Technology is reshaping society – artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling us to increase crop yields, protect endangered animals and improve access to healthcare. Technology is also transforming criminal enterprises, which are developing increasingly targeted attacks against a growing range of devices and services. Using the cloud to harness the largest and most diverse set of signals – with the right mix of AI and human defenders – we can turn the tide in cybersecurity. Microsoft is announcing new capabilities in AI and automation available today to accelerate that change.
Cybersecurity always comes down to people – good and bad. Our optimism is grounded in our belief in the potential for good people and technology to work in harmony to accomplish amazing things. After years of investment and engineering work, the data now shows that Microsoft is delivering on the potential of AI to enable defenders to protect data and manage risk across the full breadth of their digital estates.
The AI capabilities built into Microsoft Security solutions are trained on 8 trillion daily threat signals and the insights of 3,500 security experts. Custom algorithms and machine learning models make, and learn from, billions of queries every day. As a result, Microsoft Security solutions help identify and respond to threats 50% faster than was possible just 12 months ago. Today, Microsoft Security solutions are able to automate 97% of the routine tasks that occupied defenders’ valuable time just two years ago.
Microsoft Threat Protection, generally available today, does the heavy lifting for defenders by proactively hunting across users, email, applications and endpoints – including Mac and Linux. It brings together alerts and takes action using AI and automation. Microsoft Threat Protection breaks down security silos so security professionals can automatically detect, investigate and stop coordinated multi-point attacks. It weeds out the unimportant and amplifies signals that might have been missed, freeing defenders to work on the incidents that need their attention. With identity protection as a core component, it is the only solution of its type that is designed for Zero Trust. More details on the Microsoft Threat Protection announcement can be found on the Microsoft Security Blog.
It also builds upon solutions recognized as leaders in their categories, like Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for endpoint security. Microsoft Defender ATP offers preventive protection, post-breach detection and automated investigation and response for Windows and macOS. Today we’re announcing support for Linux and plans for iOS and Android as well.
Azure Sentinel, the first cloud-native SIEM with fusion AI technology turns huge volumes of low fidelity signals into a few important incidents for security professionals to focus on. In December 2019 alone, within Microsoft, Azure Sentinel evaluated nearly 50 billion suspicious signals that in practical terms would be impossible for people to manually analyze and emitted just 25 high-confidence incidents for SecOps teams to investigate.
Microsoft was the first major cloud company to embrace the reality of the hybrid and multi-cloud enterprise, with more than 60% of enterprises using two or more cloud platforms. We’re committed to helping SecOps defend the entire stack, not only Microsoft workloads, and that’s why Azure Sentinel brings together events generated by security products from leading vendors such as Palo Alto Networks with the signals generated by cloud platforms such as AWS, providing security teams with visibility across their estates. To further help our customers secure their entire multi-cloud estates, today we are announcing the general availability of the Azure Sentinel connector for IoT and the ability to import AWS CloudTrail logs into Azure Sentinel at no additional cost from Feb. 24, 2020 until June 30, 2020. With this offer AWS customers now have seamless access to the best in-class, cloud-native security information and event management (SIEM) technology from a major cloud provider. More on the details of the Azure Sentinel announcements can be found on the Microsoft Security blog.
An example of Azure Sentinel machine learning activity from the 30-day period of December 2019.
Securing the enterprise is not just about external attackers, but also managing insider risk – which has become a top concern of CISOs. Insider Risk Management in Microsoft 365 – the first born-in-the-cloud, integrated insider risk management solution – helps customers tackle the problem with no agents to deploy and no data ingestions to configure. Extending the same Microsoft Information Protection technology that already classifies and protects more than 50 billion documents for Microsoft customers, machine learning in Insider Risk Management brings together signals, sensitivity labels and content together in a single view, which saves security teams time by allowing them to quickly make informed risk decisions and take action. The general availability of Insider Risk Management is rolling out to customers’ tenants over the coming days.
When people and technology come together, we can accomplish amazing things. The world is indeed getting more complicated, but the public cloud combined with human expertise and industry collaboration are delivering innovation that gives the advantage back to the defenders of cyberspace. We have never been more optimistic about the potential for technology to support and scale your most precious cybersecurity assets – your people.
Here’s a term for you: email brick. It’s that dense blob of text in an email that starts at the top and doesn’t come up for air until the end. No line breaks, paragraphs or bullet points, and often, no readers. We tend to avoid reading those emails, eyeing them warily and opting to get back to them later. Much of the time, we don’t.
When #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro got to talking with email etiquette expert Bruce Mayhew, it was soon apparent that we’re emailing each other all wrong. Bruce is President of Bruce Mayhew Consulting (BMC), a corporate trainer, executive coach, expert on productivity and generational differences, and passionate advocate of emailing better.
90% of our communication is done by email, and the email brick is just one of many sins we commit. Others include incoherent subject lines, putting the main idea down at the end of the message and, on the receiving end, answering emails too quickly. On that last point, Meghan asked for a best practice. “I could spend three hours a day in constant communication back and forth, just trying to do the right thing and respond,” she said.
Don’t do it, Bruce answered. “If you train your audience that you respond to an email in 10 minutes,” they will start expecting it every time. “You end up playing Whac-A-Mole with your inbox.” Our time management gets derailed along with other priorities, too.
Problem is, we learned to write and then learned how to email, he noted, and these are very different forms. He shared three simple tips for writing emails worth opening: put your main point in the first sentence, use bullet points, and write a clear subject line with enough information to indicate exactly what’s going on in the message. 5-7 words usually does the trick he said. Don’t start with “Hey, quick question.”
The underlying reason to clean up our emails isn’t just housekeeping, it’s trust. Sending emails that hit the sweet spot boost personal credibility, he said. They set up a positive feedback loop faster than you can say dopamine high. The next time we see an email from the conscientious sender, we open it. We look forward to it, thinking this person knows what they’re talking about — which goes miles in improving that relationship.
“Email still counts, and it’s the way we’re all communicating,” Meghan reminded the audience. Time to practice those bullet points.
Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.
Twitter Chat Questions
Q1: Why are we failing at email etiquette? #WorkTrends Q2: What techniques can help us write better email? #WorkTrends Q3: How can leaders help employees get better at emailing? #WorkTrends
As I reflect on the importance of Black History month, the words from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise,” come to mind. “Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.” Yesterday, my friends and colleagues proudly stood on the floor of the world’s largest stock exchange and rang the market’s closing bell, signaling an end to the day’s trading and serving as our kickoff for Black History Month festivities at Microsoft.
There’s so much to celebrate during Black History Month, as it’s an opportunity to acknowledge and recognize the incredible contributions that our community has made to the very fabric of this country. While there’s plenty to celebrate, we must recognize that this is only possible because of the hard work and sacrifices made by our ancestors. Like many of us, I am a product of American history – a great-great granddaughter of slaves. Our ancestor’s struggles, triumphs, joys, perseverance and sacrifices have paved the way for our generation, and future generations yet to be born.
