Global Marketing Operations at Microsoft uses BI to better understand its customers
Published June 2015
In the past, Microsoft sales professionals had to search through data in 10 or more programs to learn about their customers—which didn’t leave them much time to interact with those customers. All that has changed, thanks to an application called Customer Insights. This tool is the latest offering from the Microsoft Global Marketing Operations (GMO) organization in partnership with Microsoft IT.
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GMO and Microsoft IT
Customer Insights is just one of the apps that are now available to Microsoft sales and marketing personnel from the GMO organization. GMO is a group that specializes in delivering real-time data analytics for increased productivity and sales professionalism. Other GMO apps meet the needs of global subsidiaries and business groups, monitor and analyze marketing campaign performance, provide sales and marketing resources, give end-to-end visibility into sales opportunities, and offer insight into the Microsoft partner ecosystem.
Microsoft IT provides the standardized infrastructure and enables GMO to focus on meeting its application needs. Previously, Microsoft IT would have taken a broader technology role, providing both infrastructure and applications. The result is that GMO can speed application release schedules and quickly get more functionality out to its users. The partnership between GMO and Microsoft IT represents a shift in how the company manages IT and analytics.
“Our ability to present insights from 10-plus programs with 20-plus data sources, whether on the Web or on an app, allows a Microsoft sales professional to find information fast and focus on the customer.”
Business Program Manager
Global Marketing Operations
Anoop Iyer Business Program Manager Customer Insights Global Marketing Operations Microsoft
Sales professionals who manage many customers can’t track every detail about each customer, and they’re unlikely to have much time for research before customer calls or visits. Checking Customer Insights before speaking with customers can help sales professionals turn generic conversations about product offerings into meaningful discussions about how those offerings can help solve real issues that their customers are facing.
For example, a Microsoft opportunity manager in Brazil used Customer Insights to better understand one customer, a holding company that he was preparing to meet. At a glance, he could see that the company’s subsidiaries had a variety of separately negotiated agreements for Microsoft software, at varying rates. Moreover, because support, training, and consulting services were held in separate accounts, they were used less than they would be if they were in an aggregated account that all the subsidiaries could draw from.
Customer Insights showed this opportunity manager a problem and a solution. He helped the customer consolidate its agreements, which has made the customer happier because its licensing fees were lowered and its use of contracted benefits increased. As a result, the holding company expanded its business with Microsoft to $2 million—an increase of $1.1 million or 122 percent.
Customer Insights provides a single location where field sales and marketing teams can quickly assess market trends and competitive threats, identify gaps and opportunities, plan engagement activities, and collaborate on driving strategic initiatives for customers. Its rich UI, which offers cross-platform integration and real-time updates, brings together customer information from more than 20 data sources both inside and outside Microsoft, including the customer profile and sales history; product licensing, pipeline, cloud consumption, partner, and audience engagement information; and competitive threats, agreements, opportunities for additional sales, and external news.
Bringing order to a sea of data
Like most major companies, Microsoft is swimming in a sea of data and needs to be able to develop actionable insights from that data. GMO supports field subsidiary offices and corporate teams with strategy, planning, and execution across their marketing and sales efforts, leaving them free to focus on their core priorities and goals. GMO focuses on establishing and delivering turnkey processes for end-to-end, best-in-class sales and marketing services. Those services include just about anything that a sales or marketing team could want, including website management, localization, publishing, demand generation execution, targeting analytical models, and automated integrated reporting.
GMO currently provides sales and marketing analytics as a service for 40,000 executives, managers, and sales and marketing professionals at Microsoft—or about 4 out of every 10 employees at the company.
GMO was created six years ago and represented a sea change in how Microsoft manages sales and marketing analytics. Previously, when a business unit identified a need for sales analytics tools, its only options were to buy an off-the-shelf (OTS) package or build the tool itself. But OTS packages typically offered limited features or inadequate support for the massive amounts of data that Microsoft uses. Custom tools are time-consuming and expensive for business units to create—and the redundant creation of similar tools by multiple business units was widely regarded as an inefficient use of resources.
GMOBI is efficient and cost effective
Because GMO maintains a centralized Microsoft SharePoint business intelligence (BI) platform, GMOBI, business units that use GMO instead of building their own platform can save 90 percent of the tool development cost. That can amount to about $250,000 for infrastructure and $650,000 in annual operating expenses.
Efficiencies are achieved on the software side, too. The GMO data platform eliminates the need for business units to build their own data layers, which potentially saves them months of development time—and money. GMO’s inventory of presentation layer components—apps, web services, and 1,500 dashboards—means that almost any app that a business unit wants already exists or can be assembled quickly and cost-effectively from existing parts.
The GMO data platform includes more than 8,450 databases and about 1.9 petabytes (PB) of data, putting it among the five largest database sets at the company. The platform is built on Microsoft technologies, especially Microsoft SQL Server software. On the presentation side, the platform gives users a range of options based on their needs and expertise, including web browser and Windows 8 app versions, real-time services, and Microsoft Excel reports.
Because so many employees depend on such a massive and complex solution, maintaining GMOBI is a mission-critical task that is managed by Microsoft IT. A 40‑member support team monitors the infrastructure and applications around the clock, and handles support requests, troubleshooting, and administrative tasks.
Moving to Azure
Microsoft IT is also helping GMO achieve an entirely new level of efficiency and agility by moving its data platform to Microsoft Azure. The first phase of this migration is already underway.
GMO is moving GMOBI to Azure for the same reasons that customers are moving there. For example, instances can be sized in real time, so it’s no longer necessary to buy the largest server to support a peak load that may come just once a year. Money that would have been dedicated to hardware can be used to directly support the business.
The move to Azure is enabling another major change in the way that GMOBI supports marketers and sales executives throughout the company: the organization’s predictive analytics capabilities are getting an efficiency makeover. In the GMO’s previous approach to predictive analytics, data scientists built models one at a time, often in isolation from one another.
The GMO is building a predictive analytics platform on top of a range of Azure capabilities, such as Azure Machine Learning and Azure Data Factory. This move will transform the GMO’s previous one-model-at-a-time service into a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering that supports multiple simultaneous models by Microsoft data scientists. As a result, the business will have faster and more cost-effective predictive analytics.
Enabling salespeople to use Microsoft Office, SQL Server, and data analytics to understand their customers helps them have more meaningful conversations about the customers’ needs. The partnership between Microsoft IT and the GMO to create Customer Insights gives the Microsoft sales and marketing professionals a comprehensive view of the customer in a single app. Microsoft continues to explore new ways to use technology to improve the experience of its customers.
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