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How tech inspired one man to transform businesses in Dubai

When Faisal Ali was a child, his schoolteacher would always encourage him to solve small problems while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Fast-forward to the present, the now group CIO of the Garash Group in Dubai still follows that same philosophy.

Beginning from when he first played on an Atari 2600 console when he was just 11-years-old, Faisal knew that when he grew up, he had to do something which involved problem solving and technology.

Faisal now leads the Automotive, Financial Services and Real Estate sectors of the business enterprise, all with the main goal of enabling business growth through technology.

It is his passion for technology combined with this love of problem-solving which has and continued to inspire Faisal to be successful in his role today.

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How has technology transformed how you work?

Faisal believes that technology has completely changed his approach to work. New innovations in the digital era allow him to connect and collaborate with co-workers at any time or from any place possible, which is hugely important for his job.

Summarizing how technology has developed over the course of his career, he said:

“Over the last 25 years of my professional life technology has changed my working lifestyle many times over. “

“I remember back in the 90s when dialing into work was almost impossible. The most I could do was send a few emails and upload a few excel files. “

“In the Noughties, broadband was in its early stages and mobility was becoming a reality, I could use a blackberry to stay connected to my mail and VPN to the office to do my work. “

“In the last 10 years’ workplace and systems are transforming from being on-premise to cloud and becoming more social. It’s a connected digital world and everyone is a citizen.”

Microsoft technologies have particularly benefited Faisal during his working life. He reflected on this, saying that Microsoft’s technology has inspired him to be as innovative as possible at work.

“You can’t make me switch back from my Microsoft Surface Pro”, he said. “It was truly love at first sight. The integration between desktop and mobile, wired and wireless, mouse and touch is seamless and natural.”

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How do you use technology outside of work?

Outside of work, he recognizes that technology is just as useful and enjoyable in his everyday life.

“I am lucky in that way, as both my passion and my profession are technology”, he said.

“I love smart devices. I measure my physical activity, track my trips and can even message my 10-year-old son whenever I like. I guess you could say a good mobile phone is a man’s new best friend.”

He does admit that technology cannot be allowed to dictate our lives, however.

He believes connections between humans can never be replaced, and added:

“Technology is great but it simply does not replace the relationships and bonds you share with friends and family. Let technology augment those experience and not dictate them.”

What does the technology of the future look like to you?

Although believing that technology can never replace humans, he sees it as crucial for future developments in improving many aspects of our lives.

“This is a really interesting discussion point. I completed my Masters in IT Systems and am keen to learn how technology will continue to advance and benefit our lives.”

“I think that we’ll see a more natural integration of human technologies into our daily lives, meaning humans and AI will collaborate to improve society.”

“We’ll see devices that can help manage and monitor our health better, and systems which seamless keep us all connected online.”

“Technology isn’t just the present. It’s the future, and it’s going to help us act faster, think better and ultimately enhance the way we live.”

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Schlumberger, Chevron and Microsoft announce collaboration to accelerate digital transformation

Global organizations will work together to accelerate development of cloud-native solutions and deliver actionable data insights for the industry

MONACO September 17, 2019 — Tuesday at the SIS Global Forum 2019, Schlumberger, Chevron and Microsoft. announced the industry’s first three-party collaboration to accelerate creation of innovative petrotechnical and digital technologies.

Data is quickly emerging as one of the most valuable assets to any company yet extracting insights from it is often difficult as information gets trapped in internal silos. As part of the collaboration, the three companies will work together to build Azure-native applications in the DELFI* cognitive E&P environment initially for Chevron, which will enable companies to process, visualize, interpret and ultimately obtain meaningful insights from multiple data sources.

DELFI* is a secure, scalable and open cloud-based environment providing seamless E&P software technology across exploration, development, production and midstream. Chevron and Schlumberger will combine their expertise and resources to accelerate the deployment of DELFI solutions in Azure, with support and guidance from Microsoft. The parties will ensure the software developments meet the latest standards in terms of security, performance, release management, and are compatible with the Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) Data Platform. Building on this open foundation will amplify the capabilities of Chevron’s petrotechnical experts.

The collaboration will be completed in three phases starting with the deployment of the Petrotechnical Suite in the DELFI environment, followed by the development of cloud-native applications on Azure, and the co-innovation of a suite of cognitive computing native capabilities across the E&P value chain tailored to Chevron’s objectives.

