While 2020 can certainly be characterized as a year of disruptive change, it was also a year of accelerated innovation across industries and technology trends that, in many cases, were already gathering pace.

For example, well before the pandemic, many of our customers had embraced a modern compute paradigm in the cloud and were increasingly looking to create an economic flywheel or engine to unlock further innovation. They also showed a keen interest in democratizing digital experiences that allow everyone in their organization, from the frontline worker to the C-suite, to be part of the innovation process. Further, they made the strategic decision to put their data to work by building a connected data estate.

Customers accelerating their digital journey in this way are ultimately more agile, resilient and positioned for continued growth in 2021 and beyond.

University of Sydney

The University of Sydney built the AI-infused Corona Chatbot, which leverages Microsoft Cognitive Services, to support students with COVID-19 queries.

Rapid industry innovation and customers’ response to COVID-19

The beginning of the year brought industry-leading customer innovation. FaureciaLG Electronics and ZF announced automotive experiences highlighting cloud, edge, IoT and AI services. Samsung announced a new smartphone with a push-to-talk button to make communication easier for frontline workers, Canada Goose built on the principle of the endless aisle, and H&M shared its continued work toward a more sustainable future using Azure IoT. Anheuser-Busch InBevBosch Group and ZF Friedrichshafen joined the Open Manufacturing Platform, an initiative founded by Microsoft and BMW. We announced groundbreaking partnerships with BlackRock, the NBA, the NFL, and The Coca-Cola Company, and acquired Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks.

Then unexpectedly, the COVID-19 outbreak pushed organizations to grapple with a new reality. Business continuity became paramount and customers turned to technology to adapt as quickly as possible. Telemedicine took on a critical role and frontline workers at St. Luke’s University Health Network found technology-based solutions to scale the triage process and preserve protective gear while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a COVID-19 assessment bot so organizations could more easily screen patients for potential infection and care alternatives. We worked across industries to accelerate research and scientific discovery, and joined a White House-led consortium, participating alongside and top universities.  Preserving a culture of learning was more important than ever, and teachers and students at the University of Bologna, University of Sydney and Case Western Reserve University turned to remote options to continue classes and maintain social connections. We also joined a coalition to contribute resources and technology expertise to ensure #LearningNeverStops.

Read more customer stories from January – March 2020

Sri Lanka agricultural workers

Brewing up change under COVID-19: Transforming how tea is bought and sold in Sri Lanka.

Digital technology to recover and adapt to a new normal

As the year went on, customers continued adopting digital technologies to increase agility, accelerate their recovery and quickly respond to changing needs. The Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust looked to mixed reality to limit the number of clinicians in high-risk areas and preserve personal protective equipment, and PCL Construction began manufacturing and assembling AI-enabled Citizen Care Pods to provide convenient COVID-19 testing. UnitedHealth Group launched a tool to help manage employee symptom screening, and ImmunityBio turned to our cloud for computational analysis on vaccine development.

From deploying smart cameras and analytics capabilities, to increasing operational efficiency and more, customers including SonyHitachiGE AviationBNY Mellon, and Volkswagen all turned to digital technologies to further advance their businesses despite the pressures of the pandemic. Bound by social distancing requirements, the Sri Lanka Tea Board and its Tea Traders Association developed an e-auction system to save nearly 2 million jobs, and organizers of the Chattanooga Film Festival maintained a virtual experience for their community while under a shelter-in-place order.

As industries adapted to a new normal, we saw customers embrace the digital future. For instance, we partnered with Walgreens Boots Alliance and Adobe to launch a cloud platform to provide more personalized health care and shopping experiences, and announced a multiyear collaboration with FedEx for customers and businesses to better compete in a growing digital landscape. And by collaborating with companies like Workday and SAS, we are helping our joint customers improve business performance with cloud technologies. We also launched our first industry-specific cloud offering – Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare – designed to create better patient experiences for improved health outcomes.

