8 Things I Learnt from Satya Nadella at Sibos, Day 4

For those that don’t know, Satya Nadella is the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, and succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014. Satya closed Sibos in Toronto last week and following are the 8 key themes that i picked up on from his chat with SWIFT CEO Gottfried Leibbrandt.

1. The Need for Innovation has Never been Greater

  • Satya talked about 2 key themes – innovation and managing risk – and about the transformative power of digital technologies and secular forces
  • Software was described as one of the most malleable resources that humankind has ever found, and one that requires even greater compute into the future
  • The example that Satya gave was that the Xbox 1x that is due to come out soon has 7 billion transistors, while the first super computers had “only” 13.000 – yet Satya explained how Moore’s Law is flattening
  • Satya expressed excitement about:
    • Mixed reality – that is where we will have multi-sense and multi-device experiences in the future
    • Experiences will be infused with AI – but in warned in order to achieve this, we must get our data in order, for you cannot have AI without good data
    • The need to think about new ways to compute (a word Satya used a lot!) – quantum computing being the most extreme, but cloud technology in the short term

2. You’re either busy being born or busy dying – Bob Dylan

As expected, Satya’s comments here were with reference to the banking industry and here Satya explained the need for a healthy banking industry to help drive the economy and wider society. Satya warned that the ability to create economic opportunity around the world relied on the ability of the banking industry to continuously reinvent itself. He quoted Bob Dylan – “either you’re busy being born or busy dying

Satya reiterated this message:

  • Encouraging the industry to question – why do you exist, and the need to constantly challenge the status quo
  • Instilling a learning culture, as opposed to a know it all culture
  • The recurring need to innovate and renew a sense of purpose
  • Above all, continuing to restore the need to stay relevant

3. Retaining A Sense of Purpose

Interestingly, Gottfried questioned Satya about Microsoft’s purpose. Drawing on SWIFT’s own purpose starting out in 1973 to kill the telex, and Microsoft’s initial mission in 1975 of putting a personal computer in every home and on every desk – Gottfried asked, what now?

Satya’s response was compelling. He spoke about Microsoft’s first product the basic interpreter and explained that the mission then and now was to:

  • “Create technology so others can create more technology”
  • Be a trusted platform provider
  • Think about tools that can solve problems that have not been solved
  • Build a universal quantum computer
  • “Have a sense of purpose and mission that is enduring, and that truly captures the core of your existence and then renew it with audacious goals”

4. Quantum Computing is on the Horizon

I must admit i don’t know much about quantum computing, but it was a recurring topic for Satya. Satya is clearly excited by the prospects of quantum computing and described his excitement of how it brings together maths, physics and computer science in a unique way.

If like me you know little about Quantum computing, it’s clearly something to brush up on!

5. Blockchain Optimism and Massive Implications

Satya spoke about blockchain briefly, but with fascination about the prospects. He mentioned the:

  • Distributed database technology with a trust harness that allowed users to collaborate in innovative ways
  • Opportunities brought about by cloud technology and platforms
  • Massive implications and optimism about what the technology could mean
  • Suggested that blockchain technology was in “your” hands and that it has to be converted into something that can be useful

6. Security is THE hot topic of our Time

The frontier as Satya described it, is technology and security. He warned that security is not just about protection but about operational security – i.e. it is an intelligence game and suggested that the core was to continually build updates rather than standalone solutions.

The responsibility is to ensure that:

  • Software is secure
    • Satya advised be in no doubt this is a cat and mouse game
  • End points are protected and updated
    • There is a need constantly update your network with patches and if just 1 entry point is vulnerable, that makes you vulnerable
    • Moreover, updates alone are not sufficient you need to segment your network and ensure that it can be isolated in the event of a hack
  • Information is shared with one another
      • There is a need for collective responsibility – giving the example of you can’t get fit by watching others go to the gym!

Lastly, Satya reiterated the need for Microsoft to continually build updates so that others are secure

7. Building a Learning Organisation – Learn It versus Know-It-All Culture

I found this piece really interesting. Gottfried and Satya talked about how companies when they start out have a clear sense of purpose, need to build certain capabilities  and the company culture is built out of the purpose and capabilities. But once that purpose and capability has been fulfilled, what next? Here Satya talked about:

  • Building a new culture
  • Referred to the book Mindset by Carol Dweck which helped him recognise the importance of building a learning organisation where the company should be encouraged to keep learning
  • The goal was to become a learn it organisation rather than a know it all organisation
  • The challenge though was how to truly become a learning organisation – just because you say it, it doesn’t mean it happens
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8. “You Can’t be Cool by Association” – Satya Nadella

Satya closed up by sharing that he has a unique left and right view of technology and it’s impact across multiple industries. He offered the following advice:

  • What differentiate successful organisations is how they deal with and manage change, and following on from that how they implement change
  • Progressive organisations must build digital sensibility
  • You can’t be cool by association, just because banks invest so much in technology (sometimes more than tech companies themselves) it does not mean they understand technology and that is the trick – to truly understand technology
  • Do not reinvent the wheel advised Satya, do work in your domain that is increasingly digital
  • The journey is not one for a single quarter, this is a generational shift where what is core to banking will involve digital capabilities
  • Walk away from the conference knowing that you are relevant

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