Olivier Le Peuch, chief executive officer, Schlumberger, said, “Combining the expertise of these three global enterprises creates vastly improved and digitally enabled petrotechnical workflows. Never before has our industry seen a collaboration of this kind, and of this scale. Working together will accelerate faster innovation with better results, marking the beginning of a new era in our industry that will enable us to elevate performance across our industry’s value chain.”

“There is an enormous opportunity to bring the latest cloud and AI technology to the energy sector and accelerate the industry’s digital transformation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Our partnership with Schlumberger and Chevron delivers on this promise, applying the power of Azure to unlock new AI-driven insights that will help address some of the industry’s—the world’s—most important energy challenges, including sustainability.”

Joseph C. Geagea, executive vice president, technology, projects and services, Chevron, said, “We believe this industry-first advancement will dramatically accelerate the speed with which we can analyze data to generate new exploration opportunities and bring prospects to development more quickly and with more certainty. It will pull vast quantities of information into a single source amplifying our use of artificial intelligence and high-performance computing built on an open data ecosystem.”

About Schlumberger

Schlumberger is the world’s leading provider of technology for reservoir characterization, drilling, production, and processing to the oil and gas industry. With product sales and services in more than 120 countries and employing approximately 100,000 people who represent over 140 nationalities, Schlumberger supplies the industry’s most comprehensive range of products and services, from exploration through production, and integrated pore-to-pipeline solutions that optimize hydrocarbon recovery to deliver reservoir performance.

Schlumberger Limited has executive offices in Paris, Houston, London, and The Hague, and reported revenues of $32.82 billion in 2018. For more information, visit.

About Chevron

Chevron Corporation is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies. Through its subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide, the company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry. Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemicals and additives; generates power; and develops and deploys technologies that enhance business value in every aspect of the company’s operations. Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif. More information about Chevron is available at www.chevron.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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*Mark of Schlumberger

For further information, contact:

Moira Duff
Corporate Communication Manager−Western Hemisphere
Schlumberger
Tel: +1 281 285 4376
communication@slb.com

Sean Comey
Sr. Advisor, External Affairs
Chevron
Tel: +1 925 842 5509
seancomey@chevron.com

Microsoft Media Relations
WE Communications for Microsoft
(425) 638-7777
rrt@we-worldwide.com

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Microsoft and Jio: Accelerating India’s digital progress

Today we announced a comprehensive long-term alliance with Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (Jio), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited. This is an exciting advancement that will accelerate India’s digital transformation and bring the latest technologies to millions of businesses across the country. This alliance represents a unique collaboration between our two organizations.

Jio has transformed the communication and data landscape here in India, connecting more than 340 million people in the country with the power of affordable data. Microsoft has helped businesses revolutionize the global landscape of digital transformation with the worldview of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. With a solid foundation of trust, we’re committed to accelerating the pace of innovation and delivering more value to every customer, be it large enterprises, SMBs, startups or consumers, and our partners.

This unique alliance also reinforces our commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Earlier today, this announcement was shared as part of the Reliance Industries Annual General Meeting where Reliance Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D. Ambani shared the news. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shared his thoughts as well and reinforced our enthusiasm for the work we will do together and the potential benefits our alliance can bring to organizations across India, and to the country itself.

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What this means for businesses 

India has one of the largest small and medium business markets in the world, which continues to grow significantly. Small and medium businesses in India will have access to a range of cloud-based productivity, collaboration and business applications including Office 365, enabling them to compete more effectively in the Indian marketplace. This collaboration will accelerate innovation to create more affordable offerings for Indian SMBs and startups, including a new range of solutions for one-stop IT capabilities and allowing front-end applications on mobile devices, desktops and other tools.

Jio will build new custom solutions on Microsoft Azure for large enterprises who have already benefited from our technology platforms. Companies will also have easy and affordable access to best-in-class technologies like data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, IoT and edge computing to accelerate India’s digital transformation and enable grassroots innovation.

Jio will also leverage Microsoft’s speech and language cognitive services for its device ecosystem, providing support in 13 Indian languages, with the flexibility to add other languages. Its internal workforce will now leverage the cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity and collaboration tools and all their non-network applications will also move to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

For the partner ecosystem in India, these new offerings create more avenues for greater innovation, deeper customer relationships and exponential growth for their businesses. And in a diverse nation of 1.3 billion people united by the power of digital, the solutions this collaboration will bring around connectivity, computing, storage and tech services will redefine how we empower employees, enable customers, transform products and optimize operations.