A spark of that same perseverance and strength inspired the vision of the Blacks at Microsoft (BAM) founders more than 30 years ago. We were the first of many Microsoft’s employee resource groups. As we rang that bell today, some of their dreams were being realized. We stand on their shoulders and recognize how hard they worked to create a community that has meant so much to so many, and with that, we’re eternally grateful.
For me, BAM represents our journey as black employees to learn, develop, grow and support each other through our collective community, with the ongoing support of many allies. That journey in turn, informs Microsoft’s diverse and inclusive culture which has a direct impact on our customers and partners as well. The journey is never complete, but the ongoing engagement and support of our collective community has had a lasting and positive impact on many, including me.
As we celebrate our history and the accomplishments of many extraordinary people this month, I encourage you to reflect on your own learning journey. We all have a responsibility to learn from others and lend our help and support to others who can benefit from the same. At Microsoft we are all striving to become thoughtful and informed allies to others. While Black History Month is one moment in time, this commitment can allow us to understand and support each other all year round. Now more than ever, we need to galvanize as a community to pave the way for generations to come.
We’ve come so far, but we still have a long journey ahead of us. It’s more important than ever for us to come together and work toward opportunity, equity and equality for everyone.
Watch BAM team members in a “Behind the Bell” interview with Nasdaq on LinkedIn.
If a company eliminates applicants because of an unhealthy behavior, are they fostering workplace wellness, or cutting healthcare costs? Are they promoting a culture of healthy employees, or discriminating against potential candidates? Or is it somewhere in between?
With U-Haul’s new smoke-free policy, workplaces across the country have to ask themselves where the policy falls.
U-Haul’s New Policy
On December 30th, U-Haul International announced that beginning February 1, 2020, it would implementa nicotine-free policy in 21 states without protections for smokers’ rights. As of February 1, it will become one of the first major companies to decline applicants who are nicotine users.
The policies will be enacted in:
According to the company, applicants in these 21 states can expect to see the anti-nicotine policy on their job applications. They will be questioned about their nicotine use and may be required to undergo nicotine testing in certain states before they can be deemed hirable.
The policy also covers e-cigarettes and vaping products. Any current U-Haul employees who are nicotine users will be grandfathered into the policy, offering nicotine cessation programs to assist them.
The goal of the policy, nominally, is to further U-Haul’s goal of promoting one of the healthiest corporate cultures in the United States and Canada.
Policy Implications By the Numbers
In Arizona alone, where U-Haul is headquartered, the implications of the policy are significant.
U-Haul employs 30,000 workers in the United States and Canada. In Arizona, it is one of the state’s largest employers, with a workforce of more than 4,000. It is also legal in Arizona to discriminate against nicotine users in the hiring process.
That might be good news for people exposed to nicotine, but not for applicants who use nicotine.
As of 2017,15.6% of adults in Arizona smoked cigarettes, while 5.3% of adults used e-cigarettes and 2.8% used smokeless tobacco. Out of a population of roughly 7.1 million, that’s over 1.1 million adults who smoke cigarettes, 376,300 who use e-cigarettes, and 198,800 who use smokeless tobacco.
All of whom would no longer be eligible for employment with U-Haul — which is, again, one of the largest employers in the entire state of Arizona.
The Public Health Implications of Smoking
Of course, the public health implications of smoking and nicotine use are nothing to sneeze at. Nicotine is known to be a dangerous and highly addictive chemical, and it is by no means the only chemical associated with smoking. Cigarettes containmore than 5,000 chemicals, hundreds of them harmful to human health, including:
Cadmium (a metal used to make batteries)
Smoking has been linked to 90% of lung cancer cases. Almost one-third of coronary heart disease deaths are the result of secondhand smoke.
Nicotine itself is known to increase blood pressure, narrow the arteries, and contribute to hardening arterial walls, which in turn can lead to heart attacks.
It is, in short, one of the main preventable causes of death in the United States.
The risks are also high for anyone around secondhand smoke: people exposed to it are 25% to 30% more likely to develop heart disease.
Public Health, or Lower Healthcare?
U-Haul posits the policy as part of a shift toward corporate health and wellness, asserting that the shift toward a healthier workforce is an investment in the wellbeing of their team members. The policy, according to U-Haul, will help reinforce a wellness program that encourages workers to focus on four areas: health, fitness, nutrition, and mindset.
However, the company also noted that the policy was part of a continued effort to decrease healthcare costs.
Are There Cost Benefits?
Workplace wellness is an industry with$8 billion in annual revenue in the United States. Almost half of all employers with at least 50 employees offer a workplace wellness program. Of those that don’t have a program, half have said they plan to introduce one.
The popular story among corporations and researchers is that these efforts reduce healthcare costs for employers. A2010 review by a Harvard economist stated that wellness programs return $3 in healthcare savings and $3 in reduced healthcare costs for every $1 invested.
But is that actually the case?
Research by the RAND Corporation, including data from 600,000 employees from seven employers and 10 years of data from a Fortune 100 employer, found thatwellness programs have little, if any, immediate impact on employer healthcare costs.
Generally, wellness programs have two components: lifestyle management (which focuses on employees with health risks such as obesity or smoking), and disease management (which focuses on employees who already have a chronic disease). Together, the two programs generate $30 in savings per member per month. But 87% of those savings came from disease management, even though only 13% of employees participate in disease management — compared to 87% participation in lifestyle management.
One might make the case that disease management can result from diseases caused by smoking, but U-Haul’s policy targets lifestyle issues and prevents nicotine users from being hired in the first place, thereby precluding their ability to participate in disease management programs.
In short, it’s hard to say whether U-Haul’s policy can save the company healthcare dollars in the long run.
Loopholes in the Policy That Penalize Workers
But what we can say is that the policy penalizes nicotine users, including those who are trying not to use nicotine.
The program as presented makes no exceptions for nicotine users who are trying to quit smoking. And while nicotine users can remain smoke-free,30% of them do so with the aid of some kind of nicotine product.
What about quitting with nicotine-free products? That’s not as easy as it sounds. The FDA has only approvedtwo nicotine cessation products that don’t contain nicotine: Chantix and Zyban.
And yes, nicotine replacement products and medicines do show up in nicotine screenings. Nor does the policy seem to differentiate between smokers and those with nicotine in their system due to secondhand smoke, or between cigarettes and nicotine products with a lower risk to bystanders, like smokeless tobacco.
Balancing Wellness and Fairness
Is the policy good for worker health? From the perspective of removing harmful substances from the workplace, yes.
Is the policy fair for workers? From the perspective of smokers and people with smokers around them, not so much.
That U-Haul’s policy lacks any differentiation implies that the company’s stance is a moral one more than a health one. Given that the healthcare cost benefits to the employer seem unclear, it begs the question: How much employers can force their own policy views to restrict the lives of their own employees?
