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Adapt or Die in this Digital Age

November 22, 2016
Posted by Mark Henderson

Adapt or die, that was the main message we heard last Friday at a breakfast briefing run by the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. The speaker was Andrew Pickup, Senior Director for Microsoft in Asia and the theme was “Making Corporate Transformation Happen: How Microsoft Rediscovered its Mojo”.

Andrew’s message for his audience was that every organisation, no matter how large, must transform itself to stay relevant and compete in this digital age. No company can afford to get complacent about its position in the marketplace, so it needs to be astutely aware of the threats from external rivals and emerging technologies. It was a positive message though, as seeking out the threats to your existing business can be the key to opening up new opportunities for your business

Andrew backed his standpoint by using Microsoft as a direct example. Microsoft had become a $90 billion USD organisation founded on the mission of there being a PC on every desk in every home and it had enjoyed three decades of success in pursuit of this and enjoyed a 90% market share in its sector. However, despite this, in the space of 3 years Microsoft found itself and the business model it represented almost becoming obsolete due to the speed and nature of directional shift in the technology sector. People no longer depended on PC’s, instead they now used smartphones and tablets, this has had a dramatic effect on what was Microsoft’s biggest selling product – Windows.

Furthermore, mobile devices presented a huge threat to Microsoft, but corporate transformation has helped turn that into an opportunity, with Microsoft re-defining what it stands for, what its values are and what its mission is. Microsoft has adapted its strategy, it can no longer rely upon its previous business model and instead it is focused on three key areas:

  1. Make computing more personal – Microsoft is developing new ways that people will interact with their technology devices, the last 40 years has focused on keyboard and screen, the new focus is on gestures, touch and facial recognition etc.
  2. Productivity and collaboration – Microsoft’s main contribution in this area is Office 365, switching focus onto software-as-a-service with a steady revenue stream of monthly subscriptions, rather than the old software enterprise license model.
  3. Cloud – Microsoft has had to adapt to organisations increasingly moving away from managing IT on-premise and instead outsourcing this to the cloud. Microsoft’s own service in this sector, Azure, has seen huge growth in the last couple of years and has helped Microsoft transform itself as a company.

In summary, Microsoft has been able to re-define itself and bring about corporate transformation despite the size of its organisation. Typically, the larger the organisation the more difficult it is to change direction, this is why Microsoft focused on redesigning its “Organisational Design”, “Outcomes & Incentives” and “Culture & Values” to effectively steer its business through that period of change. Those factors combined with strategic thinking is what has underpinned its recent success; Microsoft adapted and thrived.

How will you look to adapt your organisation in this digital age in order to stay ahead?

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Mark Henderson, Senior Platform Manager, Adjuno
Mark is the technical lead for the Adjuno Hong Kong team. He helps to deliver a range of cloud based B2B software solutions to retail customers in the Asia-Pacific region.