Michel Van der Bel said transformation was the word of the week at Future Decoded

Michel Van der Bel: The Power of Transformation

By Michel Van der Bel, Managing Director, Microsoft UK

As I reflect on a great two days at Future Decoded, I wanted to share my event highlights with you.

Transformation was the word of the week at Future Decoded which showcased how our customers are transforming their organisations to change their futures, and where Microsoft itself continued our own transformation with the announcement of plans to deliver cloud services from the UK in the coming year.

In his day one keynote, Satya Nadella reflected on Microsoft’s three ambitions of more personal computing; making the most of the intelligent cloud; and reinventing productivity and business process. Drawing on UK examples like Kew Gardens, BioBeats and Just Giving, Satya painted a picture of how technology is helping these organisations and their people succeed. One of the most compelling examples he highlighted was Microsoft’s partnership with Guide Dogs – a true example of how technology can help everyone, blind and sighted, to achieve more in their daily lives.

Our roster of impressive speakers generously shared their strategies to increase employee engagement levels and boost productivity. These included Virgin Atlantic’s Craig Kreeger shedding light on his company’s innovation culture;  Mike Stone, MoD’s chief information and digital officer, discussing how Azure is used to connect our armed forces; and Hywel Sloman, IT Director at Arsenal FC, outlining how the Gunners use technology to connect with the 99% of its fan base that isn’t in the UK. Great examples of technology at its best – connecting people, shaping our experiences, and transforming our futures.

A particular highlight for me was accompanying Satya to Eastlea Community School in Newham to meet some very inspiring young students who shared the incredibly creative ways in which they are utilising their BBC micro:bits as part of the BBC’s Make it Digital effort. Amazingly, just within a couple of weeks, these burgeoning computer scientists had developed the most creative applications. Bolstered by their infectious enthusiasm, I came away feeling we are on the right path to train the next generation of digital makers and incredibly proud of our commitment to provide 15,000 BBC micro:bits to UK schools in our Showcase Schools programme.

Billed as the ‘technical day’, day two focused on real-world technologies fuelling business transformation.  Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President kicked off the day talking about Connected Cows! He described how the cloud is aiding agriculture with transformative results in helping farmers track their cows’ fertile period.  Later on we heard from Microsoft Research’s Project Oxford team, pioneered by Chris Bishop, who announced new advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence to allow computer scientists to create smarter apps that identify things like sounds, words, images, facial expressions – and now emotions!

We closed this year’s Future Decoded with a big bang as we were lucky enough to have pre-eminent physicist, Professor Brian Cox, and Microsoft Research’s Krysta Svore close with a fascinating session on Quantum computing. Krysta explained how Quantum computers of the future could dramatically accelerate years of lab work into hours, minutes and even seconds to help solve some of the many challenges facing our planet.

In my blog at the start of the week, I said that we are living in a world of profound change and transformation. Now we are seeing examples of retailers changing their shelf stock based on how customers are feeling, and restaurants changing their menus in real time based on reactions to particular dishes. Our world is being reshaped and I look forward to seeing what UK private and public sector firms, developers, entrepreneurs and students come up with next!

Thank you to all our partners, customers, speakers, exhibitors, employees and visitors for coming together to make these two days happen. I would like to especially thank our headline sponsors – Dell, HP Enterprise and Risual for helping us host a fantastic two days.

If you missed it but want to find out more, or even if you attended but would like to revisit some of the content and ideas discussed, please download our new eBook – Future Decoded Wrapped Up. Hopefully this can help you achieve some of the transformation we’ve been talking about and prepare you for the road ahead.