Read more customer stories from April – June 2020

Overhead photo of farm

Land O’Lakes and Microsoft formed a strategic alliance to pioneer new innovations in agriculture and support rural communities.

Resiliency across industry and increased adoption of cloud-first business strategies

Building resiliency and adapting to change typically takes time and preparation, yet we saw the shift to digital capabilities accelerate at an incredible pace. Government organizations, including the Georgia Office of the State Treasurer and New Jersey Courts, adopted secure remote work environments to maintain critical state services and court proceedings. Even empowering employees required new tools aimed at productivity, safety and security. Whether it was virtual or in-person, customers like SuffolkBiersdorf AGLumen (formerly CenturyLink), and T-Mobile provided employees with secure remote access, thermal imaging for temperature checks, and more.

Increasingly, customers are also embracing cloud-first business strategies to improve organizational and end-user agility. For example, MastercardMorgan Stanley Capital InternationalFinastraRefinitivNational Australia BankStandard Chartered Bank and Munich RE turned to the cloud to provide secure customer solutions.  PepsiCoWoolworthsMarks & SpencerOffice Depot and JB Hi-Fi all streamlined their business models. AT&T unveiled a new solution to help businesses connect machines and equipment to the cloud, citizen developers at Telstra automated manual processes and SK Telecom brought the first gaming cloud to the Asian market. We also partnered closely with Citrix to help companies reimagine the workplace of the future and adapt to changing market conditions with cloud-based tools and services.

Irrespective of industry, customers also continue to harness the power of digital to advance their purpose. We made announcements with bp and Shell about increasing our joint sustainability efforts. The European Parliament is using AI technology to ensure its debates are accessible across 24 languages, and PBSF developed a system that allows for rapid intervention for newborns at high risk of neurological injury. In addition, our alliance with Land O’Lakes is pioneering new agriculture innovations and helping close the rural broadband gap, Africa’s Talking is helping surface economic opportunity even in regions with limited local cloud access, and Sodexo is helping develop employment opportunities for frontline workers with disabilities.

Read more customer stories from July – September 2020

Partnering to reimagine the future of industries

Space satellite illustration

Partners bring deep expertise to new Azure Space venture.

In the last quarter of 2020 Microsoft introduced Azure Space, an initiative to deliver innovation for the space community through investments in people, partnerships and products using the power of AI and intelligent edge computing. We announced our partnerships with SpaceXSESViasat and others to bring satellite connectivity and a roadmap of new geospatial offerings to organizations across the public and private sector.

In the automotive industry, we shared news of our strategic partnership with CNHi and Accenture to develop connected industrial vehicles that will enhance CNHi’s digital capabilities to grow topline revenue, build a digitally enabled workforce and enhance sustainability. U.K.-based Wayve is using our cloud platform to support development of cutting-edge autonomous driving for urban environments, and in the U.S., Cox Automotive turned to Microsoft 365 to facilitate secure communication, saving $1 million and helping the company move to remote work across its 25 brands, including Kelly Blue Book and

In the energy industry, Microsoft signed on to become part of Northern Lights – a joint effort with the Norwegian government and energy firms Equinor, Shell and Total – to standardize and scale carbon capture and storage across Europe. Furthering our work with Shell and Equinor, we announced co-development efforts to build a smart inventory management solution to give energy companies better control over available equipment and to optimize stock levels. In Denmark, Energinet is re-developing its Datahub solution with an opensource approach leveraging Azure and GitHub to make data more accessible for the electricity market and enable creation of intelligent solutions that boost the green transition globally.

In financial servicesVanguard created a unified digital workplace by deploying Microsoft 365 to its 23,000 employees and implementing Teams to remain productive while working remotely. Judo Bank in Australia is using Microsoft 365, Teams and Surface devices to ensure employees can continue working seamlessly, safely and securely during the pandemic, and Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI) operated without interruption during the pandemic by pivoting its 46,000 employees to remote work in just one week thanks to Microsoft 365. In India, is helping customers get access to credit remotely during the pandemic through an end-to-end digitization stack built upon Azure. Banco de Credito e Inversiones (BCI) in Chile is focused on providing its customers with sophisticated technology experiences by developing a hybrid cloud model that improves performance and reliability of its systems while boosting agility.

