If you value your business, don’t go on a date with Microsoft
Microsoft is the kind of person you’d love your daughter or son to date; hugely successful, intelligent, a great communicator, and has a sum of wealth that will take care of the family for generations.
Since 1975, Microsoft has worked hard at defining itself as a leader in technology; inventing one of the first computer operating systems and gifting the world Excel spreadsheets and the Xbox.
It’s quickly become a household name and last year was crowned the ‘World’s Most Valuable Company’ when it hit a market cap of US$851 billion – worthy of any hand in marriage.
So what’s not to like? Well, if you were thinking of dating them in a business capacity, then probably a few things.
I have to say, after a few dates with Microsoft, our business relationship got off to a bit of a rocky start.
Our values just didn’t seem to align.
My business illuminance Solutions was more concerned about social impact, while theirs seemed, well, more profit driven. In the beginning, talking about the weather seemed a much safer option.
illuminance Solutions depends on Microsoft’s cloud services platform to service not-for-profits (NFPs).
And because NFPs don’t bring in large amounts of licensing revenue, I think Microsoft was more interested in the sharply-dressed mining and resources sector, and government accounts flush with cash. Even a shiny Gold Partner status did not turn their head.
Microsoft seemed blinded by a love of KPIs, fixated on the dollar value of sales and ultimately stock prices to flirt with shareholders – it didn’t appreciate our community reach and social impact.
But then Microsoft had a moment that inspired it to become the best version of itself and a life partner for us. I was in love.
At the start of 2014 Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s third CEO and hit the reset button.
During his first year in the position Microsoft stock jumped 14 per cent, and in 2018 the company’s stock price was almost triple what it was in 2014.
This was a man I could identify with – Satya’s vision wasn’t just about reorganising business operations to drive revenue and keep shareholders happy.
In his book Hit Refresh, The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, Satya told employees that renewing the company’s culture would be his highest priority.
“I told them I was committed to ruthlessly removing barriers to innovation so we could get back to what we all joined the company to do – to make a difference in the world,” he wrote.
Creating tech with a social impact was top of mind for Satya, as it has always been for me, defining mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”.
Satya’s vision couldn’t have been more of a perfect match for illuminance Solutions; how our business supports the wider community is the legacy I want to leave too.
Windows of Opportunities
In December 2015, Microsoft announced the formation of Microsoft Philanthropies, a new organisation within the company, committed to generating social impact.
Not long after, Microsoft pledged US$1 billion in cloud services to non- profit groups and universities – and while Microsoft has had a strong history of making sizeable financial contributions, this time, under Satya’s influence, it wasn’t just about money.
In 2017, Microsoft launched Technology for Social Impact (TSI), a division dedicated to building tech products for the non-profit sector, something illuminance Solutions had been doing since its inception.
TSI has since helped non-profit organisations around the world accelerate organisational efficiency with technology, including Medical Teams International, which has transformed medical care for more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees as well as Ugandan citizens.
Using the Microsoft Azure platform and mobile app, Medical Teams International automated data collection via the creation of a digital health information system, which has since improved the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis, helping to curb the spread of infectious diseases.
Rooted in the philosophy that it’s “impossible to be an empathetic leader sitting in an office behind a computer screen all day”, Satya also saw the potential for Microsoft’s business partners to lead with empathy, opening windows of opportunities in their local communities.
So naturally, Microsoft and illuminance Solutions became the ultimate power couple.
Built using Microsoft’s cloud technology platform, illuminance Solutions developed AvantCare, an integrated client and services information management platform for disability service providers to ease the transition into the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme.
We’ve since helped several community organizations transform their business practices, in particular AvantCare has reduced the time wasted on administrative tasks giving non-profits more time to spend on client care delivery.
And in recognition Microsoft sealed the deal, inviting us into the Dynamics 365 Insider Program – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Non-profit Accelerator.
