How does Microsoft think about the small business cloud? We asked that very question of Microsoft SMB Channel Strategist Abid Chaudhry, on our latest Above the Cloud podcast, “A Completely Different Experience.”

Chaudhry joined Microsoft early this year after a two-year stint at Endurance. Before that he and I worked together at BIA/Kelsey, where we looked at how small businesses were transitioning for the use of traditional media to digital, primarily for customer acquisition. Now, we are both looking at how technology can enable small businesses can improve their day to day operations.

Chaudhry notes that Microsoft’s sweet spot is businesses that have between 100 and 300 employees, certainly at the higher end of what most would consider a small business. And where Microsoft seems to be focusing its energy is on helping businesses operate “safely” in the cloud (secure document storage for example) and to provide the tools that facilitate a collaborate workplace (e.g., Microsoft Teams) that is increasingly mobile and remote.

The title of this episode, “A Completely Different Experience,”  refers to a thread of our conversation where we talked about the generational impact on how people work and the impact technology has and will continue to have in enabling new styles of work. This is something that Microsoft and any company building tools for small businesses needs to think about.

“What is interesting is that nearly a quarter of the workforce is Generation Z (ages 6-23),” Abid said. “They are looking for an entirely different experience when it comes to engaging with businesses. How do we change the way we think to tailor to that?”

This of course has implications for how these post-millennials expect to interact with SMBs (e.g., more via mobile, more via messaging apps, less via phone calls). It also has implications for how these younger workers choose to work and the kinds of businesses they will form.

“The SMBs coming up and starting lately are more likely to encourage things that would also be encouraged by that same cohort — like remote work,” Abid said, “You would not normally see remote work and small business go together.”

This insight suggests tools more common among enterprises managing a distributed workforce will increasingly be deployed by SMBs.

You can listen to the entire podcast conversation with Abid below.

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