This joint effort is likely to unlock and accelerate digital innovation in India at an unprecedented scale. I look forward to working with and learning from our current and new customers and partners as we chart a new path with this alliance.

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Jio and Microsoft announce alliance to accelerate digital transformation in India

REDMOND, Wash., and MUMBAI — Aug. 12, 2019 — Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (Jio), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, and Microsoft Corp. are embarking on a unique, comprehensive, long-term strategic relationship aimed at accelerating the digital transformation of the Indian economy and society. This 10-year commitment combines the world-class capabilities of both companies to offer a detailed set of solutions comprising connectivity, computing, storage solutions, and other technology services and applications essential for Indian businesses and will span the broad Reliance Industries ecosystem including its existing and new businesses.

Jio and Microsoft logosIn combining efforts, Jio and Microsoft aim to enhance the adoption of leading technologies like data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, Internet of Things, and edge computing among small and medium enterprises to make them ready to compete and grow, while helping accelerate technology-led GDP growth in India and driving adoption of next-gen technology solutions at scale.

As part of this new agreement:

  1. Jio will provide its internal workforce with cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools available with Microsoft 365 and will migrate its non-network applications to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
  2. Jio’s connectivity infrastructure that aims to connect everyone, everything, everywhere will promote the adoption of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform within its growing ecosystem of startups, as part of Jio’s cloud-first strategy.
  3. Jio will set up datacenters in locations across India, consisting of next-generation compute, storage and networking capabilities, and Microsoft will deploy its Azure platform in these datacenters to support Jio’s offerings. The initial two datacenters, which can house IT equipment consuming up to 7.5 MW of power, are being set up in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. These are targeted to be fully operational in calendar year 2020.
  4. Jio will leverage the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to develop innovative cloud solutions focused on the needs of Indian businesses. Through these Jio-developed solutions:
    • a. Indian startups will have access to efficient and affordable cloud infrastructure and platform services, enabling them to develop innovative products and services faster and more cost-effectively.
    • b. Small and medium businesses in India will have access to a range of cloud-based productivity, collaboration and business applications including Office 365, enabling them to compete more effectively in the Indian marketplace.
    • c. Large companies will be able to accelerate their own digital transformations by leveraging new Jio solutions that can work with Microsoft offerings already in use today within many large enterprises.
    • d. The partner ecosystem in India will have the opportunity to leverage Jio’s new offerings to serve the unique needs of their customers and rapidly grow their businesses.
  5. Jio will be executing on its vision of integrated speech and computer vision solutions for Indian customers by working together with Microsoft to develop solutions that support major Indian languages and dialects, which will promote the adoption of technology across all cross-sections of Indian society.

“Jio is delighted to partner with Microsoft in our efforts to further deepen the use of technology on scale to all Indians,” said Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries. “This is a unique and first-of-its-kind partnership that brings the capabilities of two large companies focused on creating significant value to Indian enterprises — small and large. By working together to develop innovative and affordable cloud-enabled digital solutions built around Jio’s world-class digital infrastructure and Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, we will accelerate the digitization of the Indian economy and make Indian businesses globally competitive. This will be a showcase to the world to demonstrate tech-enabled value creation that is both exponential and inclusive.”

“We have an incredible opportunity to apply advances in technology to help organizations across India innovate and grow,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “The combination of Jio’s leading connectivity and digital solutions with Azure, Azure AI and Office 365 will bring powerful tools and platforms for compute, storage, productivity and more to millions of businesses in the country.”

About Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited:

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (‘Jio’), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited (“RIL”), has built a world-class all-IP data strong future proof network with the latest 4G LTE technology. It is the only network conceived and born as a Mobile Video Network from the ground up and supporting Voice over LTE technology. It is future ready and can be easily upgraded to support even more data, as technologies advance on to 5G, 6G and beyond.

Jio will bring transformational changes in the Indian digital services space to enable the vision of Digital India for 1.2 billion Indians and propel India into global leadership in digital economy. It has created an eco-system comprising network, devices, applications and content, service experience and affordable tariffs for everyone to live the Jio Digital Life. As part of its customer offers, Jio has revolutionised the Indian telecom landscape by making voice calls for Jio customers absolutely free, across India, to any network, and always. Jio makes India the highest quality, most affordable data market in the world so that every Indian can do Datagiri.

