This week was Inspire 2020, Microsoft’s annual conference to share strategic initiatives and product updates with their channel partners. Under normal circumstances, this is a massive gathering of partners and sellers from around the globe for networking and learning that generates new practices, partnerships and business opportunities. As we all know, however, these are not normal circumstances.
As it has done in many ways throughout this pandemic, Microsoft led the way in digitizing and democratizing the experience, moving the entire conference online, providing multiple time slots for sessions across all time zones and waiving registration fees. Their leadership in digital transformation and community development continues to earn Microsoft the right to call this event Inspire.
As Microsoft says, its partner community has unlimited potential to change the world: The potential to adapt, to connect, to innovate and to achieve more. Here are 10 takeaways from what Microsoft highlighted during its Inspire conference that showed how the company and its partners proved that to be true.
- As the world was sent into a tailspin, everyone depended on technology innovation as an anchor for certainty. Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster kicked off her welcome speech celebrating Microsoft partners’ responses to the changing world, touting them as the “Digital First Responders — the unsung heroes — supporting and lifting the frontline workers up as they respond” to the pandemic. Partners created certainty in this uncertain time because they were ready with remote work options, business continuity, security and cloud migration — the solutions they’ve been building together over the last 18 months that are critical right now.
- With the need for technology solutions more urgent now than ever before, Microsoft is focusing on purposeful digital transformation. Microsoft put out a call to action to its partners to focus on four priorities in fiscal 2021: remote work, business continuity, secure environments and cloud migration.
- During his keynote, CEO Satya Nadella detailed how California was able to make every second count during the pandemic, building 90 percent of its COVID-19 infrastructure with Azure DevOps and GitHub. The team was able to stand up a new website in just 3 hours — rather than an average of 18 months.
- On the retail front, Patagonia shut down not only its brick and mortar locations, but also online sales, to ensure the safety of warehouse workers during the pandemic. But, with the help of Sunrise Technology, the outdoor retailer came up with a completely new way to do business that it could ramp up safely using Dynamic 365, building a more resilient organization. This allowed Patagonia to fulfill orders more efficiently from warehouses and stores and deploy curbside pickup options.
- For its part, Microsoft announced its continued investment in hybrid cloud solutions with the next generation of Azure Stack HCI, offering a fully integrated Azure service in datacenters or at the edge. It allows customers to manage Azure Stack HCI deployments and Azure resources, side-by-side, from the Azure portal. Migrating to Azure has now also become easier with new Azure Migrate datacenter assessment tools, expanded shared disk capabilities, and more support for specialized workloads like the Azure VMware Solution. Customers can also increase data pipeline security and limit internet exposure in Azure Data Factory with ADF’s new Managed Virtual Network Support.
- Microsoft is enabling a new category of apps and bots by integrating Teams with Power Platform in what the company is calling Dataflex. This makes teams an even more powerful hub for teamwork and business processes at no additional cost. Customers can create, deploy and manage apps and chatbots with Power Apps and Power Virtual Agent using a built-in low code platform and low-code data storage — without having to switch between applications.
- The next step in Teams, Satya announced during his keynote, will be Together Mode. The latest addition puts all video call participants into one shared meeting space, rather than the grid of individual participant videos. He said the idea is to make people feel more like they’re actually in the same room, reducing background distractions and making it easier to pick up on nonverbal cues. “So, conversations are much more natural — and more importantly, more inclusive,” he said. “Our research shows that the brain exerts less effort when participating in a meeting using the Together Mode, compared to the standard grid view.”
- The company also announced the pre-built Power Platform return to the workplace solution to help with COVID-19 response and recovery. Designed for fast deployment and customization, it is an end-to-end set of modules that help plan, coordinate and manage the return to the physical workplace, helping to ensure the health and safety of employees with location readiness and safety tools for facility managers, self-service health and safety tools for employees and case management tools for health and safety leaders.
- Dynamics 365 Connected Stores will also soon offer store traffic and curbside queue features, which will help retailers remain below capacity limits and improve the curbside order experience by notifying an employee when a customer’s vehicle approaches the store. You can visit Microsoft’s product page to learn more and sign up for their preview experience. Microsoft also announced account protection and loss prevention as two new capabilities for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection to help protect retailers, public sector entities, credit issuers and their customers.
- Microsoft also announced a public preview of Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft 365, which helps customers identify and protect information on endpoints. The company said that because it is built into Windows 10, Office Apps and Microsoft Edge, no agent is required, and it can be deployed quickly. It is also integrated with existing data loss prevention in Microsoft Teams, Exchange and SharePoint.
These are just a few of the exciting updates from this year’s conference. There are many more changes coming to the Microsoft ecosystem and to the way all industries adopt new technologies to change the world! We encourage you to check out Microsoft Book of News, where they have detailed all of this year’s product announcements.
As Satya Nadella said in his post-keynote article, Reimagining our world together, “While this pandemic has taught us that no business is 100 percent resilient, those fortified by digital technology are more resilient and more capable of transforming when faced with secular structural changes in the marketplace.”
Blueprint is here to be your partner of choice in accelerating your digital transformation to achieve that resiliency and continue to make a positive impact for your customers and communities. Reach out to us here for more information on how we can help you.