Business is booming for Microsoft and its business apps team. The company shared that Dynamics 365 had a breakthrough quarter with revenue increasing 45% during its recent earnings call. It also shared that the Power Platform is being used by nearly 16 million monthly active users, up 97% year over year and revenue increased 84% year over year. What’s behind the success?
Part of this success reflects a multi-year journey where Microsoft embarked on integrating its business applications into a more comprehensive suite and adding extensions to Teams and the Power Platform. Microsoft referred to this as a unified collective of capabilities. Part of its success was driven by Microsoft’s renewed focus on creating more vertical-focused solutions to support the unique industry need. Another element contributing to its momentum is Microsoft’s success as an infrastructure cloud computing provider.
Today, everything produces data. Microsoft asserts that, unlike its competition, Microsoft customers will have a leg up because Azure Cloud allows an organization to capture all of that information, analyze it and use it to predict the future. In interviews with Lopez Research, IT leaders have shared that Microsoft’s focus and success in the cloud computing business has created an environment where corporate buyers will more readily consider the company’s broader portfolio. Finally, timing is also essential. All of these previous steps were in motion when organizations had to embrace business and technology transformation rapidly.
At Microsoft’s Business Applications Summit, the company shared how customers used its software to deliver a wide range of digital experiences and solutions that supported employees returning to work. The conference kicked off with Alysa Taylor, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Business Applications & Global Industry, sharing how companies used Microsoft’s tech to support manufacturing, digital learning, and enhanced retail. James Phillips, the President of Microsoft’s Digital Transformation Group, shared how the company continued to invest in software certification and programs. But perhaps most interesting was the discussion of what’s changing in the business apps landscape. Phillips referred to the need to move from reactive, applications-first business processes to proactive data-driven workflows.
The Next Application Shift Is Upon Us
A few years ago, Lopez Research defined a category called Right-time Experiences, These are products, services and applications which provide the right information to the right person at the right time on their device of choice. Right-time experiences are personalized, contextual, adaptive, learning and predictive. These experiences break down data silos connecting information across a company as well as linking to third-party data sources to enhance these experience.
To create RTEs, a company must connect a wide range of data (real-time data, partner and open data) and AI- driven analytics into applications. Taylor and Phillips described this shift as Microsoft’s vision for Dynamics 365 during the keynote. Philips said, “It’s a game-changer across every single business process, every single industry, and puts in the hands of your users now applications that don’t look anything like they did just a few short years ago….It allows a predictive, proactive business process. Later, he went on to say, “Customer Insights allows you to build a data-driven understanding of your customer, to predict their needs, to understand the opportunity, to deliver experiences that are very tailored, an experience of one, right down to the customer”.
What’s different today? It’s actually happening.
One could say, haven’t we been discussing this for years? While this is true, I would posit that certain things have changed. First, technology vendors are building more comprehensive solutions to support digital transformation. Second, advances in cloud technology and the availability of pre-trained AI models within applications, such as Dynamics365, make it easier to deliver on the vision of right-time experiences. Third, shifts in the business market have made every company up its digital game to provide new experiences. At the Microsoft Business Applications Summit, the company shared three great examples of Right-time Experiences that included how:
- L’Oréal enabled experts to be anywhere and everywhere. L’Oréal makes a wide range of products that require very sophisticated machinery for production and packaging. L’Oréal used Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and HoloLens 2 to enable employees in one location to see what employees in another site were looking at in real-time. These remote experts can react to the same image, use mixed-reality annotations, and share critical information, regardless of location. As a result, L’Oréal cut the time it spent resolving issues in half. It also shrunk travel expenses and improved employee productivity by eliminating unnecessary travel.
- The LA Clippers delivered predictive fan engagement. The LA Clippers built a customer experience system using the Microsoft Cloud, Dynamics, and the Power Platform. The solution provides personalized and predictive experiences across all touchpoints, whether that’s as they walk into the stadium or talk to a call center agent within a mobile app. Using customer Insights, the LA Clippers can track how a fan interacted with the company and make predictions about products the fan would enjoy. It also uses the AI and ML algorithms within the app to identify common interests in its fan base.
- Humana supported those in need during a pandemic. Humana used Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform to help its crisis management team make sense of rapidly changing circumstances, help schedule vaccine appointments and used machine learning models to help deliver 1.4 million meals to those in need. Since Humana had already been using the Power Platform before the pandemic, it could create specific solutions in days.
What should organizations be thinking about today?
The market is designing the next wave of business applications that are cloud-native and created using microservices that can be updated and recombined to deliver new and enhanced experiences. As companies embark on digital transformation 4.0, technology buyers must:
1. Get serious about creating agility businesses. Agility isn’t a new concept, but now it’s mandatory. The ability for teams to detect changes in customer behavior and act quickly on insight is key to remaining competitive. Additionally, every business must gracefully pivot to new models such as digital experiences and as-a-service delivery. Cloud infrastructure and application services provide agility in the face of rapid change.
2. Design processes to meet changing experience expectations. Best-in-industry isn’t good enough. Every company needs to benchmark itself against best-in-class because that’s what your customers expect of you. Also, it’s not just against one company or one benchmark. It’s best-in-class by type of experience such as payments, logistics tracking, product configuration, and contact center response.
3. Shift from reactive to proactive business processes. Organizations that can collect, analyze and act on data in near real-time or real-time will predict opportunities and proactively eliminate potential issues. To do this, companies must ensure they are performing the correct data engineering to ensure clean data is entering the firm’s AI and analytics systems.
Fortunately, every company, regardless of size or industry, can leverage new cloud infrastructure and applications to create better employee and customer experiences. The question is, “What will you build”?