What according to you are some of the top Microsoft technology trends to watch out for in 2023?
As many tech companies indicated on the earning calls earlier this month with numerous mentions of AI (Nvidia - 75 Times, Google – 62 Times, Microsoft – 31 Times, etc.), AI is a technology trend to watch out for in 2023. With Microsoft announcing their extended partnership with OpenAI earlier in January and shortly after releasing their OpenAI Bing Browser as well as integrating ChatGPT’s/OpenAI’s capabilities into their existing product lines (Microsoft Teams Premium supporting Large Language Models powered by OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 to make meetings more intelligent, personalized, and protected – e.g. via intelligent recap users can take advantage of AI-generated chapters, AI-generated notes and AI-generated tasks and action for example), I think especially in the Microsoft ecosystem we can expect some interesting traction on that front. It will certainly impact industries, jobs/roles and how we work and interact at the workplace and in private life. There are so many use cases and opportunities for adopting AI capabilities – especially in ERP/CRM field - such as smart Chatbots and conversational AI to handle customer inquiries and provide relevant and context-aware responses, efficient information retrieval and knowledge management to automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks (such as data processing and text generation) freeing up time for other higher value adding tasks, and so many more. As Satya Nadella stated earlier this year “The AI race starts today and we’re going to move and move fast. Most importantly we want to have a lot of fun innovating again...” So, there are a lot of exciting things that I expect on that front.
Another trend that I am tracking is Mixed Reality – and here more AR than VR at this point. Via blend of physical and digital worlds and unlocking natural and intuitive 3D human, computer, and environmental interaction, Mixed Reality can be a massive value-add – industry agnostic – in Healthcare, Manufacturing, Asset Management, Training/Education, Retail. There are so many use cases I can see Mixed Reality making a huge impact in – especially for frontline workers. Actively working with Microsoft’s Hololens 2 and building/creating offerings/solutions around Microsoft’s Mixed Reality business applications such as Guides or Remote Assist, I can see MR as a true industry disrupter in the near future. It should be already on every organization’s radar to at least assess if not formulate a Mixed Reality strategy to not miss out on the journey/miss the train here. Also, with Apple expected to release (status-quo even though postponed till later this year– if we can trust the news) their consumer Mixed Reality devices, I can see a wider adoption in the consumer market being also very beneficial for business use cases/adoption.
Another trend (Disclaimer: That has been a trend for a while now) I am still following is automation –From RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and use cases to execute lower value adding/repetitive tasks such as data entry, invoice processing, etc. via RPA bots what allows employees to spend more time on higher value adding tasks over automation via robotics such as warehouse automation. Being efficient and resourceful becomes more and more important in a competitive market place and automation plays right in here (Tying back to the 2 examples – how do I free up more resources internally – here: time – for higher value adding tasks (RPA) or how do we most efficiently allocate, pick, put and pack inventory and process orders to reduce cost/processing times/lead times (warehouse automation)) Amazon and their fulfilment centers are a prime example of how robotics and warehouse automation can aid efficiencies (For example, Amazon debuted their fully autonomous warehouse robot a year back – called Proteus)
While those are bigger picture trends, in the MSFT ecosystem I would say that low code no code is another trend to still keep in mind. The need for business solutions and system supported business processes that may not be covered by an ERP/CRM per se and the clear developer shortage, requires organizations to think differently. More and more organizations empower employees to be citizen developers with low code no code platforms. (e.g. PowerPlatform) Such empowers tech affine business user/end users to create business solutions from the ground-up in a short turn around - The Excel, Powerpoint, Access DB from back in the days, will slowly move over to low code no code platforms such as PowerPlatform. And the beauty is here, that all of such solutions can run on one common data model (DataVerse). Microsoft is providing users the tools to solve the problem and business users can play an active role to solve problems and create a solution that works for them.
Those are 4 of the trends that I am tracking actively and having on my radar in 2023.
What are some opportunities you would be looking at next year?
I would watch out and assess opportunities in context to the above trends. As of the current economic situation (high inflation, raised interest rates, capital being more expensive, layoffs as a result, fear of a recession), many organizations are hesitant on additional capital/IT expenditures/investments. Investing in the right areas, the right technologies as well as choosing the right technology/implementation partners in such times is even more important – knowing your organization’s immediate needs and pain points and addressing/relieving such with technologies/products/solutions as illustrated in the above trends can strongly position your organization in the industry and set you up for sustainable success even more in such uncertain economic environments. It’s more about being resourceful and spending resources for the right aspects (how can I get more competitive/more efficient) – less being hesitant and not investing at all in solutions/technologies (stagnating). As already addressed above, I am specifically very excited to see more Mixed Reality adoption in the consumer and business market as well as more integrated AI capabilities in Microsoft’s product lines. Overall, I am confident we are moving more and more to a point in time where it’s not only about digital transformation but also about optimizing processes – both, business process or IT process. Again, picking up the thought about being resourceful – Both, MR and AI, will help to do so (how do I decrease time for repetitive tasks and move to higher value adding tasks (e.g. via RPA/Automation/AI), how can I optimize my process, how can I support my process better, how can I execute processes in alignment with safety standard and quality assurance (e.g. via MR guides while being hands free)). Exciting times ahead.