About Microsoft:

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Jio Corporate Communications, 9122 44753591, Jio.CorporateCommunication@ril.com

 

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Unilever’s digital journey leads to real results for consumers and employees

Digitally rewiring the supply chain

For Unilever, the capabilities of digital technology offer an opportunity to transform its supply chain to meet the needs of customers who “expect customization, on-demand products and brands with purpose,” Moran says.

“We are digitally rewiring our supply chain, focusing on generating real-time, democratized information, artificial intelligence planning, capitalizing on robotics and building digitally connected factories. All this will allow us to readily predict and respond to whatever the future throws at us,” adds Dave Penrith, Unilever chief engineer.

Dave Penrith, Unilever chief engineer.
Unilever chief engineer Dave Penrith. (Photo courtesy of Unilever)

Unilever is using IoT (Internet of Things) and intelligent edge services in the Azure IoT platform to enable its digital twin, which is a next-generation digital model of a physical environment — in this case, a Unilever factory. The machines and equipment in the factory are connected so that they can send a mass of data — everything from temperatures to production cycle times — into the model.

This creates a representation of every machine and process, offering visibility across all levels of the plant. The collected data is mined for insights and patterns using advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, which can predict outcomes based on historical data.

“The more data it gets, the more it learns. The more it learns, the faster it learns, and it starts to learn at an increasingly exponential rate,” Penrith says.

The algorithm can reach a level of accuracy where it can be allowed to directly control part of a machine or process. This allows operators to make better-informed decisions and frees them up from repetitive manual tasks for more value-added functions.

The digital twin has already had an impact on operations. Once Unilever switched control of moisture levels in a soap-making machine to the digital twin algorithm, operators did not want it switched off because it gave them so much control over consistency.

In another instance, the digital twin has used data on how long it takes to produce one batch of liquid, such as shampoo or detergent, to predict the correct order of processes in order to get the most efficient batch time. The less time each batch takes, the higher the production capacity of the plant, fully utilizing the asset and avoiding having to invest in capability elsewhere.

The digital twin solution was custom-built by Unilever’s engineering team in partnership with The Marsden Group, a Microsoft partner, and is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform.

Right now, Unilever is operating eight digital twins across North America, South America, Europe and Asia. The company is streaming data from 15 of its 300 global plants, with plans to connect 70 factories by the end of the year and another 100 or so in 2020 – “everything from soap to soup,” Penrith says.

Unilever factory workers view dashboards on a variety of computer screens.
Digital tools allow employees to easily visualize and interpret data.

Diving into data

In its mission to become data-insights driven, Unilever is using Power BI, a business analytics tool, to help employees access the data they need. Employees can use Power BI to visualize data in whatever way works for them to solve the problem they’re facing, and it also allows them to create their own reports, rather than relying on a technology team.

Being able to uncover data and visualize it in Power BI has allowed Unilever to increase productivity by eliminating false or unimportant alerts on production lines. Previously, operators were responding to 3,000 alerts every day in this complex site, each of which took a few minutes to assess, acknowledge and clear. This put operators into constant reactive mode and slowed down production lines. Unilever has been able to reduce the number of alerts requiring action by 90% per day, ensuring far fewer interruptions and more timely interventions.

Power BI is just one tool in an interconnected system that cultivates the “democratization of data,” says Penrith. “With Power BI connected to all our historical data, live data, analytics and models, our people get real-time intelligence, all sitting in Microsoft Teams, with conversation happening all the time so our employees and factories can support and collaborate with each other.”

Empowering with PowerApps

A big part of that interconnected system is finding ways to help people fix their own issues. One tool the company is using to achieve this is Microsoft PowerApps, which allows employees to build custom apps themselves, without a developer.

For example, one Unilever factory quality assurance employee saw a demo for PowerApps — and then created a quality assurance PowerApp herself.

The app is now available in all of Unilever’s factories, a vast upgrade from the manual process that was previous used for quality checks. The app enables real-time adjustment to the manufacturing process and saves time, freeing up employees for more valuable tasks. It also saves paper, contributing to Unilever’s sustainability mission.

A Unilever factory in Valinhos, Brazil.
A Unilever factory in Valinhos, Brazil.

 Connecting a global team

Unilever also wanted to offer its people — nearly 155,000 employees worldwide — the tools to further connect with one another and share lessons and ideas. Unilever uses Microsoft 365, a bundle of services that includes Windows 10, as well as productivity apps such as SharePoint, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and collaboration and communication tools such as Teams and Yammer.

This suite of tools has made a big impact on productivity and collaboration, according to Moran.

