Microsoft preached its "new world of work" mantra at the company's Global High Tech Summit 2007 conference in the U.S. last week.
Noting synergy between the disciplines of business and IT, the event is intended for professionals from both realms, said Tyler Bryson, Microsoft's newly announced general manager of the U.S. Manufacturing Industry portion of the company's Industry Solutions Organization.
"At Microsoft, we believe that alignment [of business and IT] is critical to innovation," Bryson said. Also featured at the event were speakers from chipmakers Intel and Freescale Semiconductor, who talked about modernizations to their systems and processes.
Trends are accelerating, such as globalization and market growth that are creating a new world of work, Bryson said. Other relevant trends include the pressure to improve operation performance, quality-driven regulatory compliance, and rapid cycles of product innovation.
Globalization and technology create entirely new ways that people think about work, and everyone must adjust and respond, said Bryson. "The world is transforming what it means to be at work," he said.
The morning's presentations had a bent toward high-tech manufacturing. Bryson said the National Association of Manufacturers expects a 40 percent turnover in the manufacturing work base; companies must cope with transferring knowledge to employees.
"Most manufacturers are reporting a shortage of skilled workers," he said. A culture of innovation must be created that can attract the best talent, said Bryson.
New tenets of work, according to Bryson, include creating a culture of innovation, empowering the workforce, driving operational excellence, running a customer-centric business, using compliance as a tool of transparency, and operating in a global environment.
At Freescale, the company is undertaking several upgrades, including moving to a single global instance of SAP for supply chain operations. Freescale is what Janelle Monney, senior vice president of business operations at the company, described as "a 50-year-old startup" that was part of Motorola until 2004.
The company also has initiatives in manufacturing and business intelligence, she noted. Freescale's business intelligence platform is intended to bring multiple data streams altogether into a single data warehouse.
"One of the key objectives of IT is to turn data into information for decision-making," said Monney.
Also, employees can access e-mail on mobile phones equipped with Windows OSes, she said.
With Intel, the company is extending itself to accommodate three market opportunities: mobile Internet devices, consumer electronics, and development of low-cost PCs, said Stuart Pann, an Intel vice president and co-general manager of customer fulfillment, planning and logistics.
"One of our goals is how do we configure the supply chain to take advantage of these new opportunities," Pann said.
Among other improvements, the company is developing a new workspace that is a fundamental change to the company's cubicle culture, he said. Phone booths will be created, more privacy options will be offered, and the company will get rid of underutilized office space, said Pann.
Also, author and consultant Geoffrey Moore, managing director of TCG Advisors, lectured on the challenges of finding a competitive advantage and innovation in a marketplace that faces frequent commoditization.
"You must innovate in order to continue to sustain advantage," Moore said.
Differentiation also is important, he said. Apple with its iPod has customers acknowledging it is different, he said. But past differentiation can erode so that a company's core competency is no longer core, he said.
"Our friends at Dell are dealing with that right now," with the industry catching up and Dell having to reinvent itself, said Moore.
Microsoft officials briefly noted the company's new unified communications platform, which features Office Communications Server and provides such capabilities as IM, voice, and videoconferencing.