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Microsoft CEO Nadella Outlines Forward-Looking Tech Trends

Hybrid workplaces, hyperconnectivity, digital business, and cybersecurity may be key priorities for organizations.

In his keynote at last week’s Microsoft Ignite virtual conference, CEO Satya Nadella laid out a possible road ahead for organizations that face structural changes that could reshape how they operate. He touched on concepts that have taken off in recent times -- digital wallets, telehealth, curbside pickups, and contactless shopping -- yet Nadella said there is more to come with hybrid work, hyperconnectivity, and other areas.

“The case for digital transformation has never been more urgent,” he said. “Digital technology is a powerful deflationary force in an inflationary economy.” Businesses large and small may improve productivity and affordability of their products and services, Nadella said, by building up their technology focus.

By his reckoning, even more digitization among businesses is due in the next 10 years compared with the previous 40 years. “Fundamentally, we’re moving from a mobile and cloud era to an era of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence,” Nadella said. It should be noted that many trends he spoke to also align with resources and services Microsoft pitched during the conference.

Creating New Hybrid Workplaces

Hybrid work, which has altered how, where, and when people do their jobs, is expected to continue to flourish, he said, though some paradoxes have emerged in what the workforce wants. For example, 70% of workers want flexible, remote work options to continue, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index. However, 65% of workers want more in-person time with their teams.

In another conflicting split, Nadella said 58% of workers indicated they plan to spend the most time in the office to better focus on their jobs while another 58% of workers said they plan to spend the least time in the office for the very same reason. Nadella did not explain the overlapping percentages presented from the responses he cited.

The desire for options in flexibility in hybrid work may be a significant factor in how job candidates respond to companies seeking new hires. More people than ever are changing jobs, Nadella said, with 41% of employees considering to leave their current employers, according to the index. Every organization, he said, will need a new digital fabric for collaboration that combines digital and physical spaces. “When it comes to hybrid work, there is no standard, and flexibility will be key.”

A Need for Hyperconnectivity

There is a desire to continue to build hyperconnected businesses, Nadella said, as sweeping transformation is underway. With the onset of the pandemic, there was a need to pivot sales, customer service, and manufacturing to be remote-ready, he said. Going forward, such features will be built-in by design, Nadella said. Supply chain resilience will also be essential for suppliers.

“We need that next level of real-time hyperconnectivity between businesses and between consumers and businesses where data and intelligence flow freely,” he said. Sales and marketing will be more proactive as well. “Going forward, every business process will be collaborative, powered by AI, and bridge the digital and physical worlds.”

Continue to Get Digital

Every business is becoming a digital business, Nadella said, with a growing reliance on multi-cloud, multi-edge infrastructure. Furthermore, computing is becoming distributed and embedded in the real world, he said, with application models transforming rapidly to run on the edge with ambient intelligent capabilities. “The percentage of industrial control systems that will include analytics and AI inference capabilities at the edge will increase by sixfold in the next four years,” Nadella said, from 5% now to 30% by 2025.

He also said every business will need a more distributed, intelligent, autonomous computing fabric that allows for the rapid build and deployment of applications anywhere.

Enforcing Security

The complexity of going remote in the pandemic will continue to increase, Nadella said, and with that comes an ongoing worry of securing those systems. Cybercrimes currently cost $6 trillion annually, he said, citing Cybersecurity Ventures, and by 2025 that is expected to increase to $10.5 trillion annually. This will drive a need for more security resources across platforms, multi-cloud, and zero-trust architecture. “Cybersecurity is the biggest threat to digital transformation today and it’s the No. 1 risk facing every business going forward,” Nadella said. “Every organization needs comprehensive tools across identity, security, compliance, privacy, as well as management.”

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