Culture and technology make Microsoft innovative

Microsoft works with governments to create innovative smart city solutions and an environment for innovation

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Culture and technology make Microsoft innovative Employing cutting edge technology can help stimulate innovation, says Nimer. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 28, 2016

Ali Nimer, government solutions director, Microsoft Gulf, discusses how the company works with governments to create innovative smart city solutions and creating an environment for innovation

What are the outstanding innovations achieved by Microsoft to date?

The ability to come up with remarkable innovations has been Microsoft’s strength in the technology industry. Against this backdrop, Microsoft is working with governments around the world to contribute towards building smart and sustainable cities through Microsoft CityNext initiatives.

Microsoft CityNext is a people-first approach to innovation that empowers government, business and citizens to shape the future of their city. People-first means harnessing all the ideas, energy and expertise of a city’s people as they create a healthier, safer, more sustainable place to live. Microsoft is uniquely equipped to enable this people-first approach. No other company offers the broad portfolio of familiar, secure software, devices and services; the experienced network of hundreds of thousands of partners worldwide with relationships in nearly every major city around the globe; and the history of successful education and training programs, which collectively, propel cities toward what’s next.

In the United Arab Emirates, Microsoft is working with various government organisations to deliver Smart Innovative industry solutions that enable these entities to deliver enhanced citizen-centric services. For example, we developed DubaiNext, an application developed that puts people first, harnessing their ideas, energy, and expertise to create a sustainable living, with access to citizen-centric services, public safety, high-quality healthcare and education. The application is an illustration of how government leaders can leverage cloud-based information solutions to connect with citizens and offer services in real-time to report incidents and accidents, provide live traffic and emergency notifications to the public as well as general emergency information. DubaiNext also consists of a ‘Citizen ‘Sentiment Index’ which provides government officials with an opportunity to measure general sentiment and citizen happiness.

How do you encourage your personnel to be innovative?

Innovation is one of the key drivers of Microsoft’s operations. This is rooted in our personnel, owing to the conducive work environment. At Microsoft, we have a thriving culture that inspires our employees to be more innovative. They are given the required freedom to grow, rack up more skills, and advance in their careers. Furthermore, we always deploy cutting-edge technology, thus the working environment is continuously changing to reinvent productivity. For example; devices like the Surface Hub and solutions such as Office 365 including Skype for business and Yammer, help our employees collaborate better and to give birth to innovative ideas.

How do you create innovation in your wider ecosystem?

Innovation is basically about converting knowledge and ideas into new or improved products or services. It is about boosting efficiency and effectiveness of a product, process, or service. Microsoft has helped numerous customers realise it. Our work with the UAE’s Government Performance Department (GPD) and the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs helped them develop Ada’a 2.0, a comprehensive and integrated Performance Management System in order to collect data from all Ministries and Federal Authorities with the purpose of facilitating reporting and analysis of each governmental entity. By using BI tools, government officials receive timely data to improve processes, activities and decision making, through an automatic and integrating approach towards performance measurement and management.

The Dubai Health Authority uses Kinect for Windows to transform physical therapy. This first-of-its kind project in the region, known as Personal Therapist (PeThe), allows clinicians to track a patient’s range of movements and provide them with real-time feedback so they perform exercises at their own pace and from the comfort of their homes.

We worked with the Community Development Authority and Cyquent to utilize Lync’s (now called Skype for Business) functionality to help persons with hearing disabilities to better communicate with the Authority and receive services.

Microsoft and our global partner ecosystem are stirring innovation to enable a people-first approach through our end-to-end software, devices and services capabilities that meet a range of needs from the consumer-related demands of citizens to the mission-critical, enterprise demands of city operations.

Together with our partners, we want to help cities to transform operations and infrastructure by improving city functions with innovative partner solutions, leveraging the power of cloud computing to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, empowering employees with enterprise grade devices and apps, and enabling innovation through modern solutions and big data platforms.

Cities also need to engage citizens and businesses by delivering personalised services and apps with a people-centric approach, enabling real-time dialogue and spurring city app development and economic growth with open data initiatives.

Another aim is to accelerate innovation and opportunity through programs, most notably our company-wide global YouthSpark initiative, that empower youth with 21st century learning and personal development opportunities, expand digital inclusion with access and skills training, and nurture new businesses and innovators with resources and support to help cities compete in the global marketplace.

Through a people-first approach and strategic partnerships, cities can enable sustainable cycles of innovation, opportunity, and progress for years to come. The result? A city that can compete on the world stage as a premier destination where people can realize their full potential.

What is the best way to foster a culture of innovation within an organisation?

That innovation demands no fixed rules or templates — it requires only guiding principles. Creating a more innovative culture is an organic act that empowers the people working for the organisation to give their best and deliver results. At Microsoft, we want to empower every individual and organisation on the planet to do more and achieve more. This inspires us to build innovative solutions that are changing the way we live and work.

Whether its Windows 10, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, the family of Surface and Lumia Devices, or the Hololens; all of these are built on the pinnacle of innovation that is empowering people within and outside the organisation to unleash their creativity and drive results.

Are there any barriers to innovation?

Based on Boston Consulting Group’s research on innovation, the primary challenges of innovation include frustration in investing in the right ideas in the right markets with the right resources, absence of an ideal method to measure innovation, and absence of structured processes to drive transparency.

At Microsoft, we believe that constantly employing cutting edge technology in an organisation or company’s operations is an effective recipe for stimulating innovation that would help overcome any barriers.

Efficiency and performance are just the start. And developing a true vision requires innovation that addresses culture, process, and enabling technology comprehensively. Microsoft has a proven record of fostering innovation that is making the future real through inventions like Surface Pro 3, Microsoft Band, Kinect, Windows 10, Surface Hub, and HoloLens. Microsoft Innovation Centers 113 worldwide, are enabling organizations to become more innovative through access to technology, free software, and training.

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