilled themselves, so they are holding on and they are resisting.

And then there are business folks who have been used to one-to-one relationships and built their whole career — a very successful career — with those one-to-one relationships. And now digital is coming from a different place where some of what you might have thought was your IP in value is now in algorithms. What will you do differently and how do you manage those dynamics differently?

I think there’s education [that needs to happen] because I think it’s humans plus technology, it’s not just technology; it’s humans plus technology and new business models. That is what digital transformation is all about and it’s fun! It is a new way to just have fun. It will be something else two, three, five years from now.

Speaking to ‘hearts and minds’

What strategies do you have for getting people to sign on for that ‘fun’ digital transformation journey?

Evans: At Mercer, what I’ve done was, first, you have to create, I think, a very strong digital strategy that is not just textbook strategy, but one that speaks to the hearts and minds from the executive team down to the person who’s coding, that they can relate to and become a part of it. Many people believe, ‘What’s in it for me? Yeah, I get that technology stuff, but what is it in for me?’ [Showing that] then what is in it for the business and bringing that strategy together and having proof points along the way [is important].

It’s not a big bang approach; it’s really very agile and iterative. And so, as you iterate and show value, people will become more open to change. And as you train them, so build a strategy and inspire your team, inspire your executive leadership team because that’s where all the money is. You need the money, so they need to believe in the digital transformation [journey] and the revenue aspect and the stakeholder value that it would bring.

Basically, create a strong vision that applies to the team, create a strategy that is based on efficiencies and revenue and also create what many call a bimodal [IT approach] because you need to continue to drive the core legacy systems and optimize. They’re still the bread and butter of the company. So, you have to find a strategy that allows both to grow.

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Enterprise digital strategy: Design use cases that create business value

Digital transformation has become a top business priority, with many companies across industries focused on transforming their systems, business models and customer engagement to ensure e-business processes create value for the organization.

This makes carving out an effective enterprise digital strategy paramount to success. But, too often, organizations focus on the technological aspects of the transformation and ignore the business side of the equation, according to speakers at the recent LiveWorx 2018 conference in Boston. When building an enterprise digital strategy, organizations should start by looking at the fundamental business problems its leaders want to solve, and then move on to exploring how they can use technology to solve them, according to LiveWorx speaker Sarah Peach, senior director of business development at Samsung Electronics.

If they start with experimenting with the capabilities of a technology, they might end up with something that works, but is of no value to their business, Peach explained during her session, titled “The Next Frontier for Digital Businesses.

“Starting with the business problem — which then dictates the application and the technologies that you want to use to support that — is the approach that successful companies are taking,” she said.

Co-panelist Anand Krishnan said an enterprise digital strategy should be bucketed into three broad areas — products, platforms and partnerships — to help develop comprehensive use cases that benefit customers.

“Everyone is looking at digital touchpoints, but [should] set the focus on the journey itself, which is very important,” said Krishnan, vice president of big data and AI at Harman Connected Services. 

An enterprise digital strategy has to also meet the needs of the organization’s overall business strategy, said Jeffrey Miller, vice president of customer success and advisory services at PTC, based in Needham, Mass.

“You cannot produce a digital strategy without understanding your business strategy,” Miller said during his session, titled “Digital Transformation: Creating a Pragmatic Vision and Strategy.”

In order to move their digital transformation program forward, organizations should couple business strategy with its goals for innovation and its digital strategy, then design use cases that create value for the business, he said.

The evolving enterprise digital strategy in an IoT era

You cannot produce a digital strategy without understanding your business strategy.
Jeffrey Millervice president of customer success and advisory services at PTC

As companies deal with increasing numbers of connected systems, products and people, their enterprise digital strategy should address how to bring these areas together to meet one of two primary business objectives, said Ranjeet Khanna, a co-panelist of Peach and Krishnan.

“Either create efficiencies for the use cases that they are dealing with, or create a new revenue opportunity,” said Khanna, director of product management for IoT, public key infrastructure and embedded security solutions at Entrust Datacard, based in Shakopee, Minn.

Designing connected products is not just about incorporating mechanical and physical design anymore; manufacturers have to now worry about software design, Peach said. The manufacturing industry has, therefore, witnessed a rapid evolution in their digital strategy in the last couple of years, she added.

According to a recent Capgemini study, manufacturers estimate 47% of all their products will be smart and connected by 2020.

