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Graeme Horsfall, Practice Manager for Microsoft Services Premier Support recently met with our current MBA students. The session focussed on Innovation but also linked to topics covered before Christmas such as business and operations strategies, designing products and services, aligning processes and supply chains in light of new products and service etc. Here, he reflects on the discussion along with his career following his time at Strathclyde and his current role at Microsoft:

“I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a group of Strathclyde MBA students about innovation in Microsoft.  Having graduated from Strathclyde in 2001 with a MEng in Manufacturing Science & Engineering it was an experience mixed with nostalgia, excitement and tinged with a bit of trepidation – when discussing innovation, especially in the IT industry, with a group of bright people at one of the UKs leading business schools I was bound to be asked some challenging questions!

Having spent five years studying at Strathclyde, I had had the opportunity to complete a number of courses, as part of my degree, at the business school and it was through those links and my connection with Dr Jillian MacBryde that I was asked back to present.  For the five years leading up to my graduation from Strathclyde I had been sponsored by IBM UK, in 2001 I accepted a full time role on their graduate technical sales programme.  This pulled me down to the South East where I spent five years in both technical presales and enterprise software sales roles,  I then moved to Microsoft where I have been since. Today I manage two of our consulting practices in the UK, Service Management and Cloud Support Consulting, alongside a presales support group – a role that sees me travel across the UK regularly but allows me to remain based in our Scotland office in Edinburgh.

The session with the MBA students focussed on a theme of innovation that receives a great deal of attention from Microsoft, driving aspects of our research and product development focus   – that of natural user interfaces and the approach of making computing a more natural almost invisible experience for its users.  Through this approach and the products, devices and services that we develop as a result we look to empower users to achieve more, connect and collaborate more as well as have a more engaging and fun experience with technology.  It is a great set of material to present on, offering a glimpse into some of the innovations currently being tested in our labs, as well as a look into what the future of the workplace may become.  In such a competitive industry, making bold and ambitious statements about, for example,  what the future of information and knowledge work may be like is an important part of driving improvements and developments in our current products but also in challenging our perception of what devices and products may be required in the future – sometimes we haven’t even considered these until we envisage these future scenarios.

As expected it provoked a great deal of quality debate with the audience, about Microsoft’s strategy and direction, the IT industry as a whole as well as more detailed topics such as the role of operations management in supporting this sort of innovation now and in the future.  At the end of the session, I had certainly been tested by the audience on a wide range of topics from our competitors, our current products, our corporate structure as well as my Xbox gamer tag!  The interactive element of the presentation and style of questions a real reminder to me of the ethos of Strathclyde  – to promote useful learning.

It was a great experience for me, as I enjoy the opportunity to get out and evangelise about not only Microsoft but the incredibly exciting world of technology, the impact it now has on people’s lives but also what an incredibly engaging industry it is to work in.

Thanks to all for the opportunity to be involved with this – you can read more about what might come next at Microsoft at  http://blogs.technet.com/b/next/