Microsoft showcases sustainable hybrid work solutions at Gitex 2021

Mohammed Arif, Business Group Director, Modern Workplace and Security for Microsoft UAE, talks about Microsoft’s efforts to provide seamless, secure and sustainable hybrid work solutions to address modern-day working.

Can you highlight how Windows 11 addresses the needs of today’s hybrid working?

Windows 11 was built during the pandemic. The pandemic has changed the way we work, hence we at Microsoft, ensured that this new installment addresses the needs of hybrid work. One important differentiating factor is that, Windows 11 is the most secure OS that has ever been built. Security is one of the key challenges of hybrid work which we have addressed.

Secondly, the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s wellbeing. Keeping that in mind we have tried to build a product that would offer a much calmer and pleasingly aesthetic user interface, right from the rounded corners to every icon and clicks, along with a whole new bunch of productivity tools.
Lastly, this edition is our most inclusive operative system ever. We realized that if you do not include intentionally in your design, you’re unintentionally excluding people, especially people with challenges. So, there’s a whole bunch of accessibility features and inclusivity features that we have built into Windows 11.


What support does the Government agencies in the Middle East, especially UAE, offering in its pursuit to ensure sustainable growth?

Sustainability initiatives have big dependency on the Government of a country. We are very thankful to the government of UAE. The UAE government is very keen on sustainability. The government themselves have a 2040 plan around sustainability goals. So we feel great that we live in and work in a country where sustainability matters. Globally, we have signed up for a lot of sustainability goals, we aim to be carbon negative by 2030, we actually aim to take back all the carbon that we have ever emitted as a company since we started in 1935 by 2050.

And finally, we’re partnering with a lot of our partners locally to build sustainable solutions and platforms required by both our private and public sector customers. A good example of that is the showcase we have at Gitex. We have a smart city dashboard showcase with Schneider Electric and AVEVA. It essentially shows how to use technologies like AI and IoT and advanced analytics to surface real insights into how a city functions, right from, traffic management, air quality, and that enables leadership’s of cities to make decisions around sustainability. Our customers look at us as a trusted advisor to help them on their sustainability journey.


How has Microsoft strengthened its Partner ecosystem in addressing the escalating digitization needs in this region?

Microsoft has seen 10 years worth of digital transformation packaged in a few months, literally, all of this is because of the pandemic. That of course, has put us at the forefront to help provide the technology solutions that facilitate this transformation. Now, what most people don’t always realize is that Microsoft is a partner led company, we are a channel-led company, we primarily provide the platform as a solution that partners can then build on top. To show as an example, we have 16 partners at Gitex. We’re showcasing a lot of solutions that are built on top of the Microsoft Cloud. One example of that was Schneider electric and Aveva, who built on top of the Microsoft Azure platform to then kind of address that digital transformation. And that’s where we are very uniquely differentiated. We provide the platforms required for others to build the solution to address the digital transformation needs of this era.


How has Microsoft adapted its product to take advantage of the top technology trends of 2021?

There are a couple of key trends that we’ve seen influence on how we look at our product design.

The big one, of course, is the hybrid way of work. Our research shows that 70% of people absolutely love the flexibility they got when they did remote work. At the same time that 70% also want more in person time with their colleagues. As a technology company how would you solve this hybrid paradox? how do you design for collaboration solutions, that give you the best of both worlds? So that’s one key trend. And you’ll see a lot of these features show up in our products like teams. We recently announced something called Microsoft Viva, which is the employee experience platform. Today the digital experience is increasingly becoming the experience for employee. So how do you build that cohesive employee experience, so that’s one key trend that we are trying to address.

Other key one is the security. The security landscape has completely changed. We designed for what we call perimeter less security. All of our products are designed with that concept in the core. And one key foundational concept that we build into our products, as well as we advocate, as an architecture model for customers is what we call zero trust. The Zero trust means, you don’t trust anything or anybody who’s trying to access have access to your system through your data, you expect a user to prove his identity or prove his location of access. And it gives you more security, because by design, you have put on layers of how access is provided. And second, it ensures that people can continue to work from anywhere. So, those are the two major trends that we are building our solutions around.


What are your key takeaways from GITEX 2021?

First, I’m thrilled to see people back. To see people face to face. A lot of us have missed that. And even with that, we definitely see that there’s no going back to the era of the past. This is a new era. And that’s exciting. There are new challenges that we need to solve. At this Gitex, we get to showcase and talk to customers about all of those, about navigating this new hybrid way of work and how to build resilient solution. Resilience has become a big topic, because the one thing the pandemic taught us is to expect the unexpected. We need to build our systems in a way that we’re prepared for that unexpected. So, we got a chance to talk about that in this edition of Gitex.

And finally, sustainability is a huge theme, it talks about the future of not just one country, but the entire world. So, we get a chance to talk about sustainable solutions that are built on our cloud during this Gitex.


As Microsoft, what are the major disruptions in technology do you expect in the next couple of years?

So again, it’s hard to predict but we do believe that one key part is that the way we work will continue to change. It will continue to kind of play a key role in determining the evolution of a new disruptive trend.

We believe cybersecurity will continue to trend up as a topic. As more digital transformation happens, more security opportunities are provided for the hackers. So, customers need to figure out how they address that. As a company, we just announced that over the next five years Microsoft will invest $20 billion in security solutions. It’s a fourfold increase from where we stood. So, you can imagine where that’s headed.

Climate change is possibly the most pressing issue of our time. And we see our customers are becoming more conscious of that and come to us for sustainable solutions, which essentially means technology vendors like ourselves need to help customers build eco conscious and sustainable solutions.


And how do you see your growth in this region?

We as a platform are really encouraged by the fact that during this time of need, a lot of customers turned to technology as Savior, and trusted us as their key technology advisor. We want to continue to play that role. Of course, that role helps us address both, their articulated as well as their unarticulated needs. Needs that they didn’t quite realize that they require and we feel that will ultimately lead to our growth.


How does Microsoft intend to support the budding startups and the SMEs in this region?

There are a few areas of focus, we actually have a group internally, which is the Microsoft for startups, where we try to help incubate startups and provide them with the necessary tools and our cloud solutions. So that there they are able to grow. We did a survey which showed recently that there are over 4000 startups in the region that we have been able to support.

Another key pillar for us is reskilling. How do we help startups SMEs skill up on technology? Technology skills are still scarce, especially in niche areas like AI. So, we have conducted a lot of hackathons and have built an online platform called Cloud society, which enables people to scale themselves up. So that’s a big area of focus for us.