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Be Fast, Smart & Different – A Roundtable with Kevin Turner, Microsoft COO

May 9, 2016

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Kevin Turner, Microsoft COO speaks to Microsoft partners on the importance of being both different and fast in todays IT world.

Be Fast, Be Smart, Be Different – A Roundtable with Kevin Turner, Microsoft COO

by John Filippis, Strategic Engagement Manager, Quorum

Perspective is both a virtue I like to possess and a word that I like to use.

It is for me a very powerful ally in being able to garner further understanding from the world that surrounds us. Unlike other things where “too much of a good thing is bad for you”, perspective is something that you can never get too much of.
Being Quorum’s only field embedded journo, certainly has its benefits in allowing one to gain this much valued insight and worldly understanding from the various people who work in and around the IT industry.

One of the people who was in Australia recently to share their perspective was Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). I was lucky enough to be able to have had an audience with Kevin Turner at a round table session organised by the Microsoft Australia team.
The Sheraton on the Park hotel in Sydney was the venue for this event; and doing the rounds pre event was a bit of a “who’s who” of the Sydney IT glitterati. I rubbed shoulders with the likes of Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director Pip Marlow and MOQdigital CEO, Nicki Page as we waited for Kevin to begin.

Kevin Turner came out to a solid introduction from the local Microsoft team and applause from the delegation, he opened up with:

“This is a unique and exciting time, the emergence of new technology and its rate of change is increasing rapidly”.

This statement could potentially have been used in any period over the last 20 years as an opening address to put a spotlight on the exciting changes that occur within the IT industry.

However, it does have a key element in its delivery that I want to highlight. That key element is the rate of change. The rate or acceleration of change has started to move at an ever increasing angle over the last 2-3 years. This has set the scene for everything, from new and exciting opportunities for some to outright calamity for others. I think many organisations these days have failed to realise the aggressiveness of that rate; and the ramifications of not being able to accomodate that incline of change within their business.

I believe that this has now started to show up on a few organisational agendas, on just how important it is to recognise that constant reinvention is now the new norm.

Kevin went on to drive this point home, by saying that “the future belongs to the fast”; I concur completely.

He rattled off names like Uber, Tesla, Airbnb, SpaceX, Netflix, Stripe and Bitcoin. These are all digital companies and they have all taken advantage of a niche market position and have leveraged technology to its full effect to gain competitive advantage, in a very rapid way.

He spoke to how Microsoft’s technology portfolio is helping these types of businesses support their growth mindset and also support them to continue growing well into the future.
Not only is the industry changing fast, but so is Microsoft said Kevin. I smiled quietly to myself as Kevin spoke how Microsoft has gone a fundamental attitude adjustment from being the “know it all company, to the learn it all company”. Also its new leadership has mandated that Microsoft now form new partnerships with traditional enemies.

These new “co-opetition” relationships speak volumes about the new world order through Microsoft’s eyes; a Shakespearean quote from the Tempest may prove apt here in that certain circumstances “acquaints a man with strange bedfellows”. Strange bedfellows indeed, but Microsoft knows that the new world of the fast, mandates such structures for long term survival.

So what else did Kevin say about how Microsoft is going to take on the knew uber fast (pun intended) rate of flux in the world of IT ?

Kevin said that Microsoft is needing to take on more of the DNA of an independent software vendor (ISV), think machine learning, IoT and self service BI analytics as the new way forward. These applications of the future, will need to be tailored by vertical and by industry, all available in the Azure Marketplace. Essentially constructing a tailored and advanced applications set for each industry in an “app store” delivery model.

According to Kevin, to do this Microsoft need to get more technical, need more coders, more engineers and more ability to relate at a heavier technical level. The ability to keep up with that aggressive rate of change is getting harder to scale for Microsoft. When you see what occurs just across Azure and Office 365, you will get the idea on the scale of that challenge. For example there were 400 changes last year in Office 365 alone and approximately 500 for Azure. Thats over 1 change every day…each.

Kevin projected that the the smart money will be on creating advanced workloads that sit on top of the compute and storage space that are now commodities in the market. It is here that Microsoft are going to come home strong against AWS and Google. Some of you may remember my recent comparison of Microsoft as a Bugatti Veyron that is racing AWS as the McLaren F1. Microsoft will win on this point in the long term, as these “advanced workloads” will be the only thing that will matter to the market and it is here that Microsoft have few peers.

Kevin quoted that Azure investment was exceeding $30 billion and that its footprint is now larger than the aggregation of AWS and Google. Food for thought…

Kevin’s parting gift to the delegation was his recipe for success as a Microsoft partner in the new rapidly changing digital world:

1) Engage your customers
2) Empower your employees
3) Optimise your operations
4) Transform your products

Kevin urged the delegation that Microsoft’s partners need to find their areas of differentiation and zero in on these. He wants Microsoft partners to help their customers build systems of intelligence that differentiate and deliver customer success.

In closing Kevin said that “in this game, if you can’t differentiate you cant make money”; and it is so true, more so now than it has ever been.

I really enjoyed this session and my read on Kevin’s message was that to be a player in this new game you need to be not only fast and smart but different.

A big thanks goes to the Microsoft Australia team for organising the event!

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