If you value your business, don’t go on a date with Microsoft
Microsoft is the kind of person you’d love your daughter or son to date; hugely successful, intelligent, a great communicator, and has a sum of wealth that will take care of the family for generations.
Since 1975, Microsoft has worked hard at defining itself as a leader in technology; inventing one of the first computer operating systems and gifting the world Excel spreadsheets and the Xbox.
It’s quickly become a household name and last year was crowned the ‘World’s Most Valuable Company’ when it hit a market cap of US$851 billion - worthy of any hand in marriage.
So what’s not to like?
Well, if you were thinking of dating them in a business capacity, then probably a few things.
I have to say, after a few dates with Microsoft, our business relationship got off to a bit of a rocky start.
Our values just didn’t seem to align.
My business Illuminance Solutions was more concerned about social impact, while theirs seemed, well, more profit driven. In the beginning, talking about the weather seemed a much safer option.
Illuminance Solutions depends on Microsoft’s cloud services platform to service not-for-profits (NFPs).
And because NFPs don’t bring in large amounts of licensing revenue, I think Microsoft was more interested in the sharply-dressed mining and resources sector, and government accounts flush with cash. Even a shiny Gold Partner status did not turn their head.
Microsoft seemed blinded by a love of KPIs, fixated on the dollar value of sales and ultimately stock prices to flirt with shareholders - it didn’t appreciate our community reach and social impact.
But then Microsoft had a moment that inspired it to become the best version of itself and a life partner for us. I was in love.
At the start of 2014 Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s third CEO and hit the reset button.
During his first year in the position Microsoft stock jumped 14 per cent, and in 2018 the company’s stock price was almost triple what it was in 2014.
This was a man I could identify with - Satya’s vision wasn’t just about reorganizing business operations to drive revenue and keep shareholders happy.
In his book Hit Refresh, The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, Satya told employees that renewing the company’s culture would be his highest priority.
“I told them I was committed to ruthlessly removing barriers to innovation so we could get back to what we all joined the company to do - to make a difference in the world,” he wrote.
Creating tech with a social impact was top of mind for Satya, as it has always been for me, defining Microsoft’s mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”.
Satya’s vision couldn’t have been more of a perfect match for Illuminance Solutions; how our business supports the wider community is the legacy I want to leave too.
Windows of Opportunities
In December 2015, Microsoft announced the formation of Microsoft Philanthropies, a new organization within the company, committed to generating social impact.
Not long after, Microsoft pledged US$1 billion in cloud services to nonprofit groups and universities - and while Microsoft has had a strong history of making sizeable financial contributions, this time, under Satya’s influence, it wasn’t just about money.
In 2017, Microsoft launched Technology for Social Impact (TSI), a division dedicated to building tech products for the nonprofit sector, something Illuminance Solutions had been doing since its inception.
TSI has since helped nonprofit organizations around the world accelerate organizational efficiency with technology, including Medical Teams International, which has transformed medical care for more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees as well as Ugandan citizens.
Using the Microsoft Azure platform and mobile app, Medical Teams International automated data collection via the creation of a digital health information system, which has since improved the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis, helping to curb the spread of infectious diseases.
Rooted in the philosophy that it's “impossible to be an empathetic leader sitting in an office behind a computer screen all day”, Satya also saw the potential for Microsoft’s business partners to lead with empathy, opening windows of opportunities in their local communities.
So naturally, Microsoft and Illuminance Solutions became the ultimate power couple.
Built using Microsoft’s cloud technology platform, Illuminance Solutions developed AvantCare, an integrated client and services information management platform for disability service providers to ease the transition into the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme.
We’ve since helped several community organizations transform their business practices, in particular AvantCare has reduced the time wasted on administrative tasks giving nonprofits more time to spend on client care delivery.
And in recognition Microsoft sealed the deal, inviting us into the Dynamics 365 Insider Program - Microsoft Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator.
Although Satya’s vision is still flowing down through Microsoft, it's a future worth waiting for.
I know it won't be long until Microsoft moves on from its "ex" (financial KPIs), and embraces its new love: social impact.
In a time where global communities have become increasingly digitized, marrying purpose with tech has never been more relevant for business - for profit and for legacy.
So that’s why you should never go on just one date with Microsoft; only a long-term relationship will let you create something special that helps make the world a better place.