Today we have the pleasure to interview Annamaria Bottero, Director of the Customer Success division at Microsoft Italy. She will tell us about how Microsoft is helping the companies to incorporate digital solutions into their business models. We will also talk about the importance of diversity and the challenges related to the digital transition.
Good morning Mrs. Bottero, it is a pleasure to have you here. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career? Why did you choose Microsoft and spend many years there?
I have been working in IT space for more than 25 years. After achieving a degree in IT at the University of Turin, I started my career at Olivetti. I then moved to different system-integrator companies and covered consulting and sales roles, especially in the financial services industry. I joined the Consulting Services department of Microsoft’s Sales division 16 years ago and, since then, I have had the opportunity to change and cover different roles as Sales Manager, Sales Director and Leader of the Partner Ecosystem. When Customer Success Unit (CSU) was born 4 years ago, I was appointed as leader in the Italian leadership team of Microsoft Italy. The goal of CSU is to help our enterprise customers land their Digital transformation programs with the help of our best cloud technologies.
Microsoft gave me the opportunity to cover various roles and to learn so much over the years, and I am very proud of the exceptional versatility shown by the company and its ability to change its business model and its go-to- market. This enabled it to maintain a leadership position over time and continue empowering its clients. That is why I have spent so much time here.
How has the concept of diversity changed from a company perspective? Why do so many tech companies promote diversity as one of their main principles of corporate culture?
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a very important pillar of Microsoft and of many tech companies. Since 2017 I have been the Chapter for Microsoft Italy Leadership Team for D&I initiatives, to favor the reinforcement of these principles within our communities.
In Microsoft we are strongly convinced that diverse teams positively contribute to the company’s success from a revenue standpoint. This is because diversity promotes a collection of different ideas and abilities, which helps in creating better products and a more energetic environment, thus adding value to the company’s operations. When you read Microsoft’s mission, by saying: “empower every person and every organization in the planet to achieve more”, the use of “every” refers to the concept of D&I. We want to build an accessible platform that every client can use, independently from their origins and abilities. To do this, it is essential to have diverse teams thinking about how to address a diverse set of users, in order to build products that are better for everyone.
To what extent is the principle of diversity important in the way you train and hire new people? How do you manage to transfer these values across your workforce?
If you want to be diverse you need to have a plan to incorporate this concept in every process of your company. With respect to hiring new employees, to guarantee diversity we have a strongly structured way to cancel out the potential biases of the selection process that could mitigate the creation of a diverse workforce. At a company level, we try to promote D&I by focusing on the rights of different communities including the women community, Gen X and Gen Z communities and others based on ethnicities.
Therefore, we are not just focused on creating a diverse environment inside, but also on constantly including new diverse employees.
What is the Cloud? What is the role the Cloud plays in financial and non-financial businesses? What are the next scenarios concerning it?
Cloud computing enables the management of your information system in big data centers around the world, allowing companies to delegate the elaboration of their data and applications to the Cloud, instead of having to manage an IT infrastructure. It represents a great opportunity for every industry, especially for financial services, as it allows companies to manage an incredible amount of data. Firms can also apply artificial intelligence to their internal processes, including risk management for the financial industry, product building and decision-making.
This new paradigm brings about many changes both into the operational and the training processes of a company since new skills are needed to cope with this new environment. Consequently, businesses priorities must include data residency and cyber security.
There are many different examples of digital native banks, but most banks are not digital native, so they need to adapt to use new software. How does Microsoft help its customers to overcome these challenges?
Most companies build their Cloud journey in different steps, starting by introducing the Cloud in some parts of their business according to managerial or transformation priorities. Managing a hybrid environment allows them to embrace a new way to build applications and manage data, while also keeping some aspects of the more traditional systems. The velocity of this journey depends on a company’s compelling events, such as the launch of a new service that can take advantage of a Cloud service, a cost reduction program, or a new business that needs to be implemented. They start from this part of the system, they modernize it and integrate it, managing the hybrid situation for a while.
Together with our partners, we try to help our customers to build this journey according to their business priorities, developing new and improved Cloud services as “accelerators”.
Training and skill transfer is another important piece of our collaboration. We want to help customers find the best architecture and solutions for their company. Illimity Bank and Flowe represent cases where new business models have been created by taking advantage of the Cloud opportunities, at a speed that would have been unachievable without Cloud services.
Why did Microsoft decide not to invest directly in the fintech space and not to compete with other Big Techs in this field? What is, instead, Microsoft’s next strategy to address the recent global challenges?
Microsoft wants to be a platform company that enables other companies in different industries to become “tech” companies, leveraging innovation to grow. We believe that, in the end, software will become a main component of companies’ business models. Our mission is to help accelerating this evolution by letting our customers imagine new services, processes and business models with our platform and our partners’ solutions. Regarding recent global challenges, as our CEO says “going forward, digital technology will be the key input that powers the world’s economic output, helping customers differentiate, build resilience, and do more with less”. There are many challenges we’re involved such as sustainability and cybersecurity. For this last point, companies need to “trust” the Cloud, so our priority is to build a “secure” Cloud, focused on specific industry spaces, to accelerate their transformation.
White-labels products generate incredible technological solutions for B2B relationships. Will white-label solutions be predominant in the following years? What do banks need to innovate to be more competitive, their back oﬃce or their front oﬃce?
There are new game-changing players in financial services forcing more traditional companies to accelerate their changes. The main focus in this market will be to create a better customer experience, aligned with new trends and different needs of new generations of customers, but this means that banks need to imagine new services and also different ways of working with their customers.
Customers should go through a new experience as they use banking services. Additionally, artificial intelligence and smart working models or low code approach could aid the acceleration in reimagining back oﬃce processes allowing more efficiency and agility.
What competences are necessary to work for a Big Tech? What skills does an Economics student need to acquire to become a good fit to those companies?
I think that every new job will have a digital component, also outside the tech sector, so I suggest complementing your skills portfolio with some digital ones. In a tech company you need not only to love technology, but also to have a passion for what technology can do to change our lives. Then, depending on the level of tech intensity required, you can cover different jobs from Marketing, Finance, Sales/Technical Sales, to Program Management. Moreover, you need to be curious, able to learn, and a great team worker.
Keep in mind that diversity includes educational backgrounds as well. We have had employees coming from the most various educational backgrounds, even Philosophy. These are all people who love information technologies. They can bring in new perspectives but also learn new competences, which they build day by day performing their jobs’ tasks.
Thank you, Mrs. Bottero, for your time and your insightful answers. It was a great honor to hear from you about Microsoft’s mission to help the businesses worldwide to achieve more through new software solutions. We hope to see you again soon!