In healthcare, we continued our close collaboration with Humana to create a dashboard built on Power BI that brings together disparate data for actionable insights, supporting key business decisions and driving citizen development through a data-driven culture. Australia’s NSW Health Pathology is using our Power BI platform to gain visibility into rapid testing results for 1.7 million patients. We also publicly launched the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare offering, and Providence adopted this solution to empower clinicians on the frontlines and respond rapidly to the pandemic.

In manufacturing, we partnered with Zeiss on their cloud-first approach to standardize its equipment and processes on Azure and leverage Azure high-performance computing (HPC), AI and IoT to provide original equipment manufacturers (OEM) with new quality management solutions. In Ireland, Johnson Controls is using Azure Digital Twin technologies to provide their integrated digital twin technologies for designing and managing buildings and spaces. BlueScope is using Azure Synapse and Azure Databricks to transform its data and analytics to ensure limitless analysis capability. Dell Technologies standardized virtual collaboration for 157,000 employees using Microsoft Teams and incorporating Microsoft 365 apps to drive efficiency. And in the racing world, we are working with the Renault DP World F1 team in France to accelerate and optimize innovation cycles using AI and Surface.

In media and telecommunications, we are working with Warner Bros. to help a new generation of students through basketball-inspired coding programs featuring LeBron James and Bugs Bunny. Our collaboration with  Verizon is bringing Azure cloud and edge capabilities together with the company’s mobile edge computing platform to help developers build applications with ultra-low latency. We are also partnering with Deutsche Telekom to deliver high-performance cloud computing experiences with Azure and support people and businesses be more connected and productive with Microsoft 365 and Teams.

We saw strong momentum across all our solutions within the retail and consumer goods industry. RB, a leading consumer goods company in the U.K. selling more than 20 million products, is using our cloud platforms to work more closely with supermarkets and retailers across the world.  PepsiCo is using our AI solution Project Bonsai to create the perfect Cheeto using data from a computer vision system. Dr. Martens is using Dynamics 365 for greater visibility into their business, and Crocs is streamlining communications with customers, retailers and colleagues using Teams. MARS Petcare invested in RealWear hands-free headsets equipped with Teams to support remote collaboration and boost efficiencies through autonomous maintenance efforts, and we collaborated with Starbucks to create new digital experiences for customers, including new Teams meeting backgrounds and an app that makes it easy to show appreciation for colleagues by sending a Starbucks gift card in Teams. In Japan, ZOZO Group is using our Microsoft 365 security solution as it shifts to a cloud environment.

In government, the Department for Work and Pensions, the largest U.K. government department with 90,000 employees serving 25 million citizens, is moving to a cloud-first strategy by deploying cloud-native Surface Pro devices to increase security and efficiency for its workforce. Australian scientists with the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Water is using AI and cloud technologies to protect its Kakadu National Park from the effects of uranium mining. In the U.S., the Department of Veterans Affairs is accelerating modernization efforts and deploying cloud-based dashboards to track and react to active COVID-19 cases and bed space at VA hospitals, and the Samish Indian Nation is maintaining ancestral traditions even with social distancing in place using Microsoft Teams. We also saw continued momentum in education, with the University of the District of Columbia and University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine all leveraging Surface devices to deliver modern teaching experiences.

The past year has brought to light new challenges for our customers, as they reaffirm their purpose and find their footing in a variety of shifting industry contexts. As a digital partner of choice committed to helping them navigate these challenges, we are maintaining our focus on industry expertise, especially through the talent we hire, the technology investments we make together with our partners, the solutions we create and the partnerships we engage on.

Taken together, this approach enables us to be better partners to our customers, deploying vertical-specific clouds for their needs, working side-by-side with them to co-innovate and co-develop next-generation solutions that help differentiate them in the marketplace, gain share and support their success.