It’s not a bad idea to discourage unhealthy habits per se. The issue is doing it in a productive and nondiscriminatory way. U-Haul’s broad policy is a bit unclear in that regard, so we’ll have to watch how this plays out.
Author: Cyndy Trivella
Cyndy is the Managing Partner at TalentCulture, a thriving community of professionals interested in all facets of the world of work, where technology plays a role, and how culture drives the workplace. Cyndy began her career in HR Marketing and Communications on Madison Avenue in New York City over 20 years ago. Cyndy has multiple years of media planning, employer branding, and human resource communications strategy experience at a management level from both the media and agency sides. She has been recognized as one of the most influential people in the HR space by HRMarketer (Advos) the Huffington Post and HRExaminer.
The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The carbon in our atmosphere has created a blanket of gas that traps heat and is changing the world’s climate. Already, the planet’s temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade. If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.
As the scientific community has concluded, human activity has released more than 2 trillion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere since the start of the First Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s. Over three-quarters of this is carbon dioxide, with most of this carbon emitted since the mid-1950s. This is more carbon than nature can re-absorb, and every year humanity pumps more than 50 billion metric tons of additional greenhouse gases into the air. This isn’t a problem that lasts a few years or even a decade. Once excess carbon enters the atmosphere it can take thousands of years to dissipate.
The world’s climate experts agree that the world must take urgent action to bring down emissions. Ultimately, we must reach “net zero” emissions, meaning that humanity must remove as much carbon as it emits each year. This will take aggressive approaches, new technology that doesn’t exist today, and innovative public policy. It is an ambitious – even audacious – goal, but science tells us that it’s a goal of fundamental importance to every person alive today and for every generation to follow.
Microsoft: Carbon negative by 2030
While the world will need to reach net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should do so. That’s why today we are announcing an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft’s carbon footprint.
By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.
We recognize that progress requires not just a bold goal but a detailed plan. As described below, we are launching today an aggressive program to cut our carbon emissions by more than half by 2030, both for our direct emissions and for our entire supply and value chain. We will fund this in part by expanding our internal carbon fee, in place since 2012 and increased last year, to start charging not only our direct emissions, but those from our supply and value chains.
We are also launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help our suppliers and customers around the world reduce their own carbon footprints and a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies. Beginning next year, we will also make carbon reduction an explicit aspect of our procurement processes for our supply chain. Our progress on all of these fronts will be published in a new annual Environmental Sustainability Report that will detail our carbon impact and reduction journey. And lastly, all this work will be supported by our voice and advocacy supporting public policy that will accelerate carbon reduction and removal opportunities.
Taking a principled approach
Whenever we take on a new and complex societal issue, we strive first to learn and then to define a principled approach to guide our efforts. This has been fundamental to our work around the protection of privacy and the ethical development of artificial intelligence, and it’s the approach we’re taking to pursue our aggressive carbon goals as well. We’ve concluded that seven principles, or elements, will be vital as we continually innovate and take additional steps on an ongoing basis.
Grounding in science and math. We will continually ground our work in the best available science and most accurate math, as we describe further below.
Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint. We will take responsibility for all our emissions, so by 2030 we can cut them by more than half and remove more carbon than we emit each year.
Investing for new carbon reduction and removal technology. We will deploy $1 billion of our own capital in a new Climate Innovation Fund to accelerate the development of carbon reduction and removal technologies that will help us and the world become carbon negative.
Empowering customers around the world. Perhaps most importantly, we will develop and deploy digital technology to help our suppliers and customers reduce their carbon footprints.
Ensuring effective transparency. We will publish an annual Environmental Sustainability Report that provides transparency on our progress, based on strong global reporting standards.
Using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues. We will support new public policy initiatives to accelerate carbon reduction and removal opportunities.
Enlisting our employees. We recognize that our employees will be our biggest asset in advancing innovation, and we will create new opportunities to enable them to contribute to our efforts.
Grounding in science and math
It’s vital that our work as a company to address carbon issues stay grounded in ongoing scientific advances and an accurate reliance on the basic but fundamental mathematical concepts involved. And this is true for all of us as individual consumers and the business community more broadly.
In some respects, the situation is straightforward. As shown in the graph below, advances in human prosperity, as measured by GDP growth, are inextricably tied to the use of energy. This is true for the future as well as the past. If we’re going to continue to create more economic opportunity and prosperity, it likely will require even more energy use. This is true everywhere in the world, and it’s perhaps especially true among the world’s developing economies, which deserve the opportunity to catch up with the level of prosperity in more industrialized nations.
For more than two centuries and especially since the 1950s, economic development has required an ever-increasing amount of carbon emissions. This is the part of the past that we need to change. In short, we need to use more energy while reducing our emission of carbon.
The importance of this issue is underscored by the advances in scientific research during the past few years. These findings make clear both that the average temperature on the planet has risen by 1 degree Celsius during the past 50 years and that carbon dioxide emissions have been a primary driver of this and this temperature increase. Indeed, if we fail to change substantially and quickly, there is a high risk that average temperatures will increase between another one and four degrees Celsius by the end of this century. And the impact of such a temperature increase would be catastrophic.
A big part of the challenge is that as a society we have not committed sufficiently to reduce emissions. One conclusion we’ve reached is that we all need to learn – and get real – about “carbon math.” This is the basic mathematical concepts that are important to understanding how the carbon issue applies to each of us, whether as individuals, families, businesses, or other organizations.
One aspect of this is relatively simple but quite important. Scientists account for carbon emissions by classifying them into three categories, or “scopes.”
Scope 1 emissions are the direct emissions that your activities create — like the exhaust from the car you drive, or for a business, the trucks it drives to transport its products from one place to another or the generators it might run.
Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions that come from the production of the electricity or heat you use, like the traditional energy sources that light up your home or power the buildings owned by a business.
Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions that come from all the other activities in which you’re engaged, including the emissions associated with producing the food you eat, or manufacturing the products that you buy. For a business, these emission sources can be extensive, and must be accounted for across its entire supply chain, the materials in its buildings, the business travel of its employees, and the full life cycle of its products, including the electricity customers may consume when using the product. Given this broad range, a company’s scope 3 emissions are often far larger than its scope 1 and 2 emissions put together.
This makes clear that we need to measure all three of these scopes. At Microsoft, we expect to emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year. Of this total, about 100,000 are scope 1 emissions and about 4 million are scope 2 emissions. The remaining 12 million tons all fall into scope 3. Given the wide range of scope 3 activities, this higher percentage of the total is probably typical for most organizations.
There’s another aspect of carbon math that’s also essential. This is the difference between being “carbon neutral” and being “net zero.” While they sound similar, in fact they’re different.
