HomeInterviewGiant’s-eye view of a business world in turmoil

Giant’s-eye view of a business world in turmoil

Microsoft ready to help Thai businesses to survive

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is harming businesses around the world, including the biggest of corporate giants, whose global overview offers an often unique perspective of resilience and recovery, at business and national levels.

Microsoft Corporation, one of the “big five” technology companies, including Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, has suffered like everyone else. Its business model is cloud-based and customers pay only for what they use. Its customers have reduced their use of Microsoft’s services due to COVID-19, so the corporation has lost revenue. But after 45 years in technology development and innovation, it has a clear view of how the world will recover.

The managing director of Microsoft (Thailand), Dhanawat Suthumpun, told The Story Thailand that recovery of national economies – indeed, efforts to heal the “entire system” – depended on how well individual businesses were able to adapt to the crisis.

For Microsoft, the process has three stages: responding to the crisis, recovering the business, and re-imagining. And each phase requires different solutions. Dhanawat foresees a particular change in the way businesses will seek to reconnect with customers.

“We believe that everyone will think of the customer experience in a personalized way, and advertisements will cater for targeted customers at the right place and in the right time. The offers will also be designed to please the targets,” he said.
That is one small aspect of recovering business behavior in the light of changing lifestyles.

Responding to changing workplace needs

“The upside [for Microsoft] is that, as a platform, we can respond to demands for new forms of working, studying, and even living a new lifestyle,” Dhanawat said.
People working from home can use Microsoft Teams for remote meetings. The platform enables work scheduling, information sharing, and workplace messaging.

At the height of the crisis, use of Microsoft Teams jumped 10-fold. Many people are still using the platform during recovery, as a large number of employees have found a preference for working from home with their efficiency intact. Many companies have adopted a hybrid format, allowing their employees to work from anywhere.

“The physical world and the virtual work have merged to form a hybrid,” Dhanawat said.
He went on to say that some companies had seen their revenue almost depleted during the crisis. In order to keep their businesses afloat, they cut back to lean operations and slashed costs. Automation became their answer in place of a human workforce.

Microsoft’s worldwide assistance to businesses includes free use of its Office 365 E1 line of subscription services for six months, beginning when COVID-19 outbreaks went global. That represents a massive investment on Microsoft’s part. More than 2,000 firms have registered to use the online productivity tools.

Where it comes to adjustment of business models, Microsoft offers support and solutions to business issues with cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Customers need no additional investment in hardware and software.

“Microsoft is a platform. But we are unlikely to succeed if we do it alone. We need to collaborate with start-ups and allies to develop a platform that can address the problems of companies and of Thailand,” Dhanawat said.

Joining the Thailand 4.0 drive

Dhanawat says Microsoft places much importance on the need to learn. Whatever type of business they are doing, organizations will never succeed if their people fail to reskill, upskill or adjust their attitudes. Microsoft also helps its business customers with digital transformations.

“We are a long-term ally of PTT, helping to reskill personnel with increased digital knowledge. We have also discussed reskilling and upskilling with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.”

Microsoft Thailand is also working with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) to help set up a National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Centre. The project involves matching start-ups with large enterprises, and allowing the start-ups to use Microsoft’s platform to develop solutions to the problems of enterprises in many industries. The project overcomes the problem of start-ups being unable to find buyers for the solutions they develop, and at the same time, gives a digital capability to large organizations that are incapable of developing their own systems.

“Another part involves support for reskilling people who are affected or unemployed. This is also a worldwide project,” Dhanawat said.

Healthcare is one of six industries on which Microsoft has focused its attention. In Thailand, there are laboratories that connect with Microsoft’s US headquarters, and information is shared to help make the world a safer place.

Dhanawat said Microsoft Thailand offered the Ministry of Public Health and private hospitals the use of artificial intelligence technology in lung scanning, in the fight against COVID-19. This has saved the precious time of medical personnel by as much as 80 per cent.

A changed business world, post COVID-19

Dhanawat says he is convinced of the need to practise social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But when things return to normal, people will interact with one another like before. However, not everyone will return to the old ways. Many companies and individuals have enjoyed the benefits of using technologies – of not having to travel for meetings or to attend classes. There has been a widespread discovery of what can be achieved online.

Even businesses that were erstwhile market disrupters cannot afford to remain idle and “sit pretty” in the new environment. Business practices and customer demands are constantly changing, and companies have to be well prepared with risk management. They must keep learning, and be quick to make changes whenever necessary, Dhanawat said.



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