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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touts ‘tech intensity’ formula to Kiwi firms

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touts ‘tech intensity’ formula to Kiwi firms

In his second visit to New Zealand, Microsoft CEO outlines factors to consider as organisations increasingly tap data and AI to transform their businesses

Satya Nadella at the Microsoft Envision Forum in Auckland

Satya Nadella at the Microsoft Envision Forum in Auckland

Credit: Microsoft NZ

As you build your own digital IP, considerations around trust become first class constructs for everyone

Satya Nadella, Microsoft

"We describe the age we live in as the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge,” declares Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Speaking at the Microsoft Envision Forum in Auckland, Nadella talks about how technology is quite embedded in our world today, in every profession, encompassing not only knowledge workers, but also those in first line work, across public and private sectors.

In this setting, “where every company is becoming a digital company and every organisation is becoming a software organisation, what we need is tech intensity.”

“Our mission is to help every person and every organisation in New Zealand to empower you to build your own technology with intensity, and have broad impact on society and the economy,” says Nadella, on his second visit to New Zealand since he became Microsoft CEO in 2014.

It is a simple formula, he explains, as he shows a diagram that equates this to how organisations can quickly adopt technology, multiplied by technology capability, and encroached in trust.

Credit: CIO New Zealand

If you are just optimising one system, that is good...but that is not sufficient to be competitive

Satya Nadella, Microsoft

“Take a new factor of production - digital technology - and bring it to the organisation as fast as possible,” he states.

“You don’t want to get stuck recreating the wheel, you want to be able to take the latest, greatest world class technology essentially as a commodity input inside the organisation, so you are inside the efficient frontier.”

“Then, build your own digital capability.”

He adds that, “It doesn’t matter what industry you are in; you are going to have to create your own digital IP.”

The third aspect is trust in the technology.

It starts with people like us who are platform providers - to ensure whether it is privacy or security, [that] all of these are built into the platform.

“As you build your own digital IP, trust and considerations around trust become first class constructs for everyone.”

He then talks about the landscape organisations are operating in.

By 2030, he says, there will be 50 billion connected devices and 175 zettabytes of data.

“That speaks to the need out there for what is available for us as computing power.”

According to Nadella, this is the reason why Microsoft has built 54 datacentre regions around the world, with more certifications, to ensure they are “meeting the real-world needs of customers everywhere”.

One of the most interesting things is what is happening on the edge of the cloud, he says.

Computing has to migrate to where the data is located.

He notes that Azure Arc is a game changer and the next big step in hybrid computing, with the ability to manage a multi-cloud, multi-edge network.

The key currency for any application is going to be artificial intelligence (AI), says Nadella who expounds on a theme he stressed during his first visit to New Zealand three years ago.

“How do we truly democratise AI... how do we convert data into AI into business outcome,” he says on some of the questions for organisations tapping into these sets of technologies.

Satya Nadella at the Microsoft Envision Forum in Auckland: 'Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation in New Zealand to build your own technology with intensity, and have broad impact on society and the economy'Credit: CIO New Zealand
Satya Nadella at the Microsoft Envision Forum in Auckland: 'Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation in New Zealand to build your own technology with intensity, and have broad impact on society and the economy'

Trust across privacy

A key consideration around AI is trust, in the context of looking at privacy as a human right.

“We have to think deeply about AI ethics. If you want to produce your own AI, ensure the language, the model you are building is not inherently biased.” 

“Your ability to have diverse teams is the best insurance against bias,” he stresses.

He also talks about the imperative of cybersecurity.

Our mission is to empower you to build your own technology with intensity, and have broad impact on society and the economy

Satya Nadella, Microsoft

One trillion dollars were lost due to cybercrime last year, impacting some of the most vulnerable members of society - SMBs and consumers, he states.

Nadella shares that Microsoft is focused on bringing “end to end comprehensive security” from identity to devices, to information and data, to infrastructure, noting the interconnectivity across all of these.

“If you find malware being propagated through social engineering, how do you expunge it from all endpoints?... If you see it in one place, how do you get it off everywhere?”

He calls this approach “defence in depth”.

DevOps tool chain

He then talks about how Kiwi developers can have access to tools that are also being used by companies in Silicon Valley.

Seventy-two per cent of software engineering jobs in New Zealand are outside the technology sector.

“We are building the most complete tool chain - Azure DevOps - and bringing all of those tools so you can do the best work,” Nadella says.

We are going to have 500 million business apps by 2023, more than the number created in the last 40 years, he states, on why this is important.

Thus, the goal is to empower citizen developers with tools so they can build out these applications. They will be using the same tools as start-ups and businesses in Silicon Valley.

He calls on ICT leaders to train themselves and the people around them to use these tools.

Credit: CIO New Zealand

Your ability to have diverse teams is the best insurance against bias

“Everybody who can do an Excel spreadsheet today should be able to build an application programme,” Nadella states.

“Just like you used Excel in the past, how can you use these tools to create increasingly more digital artefacts inside your organisation and digitise business processes?”

“Data is everything,” and can help organisations gain advantage, he emphasises.

He says organisations can do three things with data - predict something better, gain insights faster, or automate it.

The issue is the creation of new silos of data. More than 70 per cent of data is not even analysed, he says.

Nadella notes this is the reason why Microsoft is building Dynamics 365, as “the world’s connected business cloud”.

“So, you can go from being a reactive organisation to a proactive organisation,” he says. 

“The data is not in silos, but the data is helping the people inside these organisations, in departments inside your enterprise, and you are able to really serve your customers better, [and] drive your business forward.”

One such example is Kiwi firm Manuka Health, which has one billion bees in 17,000 beehives and sells its products to 45 countries.

“Their ability to go from the field to the honey and track it end to end is a capability they built on top of Dynamics 365.”

“An AI-first company is a company that knows how to take data in one system and change the outcome of another system,” he adds.

“If you are just optimising one system, that is good...but that is not sufficient to be competitive going forward.”

What is important, Nadella stresses, is “your ability to connect with different operations of your business and that is what we are trying to get with Dynamics 365.”

“Our mission is ultimately to build world class technology, bring it into New Zealand, see and celebrate how you build your own world class technology around it,” he concludes.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella visits the St Joseph’s Primary School in OrakeiCredit: Microsoft NZ
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella visits the St Joseph’s Primary School in Orakei

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