“If you are an OEM, you are now expected to produce a smart, connected product, and all of your digital systems have to change to support that,” Peach said.

The data generated from connected products throughout their lifecycle is another big change that manufacturers deal with today, she said.

“Your digital strategy has to start at the design side and follow all the way through to the end of life of your product,” she said.

Microsoft to deliver intelligent cloud from Norway datacenters | Stories

Microsoft Cloud to accelerate digital transformation and innovation through a strategic partnership with Equinor and to the benefit of organizations across Norway

REDMOND, Wash., and OSLO, Norway — June 20, 2018 — Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced plans to further expand its significant and growing investment in cloud computing in Europe by delivering the intelligent Microsoft Cloud from two new datacenter regions in Norway: one in the greater Stavanger region and the other in Oslo.

The Microsoft Cloud, comprising Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365, will offer enterprise-grade reliability and performance with data residency from new datacenter locations. Initial availability of Azure is planned for late 2019 with Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to follow. Microsoft has deep expertise protecting data, championing privacy, and empowering customers around the globe to meet extensive security and privacy requirements with Microsoft’s Trusted Cloud principles and the broadest set of compliance certifications and attestations in the industry.

“Over a billion customers around the world trust the intelligent Microsoft Cloud to provide a platform to help transform their businesses,” said Jason Zander, executive vice president, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft. “By delivering the Microsoft Cloud from new datacenter regions in Norway, organizations will be empowered through cloud-scale innovation while meeting their data residency, security and compliance needs.”

Equinor, an international energy company, has chosen the Microsoft Cloud in Norway to enable its digital transformation and drive cloud-enabled innovation. The strategic partnership is supporting Equinor’s digital journey through a seven-year consumption and development agreement valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars (USD). Leveraging the cloud is a prerequisite for the energy industry’s transformation toward a digital future, and secure, reliable and cost-efficient operations are a requirement for Equinor’s adaptation of the cloud.

“Equinor plays a central role in stimulating innovation and advancement of the Norwegian economy, and we are deeply honored to be partnering with them to help take their business into its next stage of growth through the intelligent Microsoft Cloud,” said Kimberly Lein-Mathisen, general manager, Microsoft Norway. “By bringing these new datacenters online in Norway, we are also very pleased to be able to pave the way for growth and transformation of many other businesses and organizations in Norway, whether they be large enterprises, government bodies, or any of the 200,000 small and medium-size businesses that create Norway’s thriving economy.”

Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Norwegian minister of Trade and Industry said, “The Norwegian government is deeply committed to helping Norway thrive as a hub for digital innovation. Norway needs new industries that create jobs and boost economic growth. In February 2018 the Norwegian government released its datacenter strategy ‘Powered by Nature,’ establishing that attracting datacenters and international investments is an important part of our industrial policy. Therefore, we are very pleased to see Microsoft’s commitment to our country with this new datacenter. We believe that datacenters and cloud services will help ensure the competitiveness and productivity of Norwegian businesses and government institutions, and have a positive impact on our responsibility to our citizens to create an inclusive working life, to the environment, and to our economic development and job growth.”

The delivery of cloud services from Norway expands on Microsoft’s existing investments having operated in the country since 1990 with nearly 600 people working in offices in Lysaker, Oslo, Trondheim and Tromsø across sales, marketing and development, and a network of more than 1,700 partners. This new investment is the first time Microsoft will deliver the intelligent Microsoft Cloud from datacenters located in Norway and is expected to enable greater innovation for oil and gas and other industries, as well as the public sector.

Extending the value of the Microsoft Cloud regions for Norway, customers can also take advantage of hybrid cloud options with Microsoft Azure Stack. Available through service providers in the region, Azure Stack enables customers to develop solutions that harness the power of consistency between Azure and Azure Stack to cater to unique connectivity and compliance needs.

Microsoft has been rapidly expanding to meet an intensifying customer demand for cloud services. By investing in local infrastructure, Microsoft’s intelligent cloud services help companies innovate in their industries and move their businesses to the cloud while meeting data residency, security and compliance needs. Microsoft also has a long history of collaborating with customers to navigate evolving business needs and has developed strategies to help customers prepare for the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We have invested to make the Microsoft Cloud GDPR compliant, are delivering innovation that accelerates GDPR compliance, and have built a community of experts to help customers along their full GDPR journey.

