Exactly six years ago today, Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft and began turning the company upside down.
And now that he’s got Microsoft innovating and executing as well as any company on Earth, Satya Nadella has set his sights on digitalizing the world.
It’s no longer Microsoft’s goal for its business customers to consume huge volumes of enterprise software and services. Rather, Nadella’s reimagined vision calls for Microsoft to make its business customers not only consumers of Microsoft software but also wildly capable creators and consumers of their own software.
The result will be a digital world featuring hundreds of billions of digital devices, many hundreds of zettabytes of data, powerful new forms of collaboration and communication across 5G, and seamless access to data and IT resources across cloud and edge.
For all of you tech companies out there that are currently competing with Microsoft or looking to stealthily pick off a few points of market share here or there, just bear in mind that the long game Microsoft is playing is the biggest of them all: digitalizing the world.
But hey—don’t just take my word for it. Instead, looking back across the past 20 months, let’s hear this unfolding story through the very words of Satya Nadella himself. We can start with some excerpts from his keynote talk in May 2019 at Microsoft’s Build conference in Seattle, during which Nadella first framed out his vision of Azure becoming “the world’s computer.”
Other tech vendors, of course, have touched on some of these or similar points. But no one has pulled these sweeping threads together into a grand vision the way Nadella has. And between this keynote in May 2019 through Nadella’s 6-year anniversary as CEO today, Microsoft has also made excellent progress in turning that vibrant vision into business-value reality for its customers.
“When I think about the world today, computing is getting embedded in the world in every single place, whether it’s our homes, our offices, factories, and stadiums; in every industry from oil and gas to retail to agriculture to financial services; and in everything from connected cars to connected refrigerators to smart surgical tools to smart coffee machines. And they are all being driven by software.”
Turning Developer Relationships Into Moonshots.
“That’s the opportunity in front of us: the opportunity for developers and our colleagues from all other disciplines to come together to build this new world. And that’s the sense of purpose and mission that grounds us at Microsoft, to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. It starts by empowering all of you as developers to go after that moonshot in any industry, in any sphere or life or society.”
The World’s A Big Place—With Big Requirements.
“We also have more certifications than any other public cloud out there. We have over 90 compliance certifications, and why is that important? It’s because we have to meet the real-world needs, regulated industries, data sovereignty needs, operational sovereignty needs. You need to be able to meet the world’s complexity with what you build, so that it really enables all of you as developers to be able to build with less friction.”
A Digital World Needs A World Computer.
We are building out Azure as the world’s computer. We have 54 data center regions around the world.
This is, to my knowledge, Nadella’s first invocation of the audacious idea of Azure as “the world’s computer.” And while it may be fanciful and perhaps even arrogant to some, Nadella doesn’t blink when he uses this metaphor—and no company on Earth is better positioned than Microsoft to tackle such a challenge.
The Cloud Is Booming, But Must Embrace The Edge.
“We are not stopping there. We are extending the cloud to the edge. This is what we’ve always had as a vision for distributed computing, which is there’s a cloud and an edge and distributed computing will remain distributed.”
The Developer Era Is Upon Us.
“So I thought I would just share some of the ambition. One of the things that really excites me is, right now as we speak, there are more software developers being hired outside of what is considered the tech industry and it’s only going to grow. That’s the proliferation of what is the power of software going forwards and you see that ambition.”
Businesses Must Be Able To Build *All* Their Digital Solutions.
“Now, the most important thing, though, of the Bot Framework is the strategic importance for every business out there to build their own conversational canvas. Just like you build websites, just like you build mobile applications, it becomes very important for every business out there to be in control of their own destiny when it comes to this new platform of conversations.”
Turning Developer Dreams Into Reality.
“These platforms are rich canvases for you in this era of the cloud and the edge to enable you to turn the dreams that you all have into reality. Not just imagine the future, but to create it, to build these magical experiences. Magical experiences that empower people to be more productive and collaborative, magical experiences that help organizations to grow, evolve, thrive. Magical experiences that address the most pressing challenges out there, whether in education, healthcare, magical experiences that help people connect, relax, have fun.
It’s this community here that has the power to create that future. And most importantly, to build a world that we all want to live in. I can’t wait to see the magic you build!”
In the wake of those heady ambitions laid out 21 months ago, Microsoft has made some huge progress in weaving them into the everyday fabric of not only how businesses work but also how they imagine what could be possible in an end-to-end digital world.
Nadella shared a few of those developments and advanced thinking during his remarks on Microsoft’s Jan. 29 earnings call. (I analyzed that call in some detail in Microsoft Blows Away Amazon in 2019 Cloud Revenue: 30% Bigger.)
It All Starts With Data.
“The competitiveness of every business going forward will be defined by their ability to harness the full value of their data.”
The Rise Of Software Engineers In The Business World.
“One of the data points I love to use is the number of developers in the non-tech sector is now more than in the tech sector. This is software engineers and that’s going to only increase in the world going forward. So we want to build the best tool chain. After all, that’s who we are as a company. We love building tools for developers.”
Modern Digital Tools + Data = Optimized Real-Time Business.
“When I look at what the world needs, it needs a business application suite that is more comprehensive, and that can turn the real currency of this next era—data—into predictions, insights and automation without boundaries…
And by the way, we’ve architected Dynamics 365 on top of Azure, it’s cloud native in terms of its use of databases. All those insights modules I referenced are all built on Azure Synapse, so it’s sort of deeply integrated into Azure. It integrates into LinkedIn. It integrates into Microsoft 365, into our Power Platform, which is the extensibility model for both Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365…
There’s no such thing as a canonical business and no such thing as a canonical business model over time, right? The business processes change. The question is how rapidly can people and domain experts keep up with the change—and that’s where Dynamics 365 absolutely shines.”
The world’s coming at us faster than ever before—and in many cases, faster than we can imagine, and faster than we can cope with. In the modern digital economy, that’s just not going to be good enough. Such inadequacies will become fatal. Whatever you may think about Microsoft’s ability to “digitalize the world,” one thing is certain: no business process, no company, no industry, and no region of the world will be immune.
Are you prepared?
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