Monday, July 30, 2018

Microsoft Inspire 2018: Five Key Takeaways

Rich Wood, Vice President, Microsoft Alliances
Data / Platforms / Technology

Phew!  Microsoft’s annual Inspire Conference recently wrapped up in Las Vegas, and as anyone who’s been to Inspire (formerly World Partner Conference, fondly “WPC”) could tell you, it was exhausting.  Work is rarely so much fun as it is at Inspire, where the keynotes are motivating, the meetings go from breakfast through well past happy hour, and the collegiality across the entire Microsoft ecosystem is something to behold. 

Whether you’re reconnecting with old friends, making new connections, or putting the pieces in place for a successful next fiscal, Inspire has something for every partner—not least here at Rightpoint, where Microsoft partnership is in our corporate DNA.  Even as a longtime veteran of Microsoft’s ecosystem, my mind was buzzing with all of the different opportunities to be had at this conference. 

I’m happy to use this space to share five thoughts from Inspire that I find compelling for our business as a digital agency, but I’ve no doubt that my peers across the industry could all share five of their own and we’d still be sharing by the time school starts up again in the fall.

Microsoft is committed to true partnership in ways no other software company can parallel.  This is most evident in the “Co-Sell” program, new for last fiscal, where partners are incentivized to sell both together and with Microsoft in order to present our clients with the best possible solutions.  A “co-sell” can take the form of an agency like Rightpoint working with one of our CMS partners to build an e-commerce experience on top of Microsoft Azure, ensuring global compliance, scalability and seasonality on top of a beautifully-designed and fully-functional commerce platform.  The teamwork and improved communication this model drives truly benefits Microsoft’s customers—and we have proof.  Rightpoint was recognized at Inspire as one of the very best co-sell partners in the United States this year.

Customer Success is so important to Microsoft that they’re deputizing key partners to do it with them.  Customer Success is a major trend in the software industry, spurred on by the subscription-based licensing of SAAS solutions.  Simply put, if customers aren’t using a solution, they’re likely to find another solution they like better—so an investment in customer success is one of the smartest bets a software company can make.  Microsoft led the way in this space by taking Yammer’s CSM model and rolling it out across their product base, and now they’re moving forward by scaling the program even wider with the involvement of partners.  At Rightpoint, we’ve made a name for ourselves helping clients roll out and achieve adoption goals with SharePoint and Yammer. We’re excited to be part of this program and bring our award-winning change management results to Microsoft Teams.

Speaking of Teams, the Freemium model had Inspire buzzing.  Teams is an exciting new product that’s rapidly expanding in adoption, and the announcement just before Inspire that Microsoft is distributing basic subscriptions for free was one of the conference’s hottest topics.  Teams brings remote and geographically-disconnected information workers closer together through persistent chat, file sharing and collaboration, meetings, shared tasks and especially high-definition voice and video.  Making some of these services available at no cost points toward an adoption curve similar to those of SharePoint and Yammer, which also exploded on the back of a freemium model.  It’s an exciting time to know Teams!

Speaking of fast movers, Power BI adoption is rolling.  Microsoft’s user-friendly dashboarding suite is truly making analytics available to the masses for the first time.  Whether you’re using it to make the most of Excel reports or customer behavior on your e-commerce site, Power BI can do the job—and it’s doing a great many jobs now, to judge by the investment Microsoft is making in the platform and the partner programs supporting it.  If you’re interested, join one of our legendary Dashboard In A Day sessions and discover how easy it is to get started.

Finally, Microsoft’s vertical focus on key industries is real.  A major component of Microsoft’s much-ballyhooed reorganization of its field sales arm last year was the reshuffling of customer-focused resources into a number of industry verticals.  The first two were Health and Life Sciences and Financial Services.  With many successes and robust offerings in each of these industries, Rightpoint has had a front-row seat to how Microsoft goes to market with digital transformation in both.  We’re looking forward to further partnership opportunities with both Healthcare and Financial Services clients in the year to come.

That was my list—and it barely covers a quarter of what I experienced at Inspire!  As I’ve told so many people since flying back from Vegas, it’s an exciting time to be a leading Microsoft partner.  Here at Rightpoint, we couldn’t be more optimistic about what the next year holds for our longstanding partnership.  We’ll continue to work with Microsoft to transform our shared clients’ businesses for the better with compelling, valuable cross-platform digital experiences for customers and internal users alike.

Rich Wood leads all Microsoft-focused alliance activities at Rightpoint. Connect with Rich on LinkedIn