Office 365 and Dynamics 365 continue to expand the data residency options for customers with 18 geographies announced. The two products are the only productivity and business application platforms that can offer in-geo data residency across such a broad set of locations. Each datacenter geography delivers a consistent experience, backed by robust policies, controls and systems to help keep data safe and help comply with local and regional regulations.

Over the past three years, the number of Azure regions available has more than doubled. Azure has more regions than any other cloud provider with 52 regions announced across the globe.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:
Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Microsoft to deliver intelligent cloud from Norway datacenters | Stories

Microsoft Cloud to accelerate digital transformation and innovation through a strategic partnership with Equinor and to the benefit of organizations across Norway

REDMOND, Wash., and OSLO, Norway — June 20, 2018 — Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced plans to further expand its significant and growing investment in cloud computing in Europe by delivering the intelligent Microsoft Cloud from two new datacenter regions in Norway: one in the greater Stavanger region and the other in Oslo.

The Microsoft Cloud, comprising Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365, will offer enterprise-grade reliability and performance with data residency from new datacenter locations. Initial availability of Azure is planned for late 2019 with Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to follow. Microsoft has deep expertise protecting data, championing privacy, and empowering customers around the globe to meet extensive security and privacy requirements with Microsoft’s Trusted Cloud principles and the broadest set of compliance certifications and attestations in the industry.

“Over a billion customers around the world trust the intelligent Microsoft Cloud to provide a platform to help transform their businesses,” said Jason Zander, executive vice president, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft. “By delivering the Microsoft Cloud from new datacenter regions in Norway, organizations will be empowered through cloud-scale innovation while meeting their data residency, security and compliance needs.”

Equinor, an international energy company, has chosen the Microsoft Cloud in Norway to enable its digital transformation and drive cloud-enabled innovation. The strategic partnership is supporting Equinor’s digital journey through a seven-year consumption and development agreement valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars (USD). Leveraging the cloud is a prerequisite for the energy industry’s transformation toward a digital future, and secure, reliable and cost-efficient operations are a requirement for Equinor’s adaptation of the cloud.

“Equinor plays a central role in stimulating innovation and advancement of the Norwegian economy, and we are deeply honored to be partnering with them to help take their business into its next stage of growth through the intelligent Microsoft Cloud,” said Kimberly Lein-Mathisen, general manager, Microsoft Norway. “By bringing these new datacenters online in Norway, we are also very pleased to be able to pave the way for growth and transformation of many other businesses and organizations in Norway, whether they be large enterprises, government bodies, or any of the 200,000 small and medium-size businesses that create Norway’s thriving economy.”

Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Norwegian minister of Trade and Industry said, “The Norwegian government is deeply committed to helping Norway thrive as a hub for digital innovation. Norway needs new industries that create jobs and boost economic growth. In February 2018 the Norwegian government released its datacenter strategy ‘Powered by Nature,’ establishing that attracting datacenters and international investments is an important part of our industrial policy. Therefore, we are very pleased to see Microsoft’s commitment to our country with this new datacenter. We believe that datacenters and cloud services will help ensure the competitiveness and productivity of Norwegian businesses and government institutions, and have a positive impact on our responsibility to our citizens to create an inclusive working life, to the environment, and to our economic development and job growth.”

The delivery of cloud services from Norway expands on Microsoft’s existing investments having operated in the country since 1990 with nearly 600 people working in offices in Lysaker, Oslo, Trondheim and Tromsø across sales, marketing and development, and a network of more than 1,700 partners. This new investment is the first time Microsoft will deliver the intelligent Microsoft Cloud from datacenters located in Norway and is expected to enable greater innovation for oil and gas and other industries, as well as the public sector.

Extending the value of the Microsoft Cloud regions for Norway, customers can also take advantage of hybrid cloud options with Microsoft Azure Stack. Available through service providers in the region, Azure Stack enables customers to develop solutions that harness the power of consistency between Azure and Azure Stack to cater to unique connectivity and compliance needs.

Microsoft has been rapidly expanding to meet an intensifying customer demand for cloud services. By investing in local infrastructure, Microsoft’s intelligent cloud services help companies innovate in their industries and move their businesses to the cloud while meeting data residency, security and compliance needs. Microsoft also has a long history of collaborating with customers to navigate evolving business needs and has developed strategies to help customers prepare for the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We have invested to make the Microsoft Cloud GDPR compliant, are delivering innovation that accelerates GDPR compliance, and have built a community of experts to help customers along their full GDPR journey.

