Microsoft Unveils Customer Immersion Experience
On the 28th of January, Microsoft Sri Lanka unveiled their Customer Immersion Experience (CIE) facility at their offices at Navam Mawatha. A bunch of people were invited for the presentation, which was nice. TechAdvisor.lk was one of them. Which was also nice.
The facility is basically a converted white meeting room with a big white table, three huge LCD screens, different sized notebook PCs on the table, mobile phones and two presentation podiums, all running Microsoft software and connected to each other. Perhaps my expectations were running too high. When someone says ‘immersed’ I expect to require scuba gear. I didn’t require scuba gear.
We weren’t however, subjected to Powerpoint presentations, for which I am eternally grateful. If Dante’s Inferno were written now, there’d be a chapter on Powerpoint presentations. Nor were we forced to sit back and watch a marketing video while people stood around us, expecting us to clap enthusiastically. There was an introductory video, but it was the good sort: short, interesting and indicative of the image Microsoft was aiming for.
Rena Chai, chief marketing and operations officer of Microsoft South East Asia New Markets, started off the presentation talking about how Microsoft was looking at mobility first and foremost. Not just mobility of devices, but of data, and of dealing with the majority of your work through the cloud. Rena said that Microsoft wanted to reinvent productivity, build intelligent cloud platforms, and create more personal computing. And while they have plenty of tools to do that, it’s hard to get an idea of what these tools can do just by looking at a spec sheet. Thus Microsoft created the CIE so that customers could get a bit more hands on.
Speaking about the newly-opened CIE facility, Brian Kealey, Microsoft country manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives said, “It is an exciting time for us to introduce the CIE facility to Sri Lanka as part of a global Microsoft initiative. This facility is a hands-on experience centre where we will work with organisations and our partners to share industry best practices showcasing how we are reinventing productivity and business processes. This is a key part of our mission to help every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. The productivity of Sri Lankan organisations is key to achieving our fullest potential in the global market and I see it as core to our mission of enabling Sri Lanka achieve its potential.”
Sri Lanka has been getting some love from Microsoft in the past few years, with the company investing in plenty of partner organisations.
“Microsoft sees Sri Lanka as a high growth market in South East Asia and decided to set-up an in-country CIE facility so that more business leaders in the country can experience the benefits of digital transformation and how best to engage a mobile workforce,” said Rena.
Brian Kealey and Rena Chai then ran us through a simulation in the CIE facility. The simulation involved a fictitious company that Brian was working for. He receives an email on his phone that raises concerns about a product of this company. He then goes on to Yammer (a social network for business collaboration) to create a conversation and see if anyone else is having similar concerns about this product. Once he finds out that there are similar concerns about the product, he heads to Microsoft Delve to find someone who is an expert, which in this case is social media and marketing.
While Brian is role-playing the scenario, we get to see what’s happening in real time on the three huge screens. He then uses Skype to call the expert (in this case played by Rena) who then adds another user (one of the computers placed among the audience). They then run through an analytics dashboard created by Microsoft Power BI, some fancy 3D models appear, and they target the root of the problem and can work on finding a solution.
In a way, the CIE made it much easier to get an idea of how Microsoft tools can mesh together to get work done for you. Even someone who is not an IT professional can get caught up in the narrative of the facilitator and understand the importance of a good information system.
As the company says, “…the CIE puts the customer in the driver’s seat for a rich, interactive experience. It is a unique, risk-free opportunity to explore Microsoft’s solutions by role- playing in a “true-to-life” environment. A trained facilitator leads executives to discover the right solutions for their business and helps them experience the future of productivity.”
So far, the CIE seems to be doing its job. Well done Microsoft.
The software giant celebrated its 40th birthday last April but seems determined to prove that it is still relevant. And it is working. Their marketing strategies are better, cool things are coming out of Microsoft Garage, and their products seem to have gained a new lease of life.
When I met the team at Microsoft Sri Lanka, they were smart, energetic, and thrilled to be there. It is a good sign. Whatever Microsoft is doing, I hope they keep doing it, because it is cool to be Microsoft again.