Microsoft builds industry-specific clouds for financial services and manufacturing firms

Software giant follows up launch of industry-specific cloud offerings for retail and healthcare organisations with a commitment to do the same for non-profits, manufacturing and financial services firms

Microsoft is continuing to expand its push to build industry-specific cloud offerings for its customers by rolling out tailored product and service bundles for firms operating in the financial services, manufacturing and non-profit spaces.

The bundles are designed to provide companies in each of these vertical markets with access to Microsoft’s portfolio of cloud-based productivity software and infrastructure services, including Microsoft 365, Teams, Azure, and its customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) offering, Dynamics 365.

These are combined with industry-specific components and standards, as well as common-data models that are applicable to firms in all industries, to provide what Microsoft calls a “launchpad for future innovations”.

In a blog post announcing the launches of Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services, Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing and Microsoft Cloud for Non-profit, Alysa Taylor, corporate vice-president of business applications and global industry, lifted the lid on how the company has set about informing the design of each one.

“Embedded industry experts among our employee base are informing our priorities – doctors working alongside engineering teams on healthcare challenges, retail executives imagining new customer experiences, financial experts helping us understand fintech, banking and payments, and non-profit leaders shaping our vision and solutions to impact those helping others,” she said.

“Designed with industry challenges in mind, these clouds can enable organisations to jump ahead and deliver value at record pace. This is because they provide an on-ramp to the broader portfolio of Microsoft cloud services, enabling customers to begin with the areas where the need for technology transformation is most urgent.”

The software giant previously announced the general release of a similar industry-specific, cloud-based bundle for use by healthcare organisations in October 2020, which it has confirmed will receive its first update in April 2021.

This will result in Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare acquiring support for eight additional languages, as well as a host of virtual health, remote patient monitoring and care co-ordination functionality being added to the package.

Similarly, the firm debuted the private preview of Microsoft Cloud for Retail in January 2021, which it positioned as a means of supporting customers in this space who have had to pivot their business models rapidly to accommodate the huge surge in online orders during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Microsoft, the setup provides retailers with improved payment processing capabilities, while enabling them to provide consumers with a more personalised shopping experience. The public preview of it is due to go live in March 2021.

In a pre-recorded video address, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella went into detail about the benefits its customers in the financial services, non-profit, manufacturing, healthcare and retail sectors stand to gain by having access to industry-specific cloud technologies.

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“Across all these sectors, it is no longer sufficient for organisations to just adopt technology,” he said. “They need to build their own technology to compete and grow. This means investing in people and their capacity to create new solutions to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing economy.  

“And it requires both trust in the technology they use, and trust in the business model alignment. We call this dynamic ‘tech intensity’. It has never been more important to get it right. The digital investments that companies make today will define their growth and performance over the next decade.”

Microsoft’s championing of industry-specific techn offerings is nothing new, but the onset of the pandemic has prompted the company to markedly and urgently ramp up its ability to deliver them to customers, said Nadella.  

“Over the past year, we worked closely with leaders in every industry to help them navigate the crisis, equipping them with the technology and tools to accelerate that transformation,” he said.

He gave the example of Novartis’s use of artificial intelligence to speed up its ability to develop and bring to market new prescription drugs, a process that typically takes about a decade to achieve.

In a dig, perhaps, at some of Microsoft’s competitors in the public cloud space, Nadella went on to give details of the “four key principles” that are guiding its industry-specific cloud strategy, which includes a commitment not to compete with its customers.

“No customer wants to be dependent on a provider that sells them technology on one end and competes with them on the other – Microsoft will always be a trusted adviser, co-innovator and partner,” he said.

“Second, customer data always belongs to our customers – not to us. We work with organisations to help them harness the data to build a predictive and analytical power required for their own competitive advantage.”

The third principle of Microsoft’s strategy centres on drawing on the expertise of people working within the industries the company is serving to inform the design of its tailored clouds, and the final part is its commitment to working with systems integrators and independent software vendors (ISVs) to refine its industry-specific offerings, he said.

“I look forward to seeing how customers in every industry use these capabilities to transform their organisation and expand their impact,” added Nadella.

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