Office 365 and Dynamics 365 continue to expand the data residency options for customers with 18 geographies announced. The two products are the only productivity and business application platforms that can offer in-geo data residency across such a broad set of locations. Each datacenter geography delivers a consistent experience, backed by robust policies, controls and systems to help keep data safe and help comply with local and regional regulations.

Over the past three years, the number of Azure regions available has more than doubled. Azure has more regions than any other cloud provider with 52 regions announced across the globe.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:
Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Offering the largest scale and broadest choice for SAP HANA in the cloud

Microsoft at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018

Enterprises have been embarking on a journey of digital transformation for many years. For many enterprises this journey cannot start or gain momentum until core SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) landscapes are transformed. The last year has seen an acceleration of this transformation with SAP customers of all sizes like Penti, Malaysia Airlines, Guyana Goldfields , Rio Tinto, Co-op, and Coats migrating to the cloud on Microsoft Azure. This cloud migration, which is central to digital transformation, helps to increase business agility, lower costs, and enable new business processes to fuel growth. In addition, it has allowed them to take advantage of advancements in technology such as big data analytics, self-service business intelligence (BI), and Internet of Things (IOT).

As leaders in enterprise software, SAP and Microsoft provide the preferred foundation for enabling the safe and trusted path to digital transformation. Together we enable the inevitable move to SAP S/4HANA which will help accelerate digital transformation for customers of all sizes.

Microsoft has collaborated with SAP for 20+ years to enable enterprise SAP deployments with Windows Server and SQL Server. In 2016 we partnered to offer SAP certified, purpose-built, SAP HANA on Azure Large Instances supporting up to 4 TB of memory. Last year at SAPPHIRENOW, we announced the largest scale for SAP HANA in the public-cloud with support up to 20 TB on a single node and our M-series VM sizes up to 4 TB. With the success of M-series VMs and our SAP HANA on Azure Large instances, customers have asked us for even more choices to address a wider variety of SAP HANA workloads.

Microsoft is committed to offering the most scale and performance for SAP HANA in the public cloud, and yesterday announced additional SAP HANA offerings on Azure which include:

  • Largest SAP HANA optimized VM size in the cloud: We are happy to announce that the Azure M-series will support large memory virtual machines with sizes up to 12 TB. These new sizes will  be launching soon, pushing the limits of virtualization in the cloud for SAP HANA. These new sizes are based on Intel Xeon Scalable (Skylake) processors and will offer the most memory available of any VM in the public cloud.
  • Wide range of SAP HANA certified VMs: For customers needing smaller instances we have expanded our offering with smaller M-series VM sizes, extending Azure’s SAP HANA certified M-series VM range from 192 GB – 4 TB with 10 different VM sizes. These sizes offer on-demand and SAP certified instances with flexibility to spin-up or scale-up in minutes and to spin-down to save costs all in a pay-as-you-go model available worldwide. This flexibility and agility is something that is not possible with a private cloud or on-premises SAP HANA deployment.
  • 24 TB bare metal instance and optimized price per TB: For customers that need a higher performance dedicated offering for SAP HANA, we are increasing our investments in our purpose-built bare metal SAP HANA infrastructure. We now offer additional SAP HANA TDIv5 options of 6 TB, 12 TB, 18 TB, and 24 TB configurations in addition to our current configurations from 0.7TB to 20 TB. This enables customers who need more memory but the same number of cores to get a better price per TB deployed.
  • Most choice for SAP HANA in the cloud: With 26 distinct SAP HANA offerings from 192 GB to 24 TB, scale-up certification up to 20 TB and scale-out certification up to 60 TB, global availability in 12 regions with plans to increase to 22 regions in the next 6 months, Azure now offers the most choice for SAP HANA workloads of any public cloud.

Microsoft Azure also enables customers to derive insights and analytics from SAP data with services such as Azure Data Factory SAP HANA connector to automate data pipelines, Azure Data Lake Store for hyper scale data storage and Power BI, an industry leading self-service visualization tool, to create rich dashboards and reports from SAP ERP data.

