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Inspire: Three takeaways from Microsoft’s big partner event

As a regular attendee at Microsoft’s Inspire partner conferences over the years, the 2019 event seemed a lot more spread out. That might have a lot to do with the Las Vegas setting. But it is equally a sign of the growing scale and breadth of Microsoft’s business with its partner community as businesses of all sizes in all industries embark on their digital transformations.

Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president of Azure Data, at Microsoft Inspire 2019

A conference jammed with keynotes, roundtables and product demonstrations yields plenty to ponder on the long flight home. But here are three things I took away from Inspire 2019 that have major implications for Empired and its customers.

The power of team work

It was remarkable to learn that Microsoft now has 13 million daily active daily on Teams, its unified communications platform that combines workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and integration with applications such as Office 365.

Teams has only really been around for a couple of years but, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in his Inspire keynote, Teams had an “absolute breakout year” last financial year. It was clear at Inspire 2019 that Microsoft is ambitious to continue the trend.

It may well be accelerated by Microsoft’s move to migrate its Skype for Business Online customers to Teams, a process it wants to complete by July 31, 2021.

Having seen many customers successfully adopt Teams for workplace collaboration, it’s clear to me that the platform is certainly a big upgrade on Skype for Business.

Empired has made some investments alongside Microsoft to help our customers through the change management process as they deploy Teams in their organisation and I’m glad to see this sort of commitment from Microsoft is set to continue.

Inspire revealed that the enterprise voice integration with Teams is also set to continue improving. This lets customers maintain their existing enterprise voice platform while getting all the benefits of being in the Teams environment.

Working with a company’s phone exchange (PABX) isn’t typically part of the skillset for a systems integrator. But at Empired, we understand PABXs and we have all the bases covered, from traditionally calling with a telecoms operator, to direct calling using internet telephony and Cloud Calling for Microsoft Teams.

Other developments out of Inspire, such as the ability to integrate contact centre solutions with Teams and compliance recording, which allows users to comply with regulatory policies and which will be particularly of interest to our customers operating internationally, only enhance the platform’s attractiveness. You can read about all the other Teams enhancements announced at Inspire on the Microsoft 365 blog.

The value of clarity

Migration to the cloud and Microsoft’s Azure platform was, unsurprisingly, a major theme of Inspire 2019 and there’s much that can be written about what is going on in this space to smooth the way for customers adopting cloud computing services.

One such effort was announced just a week prior to Inspire and represents a massive step forward for managed service providers like Empired that need to take care of many Azure customers at once.

Microsoft’s new Azure Lighthouse for the first time gives us a single control plane that integrates with portals, IT service management (ITSM) tools, and monitoring tools, all accessible through one pane of glass. Our customers can delegate permission to us to monitor their systems and perform operations on their behalf.

Previously, unless you’d written some code yourself or use a 3rd party toolset, you had to log into Azure and look at the various dashboards and subscriptions held within.

I sent this announcement straight back to the team as I know the frustration they’ve often felt trying to effectively manage Azure customers using the existing interfaces and tools. 

Azure Lighthouse brings an ease of use and level of transparency that will be well-received by the partner community.

The importance of trust

Very few conversations we have with customers about moving their operations to the cloud progress far without the issues of security and identity coming to the fore.

Our customers place their trust in us to manage their sensitive data and mission-critical software services. Those Microsoft partners that take this role incredibly seriously now have an opportunity to be recognised for it.

At Inspire, Microsoft announced that it would introduce a new security competency certification for partners around security. It is sort of like expert status and is quite exciting to me. We’ve brought some people into Empired in the last year who are dedicated security experts. They are focused on the Microsoft Cloud.

This security certification, which Microsoft is going to start ramping up with stringent requirements, will give customers certainty that they are dealing with the best Microsoft partners in the region when it comes to security. Empired will be pursuing that security certification as soon as it becomes available.

An open discussion

Like my Intergen colleague Harris Schneiderman, I too was impressed to see Microsoft listen to the partner community and reverse its decision about ending favourable licensing benefits for its Gold and Silver partners.

Elsewhere at Inspire, I got the same impression that Microsoft is willing to listen and change course based on feedback from partners. At one executive roundtable on the intelligent cloud hosted by, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Cloud and AI, there was a genuine desire for feedback from partners and customers on ways Microsoft could improve the platform.

As I came away from another action-packed Inspire it was a sense of confidence in Microsoft’s platforms and products and a new determination to get the most out of them for our customers.

 

This blog is part of the #Inspire series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences, click the banner.

#Inspire blog series

Posted by: Darren Christophersen, General Manager Digital Workplace, Digital, Data & AI - Empired | 09 August 2019

Tags: #Inspire


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