Microsoft Modern Workplace Assistant Summit in Munich – I was fortunate enough to attend

When the boss comes to me and says that there’s an event scheduled at Microsoft themed around the workplace of the future and would I like to go to it – then I’m hardly going to say no. So I registered straight away, and for the trip to Munich I treated myself to a hired car.

On the day of the event, there was already quite a crowd around the registration desk in the Microsoft reception hall. Once we were all seated in the conference room, I was very surprised by the number of participants. I had been assuming that there would be about 30 to 40 people attending. But on this day the organisers, Cornelia Heyde and Claudia Thomas, welcomed 120 assistants, and some applicants even had to be declined. This goes to show that the event was meeting a real need – not least for me.

It kicked off with the keynote presentation by Claudia Thomas and her boss Andre Kiehne (Head of Solution Business and a member of the board at Microsoft). The two of them reported on their everyday working practices, and how they are currently collaborating. It clearly emerged here that meanwhile it’s no longer necessary to be sitting in the same office at the same time in order to achieve the company’s goals. With “Microsoft Teams”, it is totally immaterial where the employee concerned actually is. He/she can always access all the current data.  It was also amazing to hear that the daily consultation often took place at 8 o’clock in the evening. Not because Andre Kiehne as the boss wants things that way, but because it’s the ideal time for his assistant. She was able to spend some time with her children beforehand and after she’s put them to bed she’s ready to give her boss and his requirements her full attention. Fixed working hours for office jobs (and I agree) will soon be a thing of the past. More and more, people will need to reconcile their personal situations with the requirements of their everyday workplace and thus to achieve an optimum result – keyword: work-life balance. The most important things in this context, however, are trust and responsibility – on the part of employer and employee alike. I thought the keynote presentation was a highly successful and stimulating contribution.

The programme continued with a brief round of introductions – called flashlight. We thus obtained an overview of what firms were represented and what challenges my colleagues and I are facing. I realised that we – Krones AG – are in very good company with Siemens, SAP, the publisher Axel Springer and the German Railways, to name only a few, and that we are all facing the challenge of a cultural paradigm shift. Some firms are just starting out here, some are already fully engaged in the process, and in some cases further ahead with it than we are at Krones. For me, however, it once again clearly emerged that this is one of the biggest challenges of our time and crucial for collaboration in the future.

After a short break for coffee and networking, the event continued with a presentation by Susanna Castillo from PLU Top Assistant & PLU Campus on the subject of the labour market and workplace world in transformation. I myself once attended a seminar at PLU, in which this subject was also addressed.

This was followed by a presentation from Anne Gebert, Area Transformation Manager at Microsoft, entitled “10 things we learned about transformation!”. I found it very interesting, since here the “lessons learned” were spotlighted that Microsoft Germany has so far taken on board in the transformation process from a software conglomerate with standardised products to a service-focused company.

Another highlight was the presentation by Diana Brandl, a freelance author specialising in social media, on the subject of “Assistance 4.0 – getting to grips with the digital transformation”. She vividly explicated why artificial intelligence doesn’t have to constitute a threat for the assistants’ jobs, they simply have to harness its utility. An Alexa, Cortana or Siri can never replace us, because they do not possess any complex problem-solving competence or any emotional intelligence. She also showed some graphics illustrating imagination versus reality for an assistant’s remit. If you’ve read my first blog article , you will know that this expresses my views precisely, not least that in future specialists will be deployed and the generalist will no longer be wanted – we’ve been embracing this concept for years already in our own assistance team.

Since I found this presentation so interesting, I took the opportunity after the lunch break to choose from the various breakout sessions another presentation with Diana Brandl. “The assistance brand – the successful compass in digitalisation” went into more depth, building on the ground already covered. Overall, I can say that I recognised myself in many statements and predictions for the future, and I feel validated in my assessment of how an assistant’s job will change with the advent of Industry 4.0.

As the final breakout session, I chose a demo of “Microsoft Teams” on the advanced level. Here, as exemplified by “We organise a company event”, we were shown how to work together as a team in future, how tasks can be managed and monitored, and lots, lots more. And then this interesting, stimulating day at Microsoft had unfortunately come to an end. I hope there will be a follow-up event, designed to go more deeply into the subject-matters involved, and to nurture the contacts established while networking.

 

Photos: Microsoft