Our unique partnership with SAP to enable customer success

Last November, Microsoft and SAP announced an expanded partnership to help customers accelerate their business transformation with S/4HANA on Azure. Microsoft has been a long time SAP customer for many of our core business processes such as financials and supply chain. As part of this renewed partnership, Microsoft announced it will use S/4HANA for Central Finance, and SAP announced it will use Azure to host 17 internal business critical systems.

I am very pleased to share an update on SAP’s migration to Azure from Thomas Saueressig, CIO of SAP:

“In 2017 we started to leverage Azure as IaaS Platform. By the end of 2018 we will have moved 17 systems including an S/4HANA system for our Concur Business Unit. We are expecting significant operational efficiencies and increased agility which will be a foundational element for our digital transformation.”

Correspondingly here’s an update on Microsoft’s migration to S/4HANA on Azure from Mike Taylor, GM Partner; Enterprise Applications Services at Microsoft.

“In 2017 we started the internal migration of our SAP system that we have been running for over 25 years, to S/4HANA. As part of that journey we felt it was necessary to first move our SAP environment completely onto Azure, which we completed in February 2018. With the agility that Azure offers we have already stood up multiple sandbox environments to help our business realize the powerful new capabilities of S/4HANA.”

As large enterprises, we are going through our business transformation with SAP S/4HANA on Azure and we will jointly share lessons from our journey and reference architectures at several SAPPHIRE NOW sessions.

Last November, we announced availability of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) with Azure, to offer customers an accelerated path to SAP HANA. We see several customers, such as Avianca and Aker embark on their business transformation by leveraging the best of both worlds, SAP’s managed services, and the most robust cloud infrastructure for SAP HANA on Azure.

“In Avianca, we are committed on providing the best customer experience through the use of digital technologies. We have the customer as the center of our strategy, and to do that, we are in a digital transformation of our customer experience and of our enterprise to provide our employees with the best tools to increase their productivity. Our new implementation of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud on Microsoft Azure is a significant step forward in our enterprise digital transformation,” said Mr. Santiago Aldana Sanin, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Digital Officer at Avianca. “The SAP and Microsoft partnership continues to create powerful solutions that combine application management and product expertise from SAP with a global, trusted and intelligent cloud from Microsoft Azure. At Avianca, we are leveraging the strengths of both companies to further our journey to the cloud.”

Learn more about HEC with Azure.

Announcing SAP Cloud Platform general availability on Azure

The SAP Cloud Platform offers developers a choice to build their SAP applications and extensions using a PaaS development platform with integrated services. Today, I’m excited to announce that SAP Cloud Platform is now generally available on Azure. Developers can now deploy Cloud Foundry based SAP Cloud Platform on Azure in the West Europe region. We’re working with SAP to enable more regions in the months ahead.

“We are excited to announce general availability for SAP Cloud Platform on Azure. With our expanded partnership last November, we have been working on a number of co-engineering initiatives for the benefit of our mutual customers. SAP Cloud Platform offers the best of PaaS services for developers building apps around SAP and Azure offers world-class infrastructure for SAP solutions with cloud services for application development. With this choice, developers can spin up infrastructure on-demand in a global cloud co-located with other business apps, scale up as necessary in minutes boosting developer productivity and accelerating time to market for innovative applications with SAP solutions,” said Björn Goerke, CTO of SAP and President of SAP Cloud Platform.

Microsoft has a long history of working with developers with our .NET, Visual Studio, and Windows community. With our focus on open source support on Azure for Java, Node.js, Red Hat, SUSE, Docker, Kubernetes, Redis, and PostgreSQL to name a few, Azure offers the most developer friendly cloud according to the latest development-only public cloud platforms report from Forrester. We recently published an ABAP SDK for Azure on GitHub, to enable SAP developers to seamlessly connect into Azure services from SAP applications.

SAP application developers can now use a single cloud platform to co-locate application development next to SAP ERP data and boost development productivity with Azure’s Platform services such as Azure Event Hubs for event data processing and Azure Storage for unlimited inexpensive storage, while accessing SAP ERP data at low latencies for faster application performance. To get started with SAP Cloud Platform on Azure, sign up for a free trial account.

Today, we are also excited to announce another milestone in our partnership. SAP’s Hybris Commerce Cloud now runs on Azure as a “Software as a service” offering.

