How can Microsoft Azure spur innovation? FAQ Session

by Indra Burkart, Senior User Experience Designer, Rackspace Technology

People in a meeting


It may surprise you to learn that busyness among your employees could be bad for business. It’s the eternal catch-22 in the business world. On one hand, workers need to spend the majority of their time doing the jobs they were hired to do. But on the other hand, they need time to learn new skills, think creatively, and bring innovative new ideas to the company.

Is it possible to find a happy middle ground where your employees both get their jobs done and find time to find better ways to do their jobs? Yes, it is — especially when they are using efficiency-driving platforms like Microsoft Azure. Here’s why.   

Being too busy is bad for business

The ideal scenario is this: Workers perform their essential jobs, but also have a few hours leftover in the week to learn how to use new technologies that eliminate some of the manual labor of their current tasks. Also, they might create innovative new processes or applications that can make their jobs easier to perform.

But the reality is this: Few workers today have the time they need to perform their current jobs, let alone make time to learn new skills and processes, or create better workflows, or even dream up new products and services for the company to sell. 

According to a doctoral research study at the London Business School, “People can’t innovate when they have no ‘slack time’ – that’s time in the day that isn’t spent working, doing household chores, eating or sleeping.”

Q: Why innovate?

A: Innovation is what keeps companies growing. You need to innovate to keep moving forward, because there is always going to be a competitor waiting around the corner with the next new brilliant idea. And the first company to introduce a new business process, system or product typically wins. So, if you’re not the first in your industry to deliver new solutions on a regular basis, you might be putting your entire business at risk. 

If employees don’t have enough time to innovate, companies can’t improve efficiency or create new products and services that help them become more competitive. Without time for innovation, it’s all too easy to miss opportunities to obtain or maintain industry leadership, satisfy customers and increase profitability.

Q: Why are employees too busy to innovate?

A: Being too busy to innovate is a three-pronged challenge rooted in staffing needs, technical needs, and the business itself.

From a business perspective, employees have the domain knowledge to drive innovation. However, because they are so caught up in old processes that consume their time, they cannot be creative. In fact, workers are so stuck in their outdated day-to-day processes that they often feel trapped within the traditional process framework.

From a technology perspective, workers often lack access to the best tools with which to do their jobs. What’s more, even when workers have access to good technology, they often don’t have time to fully understand all the capabilities of the tools they use. So they miss out on the opportunity to maximize efficiency.

From a staffing perspective, when employees are stuck using legacy systems, they typically become unhappy in their jobs because they feel trapped with outdated tools. If they decide to leave the company, it’s difficult to backfill the position in today’s tight hiring market, especially for highly technical roles.

Q: How has this challenge traditionally been handled? 

A: In the past, when companies had too much work for the number of staff, they would just hire more employees. But now, with so many companies struggling to find qualified candidates, this is often no longer an option. This is especially true when trying to hire for high-demand positions, like engineers and developers.

Q: How should we overcome being too busy to innovate? 

A: The ideal path forward is to empower employees by freeing them from the constant state of busyness they are locked into — and giving them more space and time to learn and create. They should be able to have free time at work and be able to decide what they will do with that time. For example, they can either learn to use existing technologies better, learn to use new technologies or create new, efficient processes themselves.

In another example, Microsoft has created a citizen developer concept that encourages every employee to be a developer. They can automate tasks or create applications using low-code or no-code tools. They can build out their ideas and then enter into a feedback loop with co-workers to make improvements.

Q: What is the potential business impact of making time for employees to innovate? 

A: When workers have time to learn and create on the job, they can develop their skill set. They can take a fresh look at current processes and find opportunities to improve how things are done. Their time spent in this way can help move the company forward. For example, when we learn to use technologies more efficiently, we eliminate tedious, repetitive tasks. This creates a continuing cycle of higher productivity and more free time. This also leads to greater job satisfaction, which is a huge bonus at a time when hiring new staff is extremely challenging. 

Q: What solutions can help organizations become more innovative?

A: There are several options, such as:

  • Microsoft Azure: Being in the cloud gives companies incredible automated support for innovation, including scalability, flexibility, security, and cost savings.
  • Rackspace Elastic Engineering: Companies that are experiencing staffing shortages can gain access to a dedicated team of experienced engineers who are available on an as-needed basis.
  • Training: This is an essential part of the automation and cloud adoption journey because employees can better understand how to get the most from the cloud. Training can include programs ranging from governance workshops to consultancy services.

Q: Which customer examples illustrate the advantages of having time for innovation?

A: One of the best recent examples is through our work with the Central North West London (CNWL) NHS healthcare system. Since expanding and optimizing its multicloud infrastructure, including on Microsoft Azure public cloud, CNWL has gained the agility and speed it needs to innovate.

The organization has created a digital auditing application that allows clinicians to collect data on their phones or computers instead of using paper and pen. Another new innovation is the use of QR codes on high-risk medications, which allows patients to watch videos on how to administer it, instead of reading instructions.

“The cloud makes it easier, faster and more cost-effective for us to be innovative and make our staff members’ jobs easier and our patients’ lives better,” said TF Chan, Chief Pharmacist at CNWL.

Q: What value is gained from automation and cloud adoption?

A: There are wide-ranging advantages that clouds like Microsoft Azure can provide to nurture innovation. Among them are scalability, mobility, stronger security, and greater cost savings. However, there’s one additional advantage that often gets overlooked: greater efficiency. The cloud is one of the best ways to free staff from performing tedious, repetitive tasks, and give them more time for innovation.

Learn more

Whether you’re looking to spur innovation and agility in the cloud, reduce operational costs, or increase overall efficiency, Rackspace Technology® can help. Our Microsoft Azure experts put cutting-edge capabilities to work for your business. We apply deep expertise in cloud strategy, cloud native development, containers, application modernization, AI/ML Ops, IoT, and workload management to help you accelerate innovation on Microsoft Azure.

Become more innovative on Microsoft Azure.