Under the guidance of Satya Nadella Microsoft has undergone a number of noticeable changes over the last four years.

Many will point to Windows 10 as an example of this change but its one slice of a roadmap that is guided by one key phrase – digital transformation.

The Redmond tech giant hosted the Microsoft Tech Summit in Cape Town this week and htxt.africa was invited to learn about how Microsoft is enabling digital transformation through its services and products.

Firstly, what is digital transformation?

At its core digital transformation is a process whereby a company or an individual uses technology to improve processes, work flow and even create new solutions to existing problems.

The trouble with digital transformation however is that the technologies which facilitate it are constantly evolving and IT professionals are expected to keep up with the rapid evolution.

“Artificial intelligence, the internet of things and quantum computing are all coming to market at a rapid pace and experts are expected to keep up,” Microsoft’s general manager for Azure Marketing, Victoria Grady said during her keynote address.

The GM has a point. Just within our news room here at htxt.africa we are constantly having to do research about new technologies that are being used and we’re just reporting on it, the folks that have to use these technologies often have to learn about them and how best they can be used to create services.

To that end Microsoft has embarked on a journey of sorts to help professionals not only keep up with the ever evolving tech but use it as well.

The four pillars of development

In the past Microsoft would create a product and then ship it without really considering how it was going to be used but under the leadership of Nadella that is changing.

While Grady manages the Azure sector of Microsoft a lot of what is happening in that division is mirrored throughout the company.

The GM tells us that Microsoft’s products are created with the following four factors in mind:

  • Productivity – How this product/service will be used and how it can make using it easier.
  • Hybrid – How this product/service can be used in both the cloud and on-premises (often legacy) computing.
  • Intelligence – How can this product/service provide valuable insights into operations.
  • Security – Is this product/service compliant with regulations and is it secure.

These four factors are taken into account whenever Microsoft creates something new.

As a result Microsoft products such as Azure now include toolkits to help professionals better understand what is possible and how to effectively leverage the platform to enhance services. With more than 140 products making up Azure this is not only a nice add-on, it’s vital.

Tools such as the Azure Security Center can give security teams a god-view of an entire network with key points being highlighted so that they can be actioned as soon as possible.

Other examples of this supportive methodoly can be seen in Microsoft’s readiness to support open-source software. Why would it do that? Because that’s what the market is doing. Many developers use open source products and to not support these products would mean developers going elsewhere so Microsoft supports these products.

GM of Azure Marketing Victoria Grady touts Microsoft’s support of open source software at Microsoft Tech Summit in Cape Town.

What does this mean for the user?

While tools that make Azure more accessible and allow for greater diversity in terms of development what does this all translate into for the end user?

As Lionel Moyal, Modern Workplace Business Group lead at Microsoft says, “The needs of customers have changed.”

This can be seen in the Microsoft 365 offering which combines Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. Together these products represent a powerful set of tools for businesses.

These tools can fundamentally change how we work. For instance in terms of security, machine learning in Office 365 can classify a document so that it can only be read by the intended recipients by just combing the text for words that are related to classified information.

Beyond that analytic tools can help employees monitor themselves and see where they might be able to improve. This information is private so employees need not fear their boss being able to see how slowly they complete tasks.

Tools such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Office 365 for iOS and Android all allow for employees to work remotely while still being secure and connected to colleagues.

The workplace is changing and Microsoft is in a position to help guide firms through the change.

Whether it will be successful in that endeavour remains to be seen but it is clear that Microsoft is making a concerted effort to not only sell businesses solutions but guide them through the transition to a digital workplace to make it as easy as possible.