Customers embarking on digital transformation with SAP on Azure

With our broadest scale global offerings for SAP on Azure, we are seeing increased momentum with customers moving to the cloud. Here are some digital transformation stories from recent customer deployments.

  • Daimler AG: One of the world’s most successful automotive companies, Daimler AG is modernizing its purchasing system with a new SAP S/4HANA on Azure solution. The Azure-based approach is a foundational step in an overall digital transformation initiative to ensure agility and flexibility for the contracting and sourcing of its passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and International Procurement Services on a global basis.
  • Devon Energy: Fully committed to its digital transformation, Devon Energy is pioneering efforts to deploy SAP applications on Azure across all its systems. The Oklahoma City-based independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company is strategically partnering with Microsoft on multiple fronts such as AI, IT modernization, and SAP on Azure. Learn more about Devon’s digital transformation at their SAPPHIRE NOW session.
  • MMG: MMG, a global mining company, recognized that existing SAP infrastructure was approaching end-of-life, and that moving to the cloud would deliver the lowest long-term cost whilst providing flexibility to grow and enable new capabilities. Immediate benefits have been realized in relation to the overall performance of SAP, in particular, data loads into Business Warehouse.

For more on how you can accelerate your digital transformation with SAP on Azure, please check out our website.

In closing, at Microsoft, we are committed to ensuring Azure offers the best enterprise-grade option for all your SAP workload needs, whether you are ready to move to HANA now or later. I will be at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018 and encourage you to check our SAPPHIRE NOW event website for details on 40+ sessions and several demos that we’ll be showcasing at the event. Stop by and see us at the Microsoft booth #358 to learn more.

Emerging AI Patterns

One of the top conversations that we have with businesses all over the world is how digital transformation is impacting every part of their operations. This wave of “Digital Transformation” impacts every business and every industry; from media to sports, from finance to healthcare, and from Fortune 1000 organizations to small businesses. This wave of transformation is being driven by the ongoing advances in computing building blocks of the last few decades: compute, storage, and networks. At the same time as companies are continuing down the path of digital transformation, there is a new generation of software building blocks that will drive even greater transformation for businesses in the future of which AI is one of the core drivers. AI will help to transform all industries, including transportation, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, and more and create opportunities we have yet to consider.

In this post I will talk about how Microsoft is helping businesses transform with AI. This moves beyond creating the AI platform, or using AI to enhance an existing application or service and into how people are starting to think about using AI to change core business processes. If you have been following along, this is the third and final part in a 3-part series on AI. If you want to revisit the other two posts before continuing, Part 1 provides some context on why this time is different for AI. It is followed up by Part 2 which looks at how Microsoft thinks about AI and the tools and services that we make available for you to create your own AI solutions and in turn how we use it to enhance our own products and services. 

In this blog we’ll dive more into the patterns we see emerging for the use of AI across industries and experiences. As we talk about AI with business and industry leaders, we see 4 patterns emerging on how to apply AI to businesses and business scenarios that provide a useful frame for the conversation.

  1. Virtual Agents – The first pattern is the use of virtual agents to interact with employees, customers, and partners on behalf of a company. These agents can help answer questions, provide support and over time become a proactive representative of your company and your brand. Today Microsoft uses a virtual agent in customer support that will engage in close to 50 million conversations this year.
  2. Ambient Intelligence – The second pattern is anchored on tracking people and objects in a physical space. In many ways this is using AI to both map a physical space and activity to a digital space, and then allowing actions on top of the digital graph. Many people will think about “pickup and go” retail shopping experience as a prime example, but this pattern is also applicable to safety, manufacturing, construction scenarios and more. Think about a warehouse that can detect a person walking in one aisle and a forklift driving in another that are on a collision course, the AI can prevent the pending accident. We also showed this pattern applied to an office/meeting scenario at BUILD.
  3. AI-Assisting Professionals – AI can be used to help almost any professional be more effective. For example, we can help people in finance with forecasting. Large companies manage forecasts by having their front-line sellers predict what they are going to do, then having many layers of reviewers to help judge the forecast. Using historical data and global insights from Bing, LinkedIn, and custom data sources, an AI system can reliably forecast how a subsidiary will do while removing all of the middle layers of judgement and the time consumed doing that. We also see AI starting to assist doctors in areas like genomics and public health. There are great examples in sales, marketing, legal and practically every other profession.  
  4. Autonomous Systems – The fourth pattern that we see is for autonomous systems. You might think of self-driving cars when you think about autonomous systems, but it also extends to robotic process automation and network protection. Threats to a network can be hard to identify when they are happening and the lag before responding can result in a lot of damage. Having the network automatically respond as a threat is happening can minimize the risk and free the team to focus on other tasks.

