Red River Valley in the ‘cloud’Microsoft’s Fargo, N.D., campus anticipates growth over the next five years
By: Alan Van Ormer, Prairie Business Magazine
With Microsoft focusing on cloud computing, the Fargo, N.D., office anticipates growth over the next five years to help with this transformation in several areas of technological expertise in the region.
Microsoft’s Fargo campus site leader Don Morton says there will be new jobs created but at this point the company is not sure exactly what types of jobs. “We know there is going to be a tremendous premium on customer service,” he says. “We know there is going to be tremendous premium on cloud engineering.”
Over the past several years, Microsoft has gradually incorporated cloud computing into its system. Many Microsoft products are available in the cloud today; with the option to also use the products on-premise if customers prefer this model.
“We will continue to see technology that integrates better. We will continue to see new functionality and new features that allow you to do more,” Morton says. “Deployment via the cloud makes it so much easier.”
According to a new study by the analyst firm IDC, spending on public and private information technology (IT) cloud services will generate nearly 14 million jobs worldwide from 2011 to 2015. The research, commissioned by Microsoft, also found that IT innovation created by cloud computing could produce $1.1 trillion a year in new business revenues.
Locally, cloud computing is driving growth and causing the Fargo office to begin to consider various expansion options to accommodate the projected employee growth. Currently, there are 1,700 employees and vendors in Fargo. When the Microsoft campus is fully built-out it will have the capacity for up to 2,700 people on its campus in southwest Fargo along Interstate 29. Today, infrastructure is in place for an additional two buildings if needed.
James Gartin, president, Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp., says he is not concerned about workforce issues because Microsoft has such a strong ability to attract workers.
“This reinforces Microsoft’s commitment to this market,” Gartin says. “They feel this facility offers some outstanding opportunities for them. They have always told me that the biggest positive is the workforce that they have here. They can get a lot accomplished with the workforce that they’re able to attract.”
Business in the cloud
Cloud computing is changing the way companies do business. Microsoft’s business model has changed along with this industry shift. In the past customers only could purchase Microsoft solutions for deployment on-premise. The software was purchased and paid for upfront. Now, Microsoft also offers hosted options, deploying the software through the cloud and billing customers for a monthly subscription. Customers now have a choice of deployment options and can pick the option that works best for their company.
Morton says under the on-premise scenario companies would have the option to upgrade their solutions every 18 months to two years. “When large corporations go through major upgrades it is a significant investment for the corporation,” he says. “With the cloud there are continuous upgrades that should be seamless to the customer. The latest technology, latest features and latest functionality are made available and easily deployed through the cloud which will lead to productivity gains. IT professionals can focus on strategic technology that adds value to their business.”
What it means to the employees on the Microsoft campus in Fargo is an even greater focus on customer service. “The Fargo campus has a great reputation for delivering outstanding customer service,” Morton says. “Locally we have teams that touch every part of the cloud solution life cycle.”
Microsoft’s Fargo campus is home to teams developing the next, cloud-enabled versions of several of Microsoft’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) products, and components of Microsoft Visual Studio, and Microsoft Windows Phone. Sales teams based in Fargo work with customers interested in signing up for free trials of Microsoft’s cloud-based solutions and work with them during the purchasing process. Operations teams in Fargo manage the billing process once customers choose to purchase any of the cloud services Microsoft offers and has support teams in Fargo who work with customers using cloud-based solutions in order to make sure they have the best possible experience.
“We are re-engineering our existing products to enable them to be deployed via the cloud,” Morton says. “We are building new functionality and features specifically designed for both on-premise and cloud deployment and streamlining our customer service processes to support the cloud model.”
Morton adds that cloud computing is making it easier for the businesses to deploy technology solutions to increase business productivity and to add features and functionality as it becomes available instead of having to wait for the next major upgrade.
“Anytime you can increase productivity, get people to embrace new technology, new features and new functionality, your people become much more valuable employees,” Morton says. “Because of the increased speed of diffusion of these technology innovations you are going to generate more revenue without having to add people.” PB
Alan Van Ormer
Editor, Prairie Business
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