Would you like to share some tips on Dynamics 365 Implementation/Migration?
The most important factors/tips - in my opinion - are:
- Project planning: Structure, organization and planning (e.g. Detailed planning on project goals, success factors, timeline &, scope, approach & methodology, entry and exit criteria for project phases, resources & availability of key players on client side, etc.) are key to a project’s success. A client/prospect should thoroughly address such proactively with his/her implementation partner of choice to ensure there is no room for assumption and there is alignment/consensus.
- Client Involvement: While the implementation partner brings expert knowledge from industry, Microsoft technologies and best practices to the table, every organizations has its unique business processes (secret sauce) and is operating/managed in a different way. It is important to secure key SME’s time/availability and have consistent client involvement/active discussions to address such uniqueness, account for such in recommendations and allow a client to make informed decisions later on.
- Openness to change: Often, there is some barrier to change. An implementation should be considered an opportunity to change processes that may have not been executed efficiently in the past– not as additional work to learn a new process. Be open to change and do not simply try to replicate status-quo in a new system. Proper Change Management helps to facilitate that mindset/thinking.
- Follow a MVP approach: To avoid scope creep, it is important to align on an MVP approach. We want to build a house – let’s first build the foundation and ground floor before we add on a 2nd floor and the roof and add some elevators and cherries on the cake. We at Mazars offer MazarsNow Rapid implementation offerings for Retail/Commerce, Warehousing, Mixed Reality and Procurement that brings a customer up and running in a fixed scope fixed price engagement. (foundation/ground floor) This gives you a ROI in a short turnaround and you can use the solution while you are working on phase 2 and adding on to your foundational solution. Often, start with you most immediate needs (e.g. Ecommerce MazarsNow Offering if you have Ecommerce needs) and then add on feature/functions in a phase 2 engagement that were prioritized lower. A clear roadmap can help to create clarity of where we are going over the next X months/years and can give the blueprint of how the house is to be built (and what to be considered to reach the end goal).
- Choice of implementation partner: This is long term strategic decision - you should choose an implementation partner that is in alignment with you and your organization in respect to innovation, people, industry, culture, capabilities and vision. It’s a digital transformation journey – not a sprint.
What is the potential for Microsoft Partners in The USA?
There is large potential/a great opportunity to provide value and help organizations change/advance and accompany such on their digital transformation journey side by side as trusted advisors. There is a strong need for such partnerships as technology advances quickly and an organization needs to stay on top of newest trends to stay competitive – picking up the trend thought from above.
How can we leverage Microsoft 365 and Power Apps for improved collaboration?
PowerPlatform enables/empowers business user with low code no code. As addressed above, all based on a common Data mode (DataVerse) – business users can create/collaborate on solutions for their unique business cases and can take advantage of the same underlying data model – picking up the thought about collaboration. A nice example of how PowerApps can improve collaboration is that you can use such in Mixed Reality Guides on the Hololens 2. You can basically interact with the backbone ERP/CRM via PowerApp (with help of Premium Connectors) in Mixed Reality and e.g. look-up onhand inventory or trigger a PO creation in D365FO direct via interaction on the Hololens while being handsfree and on the shopfloor. It enables a different way of working as well as collaborating.
What is the best event that you attended recently? What were your key takeaways?
One of my favorite events each year is the North America Microsoft Dynamics Communities Summit – Last year it was hosted in Orlando. From current/former coworkers & peers, over Microsoft & Microsoft MVP team, customers and prospects, to ISVs and partners, it is always great to reconnect with so many familiar faces from many stages in professional and private life and to see, speak and exchange ideas/thoughts with so many likeminded Microsoft advocates and experts. The knowledge sharing (best practices, lessons learned, new features) throughout 4 days of speaking sessions is a key take away. Learning is a never-ending process and it’s a lifelong learning journey. I personally try to attend as many sessions as possible while also contributing myself with presenting a handful of speaking sessions. Last year, I held a live demo on Hololens 2 and Mixed Reality Guide supported Asset Management inspection lists for example. Another event that I am very much looking forward to is the Microsoft DynamicsMinds Conference in Slovenia in May 2023 where I will speak about Hololens 2 and Mixed Reality guide supported manufacturing processes. The goal is to continue creating awareness around Mixed Reality to open the doors for many more organizations embracing their Mixed Reality journey.
What’s your success mantra?
Lead with kindness. Explore with curiosity. Perform for the standard. Those are my 3 guiding principles in every touchpoint professionally & in private life. Lived and breathed daily for my family & friends, for my coworker, peer & firm, and last but not least for my clients.