Given common usage, companies have typically said they’re “carbon neutral” if they offset their emissions with payments either to avoid a reduction in emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere. But these are two very different things. For example, one way to avoid a reduction in emissions is to pay someone not to cut down the trees on the land they own. This is a good thing, but in effect it pays someone not to do something that would have a negative impact. It doesn’t lead to planting more trees that would have a positive impact by removing carbon.
In contrast, “net zero” means that a company actually removes as much carbon as it emits. The reason the phrase is “net zero” and not just “zero” is because there are still carbon emissions, but these are equal to carbon removal. And “carbon negative” means that a company is removing more carbon than it emits each year.
While we at Microsoft have worked hard to be “carbon neutral” since 2012, our recent work has led us to conclude that this is an area where we’re far better served by humility than pride. And we believe this is true not only for ourselves, but for every business and organization on the planet.
Like most carbon-neutral companies, Microsoft has achieved carbon neutrality primarily by investing in offsets that primarily avoid emissions instead of removing carbon that has already been emitted. That’s why we’re shifting our focus. In short, neutral is not enough to address the world’s needs.
While it is imperative that we continue to avoid emissions, and these investments remain important, we see an acute need to begin removing carbon from the atmosphere, which we believe we can help catalyze through our investments.
In addition, we’ve identified another shortcoming that we and many other companies need to overcome. Historically we’ve focused on Microsoft’s scope 1 and 2 emissions, but other than employee travel, we haven’t calculated as thoroughly our scope 3 emissions. That’s why we’re committing to becoming carbon negative for 2030 for all three scopes.
Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint
Based on this science and math, we’re launching today an aggressive plan to reduce Microsoft’s own carbon emissions. It has three broad components.
First, we will drive down our scope 1 and 2 emissions to near zero by the middle of this decade through the following steps:
By 2025, we will shift to 100 percent supply of renewable energy, meaning that we will have power purchase agreements for green energy contracted for 100 percent of carbon emitting electricity consumed by all our data centers, buildings, and campuses.
We will electrify our global campus operations vehicle fleet by 2030.
We will pursue International Living Future Institute Zero Carbon certification and LEED Platinum certification for our Silicon Valley Campus and Puget Sound Campus Modernization projects.
Second, we will reduce our scope 3 emissions by more than half by 2030 through new steps, including the following:
In July 2020, we will start phasing in our current internal carbon tax to cover our scope 3 emissions. Currently this fee is $15/metric ton and covers all scope 1 and 2 emissions, plus scope 3 travel emissions. Unlike some other companies, our internal carbon tax isn’t a “shadow fee” that is calculated but not charged. Our fee is paid by each division in our business based on its carbon emissions, and the funds are used to pay for sustainability improvements.
Starting in July, all our business divisions will also pay an internal carbon fee for all their scope 3 emissions. We will start at a lower price per ton than our current fee for other emissions, but we will phase in increases over time until all our scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are charged the same rate. This will both increase incentives across the company to reduce all scope 3 emissions and fund the added work to reduce our own scope 3 emissions and invest in carbon removal activities.
By July of 2021, we will begin to implement new procurement processes and tools to enable and incentivize our suppliers to reduce their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. We will work with our suppliers to implement consistent and accurate reporting and pursue effective steps to make progress against scientifically based targets.
Third, by 2030 Microsoft will remove more carbon than it emits, setting us on a path to remove by 2050 all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. We will achieve this through a portfolio of negative emission technologies (NET) potentially including afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCs), and direct air capture (DAC).
Microsoft will form its carbon removal portfolio annually by assessing NET attributes pertaining to four criteria: (1) scalability; (2) affordability; (3) commercial availability and (4) verifiability. Given the current state of technology and pricing, we will initially focus on nature-based solutions, with the goal of shifting to technology-based solutions between now and 2050, when they become more viable.
Investing for new carbon reduction and removal technology
Solving our planet’s carbon issues will require technology that does not exist today. That’s why a significant part of our endeavor involves putting Microsoft’s balance sheet to work to stimulate and accelerate the development of carbon removal technology. Our new Climate Innovation Fund will commit to invest $1 billion over the next four years into new technologies and expand access to capital around the world to people working to solve this problem. We understand that this is just a fraction of the investment needed, but our hope is that it spurs more governments and companies to invest in new ways as well.
We will primarily deploy this capital in two areas: (1) to accelerate ongoing technology development by investing in project and debt finance; and (2) to invest in new innovations through equity and debt capital.
We’ll focus our funding on investments primarily based on four criteria: (1) strategies that have the prospect of driving meaningful decarbonization, climate resilience, or other sustainability impact; (2) additional market impact in accelerating current and potential solutions; (3) relevance to Microsoft by creating technologies we can use to address our unpaid climate debt and future emissions; and (4) consideration of climate equity, including for developing economies.
In addition to this new fund, we will continue to invest in carbon monitoring and modeling projects through our AI for Earth program, which has grown over the past two years to support more than 450 grantees across more than 70 countries.
Empowering customers around the world
We believe that Microsoft’s most important contribution to carbon reduction will come not from our own work alone but by helping our customers around the world reduce their carbon footprints through our learnings and with the power of data science, artificial intelligence, and digital technology. For many customers, sustainability is already a core part of their business, while others are just beginning their work to mitigate their carbon impact. Regardless of where organizations are on their journey, we’re committed to being of help.
Better tracking of carbon starts by creating greater transparency on the carbon impact of services and products. Today we’re launching a new tool, the Microsoft Sustainability Calculator that analyzes the estimated emissions from Azure services through a Power BI dashboard. This helps customers better understand the carbon impact of their cloud workloads, discover the potential benefits from fully migrating to Azure, and assists them in reporting their carbon footprint for IT services for the often hard-to-track Scope 3 emissions.
We will follow this with new solutions and offerings that go further, including providing insight across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 and material circularity related to all Microsoft Azure services. We will also provide greater transparency on the carbon performance of Teams, Edge and other services and solutions. This work builds on a foundation of science-based methodologies and transparency on environmental performance of our cloud infrastructure and supply chain.
We are also launching a new 24/7 matching solution with Vattenfall – a first-of-its-kind approach that gives customers the ability to choose the green energy they want and ensure their consumption matches that goal using Azure IoT. This new level of transparency can enable users to adjust their business operations to better fit the availability of the green energy they prefer, further decreasing their carbon footprint.
We are also committed to pursuing new partnerships with our customers to address carbon reduction. This will include co-innovating with customers and partners to develop low-carbon solutions, as we’ve done with L&T Technology Services, ABB, and Johnson Controls on sustainable smart building solutions capable of reducing energy consumption by 40 percent; embedding sustainability into our strategic alliances as we’ve pioneered with AT&T and NTT; driving cross-industry collaborations and coalitions to develop new standards and tools.