Although Satya’s vision is still flowing down through Microsoft, it’s a future worth waiting for.
I know it won’t be long until Microsoft moves on from its “ex” (financial KPIs), and embraces its new love: social impact.
In a time where global communities have become increasingly digitised, marrying purpose with tech has never been more relevant for business – for profit and for legacy.
So that’s why you should never go on just one date with Microsoft; only a long-term relationship will let you create something special that helps make the world a better place
An AICD member who is setting the tone from the top, creating success through an inclusive culture and delivering social impact in the tech world and putting WA on the map along the way.
“Nilesh Makwana, is difficult to define in a few words – and he likes it that way. Never one to be bound by job titles or roles, his philosophy of “life is about living with purpose” permeates through all of his endeavours, from his current CEO role at illuminance Solutions, an innovative tech company; to his work with Borderless Gandhi, an organisation co-founded with his wife which promotes Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, values and philosophies through the means of art and social media.
Graduating from Thames Valley University in 2010 with honours in Airline and Airport management, Nilesh worked at Heathrow Airport before moving to Australia where he studied Management Information Systems and Services at Curtin University and achieved a Masters degree from Edith Cowan University within Management Information Systems; all the while working in varied roles such as Business Development Manager, IT Project Manager and Business Analyst before becoming the CEO of Tantra Technology.
Since 2014 Nilesh has expanded his passion and his life philosophy across many sectors with roles including: Technology Advisor for Innovation Centre of WA, Founder of Postcare App, Advisory Council Member of COIP, judge for numerous Industry awards, Committee Member of WA Association Inc, Trustee at CEDA, Vice President – WA Chapter India Business Council Ltd, Chair & Founder of West Tech Assemblage, guest lecturer and Advisory Board Member at Edith Cowan University.
As founder of the West Tech Assemblage, Nilesh was able to realise his vision of creating an environment to celebrate innovation and collaboration in Western Australia. Supported widely by industry and government, it was the first event to bring together all the stakeholders in the state to present a showcase for technology and innovation in WA. This event is continues to grow from strength to strength with the 2019 event to be an even stronger example of what can be achieved through collaboration.
In his role as CEO of illuminance Solutions, Nilesh leads by example and recognises that by creating a good work environment, people can live their own life purpose and add value to the organisation, the clients and their co-workers. In simple terms, if someone is happy at work they will want to contribute; if they are offered opportunities to find their ‘sweet spot’ they will feel empowered; and if they find what they want to do in life – then the magic start to happen.
Nilesh is a true believer that leaders have a powerful impact on the culture and ethics of a business and, by bringing his personal philosophy and leading with Karmic Management principles; people involved with the business all benefit from the will to work with integrity and the aim to serve the society and community in which they live. The philosophy also extends to diversity in the workplace, a practice which has led to a recent award: Western Australian Business News – Rising Star Award Winner for Diversity 2019.
It is from this platform that a culture of having a positive social impact in its daily business dealings has emerged. Lead from the top, Nilesh has directed the business to become not just another technology firm, but a technology company which provides great solutions with a purpose.
The development of AvanteCare is a prime example and one which has been recognised this year with a Global Microsoft Partner of the Year, Partner for Social Impact Award. It exemplifies the type of work which can be done when faced with challenges from companies and Not for Profit Organisations.
AvantCare was developed specifically for National Disability Insurance Scheme providers, some of whom are small Not for Profits who were faced with transformation issues in order to conform their business models and information systems to meet strict compliance criteria in order to attract funding and be involved with the scheme.
By providing a solution which could be extrapolated across multiple organisations, Illuminance tailored an affordable option to service providers who otherwise may not have been able to carry out their provision of services across the disability spectre. The system development and implementation is just one of the ways the philosophy of ‘living with purpose’ can permeate from a person, to a company, and to service providers and ultimately for the betterment of society. “
Published by Australian Institute of Company Directors, Winter Issue 2019.