10 February 2021

Microsoft Viva Quick Take: Manufacturing and the Front Line

Rich Wood, Vice President, Microsoft Alliances
Innovation

If I had a dollar for every time Satya Nadella and Jared Spataro mentioned the manufacturing industry in their kickoff announcements for Viva, I’d be retiring early. That’s a good thing, because this one is near and dear to my heart. My dad worked most of his life in a factory and I put myself through college working factory jobs. My favorite project as a consultant was done for a construction firm because to me, those guys and I came from the same place.

That background means I’ve always been skeptical of software that says it will empower the “front line worker” on factory floors, at job sites, in warehouses and any other place you don’t typically find the classic, white-collar “information worker”. Those solutions have been trumpeted for years, and while you see the occasional successful case study, you can also judge how well they’ve actually worked by the fact that we’re still talking about it as “something we have to do” versus a job well done. 

If you know people in manufacturing, you know their jobs are all about a job well done, so we need to forgive a certain amount of healthy skepticism when it comes to how an EXP helps them succeed. To date, in that space we’ve mostly seen grand ideas that fall flat when it comes to execution.

Luckily, we’re now at a point where the hardware of digital—whether multifunctional tablets or via IoT devices—has largely caught up with the desire to bring digital solutions to these kinds of overtly physical jobs. The trick is finding the right opportunities to help workers on the front line of every industry be more successful and feel connected to their organization. When so many roles are highly differentiated, there is no “one size fits all”. So how will Viva deliver on its promise here?

The focus last week told us it’s all about becoming Connected, and Learning. Video tutorials are one of the most popular content types out there on the internet today. Bringing new employees up to speed, introducing a new way of getting a task done or updating an old one, rolling out key announcements—all within an interface that can accommodate other essential functions through integrations with platforms like SAP, Workday, et cetera—gives me hope that this time, someone’s getting it right. 

The jury’s still out, but the effort and the focus are there and I’m excited to see how Microsoft will deliver for this essential industry.