The significance and complexity of the task ahead is incredible and will require contributions from every person and organization on the planet. That’s why we are committed to continuing to work with all our customers, including those in the oil and gas business, to help them meet today’s business demands while innovating together to achieve the business needs of a net zero carbon future. Continued improvement in standards of living around the world will require more energy, not less. It’s imperative that we enable energy companies to transition, including to renewable energy and to the development and use of negative emission technologies like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture. All this must be paired together to achieve the growing energy needs of an expanding global economy.
Ensuring effective transparency
When it comes to carbon reduction, real progress requires real transparency. As we’re doing today, Microsoft will continue to disclose the carbon footprint of our services and solutions. We will support strong industry-wide standards for transparency and reporting on carbon emissions and removal, and we will apply these ourselves.
Today we are also signing the United Nations’ 1.5-degree Business Ambition Pledge, and we hope many other companies will also join. We will publicly track our progress in our annual Environmental Sustainability Report.
Using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues
We will also use our voice to speak out on four public policy issues that we think can advance all of the world’s carbon efforts:
The need to expand global basic and applied research efforts on carbon, funded by governments, and reorient them towards targeted outcomes and enhanced cross-border collaboration to develop the breakthrough technologies needed to achieve net zero global emissions.
The removal of regulatory barriers to help catalyze markets to enable carbon-reduction technologies to scale more quickly.
The use of market and pricing mechanisms so people and businesses can make more informed carbon decisions.
The empowerment of consumers through transparency based on universal standards to inform purchasers about the carbon content of goods and services.
Enlisting our employees
Finally, we’ll capitalize on the energy and intellect of our employees by inviting and encouraging them to participate in our carbon reduction and removal efforts. As we’ve found with Microsoft’s accessibility efforts, we believe that sustainability is a cause that is not only important to our employees, but an area where they can generate important insights and innovations across the company.
We will create more opportunities for our employees to become actively involved, both in company-wide activities and in the work of their individual teams. We’re launching today an expanded internal site where our employees can learn more. Each year this work will culminate during our annual weeklong hackathon event that will include a specific focus and call for proposals on carbon reduction and removal.
The world’s next moonshot
Reducing carbon is where the world needs to go, and we recognize that it’s what our customers and employees are asking us to pursue. This is a bold bet — a moonshot — for Microsoft. And it will need to become a moonshot for the world.
It won’t be easy for Microsoft to become carbon negative by 2030. But we believe it’s the right goal. And with the right commitment, it’s an achievable goal. We will need to continue to learn and adapt, both separately and even more importantly in close collaboration with others around the world. We believe we launch this new initiative today with a well-developed plan and a clear line of sight, but we have problems to solve and technologies that need to be invented. It’s time to get to work.
Remember when we were all trying to reach the hiring bar set by Amazon, Google, Facebook and other giants? No more. Toxic work cultures, questionable leadership and recent ethics scandals are tarnishing these once golden employers. The New York Times just reported that Gen Z are staying away.
Thetechlash is real: by some estimates, Facebook’s downat least 40% in acceptance rates for full-time engineering job offers. Amazon’s losing its sway with poachable young stars from companies like Dropbox. Uber’s taken a $100 million hit in terms of lost talent. Google’s lost its credibility as a fair employer. When graduates tell their peers they just accepted a job at one of the big tech firms, they’re often met with awkward silence.
As Gen Z and new millennials graduate college and search for jobs, they’re looking for meaning, purpose, and values along with that good paycheck — and they’re steering clear of Silicon Valley’s big firms. And this isn’t just about a consumer attitude towards employer brands. It goes deeper. Many are responding to recruiting outreaches with messages of their own, leaving recruiters blindsided. Some students are batting back automated recruiting queries with very specific protest messages.
The spend on recruiting one engineer can be as high as $20,000, according to the Times; the cost of advertising at Stanford University’scomputer science job fairs can top $12,000. Whether or not this truly hurts the bottom line remains to be seen in some cases, while it’s already obvious in others.
But what is clear: smaller firms who do have an ethical compass and fair hiring and employment policies may have a new advantage. An employer brand that’s based on genuine values, a social purpose, and wants to save the planet instead of ruin it – that’s a big factor for this generation. We may start to see companies selling themselves as inherently good: “We don’t have any scandals, we’re not associated with data theft, and we believe in climate change!” could be a highly effective selling point. It’s going to be an interesting year.
Author: Meghan M. Biro
Like most people who gravitate toward HR, Meghan loves people. Early in her career, Meghan realized she was a rare people person who understood tech. As a high tech recruiter, Meghan worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. Meghan founded TalentCulture in 2008 to lead a conversation about the future of work with her peers in HR and leadership. These days, she is consistently included in lists of top online influencers and writes about HR tech and talent management at Forbes.com, SHRM.org and a variety of other media outlets. Her career background spans recruiting, tech, marketing, branding and digital media. As an HR tech analyst, author and brand strategist, Meghan is sought after for her ideas about the future of work, is a regularly featured speaker at global business conferences, and serves on boards for leading HR and technology brands.
We’re delighted to announce that Mind Tools clients can now access our resources in eight European languages.
Why Multiple Languages?
If, like many organizations, your workforce is spread across the globe, then different members of staff likely speak different languages.
Even if you only use one language to do business, you can’t escape the fact that learning is a highly personal activity. And it’s most effective when you can tailor it to your learners’ individual needs.
When considering global teams, a top priority and concern for L&D managers is how to personalize on-demand learning for each and every employee. This is our latest step to help you to do that for your learners.
Which Languages Are Available?
Until now, our content has only been available in English. This has meant that non-English speakers have lacked that highly personalized learning experience.
The new translation feature means that learners can now access Mind Tools in Dutch,English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese,and Spanish.
But that’s just the start! More languages will be included in the future.
How Do I Translate the Content?
You can translate each resource with just the touch of a button.
Look out for the globe icon at the top of a resource (underneath “Print” and “Share”), then click the button and select your preferred language from the menu. This will instantly translate the resource into your chosen language.
The translate function is only available for text-based resources. You can’t use the feature to change the language of videos, podcasts, infographics, or PDF downloads.
However, you can translate the transcripts of all podcasts and videos.
Get in Touch
Talk to one of the team for more information on the Translate tool and our subscription options.
Mind Tools serves more than 25 million learners, offering on-demand management, leadership and career skills training to individuals and organizations. With Mind Tools’ customized learning solutions, your organization will have access to all of our premium resources, including expert interview and book insight podcasts, interactive quizzes, and learning streams.
The last several years have brought massive change – and opportunity – for the retail industry. Gone are the days when retailers chose when, where and what to sell; now consumers are in the driver’s seat, and retailers are being challenged to figure how to best engage with them. Additionally, they’re juggling pressures driven by industry trends such as the drive for more sustainability in retail, the proliferation of data, increased energy around “anywhere commerce,” the need to better equip store associates with technology and much more. But change often accelerates innovation, and because of this I believe that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a retailer at the intersection of retail and technology.
