Creating intelligent digital connections

For manufacturers, it’s no longer just about building digital connections. These days, those connections must be intelligent and actionable, Microsoft’s Colin Masson tells IT contributing editor Malcolm Wheatley.

Colin Masson, global industry director for manufacturing & distribution, Microsoft.
Colin Masson, global industry director for manufacturing & distribution, Microsoft.

With its extensive range of business applications – among them Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV and CRM, Microsoft Office, Azure, Yammer and Skype for Business (formerly Lync) – it’s immediately obvious that Microsoft’s vision of the future is one that is going to beneficially impact most manufacturers.

And with Convergence 2015 – Microsoft’s annual conference for its business customers – having taken place in Atlanta in March, it has become clearer how Microsoft sees its technology road map meshing with manufacturers’ own perennial drive to work more efficiently and effectively right across their operations.

Specifically, the impetus is to add intelligence to business processes: providing a platform to address everything from intelligent customer engagement, right through to intelligent manufacturing and distribution operations.

“Businesses are hungry to seize new opportunities using technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics,” stressed Microsoft’s chief executive Satya Nadella in a keynote presentation at Convergence 2015 to showcase new products and services built by Microsoft to empower businesses and individuals to derive insight and action from their data.

“Only when businesses create a culture that empowers everyone to have access to data and insight that drive action will they be positioned to truly transform.”

CxOs Top of Mind in 2015 - Microsoft Infographic

And right at the heart of the action in Atlanta, busily briefing analysts and giving customer presentations, was Microsoft’s global industry director for manufacturing and distribution, Colin Masson, who highlighted what manufacturers should be looking out for as the new tools and technologies announced at Convergence make their way through Microsoft’s sales and marketing channels in the weeks and months ahead.

“The Spring 2015 release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM will take intelligent customer engagement to the next level, delivering significant performance enhancements, deepening its interoperability with Office 365, and offering new knowledge management enhancements to improve efficiency and collaboration between workers and businesses,” he told The Manufacturer.

“On the Internet of Things front, we’re bringing together a variety of Azure services within our new Azure IoT Suite to help our customers accelerate their transformation to digital businesses using smart connected products.

Available in preview later this year, it will provide manufacturers with finished applications targeting common Internet of Things scenarios, such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance.

“Meanwhile, Office Delve is a prime example of how Microsoft is reimagining productivity to help people work in new and more connected ways. Delve is an experience within Office 365 that surfaces relevant content and insights tailored to each person.

“It is powered by the Office Graph, an intelligent fabric that applies machine learning to map the connections and interactions between people and content that occur across Office 365.”

Mircosoft - LinkTaken together, sums up Masson, Microsoft’s latest capabilities and applications will increase the clear blue water that separates the company from some of its competitors.

“Everyone else is talking about ‘being connected’. But we’ve been doing that for years. What we’re now working towards is adding intelligence to those connections – using our technologies to add business context and create intelligent customer engagement and intelligent operations that are personalised, predictive and proactive.”