Attending Microsoft Ignite and Microsoft Envision last week in Orlando only offered further confirmation that PROS has chosen a partner who is prepared for the digital disruptions that lie ahead. From the opening keynote of Ignite, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that Microsoft is committed to building the infrastructure needed to prepare its partners and customers for the workplace of the future. As a company whose technology is delivered on Azure, and fully aligned with Microsoft, it has been incredibly gratifying to engage in these forward-looking conversations.
For those who couldn’t make it to Orlando, below are our top takeaways from the conferences:
Mixed Reality, AR & VR Are the New Frontier of Collaboration
During his opening keynote, Nadella highlighted the technologies that differentiate Microsoft, including innovations in mixed reality and AI. Companies such as Ford Motor Company are already utilizing Microsoft’s mixed reality offerings through HoloLens to better collaborate on designs in a fully secure manner.
Microsoft believes we are in a new era of collaboration, whereby teams can use mixed and augmented reality to work together on the same shared experience, anywhere around the world. While the demonstration on stage may have seemed a little “out there” for the average person, the reality is many of Microsoft’s partners and customers are ready to embrace AR.
At the PROS Ignite Booth last week, we showcased the latest Smart CPQ innovations using AR with hundreds of attendees experiencing our onsite demo with HTC’s VIVE™. We are continuing to innovative in this arena for a few reasons:
- As Nadella highlighted, VR & AR help companies better conceptualize designs that before had to be created physically (and painstakingly for that matter). It enables global collaboration on a single project.
- As we look toward the future of modern commerce, AR has a role there as well. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop using AR.
- At PROS, we know that B2B customer expectations have evolved. Your clients are looking for the frictionless, personalized experiences they have come to expect in the digital B2C world. As consumers start shopping in AR, it’s safe to assume this will directly impact B2B sales as well.
Embrace the Power of Partnership
At Microsoft Envision, my colleague Dewey Forrester, PROS VP of Global Alliances and Business Development, joined Peter Boit from Icertis and Microsoft’s Ron Huddleston and Toni Townes-Whitley, for a session on how partnerships can better enable digital transformation. Extending your partner network can help uncover previously untapped possibilities for applying technology across the business to achieve a full-scale digital transformation.
As Huddleston noted, working with partners should go beyond providing industry knowledge just for the sake of industry knowledge. Partners offer a specific POV, which they can leverage to curate a customer’s experience across their digital transformation.Dewey also addressed this: “When we go out and approach a digital transformation journey with a customer, we’re armed with experiences and background in their industry to do this well. Then we can formulate a strategy that resonates with them.”
Pricing: Your Digital Transformation’s Secret Weapon
Time and speed is the currency in modern commerce. A recent McKinsey B2B customer decision journey survey noted that “slow response time” is a buyer’s largest complaint. Companies will find they have a direct competitive advantage if they can turn around faster and smarter quotes by utilizing AI & machine learning technology. Thus, pricing and quoting must be a key component of your digital transformation strategy.
Many of the event’s conversations centered on digital transformation across verticals. PROS sessions from Tim Girgenti and my own session at Microsoft Ignite zeroed in on one key aspect: that dynamic pricing science is one of the most strategic weapons in a company’s digital transformation.
Modern commerce technologies enable businesses to better understand customer preferences and patterns, putting machine learning algorithms to good use analyzing vast amounts of customer buying behavior data. This knowledge, fueled by data science, makes it possible to offer highly personalized and frictionless experiences to customers. Modern commerce is driven by a deep understanding of what the customer wants, and knowing when and how they want it. Having that data on hand, embedded consistently into selling technology and processes, is a major advantage.
Pricing also has a dramatic effect on profitability. As I noted on stage at Microsoft Ignite, pricing is easiest variable to change in a sale and will have an immediate impact on the bottom line. For example, a one-percent increase in sales price will typically translate into an eight-to-nine percent increase in profitability. Changing anything else brings a much lower percentage return.
Two Must-Attend Events Are Better Than One
Ignite is one of Microsoft’s largest customer conferences, but this year the decision to host it concurrently with Envision drew an even more diverse crowd of attendees. It’s also worth noting Microsoft’s efforts to promote diversity throughout both conferences, from its “Women in Tech” sessions to Michelle Obama’s standing ovation in response to her “diversity begets diversity” theme. From coders to CEOs, for one week the technology community came together to collaborate on the technology of tomorrow. We’re proud to have been part of that.