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Hybrid Models, Sustainability and AI: Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie Shares His Perspectives at Insight

One of the highlights from our 2022 Insight Tech Conference + Expo was the keynote tech talk between Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Cloud + AI Group at Microsoft, and Jennifer Lin, chief platform officer at Trimble.

Trimble and Microsoft announced a partnership in October 2021 to advance technology adoption and acceleration of the digital transformation, and their discussion expanded on the progress that has been achieved, covering everything from hybrid cloud models to a quantum leap in artificial intelligence (AI).

Check out some of the key parts of this recent conversation:

Highlighting Our Partnership

Through the partnership between Trimble and Microsoft, the companies agreed to develop, build, and deliver cloud platforms and solutions for the transportation industry that connect people, technology, tasks, data, processes and industry lifecycles.

Guthrie expanded on the partnership during his time on the Insight stage. “And so for us, it’s always been around, how do we build an ecosystem of fantastic partnerships where we can help make Trimble successful, and then Trimble will help make us successful. It’s really about that collaboration we can do together that can uniquely address customer needs.”

Considering A Hybrid Model

As a leader of cloud technologies at Microsoft, Guthrie and his team recognize that organizations may be hesitant about moving to and taking advantage of the cloud, especially if they think they need to replace everything they’ve built over the last 20 years.

 “...part of our strategy has been really embracing a hybrid model, and effectively saying, like, how do we allow you to use the assets you already have, and extend them into the cloud, and make that transition such that you can go as fast or as slow as you’d like, and really allow you to try to get return on investment every month of the journey, as opposed to sort of saying, hey, we’re going to do a five-year transition, and then the payoff is going to be in five years, which is really hard for at least my CFO to sign off on those types of deals.” Guthrie stated. By aligning on the return on investment, moving to the cloud can take on a more gradual transition and brace the existing technology investments with partners.

Guthrie also recommends identifying the business processes that you most want to evolve, or transition. He shared, “And so, if you got something you think works great today, replatting it to cloud is probably not the most optimal thing. If you can instead focus on the things where you think, gosh, we’re leaving money on the table, or we’re losing business, because we don’t deliver X, Y, and Z, if you can focus on those areas that are real opportunities and do those first, and then take advantage of that hybrid capability so that the thing that’s working well, you can do last, but you can integrate those things together again, that I think often leads to the best success and gives you the confidence that you can kind of put the throttle down as much as you want, or you can ease up if you run into any problems.”

Guthrie also touched on how all this translates for a driver on the road. He shared there's going to be a point in the future where everything will be connected in some way, shape, or form, whether it's a retail store, a truck or even a salt shaker, he said jokingly.

However, there are going to be scenarios for why you might not want everything running purely in a cloud, like if you are driving and you go through a tunnel, or there’s a 5G bug, you've got make sure that that vehicle can run safely without access to the cloud.

The Importance of Sustainability

Sustainability was a hot topic at Insight this year, and Guthrie shared his take on what that looks like at Microsoft. He explained that the company made a commitment to reaching net zero emissions, “not only a date by which we get to net zero... but a date by which we want to effectively reduce the total carbon emissions since our founding in 1975.”

At the same time, Guthrie said Microsoft is also focusing on what they can do with their own product offerings. For example, quantifying the carbon reduction savings of doing everything over Teams, versus traveling somewhere using that to make more informed decisions in the future.

He also shared “And it’s, again, a huge opportunity for everyone here in this room, both to help make the planet better, but also, there’s a huge business opportunity, because the companies that can really pinpoint, and help retailers and help consumers and help manufacturers connect those dots, can unlock just a huge amount.”  He said that as long as productivity and value is increasing in the overall value chain, transportation companies should not be afraid of change because it often leads to better material benefits to all of us.

Examining Future Technologies

Guthrie stated he’s starting to see a quantum leap in the intelligence capabilities of AI models, especially around things that maybe the human brain often can't figure out how to solve quickly. He shared that FedEx, which moves tens of thousands of packages per day, is now using Microsoft AI machine learning service to be able to calculate, optimize and improve the delivery process and experience.

Another example he cited was from Air Canada, which during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was managing thousands of documents a day, handling and categorizing handwritten, faxed and typed forms, according to Guthrie. They wanted to build a system that could scan and do character recognition on 30,000+ documents. By working with Microsoft to move all that work to a digital system, a substantial amount of time was removed from the overall equation.

Guthrie sees a similar path forward for the transportation industry, where AI capabilities and computer vision help the industry process and analyze data in real time both inside and outside the vehicle.

Check Out the Full Conversation

Interested in hearing more from Scott and Jennifer’s discussion at Insight? Check out a replay of their fireside chat from this year’s event and how you can help your transportation business stay ahead in an ever-evolving technology landscape.

Insight is going to Las Vegas next year, coming to The Venetian Resort on September 24-27, 2023. Registration will open later this fall so keep an eye out for how you can sign up to join us!