The Change is Real, the Chance is Now – Day 2 at Microsoft Inspire

Max McNamara

An experienced consultant in the Modern Workplace, Max focuses on helping our customers through their digital transformation journeys. As a leader at Antares, Max works with our internal teams and customers to deploy technology solutions to solve unique business problems. Max specialises in the Microsoft Modern Workplace and Applications technology stack that includes SharePoint, Teams, the Power Platform, O365, Bots & AI, Nintex, Promapp and the AvePoint suite. Max has worked across a wide range of industries with customers from 50 – 18,000 staff.

July 18th, 2018

The most talked about presentations at Inspire are often the Core notes, delivered by Microsoft executives. The core notes preview Microsoft’s direction in the coming year; the technological innovation, strategy and go-to-market initiatives.

Speakers for the day

Today we first heard from Gavriella Schuster, Corporate VP for One Commercial Partner, who talked about the power of the Microsoft partner community. A community with over 132 countries around the world being represented at Inspire in this year. In 2018, Microsoft and partners have driven outstanding growth in the intelligent cloud, allowing customers to take advantage of and speed up their digital transformation:

  • 42% growth in O365
  • 65% growth in Dynamics
  • 93% growth in Azure

Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President at Microsoft, confirmed what we at the Cloud Collective already know, there has never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner.  The intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge will shape the way we build solutions for the next decade. It will create more opportunity going forward than in the whole of Microsoft’s history, and it’s here now.

Judson also highlighted that Microsoft has never had a stronger year in Dynamics 365. For me, it was a call to action. Microsoft needs more partners, just like us, to invest more in our own Dynamics practices to deliver Dynamics solutions to our customers.

Is AI the next big thing, not really

Everyone wants to talk about AI – it’s the new, shiny toy. But what was clear from the Core note this morning is that without data, all you will do with AI is make mistakes with more confidence than ever before. It’s a confronting idea that really stuck with me when thinking about how AI should be applied to organisations. Whether we’re talking about a Q&A bot on a corporate intranet or a machine learning algorithm that’s to predict the risk of students falling behind at university, it’s all down to the data.

To bring the intelligent cloud conversation to life, Judson walked through a real-life customer example with Carlsberg. The global beer company is now using Microsoft Teams, their own “Carrie” bot based on cognitive services, PowerBI, Azure IoT and Azure machine learning to drive their digital revolution. The demo was seriously impressive – it makes beer production at Carlsberg a science, most definitely not an art.

Microsoft’s strategy for 2018 is focussed in 5 key areas. Importantly, the restructure of 2018 has been successful and it’s about tweaks to the strategy in 2019 to tune the model:

  1. Accelerate our cultural transformation
  2. Strategic enterprise accounts
  3. Customer acquisition
  4. Customer retention and growth
  5. Learning and readiness

To wrap up the day 1 corenote, Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer at Microsoft, talked to the social impact that technology is having on the world today. Importantly, Brad spoke to the steps Microsoft is taking to ensure that the benefits of technology are shared by all in a way that’s sustainable.

Takeaways from this day are clear and crisp

Personally, I took two key things from listening to Brad talk this morning. Firstly, and as Brad put it, broadband internet is the electricity of the 21st century. But over half the world still cannot get a reliable internet connection. In an era where IoT and interconnectivity is ever-present, this is creating a gap between many first world and third world countries. In a similar vein, the IT skills gap between males and females is increasing – this is now a global challenge. Interestingly I know that in Australia, IT tertiary education is now the largest area of tertiary study. I’m hopeful this gap will begin to close in the next 5 years as many new students graduate.

Secondly, we were showed the social impact of the 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks on both the UK and Ukraine governments and their citizens. In the UK 18,000 medical appointments were canceled and in Ukraine, 75% of businesses were affected – meaning ATMs were down and grocery stores were closed. Technology enables our world, but it also has the power to disrupt and potentially impact the well-being of millions of people. Microsoft is clear that our first responsibility is to keep the world secure.

What a way to kick-off Inspire 2018! 2 hours of awesome content and almost 20,000 attendees – a record partner conference attendance. It’s been a powerful reminder ofthe great things both Microsoft and partners are doing to shape the world we live in every day.

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