Convergence EMEA: Matching business challenges to technological solutions

Barcelona will see over 5,000 leading business and IT leaders converge on the Fira Gran Via this week to join myself and many other Microsoft employees and partners for Convergence EMEA 2015. Convergence is our flagship business conference in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and provides a fantastic opportunity to continue a dialogue with business leaders. Our job is simple – to listen, to learn, to engage and to share.

To better understand how European companies are approaching digital transformation, we partnered with Forrester Consulting to evaluate European organizations’ digital strategies and priorities. The results of the study are illuminating; there was almost unanimous agreement digital transformation is not a single instance or one-time tactic but rather that becoming more agile and customer focused requires long-term commitment.

This is an ethos we understand at Microsoft: Our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more is a long-term commitment. Digital transformation requires changes in people, process, technology and culture, which go beyond simple “bolt-on” digital tactics. Refusing to see digital as a necessity that underpins the entire organization will result in businesses being left behind by companies who truly embrace digital transformation.

In the emerging data economy, businesses will compete based on how well they are able to use data. Our vision for data analytics and related areas, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning, focuses on delivering actionable insights for organizations. Companies can gain competitive advantages by embracing data analytics and gaining deeper insights from their data.

The Forrester study found that the majority of business leaders understood this, with 56 percent believing digital is the biggest driver for growth. Despite this, only a third of IT leaders plan to create digital assets to drive revenue in the next two years.

There is a chasm in attitudes towards transformation between IT and business approaches in organizations. It is vital business leaders understand the importance of transforming their organizations, and aligning their IT strategy to the broader business strategy.

I have had the pleasure of travelling the world, seeing firsthand how we are empowering customers and how they are using technology as a catalyst for their own transformation. On a recent visit to Germany, I saw how ThyssenKrupp embraced IoT, connecting its elevators to the cloud. Gathering data from its sensors and systems, and transforming that data into valuable business intelligence, ThyssenKrupp is vastly improving operations and doing something its competitors do not: predictive and even preemptive maintenance.

As part of committing to digital transformation, organizations not only need to change their business models, but also change the way they measure and track success. Instead of exclusively relying on market share and sales, other indexes such as customer attrition and customer lifetime value metrics need to be looked at more closely and become part of the mix that an organization considers when evaluating its performance.

We are facing the same challenges and are going through our own evolution and transformation. Under our CEO Satya Nadella, we are making cultural changes needed to adapt to a more intelligent and informed customer, and a new mobile-first, cloud-first world, where agility is the key to productivity. It’s a combination of strategic, tactical and cultural changes that is needed to become a true digital organization. These changes are helping us help our customers transform.

To learn more about how companies are approaching their own transformation, please watch our opening keynote on Monday, Nov. 30 (6:30 a.m. PT/3:30 p.m. Central European Time), where we will talk about this shared journey we are on and highlight some of the latest technologies and innovations that will help organizations throughout Europe and the rest of the world transform into digital businesses.

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