Microsoft Inspire never lets us down, with its spectacular presentations, product releases, and, as the name suggests, an overwhelming feeling of excitement that fuels you for the year ahead. Although a much different affair this year (do we need to mention why?!) hosting it as a purely digital event has not been to Microsoft’s detriment. Indeed, it was far more accessible than ever before; something that Microsoft have been striving to improve for years… Who wanted to go to Vegas anyway?
Given the current situation, it was not a surprise to hear that Microsoft are “going big in security this year” with several Microsoft 365 security announcements, surrounded by numerous updates on Microsoft 365, Teams and Microsoft’s business applications. You can read a summary of all technical updates at your own pleasure from the book of news, but here we wanted to talk through some of our top-level takeaways and the impact they may have on the future of talent.
Microsoft 365 - one solution to rule them all
The overriding feeling we left Inspire 2020 with, is that Microsoft is focusing on and investing in bringing together all Microsoft applications, from Microsoft 365 and Teams to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. Not only this, but these apps will already be integrated and available as an out of the box solution, the kind of holy grail that organisations have been spending huge sums trying to achieve on their own. We have already seen a rise in power platform skills, so it will be interesting to see how further unification of apps affect how organisations build their teams.
Indeed, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner, Gavriella Schuster, stated: “in this coming year, we’ll work with partners who are doing all of those things—to put together a playbook for partners to follow. Because at this point, our playbooks have been fairly solution-specific”
An idea that was further cemented by Satya Nadella himself: “Ultimately, Microsoft’s intertwining technology focus areas offer a tremendous opportunity for our partners because I think the architectural coherence of our tech stack and our solution areas make us so much more relevant as an ecosystem to our customers.”
Microsoft Teams – more than just a collaboration app
As expected, there was a spotlight on Microsoft Teams. More than just an app for team collaboration (though check out “Together Mode” - could this be the game changer needed to combat video burn-out? Or, is it just a gimmick? We haven’t been convinced just yet…) Microsoft seem to be positioning Teams as the platform on which all users should work from, something that further supports their unification plans.
Most notably, new functionality that forms a collaboration between Teams and Power Apps will enable users to easily build applications and bots directly within Teams, empowering business users to rapidly respond to changing business needs and create custom solutions. Apps and chatbots built with Power Apps and Power Virtual Agent can now access data that resides in Microsoft Dataflex, a relational database now built into Teams at no additional cost. If you missed it, Rory Neary, Power Platform Solution Architect, has kindly posted an introductory video about Dataflex, check it out for more information.
Further into her talk, Gavriella Schuster quite rightly said: “Adoption is only part of the opportunity here. What’s truly transformative is what happens when customers start working in Teams and learn the full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution.”
According to a recent Forrester review commissioned by Microsoft, there is huge potential financial gain for organisations if they utilise Teams effectively:
“Using the Microsoft Teams platform as a hub for teamwork enabled organizations to reduce disruptions to employee productivity, helped IT and security teams strengthen protection against data leaks, and contributed to a culture of citizen developers that, in turn, accelerated business digitization and innovation. The study reflected a projected return on investment of 393% to 1,085% over 3 years and following key projected benefits.”
When you consider the above, it is easy to understand why such an investment has been made to enhance this application. With the addition of Microsoft Dataflex, Teams users now have key business data at their fingertips to build new apps that address real business problems—all without ever leaving Teams.
Covid19 - the silver lining
I stumbled across an interesting question the other day... who lead the digital transformation of your company?
a) A CEO
b) A CTO
It is fair to say that Covid19 has caused many developments to stall, and for Microsoft, Azure migrations did slow down. However, this pandemic has undoubtedly forced change and sped up the pace in which we have evolved, for example with flexible working and remote accessibility. In turn, that has led to organisations having to enhance their security measures, but as is with the common theme from Inspire, it is all part of one unified solution.
“we’ve definitely seen huge demand from our customers through COVID for more security solutions, as they’ve realized they don’t quite have all the security solutions that they need,” said Schuster, in an interview with CRN. “Then you add on applications like Windows Virtual Desktops and M365. And then on the side you bring in Power Platform, and you bring in security—and those are all of the wrappers that enable our partners to have that profitable business.”
"Inspiring" us to grow
With Covid19 forcing technical updates to happen faster than expected, and our approach to work changing, Microsoft have laid the foundations for us to recover. However, what was encouraging was how Inspire 2020 demonstrated Microsoft’s determination to help us develop and grow even in this difficult time and how important their mission to “empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more” is, by consistently improving their solutions to enable organisations to take full control of their own success. As with any updates, I'm sure there will initially be skills gaps but Microsoft has invested so much in ensuring the platform is accessible to all users.
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