At the heart of every business are the people who make things happen. People garner insight from business applications to drive decisions that advance the organisation.
Traditional business applications are passive, backward-looking "systems of record". Users do their work, and then as an added step, perform a transaction to tell the software what's been done. Rules and reporting help enable compliance and control, but that's where this kind of software stops.
Today's world is increasingly flattened by technology, global complexity and new global competition making it critical for a business to be able to rapidly perceive and react to signals, threats and opportunities. Going one step further, in this world where the pace of business constantly accelerates, imagine being able to anticipate rather than react to those signals. Success today and tomorrow demands a new breed of proactive, agile software.
One way to view business success is the optimal alignment of people, assets, systems and data to maximise results.
Microsoft Dynamics breaks the traditional business application mold today. Emerging as proactive and forward-looking, it connects people to their work, surfacing insights that enable better decisions, and guiding processes that optimise results. Agile software empowers adaptation to changing market conditions. Instead of a "system of record", it delivers a "system of engagement and opportunity".
Moving forward to the next chapter in the evolution of Microsoft Dynamics, we look at the challenges facing businesses in the future and define a new vision for how software can evolve to empower people for greater success, predict potential issues and opportunities, and enable organisations to expand the possibilities for competitive advantage. At Microsoft, we are making this a reality.
Forces of change
Businesses always face changing conditions – new technology, new competitive forces, new consumer trends and evolving regulatory landscapes are the rule and not the exception. As we look at the horizon, however, we see unusually dramatic change looming on four major vectors concurrently. More than ever, software that enables a business to be dynamic and capture opportunity in rapidly shifting conditions is essential for true success.
There is always a new generation entering the workforce – but now, for the first time, that new generation is one that has grown up always connected and always on-line. They enter the workforce approaching technology with new attitudes and new expectations. This both demands evolution from business software, and enables new scenarios.
Today, many banks highlight giving customers the ability to deposit checks by simply photographing them with a smartphone app. This is not just about new technology; it's also about a generation of users that is comfortable with the scenario.
Delivering this capability twenty years ago to a generation of users that carefully clutched their savings account passbooks would have been as impossible as the technology itself seemed at the time.
Moreover, the new generation entering the workforce blurs personal life and business life, driving individual preferences for work styles and devices. They demand access to anyone or anything from anywhere at any time on any device.
At work they expect the same intuitive experience they have in the rest of their lives with their slates, smartphones, and social networks. This goes beyond the consumerisation of Information Technology (IT); it is the consumerisation of enterprise.
In early 2012 we are observing many signs of recovery from the adverse economic events of 2009. Situations vary in different geographies, but US stock markets are at levels surpassing pre-meltdown prices.
Car companies are again thriving. Employment in many areas is dramatically improved. Still, some impacts appear far more permanent – defining a new economic reality or a "new normal".
One dimension permanently changed by this new economic reality is the way in which businesses look at software projects. The era of IT projects centered solely on a technology agenda, scoped as wholesale systems replacement, or with investment extending over multiple years against a promise of future benefits is over.
Time to value is now an essential component of any investment – shortening the time between initial expense and positive economic benefits returned to the business is critical. Paying for capability and capacity as used instead of up-front investment for anticipated usage is expected.
The change concerns not only how software is acquired, implemented and deployed, but also how projects are scoped. To meet the criteria of the new reality, business software must be able to address operational areas or workloads sequentially, driven by the ability to capitalise on an opportunity for the business – rather than the old model of replacing entire systems generationally. The new economic reality has reshaped how successful software must be sold, implemented and deployed.
The cloud is emerging as the most significant technology shift in a generation. Beyond running today's applications in a new way, the cloud is enabling a set of business solutions that were previously impractical at best.
Connected supply chains, powered by cloud hubs, are changing the way many businesses operate. The role of the cloud will be different for every business, but it is likely to drive significant change across nearly every industry.
"Big data" technology, often cloud deployed, will enable businesses to analyse previously inconceivable quantities of data, revealing insights that can empower better informed decisions. People connect to the cloud through a world of diverse new devices from smartphones to slates, along with their desktop and laptop computers.
More than just people, an internet of smart devices will capture information, push it to the cloud – in many cases driving the "big data" analytics – and respond to signals from cloud-based analysis and control services.
As business becomes increasingly global, changing geopolitical conditions such as policy, regulation and energy costs must be rapidly understood and factored into operational strategies. Disruptions in one part of the world can ripple quickly through connected supply chains.
Successful businesses must react with increasing speed to these changing conditions, and must balance growing numbers of factors to achieve their true potential. Speed and complexity drive new software requirements, including the ability to facilitate connected collaboration and identify optimal strategies.
Organisations must address these new realities to succeed in today's diverse and agile business environment. They are also the design principles fueling Microsoft's approach to modern business solutions. We've captured them in a concept we call "Dynamic Business", and we seek to support companies on their transformative path.
It's about people
People manage relationships internally and externally to drive relevant actions forward. The most successful businesses are powered by individuals who are contributing fully, able to make a difference, and committed to their company's success. Microsoft can help individuals – and organisations – realise their full potential and drive significant impact by offering an end to end business solution that is flexible and easy to use.
A study released by the Harvard Business School in 2011 reported that, even more than salary level, the leading source of job satisfaction is the ability to make a difference and deliver results. Moreover, the researchers found that workers who were able to be truly productive were not only happier, but also enjoyed stronger career advancement.
This link between job satisfaction and productivity is one reason we believe that business applications must go beyond delivering functionality to helping inspire passion in individuals. Another reason is the growing evidence showing that the user experience impacts hiring and retention.
At Microsoft we believe that by delivering systems that both equip and impassion individuals, we can help our customers go beyond improving their businesses to transforming them at every level. We can help them break through the electronic concrete that has plagued the business applications industry for years.
Impassioned and empowered individuals are a company's greatest asset; when organisations can realise the full potential of their people they see substantive business impact. The Dynamic Business we envision deploys people-centered, end-to-end solutions that both help employees work better and inspire them to a higher level of commitment, innovation and leadership.
To read more of the whitepaper Dynamic Business: From Aspiration to Reality, go here