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Interview with 2017 Keynote Speaker – Sarah Bowden

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Sarah Bowden

National Small and Medium Business Lead, Microsoft

Sarah Bowden is one of our Keynote Speakers at 9 A.M. on Tuesday 23 May

Tell us a bit about you.

I am originally from the UK and I’ve been in New Zealand for 20 years. I started my career as a Management Accountant, which is how I originally came to NZ working for PwC.

Two years later I moved to Fuji Xerox as a Management Accountant and it was at that point that I realised that I didn’t want to pursue a career in Management Accountancy, so I decided to complete a Masters in International Business Management. My passion is Sales and Marketing and this is the path my career followed at Fuji Xerox.

I joined Microsoft about 7 years ago, and during this time I have had several roles. I started in the Corporate Accounts team, looking after 50 Government Accounts for 4 years, then my career progressed into the Dynamics Team where I managed the Dynamics Partners across New Zealand.

I’m now the SMB Lead at Microsoft and I’ve been in role 10 months – it’s the best job ever!

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

  • Working with an amazing team who are super smart, hardworking and absolutely dedicated to helping and supporting our partners and customers
  • The variety and breadth of the role suits my personality!
  • Putting ideas into practice and delivering results through new strategies with our partners that my team manages
  • Engaging with customers and understanding more about how Microsoft can empower and enable their businesses to be even more successful.

What are Microsoft’s key organisational goals?

It’s been interesting and exciting experiencing the changes under Satya Nadella’s leadership. Microsoft’s mission is to “Empower every person on planet to achieve more”.

For our customers, this translates into how Microsoft can help them leverage our solutions to enable them to achieve the outcomes that they are looking for, whether it is gaining business insights, increasing revenue, reducing customer attrition etc.

Personally, our mission gives me a core purpose to continually challenge the “current” and to seek improvements and efficiencies that are impactful to both our partners and customers.

How would you describe the culture in Microsoft these days?

The culture is different now compared to when I started. Back in 2010, I didn’t feel that comfortable bringing my iPhone into the office! Now I have an Android device and the experience Microsoft is creating for our customers is no longer hardware specific; user experience is very much at the heart of everything. I’ve also seen changes with how we work with non-traditional Microsoft partners which has opened many new opportunities for us in NZ.

What has been Microsoft’s biggest technology challenges this year? How have you overcome these?

I can’t think of any technology challenges; my biggest challenge is keeping up with the pace of change! Another challenge and a huge opportunity is how we can help our partners keep up with the changes, investing time out of billable hours training partners on the new solutions and understanding what these changes enable for their customers is key to their future success.

What emerging technologies to you think have been embraced mostly, and why?

NZ are #1 globally for Office 365 penetration per capita and that’s been the case since Office 365 was launched. Kiwis very much embrace the cloud and are leveraging new solutions to help them be more nimble, competitive and offer a point of difference that gives them their competitive edge.  Dynamics 365 and Azure are also key technology platforms that we’re seeing amazing momentum in NZ and presents a great opportunity to provide more “value add” services to their customers.

What technology do you think will be the most disruptive in the next 3 years and why?

Personally, I think the most disruptive technologies that will emerge over the next 3 years will be ones that involve enhancing experiences. Consumers are wanting services and products that are personal and tailored to their own preferences and if technology can measure and predict their needs and wants I think this will be very disruptive.

What technology “Fads” do you think are out there? Why should we be wary of them?

I can’t think of any, maybe app that makes no sense to me, but to others is very popular.  I don’t get Snap Chat for example, probably due to my age!

What have been your biggest technology “wins” in the last 18 months?

I think there are two.

The biggest technology wins would be the great examples of Digital Transformation, where we’ve seen customers completely re-think the way in which their business is set up, in terms of how they do business and provide services and products to their end customers.  Examples that come to mind are the likes of Ryman Healthcare, Partmaster, and Citta Design that are leveraging the latest technologies to give them greater productivity gains and enable them to offer a point of difference and better services to their customers.

What are the 3 things that ensure successful project delivery?

  • Having a clear goal – what is the project about and what are you trying to achieve?
  • Aligning roles to the project – to ensure that all that are involved are clear on their objectives and contributions to the project delivery.
  • Communication is king, having regular updates, feedback channels to ensure no assumptions are being made.

What are you seeing as the most important tools for NZ businesses in the Digital Workspace?

Coming from the UK, it’s been great to see the Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit that drives NZ businesses to grow and sell into markets beyond our shores.  Many of these businesses are operating in different markets, with their employees working remotely, working with people in different countries, with different languages and time zones. Office 365 enables people to work how they want to, it gives them the ability, flexibility and security to do so. The solutions within Office 365 are expanding into new capabilities including Bookings, Teams and more recently Outlook Customer Manager are helping these businesses grow and are key to their Digital Workspaces.

And finally….Yammer vs Teams vs Groups?

I’m loving Teams! It’s a fantastic way to collaborate and connect with different workgroups and I especially like how it is reducing my emails!  Yammer is a great broadcasting tool and enables people to comment and ask questions.  They both have a place in the Digital Workplace and I think it really comes down to what you’re wanting to achieve as this will determine what collaboration tool is the right fit.

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