Microsoft continues to innovate side by side with retailers to help them embrace their biggest opportunities and enable intelligent retail by empowering businesses to take control of their own digital evolution. Our solutions enable retailers to transform across all parts of their business – from how they better understand their customers and empower employees, to putting the right technology in place to deliver an intelligent supply chain and ultimately reimagine their businesses. In the last year and a half, we’ve established ourselves as a trusted partner to some of the world’s largest retailers such as Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens Boots Alliance, among others. And we’ve empowered their transformation by providing the platforms on which to build innovation for all parts of their businesses.
We’ve learned a lot along the way both through our retail customers as well as our own physical retail presence about how technology can help this industry both embrace its biggest opportunities as well as tackle its biggest challenges. And today we’re sharing how our first-party innovations are helping to drive the future of intelligent retail across all parts of a retailer’s business.
Gaining a better understanding of your customers
If customers are the heart of the retail industry, data is the oxygen. Data has the potential to profoundly impact every single aspect of retailers’ businesses, including – and perhaps most importantly – how they respond to customer demands with differentiated and unique experiences.
We’re helping retailers surface actionable customer insights with data solutions like Azure Synapse Analytics, which helps retailers not only analyze vast amounts of data, but also apply machine learning to quickly surface insights that can drive immediate impact for their businesses, and Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, which helps maximize customer lifetime value by surfacing a 360-degree view of the customer to drive personalized engagements at scale. This means that even the most complex retailers, with thousands of suppliers in their end-to-end supply chain and millions of item-store combinations, can quickly make the decisions needed to not only run their businesses most efficiently but also delight customers in the process.
And with Dynamics 365 Connected Store, retailers like Marks & Spencer – which is piloting the solution in a store in London – can generate data within its physical stores that produces the same kind of actionable business insights as it gets from its digital storefronts. M&S is achieving this by analyzing data from smart devices such as video cameras and IoT sensors to provide real-time and predictive insights on everything from the current length of the checkout line to the traffic around endcap product displays to help associates make better decisions. We’re welcoming new retail customers into our Connected Store preview very day, so sign up here to request access.
One of the customer demands becoming more and more evident as retailers reason over their data is the desire for a seamless shopping experience regardless of where, when and how they choose to buy. We’ve invested in helping retailers bridge embrace this concept of commerce anywhere (aCommerce) with Dynamics 365 Commerce, the evolution of Dynamics 365 Retail and a true multi-channel solution that transforms the customer experience by unifying retailers’ back-office, in-store, call center and e-commerce experiences. One experience across all channels – that’s what customers are demanding today. The result? More personalized engagement with customers, employees who are better equipped to provide the best customer experience possible and deep insights to empower advanced decision making across every piece of a retailer’s business. I’m excited to announce that Dynamics 365 Commerce, currently in preview, with become generally available to our retail customers on Feb. 3.
Empowering employees with the tools they need to better serve customers
Despite the rise of e-commerce over the past couple of decades, we know that most shopping – across generations even – still happens in person. Research from Forbes Insights shows us that 60 percent of consumers still prefer to shop in physical retail environments, and this number stays fairly consistent across generations. This means that first-line workers are still one of a retailer’s most valuable assets – many times, they are the first impression a shopper gets of your brand and they play a significant role in customer acquisition and retention.
Retail associates need modern tools and experiences in order to remain productive and deliver the best customer service possible while on the store floor. With Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud, and new first-line capabilities coming to Microsoft Teams later this year, we are in a unique position to help this often-overlooked part of the workforce get their jobs done. Today I’m thrilled to announce that we’re adding even more productivity and collaboration value into Teams, including task targeting, publishing and reporting, new workforce management integrations to streamline shift management and a new Walkie Talkie feature. By building push-to-talk functionality into Teams, we’re helping our retail customers turn company-owned smartphones and tablets into a secure walkie talkie, extending the range of traditional walkie-talkie communication and streamlining licensing and provisioning for retailers’ IT staff.
Finally, as we extend modern tools and experiences across the first-line workforce, we know that we need to make it easy for IT to manage and help enable a secure and compliant experience for all employees. I’m excited to disclose enhanced identity and access management capabilities – such as shared device sign-out for Android and inbound provisioning from leading workforce management providers such as SAP SuccessFactors and Workday – that will make onboarding retail associates and operating shared devices more secure and scalable, something our retail customers have been asking us to add for some time now. And, later this quarter, retailers will be able to enable SMS sign-in to Microsoft 365 and custom applications for retail workers and empower their store managers with delegated user management capabilities, making it easier to reset passwords and manage workers’ identities without additional demand on IT staff.
Infusing more intelligence into the supply chain
A retailer’s supply chain can play a major role in customer satisfaction – outdated supply chain processes can mean delays, unfulfilled orders and more. By connecting devices and collecting data, retailers can analyze that information to create new insights and ultimately a truly intelligent supply chain that enables them to provide the best service possible to customers. This is the Internet of Things (IoT), and as IoT becomes more mainstream it continues to be a huge driver of data for retailers today. In fact, our IoT Signals for Retail study found that 92 percent of retailers have adopted IoT and are using it in various stages of trials and deployments, with the most common IoT scenarios being driving store analytics (57 percent), supply chain optimization (48 percent) and security and loss prevention (46 percent and 45 percent, respectively).
We’re making building and deploying IoT applications in retail environments easier than ever with new Azure IoT Central solution templates that help retailers simplify IoT deployments to start driving immediate impact. Today, the Azure IoT Central Micro Fulfilment Center template joins five existing retail-focused templates – including for scenarios across connected logistics, digital distribution centers, in-store analytics and smart inventory management – to help retailers more easily optimize their fulfilment processes through a managed service that includes everything a retailer needs to get started today.
Reimagining retail business models and customer experiences
The success of today’s retailers’ physical store environments rests on their ability to disrupt themselves and their own status quo by pushing into new business models and providing new experiences and formats that engage customers and keep them coming back for more.
We understand this better than most technology vendors, because we’re continuing to move through this same transformation journey with our own Microsoft retail stores. Over the past several years, we’ve digitally transformed and extended our physical retail store strategy from an exclusively consumer storefront to a commerce engine that connects with all customers – from commercial enterprises to small businesses and consumers. Partnering with enterprise sales, we’re offering new experiences in and through our stores targeted toward our enterprise customers such as J. Crew, Office Depot and Marks & Spencer. Our stores are also at the forefront of adopting new Microsoft technology across cloud, predictive analytics, machine learning, cognitive services and more to solve our most complex challenges – and we’re learning from those experiences to ultimately pass those lessons along to our customers. And of course, that’s a two-way street – we’re also learning from our retail customers to inform how we manage and operate our stores too, which is indicative of the true partnerships we strive to establish with every retailer we work with.
