I spent the day yesterday at Microsoft's 2016 "Partner Summit" at Twickenham Stadium.
Pitched as an opportunity for Microsoft's UK partners such as Vital to 'build on our knowledge and skills' to help our customers through the "Digital Transformation" that proliferates Microsoft's current marketing messaging, the event was a mixture of commercial & technical presentations and discussions covering wide ranging topics from macroeconomic factors & global business trends, disruption and opportunity through to some of the specific tactical activity happening in our industry.
The morning keynotes focussed on the 'big picture' - what Microsoft see happening around the world, the disruption that technology can or has brought to business, and where they see the big-picture future opportunities - for themselves, their customers, their partners and people around the world.
Here are my key take-aways:
The power of the Cloud
Microsoft's Azure cloud is increasingly the primary focus of the tech giant. With new services and features appearing weekly, Azure offers tactical opportunities for business to improve basic infrastructure or DR services today through to strategic and transformational (and sometimes hard to grasp) opportunities through Machine Learning, high performance compute and Internet of Things
Microsoft were particulary touting the Machine Learning, Big Data and Internet of Things services that they see as the most transformational for business and the world - from "Bing predicts" that accurately predicted 71% of Wimbledon results through to the bold objective of leveraging the Azure cloud to find a cure for cancer inside of 10 years and eradicating the Zika virus.
On a more down-to-earth level, Microsoft cited a number of businesses such as Uber and Thyssenkrupp that are using services in the Azure cloud to push the traditional boundaries of their industry and transform their business.
Microsoft's label for the changes technology is driving in the business world.
A number of interesting facts were quoted
- 50% of the Fortune 500 has disappeared in the last 20 years, many due to technology based disruptors. This is likely to continue with many traditional industries facing new technology driven competition.
- The "usual faces" such Air BnB and Uber were cited for their use of technology to completely transform an entire global industry - the audience was reminded that whilst the run-away successes of these businesses are really edge cases, there are genuine opportunities in every industry to think about how you can disrupt the status quo or improve an aspect of yhour business (such as the referenced Thyssenkrupp case - https://www.fastcompany.com/3052751/how-microsoft-and-thyssenkrupps-elevator-tech-saves-office-workers-years-of-waiting)
- Microsoft identified the 4 key areas where technology can help to transform a business as
- Engaging customers
- Empowering employees
- Optimising operations
- Transforming products or services
- Jonas Kjellberg, part of the founding management team at Skype, gave an entertaining presentation in which he shared some of his thoughts around building a succesful sales operation and challenging assumptions; in particular how to 'get to zero' in different areas of operations or business
Skype and Voice
Microsoft clearly see a huge opportunity in the voice market as business increasingly consolidates and unifies its communications platforms. The Skype for Business suite has had significant developments in this area and, in our opinion, is likely to become a market leader in business voice telephony in the next few years.
We see this as particularly beneficial for small and startup businsses who can now quickly and easily implement voice through Microsoft Office 365, and larger enterprises who have the resource and budget to implement a full enterprise wide unified communications platform. For the mid-size businesses, this may present a little more of a challenge due to cost of change and a likely lack of internal resource to oversee what could be a complex project.
- Skype carries over 50 Billion voice minutes every month
- Plus 2 trillion!! video minutes
Office 365 and CSP
An area which Vital pioneered over the last 6+ years, it was clear at the partner summit (if it wasn't already) that Office 365 services are now the de-facto option for messaging, groupware and such like and have become commodotized in the market.
This has reinforced our focus on the more complex and specialist area of Azure services as a key part of Vital's service offering going forwards.
It was also clear that everybody is struggling with the SharePoint element of Office 365 and how to really help customers get the most out of this part of their investment.
The annual "Future Decoded" event will now be focussed entirely on end-customers, businesses and technology decision makers with yesterday's 'Partner Summit' replacing the previous two years' partners sessions.
The big announcement of the day that Dr Stephen Hawking will present at Future Decoded means this really is an event not to miss.
You can register for Future Decoded at the below link - as a Microsoft Partner we are actively encouraged to invite our customers and business contacts. If you are thinking of attending, please drop us a line and we will would love to meet with you there and help you get the most from the event (we might even buy you lunch!)