In this post I will cover these 4 patterns along with how Microsoft is helping businesses achieve their goals.

Virtual Agents

At Ignite 2017 we discussed how AI will be used to help large businesses with customer support. Since that time, the Microsoft AI Solution for Customer Service, which is being used by Microsoft, HP, Macy’s, Australian Government Department of Human Services, and others has shown tremendous success in using AI to transform customer engagement. Looking at the initial results from the early adopters we have seen great improvements for their businesses.

  • Microsoft – where possible we are testing AI Solutions within our own business processes before releasing software for others to use (e.g. forecasting and customer care). We built this solution to solve our own problems first and it is trusted to handle one of the largest enterprise support organizations in the world. With the addition of a virtual agent, it has created some impressive results. Over a 6-month period we saw a 2x increase in users successfully being able to help themselves with a 3x decrease in transfers to agents. Users dislike having to repeat themselves as they get transferred between agents, but with this solution the state transfers with the call creating a better experience for customers and our call center employees, at scale with over 100,000 virtual agent sessions per day.
  • HP – one of the early users of this solution has scaled up to handle 70% of support cases with AI and maintains a greater than 85% accurate dialog rate. To achieve this level of accuracy the service was initially trained on over 1 million chat logs and 50 KB of support articles to create a sophisticated dialog.
  • Macy’s – gives an example of how an AI solution for customer support can evolve to become a brand ambassador for the company. The virtual agent is integrated into both the web and mobile web experiences for shopping, so users can use the agents where they are. Macy’s integrated their backend APIs for promotions, alerts, and more into the agent so that the agent could go beyond the corpus of data that it was trained on to pull up account details, shipping updates, and more providing broad and personalized information.

Last year at Ignite when we discussed the Microsoft AI Solution for Customer Service it was framed in the context of helping users get the support they need while also improving the experience for agents who would get to focus on more value-added support cases. Since then there has been an expansion into more personalized experiences as demonstrated by what Macy’s is doing. Looking forward, business agents will be moving towards conversational commerce and blending proactive conversation capability with the current reactive capability.

Today online commerce is primarily a self-help experience with the user either having to know exactly what they are looking for or spending a lot of time researching. With a virtual agent there is the opportunity to have a virtual personal shopper by your side who can help you with your online experience. As you search for products the agent can intelligently recommend relevant intents based on what you have been looking at. As you select options that are intelligently designed to guide you through the purchase experience, the information that you need is presented to you in adaptive cards that contains rich yet focused information so that the user can make better decisions without information overload. Since the agent can maintain historical information, a conversation could be resumed later, and transactions could be completed all with the use of the agent. This pattern is by far one of the furthest along and an area we see a lot of activity in today. Companies can choose from a set of tools in the platform today to get started with initial agents before moving up to a full customer care solution.

Ambient Intelligence

Computing is often thought of in the context of devices but with the use of sensors a physical space can be digitized which creates an environment where people, objects and activities can be detected and tracked. When AI is added to the digitized environment you then make it possible to reimagine how a room interacts with the people and objects in it. For example, using facial recognition to know when a person has entered a room is valuable not just for personalization but also for safety. If the fire alarm goes off, knowing who was in the building and has left, or if anyone is still inside can be quite useful. The next level beyond just tracking people is to track people’s interaction with objects around them. This capability makes it possible to create several interesting retail experiences including; grab and go shopping, personalized offers, immediate and on the spot assistance when needed, and more. In manufacturing we can use this type of capability for health and safety scenarios that can include keeping a person safe by flagging when they are going to pick up something that might too heavy, or to make the problem of losing things less burdensome by flagging where a lost item might be with instructions on how to find it and more. There are many interesting scenarios enabled by the ambient pattern that are just starting to be explored.