While reimagining retail can lead to the kind of business transformation we’ve seen in our own store, it can take different forms as well, such as how retailers are tapping into new revenue streams and digitizing their own physical stores to drive new customer and employee experiences.
Microsoft PromoteIQ is an end-to-end commerce marketing platform enabling retailers to create a new critical growth engine for their businesses through at-scale vendor marketing programs. With Microsoft PromoteIQ, retailers can empower their brand partners with powerful marketing technology to natively promote products to in-market shoppers, reaching them at the right time to increase digital sales – all supported by a deep analytics suite to deliver impactful audience insights. And now, thanks to the integration with Microsoft Advertising, we can offer our retailer partners a powerful new source of incremental demand for their programs. Take Home Depot, for example. While you may expect the world’s largest home improvement retailer to do most of its business in person, HomeDepot.com is the fifth largest e-commerce site in the U.S. Consequently, the company needed a solution to help it maximize the nearly 170 million visitors per month its site was seeing by integrating an end-to-end commerce marketing platform with capabilities to manage and scale its vendor-funded digital marketing. Since deploying PromoteIQ, Home Depot has seen very positive results, including double-digit sales growth for promoted products through this program.
Of course, reaching customers at the right time is only half the equation; a retailer must also be able to deliver on what that customer is looking for. In fact, 80 percent of shoppers will abandon a site that produces poor search results. And that’s why we’re investing in this critical piece of digital commerce – product search. Microsoft Bing for Commerce is an intelligent artificial intelligence-driven solution for product search, personalization and product recommendations that gives retailers the power to meet today’s shopper expectations and grow revenue through more relevant and customized results that drive conversion. We’re also enabling our retailers to meet customers where and how they want to shop through visual search innovation included in Bing for Commerce, to help capture sales from new, emerging shopping behaviors.
Connect with us at NRF
Microsoft will have a significant presence at NRF once again this year, headlined by our own CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote session to open the show. You won’t want to miss hearing his perspective on business and cultural transformation, and how our retail customers are putting our technology into action to reimagine their businesses. And if you’re attending the show, make sure you stop by our Microsoft booth (#4501) to see how we’re bringing intelligent retail to life across all parts of a retailer’s business and how you can achieve the same – we’re offering complementary envisioning workshops, where retailers will have an opportunity to work directly with us to create a shared vision and digital road map to unlock a future of endless possibilities.
You’re also invited to attend one of our sessions on the show floor – I’m leading a Big Ideas session where I’ll share my thoughts on the increasing importance of sustainability to the industry and how technology can help accelerate retailers’ sustainability visions. In addition, my colleagues Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Applications and Global Industry, and Emma Williams, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office Vertical Solutions, and I will participate in the FQ Lounge at NRF along with many other “women rocking retail” for panel discussions about diversity and inclusion in the retail industry (we’re proud to be a sponsor of this space as well). And of course, visit Microsoft’s NRF page to keep up to date on the latest developments.
The workplace starting off this new decade is a whole different animal than the workplace was in 2010. The entire definition of the workplace and the nature of work has changed. So have the expectations of employees.
Here’s what you and your team need to know about what 2020 means for your office:
The Death of the Office… Kind Of
It’s official: the office is dead. The office your parents knew, that is.
2020 will build on a trend that’s been on the rise in 2018 and 2019. More employees rely on technology to do their jobs and keep up with their teams. This means that more employees know they can do their jobs from anywhere–and they’re not afraid to ask the boss for that benefit.
According to the Society for Human Resources Management,69% of organizations allow their employees to work from home at least some of the time, and 27% of organizations allowed full-time remote work arrangements.
Technology is not the only driver behind this shift. Millennials, who havemore debt than any generation in history, are increasingly leaving prohibitively expensive cities in favor of the suburbs where they can get more space for less (and the ability to work remotely is a major commuting benefit).
Plus, the highest-paying, most advanced jobs are concentrated in a small handful of expensive cities where the cost of living can chase out much of the talent pool. Remote work allows companies to stay competitive by broadening their talent base and attracting talent that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Somebody’s Watching You
Technology is behind the workplace monitoring trend. But this isn’t 1984, and Big Brother isn’t the one watching you — that would be your boss.
A survey by Gartner found that22% of organizations worldwide are using employee movement data, 17% are monitoring workplace computer usage data, and 16% are using Microsoft Outlook or calendar-related data. An additional Gartnersurvey of 239 organizations found that 50% are now using non-traditional monitoring methods, such as analyzing employee emails and social media posts, gathering biometric data, examining who’s meeting with whom, and scrutinizing how employees use the workplace.
Based on this survey, Gartner predicts that 80% of companies will be using non-traditional methods in 2020.
That data is being used to make decisions about running the workplace.More than a quarter of employers have fired employees for misusing email, and nearly a third of employers have fired employees for misusing the Internet at work. On the other hand, workplace surveillance can benefit customers — take, for instance,hospital sensors that detect nurse hand-washing practices.
But workplace surveillance isn’t holding employees back from pursuing what matters to them, even if it means speaking up against their own employer.
Half of all millennial employees have spoken out about employer actions about a controversial societal issue. The same Bloomberg study found that younger employees are more likely to be activists, though millennials are the biggest activist generation.
The past year has seen countless examples of employee activism, instigated by a sensational (and divisive) political climate.Hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out after learning that the company sold furniture to a Texas detention center for migrant children.
A Workplace That Stands for Something
This feeds into the millennial need to work for a purpose, not just money or a career.
A CNBC survey found that69% of employees want to work for a company with clearly-stated values, and 35% stated that the most critical factor in their workplace happiness was the feeling that their work is meaningful. And these days, employees are willing to trade money for a purpose, with9 in 10 employees stating that they would take a pay cut if it meant they could do meaningful work.
In fact, when employees were asked to rank what matters most to them in their work, money was a distant second to workplace purpose.
The Changing Definition of Benefits
That said, employees (especially millennials) won’t turn their nose up at decent benefits.
Millennials are the job-hopping generation, withhalf of all millennials (compared to 60% of all non-millennials), stating that they plan to be working at a different company than their current one by next year. In short, millennials don’t see a long-term future with their companies, and the jobs they take don’t tend to last more than a few years.
But for the few years that you do have your employees, they want that time to be worth their while. Younger workers arepushing back against the idea of work as a constant obsession. More of them demand increasing flexibility and benefits that reflect it, such as more paid leave after having a baby, the ability to work remotely, or allowances for breaks during the day.
The End of the Corporate Ladder
In addition, younger workers no longer think of the corporate ladder the same way their parents do. If anything, the corporate ladder doesn’t exist.
After all, why take the corporate ladder when you could take the elevator?
Younger workers are highly motivated and eager to make an impact, and they don’t want to wait for their turn. They want to move at their own pace. This means that more young workers arestarting their own companies or working on their own projects rather than viewing the corporate ladder as an aspiration.