“Using digital tools like Teams and Yammer have really helped our organization to collaborate and share, and you can’t appreciate how great that is,” she says. “It’s taken off at the top of our company, and now everyone is using this to share wonderful stories about what they’re doing every day. It has allowed everyone to have a voice.”

For Penrith, Microsoft Teams has had a major impact on communication. The company created a global Teams environment for all Unilever engineers that allows them to connect and share knowledge.

“That’s been a real game changer,” he says. “Overnight, we connected 2,000 engineers, most of whom may never really have spoken to each other before … it takes away any false boundaries that people may have, and it links colleagues from around the whole world.”

Penrith has a blog area within Teams where everyone can reply to everyone else, and they can also contact him directly on the platform. Penrith now spends more time on Teams than on email and has seen a 60% to 70% drop in the number of emails arriving to his inbox.

A Unilever factory worker.
Unilever’s digital transformation empowers employees to carry out the company’s mission of meeting consumers’ rising expectations.

Digital enables sustainability, too

Unilever’s digital conversion has also helped to support the company’s commitment to sustainability, particularly in terms of energy efficiency.

One example is the amount of energy used at factories that make Dove soap. Unilever has used Teams to set up a community for Dove factories where they can access energy usage data for all factories, as well as share best practices for conserving energy. Everyone in the community can see how much energy each factory uses per batch of Dove soap and work together on reducing that usage.

Data-driven decisions

Unilever’s technological transformation has already resulted in substantial success across the organization, from the supply chain to research and development, human resources, sales, finance, logistics and more, supporting the company’s ultimate goal of serving consumers.

“We are creating a culture and organization which is data-intelligent across our end-to-end supply chain, supported with the data, analytics and insights to make smarter, faster decisions to understand, anticipate and exceed consumer expectations,” says Penrith.

Microsoft's Judson Althoff at a Unilever factory

At the Microsoft Inspire 2019 conference, Microsoft’s executive vice-president of Worldwide Commercial Business, Judson Althoff, spoke to Unilever executives about how Microsoft technology is fueling Unilever’s digital transformation. Above, Althoff greets employees at a Unilever factory in Valinhos, Brazil .

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Digital transformation in emerging Asian economies: Escaping the middle-income trap

David Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation

With the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the rapid spread and adoption of cloud computing, cutting-edge technological solutions are now widely available around the world.

But to effectively tap this tech-driven potential, Asia’s emerging economies must pursue new ways of educating and training present and future workers – including women and girls who too often languish at the bottom of the employment pool with few educational opportunities.

“Ultimately it is the matter of human capital and developing relevant skills,” Arnold says. “That is currently a big constraint in many countries. So, we see this as an area of importance and priority.”

READ: Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific

Breaking down and replacing long-held institutional and bureaucratic practices and barriers are high on the list of must-dos as well. It also happens to be a mantra that has been internalized by the Foundation, which has itself embraced technology to do its work better. Arnold sees the Foundation’s own internal digital transformation dividend as being a sort of microcosm of where the region should be heading.

Established by forward-thinking business people, academics, and U.S. government officials in 1954, The Asia Foundation is a non-profit international development organization committed to improving lives across the region. It works both at the high-end of public policymaking and at grassroots levels with local communities. It has an effective, integrated strategy to help Asian countries promote good governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, boost education, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation. It fosters deep, long-term partnerships with local organizations and individuals and relies on support from governments and a myriad of donors.

The Asia Foundation

In short, its goals are high, its reach wide, its challenges big and complex, and its stakeholders demanding. So, to boost its impact it embraced change.

For most of its early life, the Foundation was a largely paper-based, administratively disjointed, highly siloed and decentralized operation that stretched from its headquarters in San Francisco across a network of offices in 18 Asian countries.

READ: Microsoft Philanthropies Asia – Advancing a future for everyone

Ken Krug joined its ranks in 2011 to become Vice President for Finance, Chief Financial Officer, and a champion for digital transformation. “We were in the Middle Ages as far as technology was concerned,” he recalls.

Previous attempts to create in-house IT solutions had been unsuccessful. But about five years ago, the Foundation adopted “OneTAF” – a cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 solution named for the abbreviation of The Asia Foundation.

Now all sorts of files and knowledge are linked and made accessible across the Foundation’s diverse geographic footprint. One can imagine the unique challenges of being stretched from Colombo to Kabul and from Ulaanbaatar to Jakarta, and how much freedom and ease can be derived from sharing information and materials in real time.