We see real-world examples of this today using mixed reality to keep mission critical systems up and running. Preserving perishable goods is a great example. Cows produce 6 gallons of milk daily, so it is important that the milk is packaged on time to avoid waste. However, when a milk packaging line fails because of a faulty part, it can take several days to get up and running resulting in a lot of spoiled milk. Tetra Pak uses cloud-connected predictive analytics to analyze packaging lines data to predict maintenance issues to reduce down time. This is done by using mixed reality headsets to cut down fixing time by having remote experts guide service engineers.

AI Assisting Professionals

AI presents a great opportunity to augment human ingenuity by providing proactive timely support to people so that they can focus their energy on their most important tasks. This shows up in a variety of ways including digital assistants like Cortana, Alexa, Siri, and Google Home that many of us use today to do tasks for us. In business settings we have seen many early uses of AI helping busy professionals including Bing for Business which will take your companies organizational chart, internal sites, and cloud documents, and then integrate them into your search experience so that you have the public and private data that you need. AI helps professionals in other ways more specific to different industries. Attorneys who need to assess the risk of an event will spend a lot of time going through contracts to find the impact of any exposure to a negative event. Machine reading techniques can be used to understand the details of all their contracts and then surface the problems. Journalists can use AI to serve as a virtual editor that will look beyond rules-based spell checking to make writing suggestions. Finance professionals can also use AI to do sales forecasts to make better forecasts or sellers can use AI to target sales prospects and how to close a deal. Marketers can use AI to predict new trends in customer interest before investing a lot of money to experiment. We are working on a variety of areas where we can apply AI to assist professionals and one of my favorite examples is the work we are doing to help medical professionals.

Microsoft Research is known for world class advances in computer science, but they also focus on medical, health, and genomics. Their approach is to apply novel computational tools and analytical techniques to make healthcare more impactful and to assist patients. One application of AI to healthcare is Project InnerEye.

Today expert medical practitioners spend a lot of time analyzing 3D images to identify tumors versus other healthy tissue. Using years of Microsoft AI research in computer vision including deep decision forests which are used in the Kinect and HoloLens, and machine learning, and then applying it to more medical images than the average medical practitioner could analyze on their own, Project InnerEye can assist in identifying the presence of a tumor. To ensure that the medical practitioner is in charge, the results can be adjusted by the experts until everyone is comfortable with the result. Since we are a platform company we are also making the technology available to third-party medical software companies so that medical practitioners can use the tools they are most comfortable with today.

Autonomous Systems

Most people when they think of autonomous systems, visions of self-driving cars come up but there are so many other ways to apply this technology as well. Networks when they are under attack can take a long time for someone to notice and even longer to determine the root cause and then address it. Machine learning does a great job of detecting patterns in a vast amount of data, so it can be used to quickly identify attacks in real-time and then AI can be used to find the most effective approach for addressing the problem. The Network Admin will be notified and can control the process if needed but speeding up this process will limit the amount of damage that an attacker could cause. At the RSA 2018 Conference, Mark Russinovich shared how Microsoft’s investment in AI has created new security capabilities for protecting all of our customers.

For security, autonomous systems can help create secure products by finding security flaws during development. Microsoft Security Risk Detection is our offering for customers to use AI to find security flaws.

DocuSign is a company that enables people to sign documents from any device which means that they take security very seriously. Like most software developers, DocuSign uses a variety of software components in their products including ones from third parties and the security of their product is only as strong as all of the components put together. Using Microsoft Security Risk Detection, DocuSign can automatically check the security of all their components across multiple virtual machines with no extra work.

“We were able to automatically run millions of test cases across multiple virtual machines, entirely automated, with no extra work …. We’re always looking for services that add value, and that scale of automation is a great added value.” —John Heasman, Senior Director, Software Security, DocuSign

It is an exciting time in the industry as artificial intelligence is not just a topic of conversation but becoming the starting point for thinking about what will become the next wave(s) of digital and/or AI based transformation. The examples presented here across the four patterns are just a few examples, but we see the patterns as an interesting point to start the conversation. Three weeks I ago I started this series discussing why this time is different for AI compared to other times of AI excitement in the New Generation of Software Building Blocks post. Last week we focused on Microsoft’s approach to AI and how we are making it available to others across the platform, our products, and solutions. Today we presented four patterns for the use of AI in businesses and industries that we hope provide a useful framing around the topic. As you think through your own use cases think about how these patterns can apply to your business. Thank you for taking the time to read the series and if there are any other topics that we should explore please let us know.

Cheers, Guggs