They also don’t see the value in trying to scale the wrong wall. Millennials are willing to be workaholics, but they’ve learned their lesson from the Baby Boomers–they won’t be workaholics unless success is guaranteed.
Also, young workers who grew up in the Great Recession aren’t afraid to scrap and start over, as they’re all too aware that a stable income and a good job are more fragile than they seem. Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket, they’re willing to keep trying until they find the right fit, and they’re more willing to work parallel jobs at the same time.
Take Charge of Workplace Trends for 2020
The workplace trends of 2020 will change the way your office operates —and that can be to your office’s benefit if you’re prepared to take advantage of it. Keep these trends in mind to ensure that your workplace can attract (and keep) the best talent on the market.
Cyndy is the Managing Partner at TalentCulture, a thriving community of professionals interested in all facets of the world of work, where technology plays a role, and how culture drives the workplace. Cyndy began her career in HR Marketing and Communications on Madison Avenue in New York City over 20 years ago. Cyndy has multiple years of media planning, employer branding, and human resource communications strategy experience at a management level from both the media and agency sides. She has been recognized as one of the most influential people in the HR space by HRMarketer (Advos) the Huffington Post and HRExaminer.
If you worked on Wall Street like I did in the fall of 2008, you most likely can recall exactly where you were and what you were doing when the market crashed, leading to the financial crisis that shook the world.
Looking back over the last decade, its impact on the financial services industry has been profound. 2010 launched new legislation, international standards, regulatory requirements and provisions that financial organizations are addressing today. In the last 10 years, financial services have also been one of the industries most impacted by digital disruption.
Financial institutions gradually shifted their views of technology from a way to improve operational efficiencies – automating manual and paper processes – to enhancing customer service through mobile solutions, and now as a transformative tool to enable everything from new business models, to compliance, to combating financial crime.
As we prepare to enter the 2020s, what will the financial services industry need to succeed in the next decade? Below, I share a few predictions, learnings and tips to help financial organizations thrive.
The next decade of financial services
Looking ahead, financial services organizations will need to be at the forefront of both technological disruption and geopolitical shifts. Together, these influences will continue to bring new competitive pressures, change the nature of work, impact people’s major life purchases, evolve customer expectations, and create the need to adapt business models and products to reflect societal and economic norms. Banks will also need to foster trust with a new generation of customers and employees who have different preferences and expectations.
As technology enables business models to shift and products and services to evolve, competition will be fierce, and relationships will change. Who in the industry is now a friend or foe? The single biggest tension will be between the traditional financial services organizations – particularly banks – and new, non-financial services entrants into the market who are carving away large portions of business and customers. Among these disruptors, “digital natives” pose the largest threat. Their business models are enabling them to quickly build and adapt new, intelligent products and acquire dedicated customers at an incredible pace.
That said, innovations that are helping digital natives thrive will also provide industry incumbents with the ability and agility to enable cultural and digital transformation and keep pace with the changing world. As I meet with our global customers, a common focus is on moving faster with higher impact. So, is there a formula for future success?
Leading with tech intensity
At Microsoft, we believe what will determine an organization’s future success is an approach called “tech intensity.” We see tech intensity as an equation: Tech Intensity = (Tech Adoption X Tech Capability) ^ Trust, and as a company, we are focused on providing the inputs to help our customers solve it.
Speed technology adoption: First, every leader will need to tune their organization to become a fast adopter of best-in-class technology. The use of cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics, open APIs and blockchain are all key technology tools that can help financial services address ongoing challenges and modernize and transform the way they do business now and in the future. At the core of their success is the ability to tap into the volumes of available data —from both inside and outside their organizations — and use it in meaningful ways to unlock new value, insights, opportunities and revenue streams.
As an example, LV= General Insurance (LV= GI) is one of the U.K.’s largest personal lines insurers with more than $2.23 billion annual premium income and serving more than 4 million customers. Data scientists within LV= GI looked for opportunities to supplement their existing claims processing expertise with machine learning to increase certainty in claim resolution. The result was a pioneering AI solution that LV= GI believes is – not only U.K.-leading – but industry leading worldwide. The results of integrating the new AI-driven system exceeded LV=GI’s expectations by reducing the 20% of complex, unclear claims to an astonishing 3.9%. It’s a massive swing that delivers customers real value and a net benefit to LV= GI in excess of seven figures.
Build unique capabilities: Second and equally important, organizations will need to build their own unique digital capabilities, essentially becoming technology companies themselves. There’s a very important human factor here that starts with workers who are deeply knowledgeable about the latest technology, backed by a culture that encourages capability-building and collaboration to generate new, breakthrough concepts.
New York-based Mastercard, processing about $20 billion in transactions a day across more than 210 countries or territories, and Microsoft, one of the top e-commerce merchants in the world, both felt an urgency in shifting toward online payments – especially with the increasing popularity of mobile apps and devices, which has made security more difficult even as consumers expect greater ease of use. Bringing together teams of engineers, the two companies spent three days hacking together and came up with a new service to make shopping online easier and more secure around the world, not only for shoppers, but also retailers and banks. This tech-intensity collaboration kicked off a new way of thinking about innovation that promises to lead to even more developments to help e-commerce thrive.
Ensure trust is your priority: Third, leadership in the digital economy will be exponentially amplified by the level of trust created with customers, partners and stakeholders — for their organization and the underlying technology.
With the goal of creating legendary experiences for more than 26 million customers, TD Bank Group, one of North America’s largest banks, knows that keeping up with changes in customer expectations and anticipating their needs is critical. They also know just how important each step of the customer’s journey is to their feeling about the experience. They are using the benefits of the cloud and complex information processing capabilities to receive detailed results from their data about the factors influencing customer satisfaction — including the feeling of trust the customer has — to improve the overall experience and deepen relationships with its customers.
Today, we announced results of a new Microsoft study, which found broad agreement across industries that tech intensity is essential for their survival: 75 percent of those surveyed said it’s the most effective way to build a competitive advantage today, and 83 percent agreed it’s critical for future success.
Building the future together
Tech intensity is the motivation behind our mission at Microsoft to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. As the new decade brings new challenges and opportunities, we are committed to helping our financial services customers unlock the power of data and empower their tech intensity journeys, by providing them with the choice of a more secure and compliant platform embedded with pervasive intelligence.
Here are a few tips to help harness the benefits of tech intensity.
Adopt an entrepreneurial outlook that encourages risk-taking.
Be willing to look outside your organization – and even industry – to gain a broader perspective of what technology can make possible.
Stay up to date on the latest trends in software and applications so your IT team has access to the latest commercial platforms, tools and training. This way, they can avoid recreating technology that has already been commoditized.
While the new decade will bring many challenges for the financial services industry, I believe it will bring even more opportunities. We’re already seeing many of our customers leading in the industry with a tech-intensity approach, and I’m excited to see how it will help our customers grow their businesses even more.