In her CIO Edge keynote presentation, Sarah Carney, National CTO at Microsoft, delves into the relentless pace of change challenging businesses today.  

She talks about the shift in mindset needed to thrive in this era of constant disruption, underlining that planning for ongoing innovation is crucial rather than waiting for a calmer moment that might never come.  

Sarah zeroes in on three critical aspects: weaving innovation into everyday operations, the transformative power of culture in igniting innovation, and how Microsoft’s own evolution has been as much about cultural reinvention as it has been about technological breakthroughs. 


Microsoft’s journey through innovation 

Sarah recounts Microsoft’s experience, once reigning supreme in the market, only to face stiff competition and market shifts.  

She emphasises the need for a culture that celebrates innovation at every level, inviting contributions from a rich tapestry of backgrounds.  

Through initiatives like hackathons and the “full spectrum innovation” model, she shows how creating an environment that values experimentation and teamwork can lead to impactful innovations that address real business needs. 


Practical steps towards fostering innovation 

Sarah offers tangible strategies for nurturing innovation, from empowering employees with tools like Power Apps to initiating incubation programs that bring ideas to life.  

She discusses establishing a shared vocabulary around innovation to ensure everyone is on the same page, facilitating better communication and alignment.  

Addressing concerns around governance, security, and funding, Sarah champions finding a balance between encouraging innovation and mitigating risks. 

Sarah urges businesses to embrace innovation as an unending journey, navigating through the waves of disruption to fuel growth and success. 


Key Takeaways: 

  • The business world’s rapid evolution demands relentless innovation and the ability to adapt and innovate without pause. 
  • The transformation under Satya Nadella’s leadership in 2014 marked a turning point for Microsoft, highlighting the critical role of culture in fostering innovation. 
  • Microsoft’s innovative ethos is built on cross-disciplinary collaboration and a culture that allows innovation to emerge from anywhere within the organization. This approach is supported by tools and frameworks like Power Apps and the Three Horizons model, ensuring that innovation is not just a buzzword but a tangible action plan. 
Sarah Carney National CTO at Microsoft
With over 20 years of work experience across three continents and a multitude of industries, I am currently the Chief Technology Officer... More

With over 20 years of work experience across three continents and a multitude of industries, I am currently the Chief Technology Officer for Enterprise Commercial at Microsoft, where I lead the technical strategy, vision, and execution for our largest and most strategic customers. I have a strong background in business strategy, analysis and development and I am also a certified Prosci change practitioner.

I currently serve as the co-chair of the Military Employee Resource Group Board at Microsoft, where I support the recruitment, retention, and development of veterans and their allies. I am passionate about delivering innovative and impactful solutions that enable digital transformation, empower customers, and drive business growth. I am always looking for new opportunities to learn, collaborate, and contribute to the technology community and beyond.

Culture Transformation Leadership